If you frequent Japanese underground live houses to enjoy a cold beer and good company, then you may have caught the vibes of this quirky garage rock band No Buses, rocking it on stage.
No Buses worked hard to make a name for themselves by playing small underground venues in Tokyo; Here’s one of the rare clear photos of the band’s obscure first line-up back in 2017.
If the name rings a bell, then you may be acquainted with the iconic rock legends Arctic Monkeys who released a B-Side of the same name. No Buses’ music is a revival of the heavy punk rock era of “Who the fuck are the Arctic Monkeys.” They reinvented punk rock with their understated yet refreshingly unique retro concept.
The band started out in 2016 with two highschool friends, Taisei Kondo and Shinya Goto. As the group started to gather traction for their music, the band faced a rocky period because of it’s unsteady lineup. Fortunately, the group finally decided on their official line-up in 2018 featuring Kondo and Goto, Issey Ichikawa’s impressive drumming technique and Saori Sugiyama, their only female member, who kills it on electric bass (listen out for her beautiful backing vocals in their song Yellow Card!). The newest addition to the group, guitarist Haruki Wada, made his official debut in the band’s self-titled second album released in June 2021.
Their most recent single from this album, “Yellow Card” showcases a refined version of the band’s unique 70s retro-tech aesthetic. The song starts with spooky synths sounding straight out of a retro horror video game. The band distorted their instrumentals to match the style while still keeping the raw underground feel of punk rock.
In the video for “Yellow Card”, the ensemble gets transported into a trippy retro video game played on a cardboard desktop monitor and impressive low-budget psychedelic effects made on green screen.
Their music has a bizarre and almost unsettling concept that feels like a fever dream within a fever dream. Taking a deep-dive into their discography, I never cease to be entertained by No Buses’ weird, childish and mesmerizing imaginations.
Their new album introduces a psychedelic rock feel, heard in the surreal and cinematic quality of Imagine Siblings or the complex instrumental track, Biomega. Yet the post punk influence is still evident in their stripped down instrumentals and their vocalist’s raw unfiltered sound.
The inconspicuous and awkward nature of No Buses is ironically what drew attention to the band. But what fans stayed for is their captivating guitar performances and the charmingly low effort vocals and catchy refrains.
With the rise in popularity of independent artists in the ‘bedroom pop’ wave, No Buses deserves a seat at the table because they ate the authentic, DIY-inspired style that highlights their raw talent.
As a comment from a fan on Youtube delightfully puts it, “What I love about this video is that they are natural, even when they are dancing. Sometimes they laugh, or look like: 'wait, what am I supposed to do??'. They are just themselves. They are young, talented, and original, and that is what we need.” (Kamila W, 2021)
No Buses charms and inspires fans across the world with their ability to live in the moment, dance like no one's watching and embrace their individuality while making phenomenal music- whether it appears picture perfect or not.
If you’re in Tokyo, you can catch No Buses playing with fellow rock bands BIM and D.A.N at Tsutaya O-East on December 29, 2021.
Author: Kelcy Spencer