Japanese noise rock dance duo storm Seoul
Moja have showcased their hybrid of chaotic drum-and-bass driven dance punk and noise rock in Japan, England, Italy, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States. On May 18 and 19, the Tokyo duo will make their Korean live debut with a pair of gigs in Seoul at Hongdae venues Club FF and Salon Badabie.
Bassist Haru and drummer Masumi formed Moja (pronounced “mo-ya”) in the fall of 2006. When they first began making music together, they had no intention of being a duo.
“Haru and I played together in another band before Moja,” shares Masumi. “We had a vocalist and a guitarist and just played typical Japanese rock stuff. One day the vocalist and the guitarist quit. Haru and I wanted to keep playing together so we decided to continue as a duo.”
And while becoming a two-piece was unplanned, they learned quickly that there were some definite advantages to it.
“We realized that we have more space to express ourselves when we played as a duo,” says Masumi. “It’s also a lot easier to make tour schedules when there’s just me and Haru to worry about.”
International gigs are a big priority for Moja. In 2007 they made their first foray overseas for a concert in New York. Since then they’ve gone on to play numerous club shows abroad and have appeared at music festivals such as North by Northeast, Le Festival Envol et Macadam, Italia Wave Love Festival, Music Matters, and South by Southwest.
“Visiting new places and learning about different cultures allow us to experience many things and also stimulate us,” says Masumi. “We want to keep trying to spread our music all over the world.”
“Every place we’ve visited has had great audiences and we’ve always had a really good time. When we played in Italy, our concert was at a soccer stadium. It was amazing. We didn’t expect to play at such a huge venue. We were shocked when we saw the size of the stage.”
They may have gotten a bit of rock star treatment in Italy, but more often than not, Moja’s gigs take place in much smaller spaces. Occasionally they have found themselves booked in unconventional performance sites, but like all indie touring acts, Moja are quite good at being able to adapt to any situation.
“We recorded our debut album ‘Moja’ (2009) in Virginia,” says Masumi. “While we were there the studio owner booked a concert for us. It took place in the warehouse of a snack food factory. I had to borrow another band’s drum kit to do the show. I usually use four cymbal stands, but the drummer only had one. I said I needed at least two to play so he stuck a stick in the air hole on top of the bass drum and put one more cymbal on top of it. It was very unstable and people kept on coming up and fixing it while we played. Everyone enjoyed our show, though, and the whole night was a lot of fun.”
In March, Moja issued their sophomore effort, “Super Ultra Gold 79.” Recorded in New York and Tokyo, the eight-track offering is a fantastic, high-energy affair that is overflowing with hard-hitting, dynamic underground rock.
The band decided to release the album only as a limited edition LP and as a free digital download from their Web site. “Super Ultra Gold 79” is not available in CD.
“We felt that vinyl was better suited to our sound than CDs,” says Masumi. “As for the free download, we want more people to come to our shows. We feel that our live performances are the best way for people to truly experience Moja. We’re hoping that if people can download ‘Super Ultra Gold 79’ for free, they’ll want to come see us perform after hearing the album.”
Moja will be bringing CD copies of their first full-length LP, “Super Ultra Gold 79,” and T-shirts with them when they visit Seoul in mid-May.
“We’re excited to learn about Korea’s indie music scene and to discover new bands in Seoul,” says Masumi. “I saw a Japanese TV program about Hongdae and it looked like a really cool place. I can’t wait to explore the area and eat lots of delicious Korean food. I love kimchi and japchae.”