The curiously-named Japanese Popstars were the surprise hit of the final Sandance of the season. A last-minute addition to the bill, the Irish trio thrilled the crowd with slabs of infectious, hard-hitting electro. Off the back of the buzz, their second LP, Controlling Your Allegiance – which features vocals by the likes of The Cure’s Robert Smith, Green Velvet, Jon Spencer and The Editors’ Tom Smith – has been released in the UAE. We learned more from the band’s 32-year-old founding member Gary Curran.
They were a little nervous at their Sandance gig at the start of May. ‘It was an amazing gig, but from the stage it was a bit panicky. Nobody knew our music in Dubai, which made it scary. We changed our set to make it more anthemic, but I was nervous about playing it wrong. The crowd was very receptive, but everyone was very reserved in Dubai – it reminded me of some places in Europe where they prefer to stand and appreciate your music rather than go wild. If we did the same set in Ireland, everyone would have their tops off.’
The mood was sombre backstage. ‘We got to meet Norman Cook [aka Fatboy Slim] backstage for the third time, but he was subdued because Adam Yauch from the Beastie Boys had just died. Norman’s normally a happy guy, very open and very approachable. Tinchy Stryder was nice too. I didn’t get to meet Travis, which was a shame, having grown up with their music, but we did meet Morcheeba’s manager – I’ve always wanted to work with [lead singer] Skye [Edwards], but I don’t think we have a track to approach her with yet.’
Controlling Your Allegiance is the first time they’ve worked with vocalists. ‘We’re signed to EMI – the same label as Eric Prydz, David Guetta and The Chemical Brothers – and we’re aware that to get to that level we have to work really hard. Having vocalists gives you that extra push that the crowd can sing along to. We have a lot of great vocalists on this album: we tried to plan it as a journey. It’s two years’ work and we’re very proud of it.’
Technology nearly denied them the chance to work with The Cure’s Robert Smith. ‘We have a track that resembles The Cure, and we started to joke: “Let’s get Robert Smith.” Our manager sent him an email, but he didn’t see it for six months because it was sitting in his junk email folder.’
They’re such fans of Brit comedy Only Fools and Horses that they named two songs after it. ‘When I wrote [the song] “Rodney Trotter” five years ago, I had this vision of Only Fools and Horses’ Rodney dancing to it in a club. In one of the episodes they go to a disco and the music is very early ’80s, and Rodney is dancing wearing this big suit. I couldn’t get the vision out of my head. “Del Boy’s Revenge” was like the big brother getting his own back. People remember the names of those ones, which is no bad thing.’
If you hadn’t guessed, they’re not Japanese. ‘We’re big fans of Japanese films and we wanted to reference that. We needed something memorable, but that kept our own sense of humour. And we had this dream that we could become rich in Japan. The name “Big in Japan” had gone already, so we thought: What’s the biggest thing in Japan apart from Japanese popstars? Sometimes when we land in airports people are still disappointed we’re not little Japanese schoolgirls. Sick minds.’ Controlling Your Allegiance is available now at Virgin Megastore.