Interview: Japanese Television – The World’s Only 100% Space Surf Band

London psych-surf instrumentalists Japanese Television rose from the ashes of three garage rock bands, releasing a self-titled debut EP in 2018 which won plaudits from the likes of Gideon Coe and Amy Lame and quickly sold out its limited vinyl run.  They followed it up with a second EP, craftily titled EP II, which disappeared in a similarly swift manner, so to spare the disappointment of fans of physical formats, Tip Top Recordings have combined the two records into a single slice of beautiful heavyweight vinyl, titled JTV III (1+2, get it), which sees all of the band’s studio output to date joined by a set of session tracks recorded for Mark Riley’s BBC 6Music show.  We caught up with the band to talk about the new release, their recent UK tour and future plans.

Having come out of bands on the garage rock scene, which much as we love it tends to be dominated by the standard vox/guitar/bass/drums set up, where did the idea for a purely instrumental band come from?

The short answer is that none of us can sing! But to elaborate a bit, once we got together and started playing we thought it sounded pretty good as an instrumental band. It also harks back a bit to the classic surf bands like the Ventures or the Chantays, as well as all those weird Joe Meek bands like the Flee-rekkers. We’re taking it in a different direction though.

Are there any current bands that you’d consider your contemporaries in the realm of psychedelic space-surf music?

Nope. Only Japanese Television are 100% Space Surf. We’ve played with some great Surf bands and tonnes of excellent Psych bands but I don’t know any other bands mixing the two like us.

Your debut EP received a pretty overwhelmingly positive response, being named record of the year by both Gideon Coe and Amy Lame on 6Music – did that take you by surprise and has it had any impact on how you’ve approached subsequent songwriting? 

Yeah, definitely a pleasant surprise, we never expected this kind of praise early on. It’s certainly tempting if you get a song on the radio to think ‘oh let’s write a new one that sounds like that’, but I think then you get typecast as doing one type of tune. Generally it’s a case of just ploughing ahead with the new material and see how it goes down live before we record it.

The new record brings together all of your recorded music to date along with session versions recorded for the Mark Riley show – what do the session recordings have that differs from the studio recordings?

Since we record live, all in one room, with very minimal dubs, the live stuff sounds pretty bang on with the record. The Riley sessions have a good bit of energy to them though I think, ‘cos we were all so fucking nervous. I mean, it was live, and Marc Riley was sitting about 3 feet away.

The vinyl release is being put out by Tip Top Recordings – how did the link up with a label based in Chicago happen?

Alex’s former band The Projects were on Tip Top for a while, we sent them our early demos. I have absolutely no idea whether space surf is popular in Chicago, I’d like to think so though.

You’ve just completed your biggest headline tour so far having previously supported the likes of Swedish Death Candy, Dead Meadow and Snapped Ankles – how was it?  Does topping the bill change the way that you approach a performance?

The tour was great – plenty of atrocious weather but that’s to be expected in the UK in February! It was especially nice to finish with two sold-out shows in Nottingham and Brighton. In terms of headlining, we always try to give an intense performance without taking it too seriously. We want people to have a good time and get a bit lost in the music, and I suppose the later you go onstage the more the crowd have ‘loosened up’… if you know what I mean.

What do you have coming up next? 

About halfway through recording 1st LP. Got some festival slots coming through and some Rough Trade in stores around the country in the next few months. Yeah, should be a fun year.

JTV III – Deluxe Edition is available to buy now through Tip Top Records

Interview by Paul Maps

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