Derry’s Ja­panese Pop­stars wor­ried about los­ing their voices

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

IRE­LAND’S big dance-mu­sic hope, Derry three-piece The Ja­panese Pop­stars, are hav­ing a busy time of it at the mo­ment. They’re just back from Ibiza and Mex­ico, and this month they play Rock­ness in Scot­land, Sea Ses­sions in Bun­do­ran (a vir­tual home­town gig for them), be­fore hit­ting Glas­ton­bury, where the re­ac­tion so far to their new al­bum, Con­trol­ling Your Al­le­giance, has seen them move up the dance-tent bill. Do­ing remixes for Depeche Mode and Go­ril­laz lately has fur­ther helped their case.

In July and Au­gust they will be all over the UK and con­ti­nen­tal Europe, with more dates be­ing added all the time. Which ver­sion of The Ja­panese Pop­stars peo­ple will see at these shows de­pends on fac­tors out­side their con­trol. The new al­bum, their first on a ma­jor la­bel, fea­tures big-name vo­cal­ists, but get­ting them all to­gether for Ja­panese Pop­stars gigs is prob­lem­atic.

The Cure’s Robert Smith, Jon Spencer, Ed­i­tors’ Tim Smith, Lisa Han­ni­gan and fast-ris­ing James Vin­cent McMor­row and more all fea­ture on Con­trolled Al­le­giance, and the hope is to get any per­mu­ta­tion of them up on stage as the Pop­stars make their way around the fes­ti­val cir­cuit.

The “guest vo­cal­ist” ap­proach works bril­liantly for The Ja­panese Pop­stars, par­tic­u­larly on the Lisa Han­ni­gan track.

“Be­cause we didn’t re­ally have that many vo­cal ideas our­selves when it came to the al­bum, we de­cided to ap­proach peo­ple who we thought were quite unique and had a very in­di­vid­ual vo­cal ap­proach,” says the group’s Gary Cur­ran. “Ob­vi­ously get­ting Robert Smith early on was a great bonus, and that was all just luck. He told us that our email to him had been ly­ing in his spam folder for six months and it was only when he went to clear it out that he knew we re­ally wanted him on the al­bum. Thank­fully, he re­ally likes what we do.”

They hunted down Lisa Han­ni­gan af­ter see­ing her per­form at Other Voices, and the same RTÉ pro­gramme switched them on to James Vin­cent McMor­row.

In­stead of hand­ing all their vo­cal­ists the fin­ished track with a guide vo­cal on it, they went for more of a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach, telling all the singers to do what they felt worked. “All the singers wrote their own lyrics, and it was im­por­tant to us that they wrote their side of the track from their own style,” says Cur­ran. “There were no re­stric­tions on them at all in terms of what they could or could not do . . . it was just a case of merg­ing the two styles to­gether.”

The first sin­gle off the al­bum is the Lisa Han­ni­gan-sung Song For Lisa. The Robert Smith vo­cal is a good bet for a sin­gle re­lease. “We did re­ally want Bowie on the al­bum and went af­ter him,” says Cur­ran. “Ob­vi­ously he’s dif­fi­cult to pin down, but it’s a door we’re go­ing to keep knock­ing on un­til he re­lents.”

How they will work it live is to see who is avail­able and take it from there. Hap­pily, at some of their fes­ti­val dates a num­ber of the vo­cal­ists will be around any­way. “We just look to how The Chem­i­cal Brothers do it,” says Cur­ran. “If the singer is there, great. If not, you adapt your set.”

Hav­ing won most ev­ery Ir­ish dance mu­sic award go­ing for the past few years, the ma­jor-la­bel deal with EMI/Vir­gin and the big-name vo­cal­ists on the new al­bum sig­nal a sig­nif­i­cant step up for the Derry group. All we need now is a track called Teenage Beats.

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