Tom Smith examines the band behind the Nabari no Ou opening theme.
Veltpunch reversed their way into the world of anime. While other groups struggle to get festivals, conventions or tour dates until they have landed an opening or closing theme in the next big animated series, Veltpunch were already out there, upper-cutting their way into America some eight years prior to any involvement in anime.
In the time between, they released a paltry three singles. The latest, ‘CRAWL’, stood its ground as the opening song for J.C.Staff’s ninja romp Nabari no Ou and has been the alternative rock outfit’s only tie-in to animation so far. So what exactly does a band do when, after eight years, they only have a trio of singles to their name? A lot more than it initially sounds.
Veltpunch is, and always will be, a band all about the albums. Originally starting life by performing Smashing Pumpkins covers, they went on to record seven original albums, with the latest, His Strange Fighting Pose released in August this year. Even their singles are more like full-blown EPs in disguise. Their first release was at the turn of the millennium, entitled ‘Repeat 2000 Times’. It earned them a spot at America’s largest music festival, SXSW.
On their return to Japan they started a new project to boost Tokyo’s indie music scene, named ‘Noise of the Underground’. Based in the university town of Sangenjaya, it was situated next to the music hotbed of Shimokitazawa (home to the likes of BEATS CRUSADERS, Bump of Chicken and many more) and five minutes from the trend-setting Shibuya. Here, the band continued to modestly fill live houses. In the spirit of underground music, their second single was released during this period but only available to buy from the band directly at gigs.
It wasn’t until their third single ‘CRAWL’, which came bundled with a DVD containing five live performances, that the band entered the consciousness of the mainstream. Yet, despite the lead track’s use in Nabari no Ou, Veltpunch remained relatively underground, which may not be the greatest path for their yen-craving wallets, but it is fantastic news for overseas fans. Why? Simple: they’re signed to an indie record label. Worldwide digital distribution is handled in-house with no confusing, music-blocking licence mumbo-jumbo getting in the way – the main reason that so much music from Japan doesn’t make it to these shores. As a result, five of Veltpunch’s seven albums can be purchased in the UK digitally through iTunes, and they even have a rack of titles on Amazon.
Even so, the band still can’t get enough of the indie lifestyle and spend any spare time they have working on their respective side projects. Vocalist and guitarist Hidenori Naganuma makes electro-pop tunes from his bedroom under the moniker CAMELLIFE; female vocalist and bass player Aiko Nagajima has teamed up with Veltpunch’s other guitarist Seiji Himeno to form the four-piece emo project mpjbd; and when Seiji’s not playing in either of those bands, he’s fronting his own new wave unit ENMANOVA. And to be honest, I reckon that when they’re giving their fingers a break from melody-making, they like nothing more than to chill out to episodes of Nabari no Ou and wonder what new places their music has travelled to because of it.
Nabari no Ou 1.2 is available now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.