Twenty years into their history as a band, Deerhoof’s avant-pop DIY sound is as exciting and bright as ever. La Isla Bonita, their latest album, is full of oddball rhythms and high-energy vocals from the band’s singer, Satomi Matsuzaki.
Deerhoof is wrapping up a North American tour this month before taking off for Matsuzaki’s home country, Japan, in December. Last week in Toronto, Matsuzaki and I snuck away before a Deerhoof show to talk about synchronized dancing, how important it is to push your own limits, and the band’s puffy-pastel music video, “Paradise Girls,” which we are excited to premiere at this very moment!
MELODY LAU: This video is so much fun! How did you come up with the concept?
SATOMI MATSUZAKI: [Director Kenichi Iwasa] and I just wanted to make a funny dance video! We were watching some Janet Jackson videos and wanted to have in-unison dance moves [in ours], but I was like, I don’t know if I can dance like that! We made costumes out of stretchy fabric and gathered some friends to wear them—but then realized it was too hard for them to pull off certain moves because their legs got stuck and some of them fell!
What are the costumes supposed to be?
Ken thought of this idea of girls hatching from an egg or cocoon. In the song, I’m cheering for girls and calling for them to come out in front, so these girls hatched like butterflies.
I love that they have strange teeth and aren’t the stereotypical image of beauty, too.
We wanted to make the girls pretty but “imperfect,” so they have funny makeup and black teeth when they smile.
I also heard that the song was inspired by women like Joan Jett, Janet Jackson, Kim Gordon, and Kathleen Hanna—how do these women influence you?
They’re all inspiring figures in rock history. It’s great to be connected to [Kathleen and] Riot Grrrl because we came from the same era. This year is Deerhoof’s 20th anniversary and we started on [Bikini Kill’s label] Kill Rock Stars. I was still living in Japan when Riot Grrrl was happening, but I was listening to bands like Huggy Bear. When I moved to San Francisco, I joined a band. Deerhoof came out of a post–Riot Grrrl era, but this song is a connection to that scene.
Was Riot Grrrl a big thing in Japan?
Rough Trade in Tokyo had CDs from Kill Rock Stars and K Records. It’s funny because Japan has never had one “girl” scene, but there are so many girl musicians. It’s a little backwards in America; there have always been a lot of girl singers [in rock bands], but not as many musicians. I’m finding more now, [like our tour mates, Priests], but maybe I’m just missing out.
Were you scared at first when you moved to California?
Yeah, but that was the challenge! Twenty years feels so short. When [I was] a teenager, every year felt very long, but once you’re in your 20s, time flies! I think you should cram things in when you can. When we toured in Japan, we went to a small island where I met these teenagers, and [some of them] were like, “I know you went to San Francisco—do you think I should leave this town? I have a boyfriend, though.” I said, “You’re 19. You should definitely leave! Are you really going to commit to something for the rest of your life right now?” I always suggest that girls try something out of their comfort zones and return if they don’t feel comfortable. It’s important to expand your limits. ♦