‘Experimental rock band’ seems like a bland and simplistic explanation for the complex and ever-evolving music that seminal and groundbreaking Japanese three-piece Boris produce.
Part drone rock, post rock and psychedelic rock, with mesmerising ambience, Boris make intensely emotional music on a symphonic scale. (Not symphonic in the way that people claim Muse write epic rock music, but more like a modern-day Wagner opus.) After a successful tour of Australia last year, the elusive band are returning to play their breakthrough album from 2000, Flood, in its entirety (along with a few other tracks).
Founding member and drummer Atsuo explains why the band has chosen to tour Flood in such an ambitious way. “It started because we played Flood last year in Japan at the Leave Them All Behind 2012 festival, which was really good,” he says. “When we go on big tours, it’s usually after we’ve released a new album. So, we always have to focus our set list on songs from each new release. We’ve been touring overseas many times since 2005, but we haven’t played much from our albums released before that time. That’s why we thought we’d like to do a show that was focused on Flood, and include material from our past and our future, including new songs.”
Atsuo admits that in preparing for this tour (and due to the specific nature of the tour) there have been many discussions about the changes Boris have gone through as a band, and the musical growth they have each undergone on their respective instruments. People usually always get better as time goes on, but Atsuo jokes that perhaps there are also things they can no longer do as well as before.
“We’ve been playing in a special environment for a long time where we use low tunings, we go for a big sound and big drums, so now there’s a big gap between our bodies and those of what are considered normal musicians,” he laughs. “We can’t play normal music. It’s impossible to play sessions with other artists. We’ve been losing the ability to be normal musicians, but that’s been increasing the abilities of what only Boris can do.”
Boris have been extremely prolific in their time, with a steady stream of albums, collaborations and uniquely “Boris” musical creations appearing over their nearly 20 years together. It’s hard to do a simple count of studio releases because, like their music, their approach to recording and releasing transcends standard musical labels as well. They are tireless creators and forever breaking new ground, seeming not to care when their music fails to find a neat little home, and remaining true to their vision.
They also draw influence from more than just music. “Culture influences us too. There are unique twists that occur in the places where cultures collide as they pass through the factors that are Japanese,” he says. Even determining whether the band can be filed under “heavy” is a challenge. While their music can swing between an aural assault and a soothing and hypnotic wash, Boris put emotion first, with timbre and tempo taking a back seat. “Well, it’s necessary to be heavy in order to make reality motivate people’s hearts,” Atsuo says. “In this context, things like tuning down low and going for bigger sounds are not what I mean by the term ‘heavy’. For us, heavy means that we, as players, limit our own personal expressions in favour of what the song requires of us, to the utmost.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
Boris plays Manning Bar at Sydney Uni on Friday June 21.