Among its insatiable interests in things with a hint of the
exotic, Japan has cultivated a taste for French pop. The insouciant
je ne sai quois of the Gallic makes its appeal known here
in the penchant for Shibuya kei stylists like the Pizzicato
Five and Kahimi Karie to sing in French, and in Tokyo's
annual Festival Halou, which sees the latest in French music
industry product showcased in Shibuya every fall.
Parisian pop combo Tahiti 80, meanwhile, have become regular
visitors to Japan since appearing in the first Summer Sonic
festival in 2000. While not on the bill at this past summer's
event, they are slated to tour Japan next week to promote
their just-released album, Wallpaper for the Soul (Minty Fresh).
In a sign of the importance of the Japanese market to the
group, the record was pre-released by Japanese distributor
Victor three weeks early.
Formed when singer Xavier Boyer met bassist Pedro Resende
as students at the University of Rouen in 1993, Tahiti 80
reached their present incarnation with the addition of guitarist
Mederic Gontier and drummer Sylvain Marchand in 1994. The
band named themselves after a souvenir t-shirt Boyer's
father had brought back from a 1980 Polynesian vacation.
With a shared love of British Invasion bands of
the '60s (Beatles, Kinks) and a dash of contemporary electronica,
the foppish group created a minor stir in 1996 with the release
of their debut EP, 20 Minutes. Singer Boyer described their
musical approach on the band's website. That's
one of the great aspects of today; you can like Big Star and
the Chemical Brothers, he said, commenting on the band's
eclecticism. We'd like to think that, in a way,
we go back to the beginning again, adding contemporary elements
like electronic sounds, and I hope, some personality.
The positive reviews accorded to 20 Minutes led Tahiti 80
to sign with key US indie label Minty Fresh for their first
full-length album, 2000's Puzzle. The album was mixed in Sweden
by Tore Johansson, producer of Swedish pop outfit The Cardigans,
a band with whom they have much in common both stylistically
and in terms of their success in Japan.
Puzzle also brought Tahiti 80 to the attention of uber-Shibuya
kei artist Cornelius, who worked with the band and asked them
to appear on his latest compilation (the group have also collaborated
with Kahimi Karie).
Released in September, the band's sophomore disc Wallpaper
for the Soul took them in a more conceptual direction, garnering
mixed reviews. Some called it abstract and artistic
(All Music Guide), while others pilloried it as naively
Tahiti 80 play Zepp Tokyo on December
1 and Club Citta on December 2. See listings for details.