I make no secrets about my deep love of ska music, nor do I make any apologies for it. And so one of the great joys of my job is when my love of ska intersects with my love of Japanese music, such as with Oreskaband. This female ska group out of Sakai has been going strong since 2003 and has been a mainstay in the Japanese ska scene ever since.
In 2003, the fledgling Oreskaband was known as Oretachi Kasukasu Lawson Ska Band with Cutter Shirts (thank goodness they shortened that one) and its members were still in middle school — they performed many of their original shows in school uniform.
Within a few years, they were signed to Sony Records and haven’t slowed down since. Despite nearly 20 years together and an occasionally changing line-up (itself a common theme in ska bands), Oreskaband has never dropped out of the ska scene in Japan.
And they’re not just a hit in Japan, either; Oreskaband has had several world tours, appearing at Anime Expo in 2007 and the Warped Tour in 2008. They’ve travelled around both North and South America as well as Europe — quite the accomplishment for a group of people barely out of high school. And their success touring translated to multiple albums and singles, one of which served as an ending theme to Bleach and Naruto.
Live shows with Oreskaband are typically high energy, drawing on the power of punk that often intersects with ska. It is almost impossible to find a video of one of their performances where they aren’t covered in sweat, belting out their music while running across the stage. The youthful energy they brought to their first shows doesn’t seem to have faded at all — and shows no sign of doing so.
Over the years, the band’s line-up has changed, particularly in the last few years. iCas (vocals and guitar), Hayami (trombone), and Tae (drums) have been with the group since its inception, while ADD (saxophone) and Yume (bass) are more recent additions. The changing faces haven’t slowed the band down, though, and they recently announced their new album will be released shortly.
Ska music is at its best when it is a celebration, bringing people together in a joyful moment of self-expression. That is why the “skank” dance has been a mainstay at ska gigs for decades. Oreskaband bring that same kind of joy to their performances today. Despite a name that literally means “We Are A Ska Band”, they aren’t afraid to mix new influences into their music. Their latest song, No. 9, leans heavier into some reggae influences, while Free Now has a swing-jazz quality to it that makes it incredibly fun and impossible not to dance to.
For fans wanting to hear a more traditional ska sound from them, songs like Itokashi will scratch that itch. The expected horn section and downbeats come through strong, while the hints of the punk influences hang out at the fringes of many of their songs. Oreskaband are terribly talented musicians, with the ability to play almost anything they want. The fact that they bless us with ska only makes them more exciting to listen to.
Oreskaband have an enormous amount of talent at their disposal and a fearlessness that makes for remarkable music and art. They make some of the most dramatic music in the ska genre, meaning that it is always instantly recognisable. And with a new album in the works, it is an exciting time to be a fan of Oreskaband.
I would be surprised if they didn’t hit the road once the pandemic is over. They are a group that thrives on the road. Their high energy shows are something I look forward to catching when they (hopefully) make their return to the UK.
In the meantime, be sure to check out some of their back catalogue!
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