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PINE*am Brings Japanese Electropop to LA

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Pull the Rabbit Ears: It's not just a catchy title, it's a suggestion from PINE*am.

"We named it after the old TV antennae," explained guitarist and backing vocalist Chizuko Matsubayashi. "We would like as many people as possible to receive the music."

Those that choose to "receive" this CD are in for a trip. PINE*am combines digital clicks, drum loops and guitars with unpredictable vocals. The effect is a sound that ranges from the dreamy Starlight, Star Bright to the adrenaline-infused Get a Choco.

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Pull the Rabit Ears is the kind of album that grows on you. When LAist first spun the CD, we found the sound to be unlike anything playing on mainstream radio. Repeated listens reveal that many tracks are seductive, playful and downright fun. That would please the band. Their music is not intended to be a social commentary.

"When we first started [playing], there was no goal or aim for the music. We just wanted to make something we enjoyed. It would be great if people enjoyed what we make [too]," said the band.

In an attempt to describe their music, fans and critics often stamp the "anime" classification on the band. PINE*am is amused by this misnomer.

"To us, we have nothing to do with anime. Like, in Japan, our music is classified as electropop. Just because we are Japanese, people automatically think it's anime. So, that's not our intention. We are more electronica, pop and rock," Matsubayashi asserted.

"It feels strange that American people see the anime in our music, because our influence is actually Western music," said vocalist and bassist Tsugumi Takashi.

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Keyboardist Taeca Kinoshita cited influences like Jim O'Rourke, Joe McIntyre and even vintage Duran Duran.

While Americans may not be able to put their finger on the exact origin of the music, they aren't afraid to let the band know what they think.

"If they are enjoying [a song], we can tell," said Matsubayashi. "It's so hard to tell in Japan whether people are enjoying it because they just sit there and stare at us. I think Japanese people are shy. American people are more direct. When they're having fun, it's fun for us [too]."

Staying connected with their fans' energy is important to PINE*am.

"Personally I prefer smaller venues because I can feel people's vibe... and I get more energy from the audience," said Matsubayashi.

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Unfortunately, PINE*am's touring schedule doesn't allow for much sightseeing. Given the time, the band would visit Disneyland, grab some junk food at McDonald's or simply relax at the beach.

For fun, LAist asked each member where she'd prefer to live in Los Angeles, if given the opportunity. Takashi wanted to spend time by the beach, even though she couldn't swim. Matsubayashi also desired a beachfront dwelling. Kinoshita simply wanted to live within walking distance of Amoeba Records.

When they aren't touring, Takashi, Matsubayashi and Kinoshita are split geographically between Osaka, Japan and Vancouver, British Columbia. Therefore, the band uses the internet to bridge the gap and make music.

"We upload everything on the server so that everyone can reach files. And we just adapt whatever we think will be good for the piece and send it back to each other," said Matsubayashi.

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Their ability to collaborate, despite the distance, is likely due to their history together.

"We met in university," said Matsubayashi. "Taeca and I met in high school. But we all went to the same university."

While studying at Osaka University of Art in 1999, the three friends formed PINE*am and released a self-titled EP the following year. PINE*am's unique moniker was derived from bits and pieces of their anglicized surnames.

"We just made it up. We tried to translate it in English and found the cutest sounding one and mixed it with something else," said Matsubayashi.

Like their unique name, PINE*am's sense of fashion defines the band.

"Most of our costumes are made from kimono fabric," explained Matsubayashi.

If faced with the choice to either set trends or follow them, she said "We'd rather influence people."

Given the success of their current tour, it appears they're doing just that.

If you want to sample some truly unusual, original music, you can see PINE*am at Spaceland at 10pm on Tuesday, August 30th.

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Further Listening: [ PINE*am official website | iTunes | MySpace ]

Summer Tour:
08/30 - Los Angeles, CA @ Spaceland
08/31 - San Francisco, CA @ Amoeba Music & Rickshaw Stop
09/01 - San Francisco, CA @ Isotope
09/03 - Long Beach, CA @ Pacific Media Expo
09/04 - Long Beach, CA @ Pacific Media Expo