Puffy Ami Yumi is a Japanese pop-rock duo consisting of Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura. In Japan, they are known simply as PUFFY, but outside of Japan, their first names are added to the band name to avoid conflict with Sean Combs /Puffy.
US audiences may recognize their music, if not their name, as they have recorded the theme songs for several animated shows including Teen Titans and SD Gundam Force. They also had their own animated show on Cartoon Network called Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi. Within the US/Canada, this has given them a large pre-teen and teen audience, but back home, their appeal is much wider.
Their non-theme song releases are a group effort between their producer Tamio Okuda, themselves, and American songwriter Andy Sturmer. According to those who have worked with them, the duo does actively participate in the writing of their songs, lyrics, melodies — rather than relying completely on their producer and collaborative songwriter. The band admits that this group effort, plus their appreciation for many different styles, makes their own genre hard to define. Rather than the band being one “style,” they write and perform songs ranging from vocal-group style to pop to rock. At times, they sound Beatle-esque, other times they channel Cyndi Lauper, and occasionally they seem to be a milder version of Boom Boom Satellites.
A couple of months ago, I was able to attend one of their Tokyo shows. Unlike many bands, who have a certain audience or limited appeal, PUFFY appeals to a wide range of people. The outdoor Earthquake Relief benefit concert was held in Hibiya Park — and the lined up crowd literally contained ages 3-65! A few minutes of sprinkling rain early on was no deterrent to the excitement. Small children ran around in tiny PUFFY shirts, teen boys and girls had their PUFFY towels in hand, and the older set bought and immediately wore their PUFFY t-shirts.
The performance and stage show itself was fantastic; and as expected, their chosen songs for the night ran the style gamut from light pop to hard-rocking, almost head-banging glee. Of course, they sang “Hi Hi,” the theme from Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi, but alas, no Teen titans! Special fun were the tiny voices of children calling out “Ami-chan!” and “Yumi-chan!” between songs, while nearby adults rocked out, drinking beer. Truthfully, it is rare to find a musical group with such style and age appeal.
When touring the US, Puffy Ami Yumi is one of the few bands that take some care to insure that most, but not all, of their shows are held in “all-ages” venues. From their first US appearance at SWSW 2000 to now, their appeal grows. It helps that while most of their songs are sung in Japanese, they have a large enough catalog of English language songs to appeal worldwide.
English language Puffy Ami Yumi site: http://www.puffyamiyumi.com/
The previous months also brought a variety of excellent up-and-coming foreign bands to Tokyo. Switch Three, a hard-rocking four man group from Australia came up for a mini-tour of Tokyo and played a selection of shows. The band headlined small shows where they, at one event, performed after local band Swanky Dank, a trio that somehow mingle classic rock with the lightest whiff of k-pop styling.
Switch Three immediately drew the audience in to their musical world with their unique style of rock: containing something new, something different, and yet somehow familiar — in the best way. A probable and delightful effect of one band member being influenced by The Cure, while another prefers Iron Maiden!
The band will return to Tokyo in November 2011 for another exciting mini-tour, as well as promoting their new album.
Switch Three site: http://www.switchthree.com/