Bassist Chris Frain says a Tanuki is a type of "raccoon-dog" found in Japan and in parts of Northeast Asia. Frain's band Tanuki is an instrumental, psuedo-improv power trio with no interest in writing pop songs. "If we tried to write instrumental pop we'd probably be horrible at it," Frain explains. What they are good at, however, is making music that's a little odd, somewhat mischievous and, at times, pretty darn hilarious.
"When we're working on something that we're injecting with a sense of humor, it just becomes a complete riot," Frain chuckles. "I think we definitely know when to pull back from something like that, but we can also have a good time with it." Tanuki's wittiness is generated primarily by placing some very strange scales in chaotic rhythms while the songs' basic structure never seems to bat an eyelid.
Imagine Primus without the obsession with unfunny lyrics and the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex with better guitar and bass, and that should give you an idea of where Tanuki is coming from. They don't hate pop music, but they don't really listen to it either. "We constantly find ourselves listening to music that's completely outside of rock," Frain says. "Some of us listen to jazz or classical, and we've all been listening to a lot of electronica and music from other parts of the word as well. Getting away from pop was never really a stretch for us. It just sort of came naturally."
Somewhat echoing that point, when I asked Frain whether his playing was influenced by Primus' bass-god Les Claypool he explained, "I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't, but we're not consciously trying to copy it. For that matter, if there was ever a Primus bandwagon, I think we missed it about 10 years ago."
Tanuki's debut release, Warm Up the Deathray, Agnes, is a nine-song, relatively short LP that, as guitarist Ray Himes explains, "best captures our essence. “Pitchforks and Torches'" high-trebled guitar gives it a goofy, rockabilly appeal and “Monster Peninsula,” as Frain points out, is a surf-rock song with a really aggressive edge.
You can check out Tanuki at the Launchpad on Friday, Oct. 14 for their CD release party. They'll play most of their songs from the new album as well as others that, because of time and financial constraints, were not included on the release.