5.6.7.8: Who do we appreciate?

The 5.6.7.8's are coming to Britain and are drawing sell-out crowds. Tim Cooper meets the idiosyncratic Japanese all-girl rock trio with the Kill Bill connection

It's a far cry from
The House of Blue Leaves. The cramped bedroom of a redbrick B&B in a residential corner of north London just about accommodates its two unmade beds, three Japanese girls and a vast pile of luggage tagged from Tokyo to Heathrow. But only just.

It's a far cry from The House of Blue Leaves. The cramped bedroom of a redbrick B&B in a residential corner of north London just about accommodates its two unmade beds, three Japanese girls and a vast pile of luggage tagged from Tokyo to Heathrow. But only just.

An ashtray overflowing with white-tipped duty-free cigarette butts testifies to a long night of jet lag. Slouched on a nasty nylon bedspread in their spangly silver stage costumes, The 5.6.7.8's look more bored than bewildered as a French fashion photographer tries to coax them into life.

Insouciance seems to be the girl group's default setting. The trio looked similarly nonchalant when we first saw them strutting their stuff on a nightclub stage in Kill Bill Vol 1, moments before Uma Thurman unleashed her slice-and-dice holocaust on Lucy Liu's goons, the Crazy 88 Fighters. Barefoot and beehived, shuffling awkwardly in Fifties sheath dresses, like The Ronettes doing karaoke Cramps, they had an incongruous retro-chic style and gonzo-garage sound that left a lasting impression. That, and the fact that one of the songs, whooped out by the drummer over a primitive rockabilly rhythm, had a lyric that went (in its entirety): "Woo hoo, woo-hoo-hoo." It was a song that was would instantly lodge in your head and then drive you mad when you couldn't get it out again, after it was featured on a TV lager ad.

The 5.6.7.8's clearly had the same effect on Quentin Tarantino when he first stumbled across their music on a shopping spree in Tokyo. "He was in a vintage clothes store when the shop assistant, who is a friend of ours, was playing one of our songs, called 'Bomb the Twist'," says Yoshiko Fujiyama, the singer-guitarist with a nickname of Ronnie and a tattoo that reads "DELINQUENT" on her arm. "He loved the song but didn't have time to buy a copy, so he asked the assistant to sell him hers."

Before long, Tarantino had contacted the group's label, Time Bomb Records, in Osaka, and arranged for a crew to film one of their club shows for him. Next stop was Beijing, for a fortnight on the set of a Hollywood movie, rubbing shoulders with Tarantino ("very nice!"), Thurman ("very nice!"), and Liu ("very nice - she speak very good Japanese!"). Not bad for a band who still have day jobs after nearly 20 years of failing to hit the big time: the punk-garage-rockabilly-surf-Sixties-girl-group scene is evidently as much of an underground movement in Tokyo as everywhere else.

The 5.6.7.8's started out some time in the mid-Eighties: Ronnie's memory is worse than her rudimentary English and, despite the presence of an interpreter, she likes to answer questions in her own limited vocabulary. Hence an enquiry about when she formed the band is met with a smile and the cheerful declaration: "I have no idea!"

Whenever it was (and the liner notes for their recently released singles compilation Bomb the Rocks suggest it was 1986), Yoshiko recruited her big sister Sachiko on drums, adding a female guitarist and a bass-player called Rico and Kikako. They wore motorcycle jackets and ripped jeans ("lip my jeans!") like The Ramones, and their set mixed songs by the Heartbreakers and the Stooges with covers of girl groups such as The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las.

"I grew up listening to Seventies punk and as soon as I heard The Sex Pistols I knew I wanted to be in a rock'n'roll band," Yoshiko/Ronnie recalls. "At first I just sang because I couldn't play the guitar. But I started to learn because I always wanted to be like Johnny Thunders!" Their first single was "Mondo Girl a Go Go", setting the B-movie template for what was to come: for example, "Motor Cycle Go-Go-Go" (whose lyrics include a memorable reference to a "gasoline-marinaded burning red heart"), "My Boyfriend from Outer Space" and "She Was a Mau Mau". Plus an ironic cover of a song called "Ah So".

When Rico and Kikako left to form Sleaze Sisters, the Fujiyama sisters briefly allowed a man (Eddie) to pass through the group. Then they ditched the bloke and slimmed down to a trio, introducing a Ranieri-like rotation policy for bass-players: "Woo Hoo" features Omo on record but Yama on screen in Kill Bill. And, if you see the group on their current UK tour, the bass will be played by the 21-year-old newcomer Saki. Until she goes back to university.

Ronnie's not sure how many members have been through the band. "I have no idea!" she repeats. "Six? Or maybe seven." Including, according to my web research, a drummer called Salad.

Their latest performance in Britain, at the start of the summer, was a sell-out show at the Boston Arms, a north-London pub where an unsigned White Stripes played their breakthrough show. It's hard to imagine The 5.6.7.8's going mainstream in the same way. But they are more than one-hit wonders, as they hope to prove with their next single, "I'm Blue" (the other song they sang in Kill Bill) and a new album rejoicing in the title Teenage Mojo Workout.

They are also going to reach the biggest audience of their career when they play on the main stage at the Reading and Leeds festivals later this month. Yoshiko is not sure if she's more excited about the size of the crowd or the chance to see one of her favourite bands, the MC5. And, for that matter, The White Stripes, with whom they have history, having been briefly signed to the same US label (Sympathy for the Record Industry) and having supported them in their own country. "Ah, yes," Yoshiko recalls. "We played with White Stripes in Japan. Maybe six or seven years ago... There were only 10 people in the audience!"

The 5.6.7.8's tour to 1 September. The single 'I'm Blue' is out on 6 September; 'Teenage Mojo Workout' is out on 20 September on Sweet Nothing

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas