The 5678s

The 5678s were formed in Tokyo by sisters Sachiko (drums) and Yoshiko “Ronnie” Fujiyama (guitar), and have played their own brand of rockabilly-garage-surf since 1986.

Joined by a loose but regular, rotating line-up, the band are still very active and continue to release records and embark on worldwide tours.

Legend has it that they invented their name by using the first numbers of the decades by which they were most influenced; 50s, 60’s 70’s 80s. Their songs, with twanging guitar and thundering drums, serve as a to soundtrack their joint love of beehives, rock and roll and tattoos.

“We wanted to deconstruct that Chuck Berry-style rock’n’roll into punk music by using noise and distortion and screaming,” says Fujiyama. “We’re also inspired by girl groups such as the Ronettes and the Shangri-La’s, and wanted to incorporate elements of that into our music.”

Looking like the Ronettes while also citing the Ramones as an influence, it’s almost like they were custom made … for say a role in a Tarrantino film …

Funny you should mention that. In 2002, as Quentin himself was doing some last minute clothes shopping in Tokyo, he chanced upon a boutique who’s was playing a 5678s CD via the shop music system. Without any time to go record shopping himself, he offered to buy the shop copy, but the assistant, a devoted 5678s fan stubbornly refused until the manager was called. Negotiations ensued and a price of double the going rate was finally agreed.

Subsequently, Tarrantino invited the band to perform three songs for ‘Kill Bill – Vol 1’,  and even made an appearance as the house band at ‘The House of Blue Leaves’.

Their most well known, and most commercially successful track is a cover of “Woo Hoo” originally by another obscure American 1950s band, the Rock-a-Teens. Their version not only featured in ‘Kill Bill’ but was used extensively during an advertising campaign by Carling lager.

The 5678s turn classic Americana into an oddly jarring, and slightly more exotic version of itself. They’re a band who pay no heed to advances in technology, and continue to play live using vintage equipment. Yoshkio famously still uses her original Teisco guitar, and the band frequently use handclaps as extra lo-fi percussion.

Their influences, who they cite as ranging from early punk rock like the New York Dolls, to surf, to garage and rockabilly, seem to have several things in common; they are all Amercian, all men and all from a different era. So what do these, now middle aged, Japanese women think they’re doing?

Lets put ourselves in the shoes of 5678s. With the same enthusiasm and primal energy that drove early rock and roll, and a side of punk rock attitude, the Fujiyama sisters just seem to be doing what they love. They’re like a living breathing, imported record collection.

They evidently love the sounds and look of that era; the pure twang of surf guitar, the unashamed instrumentals, the fast paced beats of early rockabilly. Albeit from afar, maybe they’re just doing what their shared love of vintage records has inspired and taught them to do.

The 5678s, not so much lost in translation, more lost in music.

4 thoughts on “The 5678s

  1. Love the 5678s! Was lucky enough to see them in the mid 90s at a club we frequented called the Go-Lounge Garage, where all of the garage rock acts we loved played “the circuit.” I haven’t heard them in years, but am pleased to hear they are still going strong a quarter century later. What did shock me most in your post was how Quentin Tarrantino had not heard of them until 2001…and by chance!. He must have a great press agent since he’s not half as hip as his reputation would suggest.

  2. Thank you for the interesting post, Lene! I know Shonen Knife and the Scrap well, but knew almost nothing of this Japanese band.

    ‘a band who pay no heed to advances in technology, and continue to play live using vintage equipment.’ I still have my electric guitar bought second hand in 1977 without any previous musical background. Terry still has her bass and the Fender Bassman amp she bought second hand at our first rehearsal. She had it repaired recently.

    This week the title track of our Covergirl EP was played at . After the new Offspring song at 28 minutes into the radio show, Covergirl is announced, plus commented on before the next song.

    1. Thanks Herman, will ive the radio link a listen, and congratulations on the airplay!

      1. Thanks, Lene! Got a nice email about it from our 1981-82 bass player Heleen (‘if you reunite, then I will not be onstage, but off stage to pogo’). DJ Tony ranked Covergirl, like the 3 other EP songs also written by Terry, with Another girl, asnother planet by the Only Ones, as examples of how early punk sounded. Just after the EP came out, it was played at Piccadilly Radio in Manchester and positively reviewed in a Manchester fanzine (they said it sounded like Siouxsie and the Banshees ‘because of female vocals’ … they might have named stronger arguments for that comparison, the Nolan Sisters are also female vocals). Someone in Rotterdam was supposed to send 100 EPs to Rough Trade in London. But it seems they never arrived. We brought some to Rough Trade after we had played in Ipswich in August 1981.

        As for the 5678s, one should hope for a better COVID-19 situation in Japan and elsewhere to allow them to play again, like with other bands. It seems the pandemic in Japan is not as bad as in European countries, let alone Brazil or the USA, but still bad, not as relatively good as New Zealand.

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