Since they formed in 2005, Japanese alternative rock band One OK Rock has been thrilling rabid fans at sold-out shows with their fast and furious blend of high-octane punk, alt rock and pop. Now they are ready to take on America with a major label CD, “35xxxv,” on Warner Bros. and a multi-city tour supporting teen superstars 5 Seconds of Summer, including a stop at the District’s Jiffy Lube Live Friday.
In advance on the next wave of madness, I climbed aboard the One OK Rock tour bus to speak with lead singer Taka — with some help from a translator. Between screams from fans rocking the bus and Taka’s bandmates egging them on, we spoke of life on the road (including the one thing he never leaves home without) and his favorite place to play.
Question: Early this year you played several shows with All Time Low and Sleeping With Sirens. Was there any competition between the bands?
Answer: No. Nothing. We’re all good friends. Good relationship all the time. We want each other to do well. That creates more energy and enthusiasm from the audience. Everyone inspired each other.
Q: Was that your first U.S. tour?
A: No. We’ve toured America before. The first time we played the Warped Tour.The second time was Eurocon. Then we played, as you said, with All Time Love and Sleeping With Sirens.
The Five Seconds of Summer tour is our first stadium tour in the U.S. We have played stadiums at home, but to be in a America on a stage this big is exciting. Wow. Plus this tour is special because it is the first time we had an album out on a major U.S. record label.
Q: How did the tour with 5 Seconds of Summer come about?
A: Our producer from our last album, John Feldmann, introduced us to them. They’re very nice people. It should be great.
Q: Because these are stadium shows, do you have to adjust your live performance to fill the bigger space?
A: Definitely, yes, and we’re discussing it at the moment.
Q: Are you ready for the screaming girls?
A: [Laughs] We’re used to it.
Q: Seriously, they get really loud.
A: It’s all right.
Q:What is the best part of touring in America?
A: Seeing all these new places. I love Los Angeles. We have a house here to stay in. Love the weather. It is my favorite place. Good people. So magical. We dreamt of playing the U.S. when we started, so it’s great. We get to see many cities this time around. Dreams come true.
Q: How is touring in the U.S. different from elsewhere?
A: You travel every day, and the touring period’s long. At home it’s not so many shows in a row.
Q: You are touring in support of your new CD, your first on a major U.S. label. Does that change things?
A: It’s totally different than in Japan. Lots of excitement.
(At this point Taka’s bandmates in the middle and front of the bus start screaming and laughing. Taka jumps up to address the noise.)
A: Hey! We’re to focus on an interview. Shut up!
Q: How is life on a bus with five other guys?
A: They are all the time too annoying. [laughs] Loud. Clothes and shoes everywhere. Smells. So many smells. But so fun.
Q: Will you have any time off when in Washington, D.C.? If so, what are you looking forward to seeing?
A: We’ve been there multiple times on tour, but we’ve never really had a chance to visit places, so we’d just like to go sightseeing.
Q: What is the one thing you need to have with you on the road?
A: I don’t know. My masks.
(Taka produces a big box of safety masks with Japanese writing on the side)
I need them to protect my throat. Allergies are everywhere.
Q: Is touring hard on your voice and throat?
A: We go to so many different places. Weather is different. We meet so many people. Plus sometimes I have the allergies. I need to protect my throat from allergies. Singing every night is my dream, but it is work too.
Q: What is your preshow ritual?
A: I’m not really doing a workout or a warming up. I just sing. The energy of the crowd gets me all I need.
Q: How has the creative process between the band evolved since forming in 2005?
A: Every time we produce a new album, we’re challenging new ideas and processes. We’re constantly focusing on the music and searching for how we can do better.
One OK Rock will open for 5 Seconds of Summer at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia, Friday. Tickets are available at LiveNation.com.