Few bands combine karaoke parties, bowling, wrestling moves and piggyback rides into an hour-long set. But that’s just how they do it on planet Peelander.
In search of their most coveted food source—smiles—the members of the Japanese action comic punk outfit Peelander-Z left their home planet and relocated to New York. “We are looking for your smile, because we eat them,” lead singer and guitarist Peelander-Yellow explains. “Our super, super crazy mission is to make you smile.”
Peelander-Z’s hunger for grins is what drives its members to partake in high-risk tomfoolery like “human bowling.” Every night, Yellow gets hurled into bowling pins by his bandmates. This activity might cause a normal person great physical harm, but Yellow has no fear. “We don’t have nerves, so it doesn’t hurt.” Human bowling is fun because, as Yellow freely admits, “We’re not human.” Oh, and as for the “costumes” they wear—those bright outer casings are actually their alien skin. That being said, Yellow admits the group does look a lot like three Power Rangers.
The band’s bubblegum punk froths with energy. There’s so much oomph packed inside each power chord, concertgoers would do well to slam a six-pack of Rockstars just to keep up. Peelander-Z is a sprinter, not a marathon runner, and most songs top out at three minutes or less. The lyrics are mostly in English with a smattering of Japanese; they deal with such heady topics as ninja high schools, the prevalence of the name “Mike” in America and feeling “Happee.”
The lyrics are mostly in English with a smattering of Japanese; they deal with such heady topics as ninja high schools, the prevalence of the name “Mike” in America and feeling “Happee.”
And then there’s the Karaoke. Yellow can’t get enough of the stuff. His go-to tracks are “Like a Virgin” and “We Are the Champions.” During our phone interview, just the mention of Queen prompts Yellow to scream “We are the champions, my friends!” into the receiver. (... Awkward.)
At each gig, one lucky fan gets to belt out a song with Peelander-Z acting as live karaoke backup. The experiment has only come close to failing once. “One time there were these super drunk people and they broke everything,” Yellow recalls. “But it was OK.” Part of the band’s attraction to karaoke is the emphasis on group participation. “It’s not about you, it’s about everyone,” Yellow says. “That’s Peelander-Z’s style. It’s not about us, it’s about everyone.”
In fact, don’t be surprised if Peelander-Z invites you onstage to play their instruments for them. A sense of rhythm is all that’s required of you. “Even if you don’t know how to play, we don’t care,” Yellow says. “Just hit the bass string, hit the guitar string and bang the drum tom. We just need a beat and we’re going to dance ... with you.”
Yellow says Peelander-Z is influenced as much by bands like MC5 as it is by the movie Back to the Future. Yellow also makes sure to list off his favorite pro wrestlers who inspire him. The fact that many of the band’s bright ideas are spawned by nonmusical sources is a testament to how much effort Peelander-Z invests in the theatrics of the live show. As for the tunes themselves, Yellow says they’re a backdrop for celebration. “It’s good for the party,” Yellow says. “Every song is a party song.”
And what should you do when the revelry begins? “Don’t be shy,” Yellow says. “Come on stage and hit the cowbell, dance with me and then kiss me.”