Quite likely the most unapologetically artsy punk-related band since the early days of Sonic Youth
-- when Kim Gordon
was writing for Artforum, Thurston Moore
and Lee Ranaldo
worked with Glenn Branca
, and underground movie star Richard Edson was their drummer -- Japanther is not in the least bit afraid to get all conceptual 'n' stuff.
Japanther was formed in 2001 by Matt Reilly and Ian Vanek, undergrads at New York City's highly regarded art school The Pratt Institute. With Reilly singing while playing a three-stringed bass as Vanek simultaneously attacked a drum kit and a bank of electronic equipment playing found and mutated cassettes, both of them singing into microphones fashioned out of old-fashioned telephone handsets, they're like a more playful and even more self-conscious updating of the late-'70s no wave scene, though a thorough rooting in the skatepunk scene as youngsters keeps things from getting too precious. After a 2001 self-released demo, Japanther debuted with the 2002 EP South of Northport, followed by the full-lengths Leather Wings and Dump the Body in Rikki Lake. After a second EP, The Operating Manual for Life on Earth, and a pair of split EP projects with Sneeze
and Viking Club, the albums Master of Pigeons (2005), Wolfenswan (2005), Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty (2006), and Skuffed Up My Huffy (2007) followed. In addition to various multimedia projects with a variety of collaborators, Dump the Body in Rikki Lake and the concept album Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty (a loose retelling of the 1960s cult classic Wild in the Streets) were used as the basis of puppet shows in collaboration with Philip Huber, who designed and controlled the marionettes in the film Being John Malkovich. The band soldiered on into the later part of the aughts, playing more d.i.y. shows that melded the catharsis of punk rock with the dadaism of certain sects of performance art or 60's "happenings". The band embraced their art school roots by collaborating constantly with visual and mixed-media artists, going so far as to be included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial and the 2011 Venice Biennale. They were consistent in the release of new sound material as well. Among various split 7" releases, the band issued albums Tut Tut, Now Shake Ya Butt in 2008, Rock 'n' Roll Ice Cream in 2010, Beets, Limes and Rice in 2011, Eat Like Lisa Act Like Bart in 2013 and Instant Money Magic in 2014. ~ Stewart Mason, Rovi