The Pillows

Formed in Japan's northernmost province of Hokkaido at a time when most of their Tokyo contemporaries were in thrall to the sounds of Seattle, Japanese three-piece the Pillows sidestepped the loud-soft dynamic to provide a more wholesome take on the alternative rock scene, inspired by the lyrical folk-rock of Simon & Garfunkel and classic British pop, from the Beatles to the Jam. Outside of their homeland, the band is best known for its soundtrack to the anime series FLCL (pronounced "furi-kuri"). Over the course of their career, the Pillows have left a considerable stamp on the Japanese alternative rock scene, as evidenced by the release of a 2004 tribute album that saw various Japanese pop and rock luminaries pay them homage. The Pillows debuted in 1991 with the album Moon Gold, although the band's early reputation was built upon a frenetic nationwide touring schedule that was matched only by the intensity of their performances. A burgeoning fan base was cemented with the release of the 1996 single "Strange Chameleon," which today remains a cult favorite among longtime fans of the band. For their breakthrough album Please Mr. Lost Man (1997), the Pillows signed to King Records, and the same took their live show to London. The Pillows found a wider international audience when their songs were featured in the Gainax-produced anime FLCL, broadcast in the United States in 2000. The series followed the travails of a 12-year-old boy, Naota, who meets a guitar-wielding, Vespa-riding woman. The Pillows penned a new track, "Ride a Shooting Star," for the closing theme. In 2005 the Pillows performed in the United States for the first time at the South by Southwest music festival. Altogether they played six shows across the states, including New York and San Francisco at a Chicago anime convention that saw the group play to 4,000 people over two days. The U.S-released album My Foot followed in summer 2006 on the Geneon label, and their popularity overseas has led to tens of thousands of friends on their MySpace page. Domestically, the band switched to Avex Trax for the release of 2007's Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up! and the following year's Pied Piper. ~ David Hickey

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