One of the coolest things about the Tokyo duo known as Pinky Doodle Poodle, other than the name, of course, is the juxtapositions in their sound. On the band’s new single, “Jump In,” the kick drum that starts the song off threatens to cave in the listener’s chest, and the guitars are set to “massive eardrum hemorrhage,” which makes it all the more jarring when singer Yuria’s childlike voice comes in and launches into a stream-of-consciousness self-help pep talk, cooing “Don’t miss a chance/ Don’t miss your voice/ Everywhere, looking for it/ Don’t be afraid.”
So there’s a lot going on here, all at the same time and louder than a bomb. It’s similar to the collision of punk and pop that their label-mate Shonen Knife was so good at in the ’90s or the lo-fi dance-rock chaos that the Go! Team creates.
The new sound is also a bit of an unexpected turn for an artist like Yuria (she plays guitar and bass in Pinky Doodle alongside guitarist George), who’s spent most of her career (a decade-plus) either voicing anime characters in song or creating cosmopolitan pop-soul on her solo releases. There’s not even a precedent for any of this in her previous collaboration, Honey Bee, which specialized in electronics-laced, smooth R&B in the vein of Babyface.
So where the hell did this band come from, exactly? As it happens, Yuria’s collaboration with George brought out influences in both of them that they hadn’t expressed before.
“Yuria’s father and grandfather were jazz musicians, and my father used to listen to European and American music so much,” George says. “But Yuria and I both like listening to ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s rock. That’s the music that gives us so much inspiration for our own songs.”
The band released a series of EPs in Japan before their full-length debut came out in 2014, and it seems like the more they record, the more primal their sound becomes — it’s gotten louder and less complex as time has gone on, emphasizing the mighty riff and maximum-impact choruses over everything else.
“We don’t think that our basic sound has changed that much,” Yuria says of the new single, “but our new songs have become a lot simpler. We’re always trying to make our sound more raw and natural.”
As for their collaboration, George says that their roles have been the same since the band formed. “The partnership between the two of [us] is very clear. “I compose the songs and Yuria writes the lyrics,” he says. “And we get along with each other.”
Perhaps one of the reasons behind that constant streamlining of their sound is that onstage, Pinky Doodle Poodle is typically a guitar, a bass, and a basic-as-hell drum kit, channeling a ton of volume and absolutely no frills through a power-trio setup, accented by Yuria’s cheerful lyrics. And there are no mushy songs allowed.
“We don’t do the typical love songs, and there are no negative lyrics,” Yuria says. “Every song has a positive meaning, with positive thinking for life.”
If that sounds at all cutesy or kitschy, you might want to check out the band’s cover of the MC5’s seminal late-’60s room-shaker “Kick Out the Jams,” which is louder than the original by about a 100 fold and stomps like a jackhammer. Yuria might have a high, girlish voice, but she tears into the band’s music like a T. rex into fresh meat.
The band’s raw, blistering sound gained the attention of the Goo Goo Dolls’ Robby Takac, who signed them to his Good Charamel label and produced their first full-length, with Inside Is Out and Get It On following in the past two years. They’d only been able to tour America in small bursts until last year, and their current trek is the longest they’ve done in the United States, spanning three months and nearly 30 dates.
The tour is all in advance of their new album Poodle Boogie, set for release in the fall. And if “Jump In” is any indication, it’s going to be short, sweet, and loud.