By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Entertainment Editor
Sitting comfortably in a Central California hotel, bespectacled and sipping tea, the members of the pop trio from Japan seemed anything but threatening.
Their band name, however, longer and curiouser than most, would seem appropriate for a neo-punk group: The Akabane Vulgars on Strong Bypass.
Singer and guitarist Yumi Uchizono explained the name is partly cheeky, constructed mainly to help the group stand out.
“We wanted something long, longer than most bands,” Uchizono, 28, said in a Rafu interview via Skype on Wednesday. “We put ‘Vulgars’ in it because we wanted to separate ourselves from the mainstream.”
A far cry from the hard-scrabble, working-class London punk bands of the late 1970s and ’80s, this trio of rebels lived a mostly ordinary life in the suburban Koto-ku district of Tokyo.
Uchizono’s bass-playing sister, Miki, had become so enamored with the likes of the Clash and Green Day that she envisioned her own band in 2005, recruiting former high school classmate Kei Sofue as drummer.
Well aware of the physical demands of up-tempo punk, Miki has said that she needed bandmates who were fit and could withstand the rigors, and that Sofue had been an excellent athlete in school.
When it came time to find a guitar player, Miki hired in-house, as it were, recruiting her older sis, who came with the added bonus of a deep, roaring growl of a singing voice.
“In Japan, and especially in our area, there aren’t many bands playing punk music,” Yumi said. “I was thinking about what kind of sound we should focus on. I think what we have created is very unique, especially for a girl group.”
The Akabane Vulgars, as they are known for short, are currently on a U.S. tour that will keep them on the American road for more than six weeks with stops in San Francisco and L.A., across the Heartland and all the way to New York City.
After tonight’s show at Whiskey Richards in Santa Barbara, they’ll be part of a Friday night showcase at the Redwood Bar & Grill in the shadow of the Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown.
The Vulgars have also added a show, Saturday at Pasadena’s historic Old Towne Pub.
This is the group’s second trip to the U.S., after being part of the Japan Nite lineup at this year’s South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.
Yumi said a major difference between audiences in the States and in Japan is the exchange between artists and audience.
“It’s like a discussion here, like a back-and-forth chat,” she said. “That really gives us a lot of energy.”
Barely a week into their tour, Sofue said she is already feeling a little fatigued.
“This is a great experience, but America is so big, the traveling makes us sleepy,” she joked.
The Redwood Bar & Grill is located at 316 W. 2nd St. in Downtown Los Angeles. Call (213) 680-2600 for information.
The Old Towne Pub is at 66 N. Fair Oaks Ave. in Pasadena. (626) 577-6583.