Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Embracing the Weird with Voluntary Mother Earth

March 7, 2009

Voluntary Mother Earth band leader, Akihiko Hayahawa (a.k.a. “Aki”), thinks that we live in a weird world.

“The world we came to know is an extremely absurd place, where a humongous aluminum pipe is flying in the sky with people in it,” Aki says. “We roll a chain around an animal’s neck and call it a family member. People paint their faces and call it beauty. We tend to take these things for granted. But if you take a look around and really think about it, this place is f***** up.”

However, life’s oddities don’t drag Aki and Voluntary Mother Earth down. In fact, this satirical, insane, genre-diverse group gets their inspiration from our weird world.

You can take what’s f***** up and get angry, feel depressed, go crazy – it’s your choice. I just decided to laugh at it. And that’s how the songs are born,” Aki says.

Claiming to be one of the weirdest bands to ever exist on Earth, Voluntary Mother Earth is a three-piece rock group that formed in 2004, originally hailing from Denton, Texas. They released an album (Voluntary Invasion) there, but soon relocated to Tokyo. Withstanding several lineup changes, Voluntary Mother Earth toured the U.S. and released a new album (Unacceptable Vegetable) in 2007. Now, band members Aki Hayahawa (guitar and vocals), Noriff Micky (bass), and Fujita Fajita (drums), are going on another U.S. tour and bringing their unique blend of musical styles with them.

“It’s like Frank Zappa meets Jimi Hendrix in a playground where serious right brains are hanging out and having a great time,” Aki says of their sound.

The group’s music is frequently hilarious, with song titles like “I Said, ‘Just Water, Please,’ And She Gave Me Sprite,” but Voluntary Mother Earth is not merely funny. They glide effortlessly through many genres – hard rock and funk, to name a few – showcasing a wide understanding of music and sophisticated songwriting from Aki.

When their music is played live, Aki says that there are usually two “tribes” of reactions from the audience. One tribe, he says, is called “Idigthistus,” and consists of people who “really go for it,” dancing, screaming, and occasionally giving painful high-fives.

“What can I say, love hurts at times,” Aki adds. “When I find folks from this particular tribe during our set, I tend to invite them to come up onstage and have them dance with the band. As it turns out, America is the home of this tribe.”

Unfortunately, the second tribe, “Idontgetthistus,” does exist in some towns, Aki says, but VME doesn’t let these non-right-brainers bother them. In fact, during one set, a woman named Sandra from Connecticut began as a member of this latter “tribe,” but was soon converted. Aki says that Sandra, who he dubbed “the drunk woman from hell,” was loudly yelling “Booooring!” in between the songs of the set, and causing a lot of trouble for VME.

“I was on the verge of making full use of my right to free speech, and telling her to go have intercourse with her good self,” Aki says of the incident. “That’s when Zen came down on me all the way from the East, and spoke words of wisdom. The answer, my friend, was surely blowing in the wind. Instead of shouting at her to get lost, I asked her, as politely as I could manage, how she’d like to come join the band onstage and sing a song with us. She thought it was a great idea.”

Impulsive, audience-engaging actions like this one are common during Voluntary Mother Earth’s live shows.

“Expect to be brought up onstage and be asked to dance like there’s no tomorrow to a song that’s not danceable,” Aki says, also adding that sometimes it’s push-ups instead of dancing.

And as for their live music, Aki says that they like to play different versions of the songs on their albums.

“Expect higher-energy versions of the songs with live-show-only arrangements,” he says. “You can hear a punk version of what was on the record a ballad, and things like that. Expect FUN.”

Aki adds that these live performances are a part of what makes them one of the weirdest bands on Earth.

“It’s the atmosphere we create together with the audience that makes us one of the weirdest,” he says.

So, this March, if you need to exercise your right brain, if you need a heaping dose of the absurd, or if you feel like dancing like a maniac, check our Voluntary Mother Earth on their tour, which is listed in full on their myspace. And for those who can’t attend one of these locations, they will be releasing a new “official bootleg” live album on March 11, which even includes the incident with Sandra, the drunk woman from hell.

“Have you ever heard ‘field recording’ of local tribes living in the depths of a jungle singing their local folk tunes, and stuff like that? Take this album as the field recording of a low-budget touring act,” Aki says of the live album.

The band will also be releasing a new full-length studio album sometime this year. In the meantime, stay weird, Aki suggests.

“I want you to know that if you are not afraid of breaking through the walls around you that keep you “normal” and are ready to find out that the world is a really absurd place, then the beer’s on me.”

Voluntary Mother Earth-Unacceptable Vegetable

April 1, 2008

voluntarymotherearth(http://www.myspace.com/voluntarymotherearth) Voluntary Mother Earth – Unacceptable Vegetable

Self-released

Eccentric, hilarious, absurdist rock from Tokyo.

What do you get when you mix powerful rock with funk and hilarity? A tomato, actually – which is, more specifically, an Unacceptable Vegetable. This album from (http://www.myspace.com/voluntarymotherearth) Voluntary Mother Earth is insane and satirical, but also has a strong rock foundation.

Unacceptable Vegetable begins with an ominous bell tolling, but then launches straight into heavy rock. They make the hilarious demand of “give us a tomato” in the opening song of the same name. By this point, it has definitely stopped sounding ominous, and has instead set the album’s rock-oriented sound. It also makes it clear that this band does not take themselves too seriously. The balance of head-nodding heavy metal sound and goofy lyrics in “Give Us a Tomato” is certainly original, if a bit disconcerting at first.

“Free Head for a Free Ride” is a funkier song, with more of a jam-band feel. The subject matter of this tune is blatantly sexual, which is another common motif of this album. Take, for example, the last two tracks, which are respectively titled “Forgive My Penis” and “… And You Got My Penis Hurt.”

Frequently on Unacceptable Vegetable, Voluntary Mother Earth expresses the strangeness of everyday activities. This is especially true on “I Said ‘Just Water, Please’ and She Gave Me Sprite,” which is about, well, just that. The entire song discusses someone who goes into an IHOP and orders water to drink, but, alas, gets a Sprite instead. Its extremely dramatic interpretation of the event is far funnier than its apparent ordinariness. This song isn’t simply funny though – the theatrical rock accompanying the lyrics suits their satirical style.

Another standout track is “A Story of the Typical Week of a Starving Musician.” This fast-paced song is not as hard rock as some of the rest of the album, but has more of a danceable sound, with the use of synth keyboards and funky guitar riffs. There is also a surprising honky-tonk break in the middle (which is not meant to be completely serious, of course).

Overall, Voluntary Mother Earth manages to combine heavy rock music with crazy lyrics and subject matters on Unacceptable Vegetable in a way that really works – as long as you don’t take music too seriously.

Megan Morgan

megan@independentclauses.com

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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