Semi On are an amazing band who formed through circumstance and plain old fashioned luck; drummer, Kazuya, used to practice in a hobo ridden park in Nagoya…the homeless are very poor tippers I’m sure. Whilst spending an afternoon drumming away his troubles, musical couple John and Bryony happened to see his rocking out and stopped by to have a listen. Once he finished, Kazuya asked in his broken English (he is now much better):
They assured him that he was awesome and proceeded to grab his phone number.
From there, John and Bryony contacted their good friends, violinist Coleen and bassist/guitarist, Lesley. And so, Semi On was born from a gaggle of mates and random guy in the park! Every band member brought something different to the table, each having a very different musical background, taste and style. Early practices spanned the genres, with them playing Jamiroquai one second and Rage Against the Machine the next.
They are now a self proclaimed “Gypsy Funk” band and when asked where their unique style came from, Lesley coolly replied:
“We just started jammin’.”
They have played at countless live events all over Japan, including a gun club in Yokkaichi and a spring festival in Higashiyama Zoo, both of which have very unforgiving and potentially dangerous audiences. Their real base of operations however is The Plastic Factory, a cool little spot in Nagoya, which teeters on the edge of being a club, a live house and an art gallery. Not only do they host the monthly open-mic event, The Harmonium Parlour, on the last Sunday of each month, owner Heinz has all but adopted the band, to the extent that he offered a convenient little play-pen/practice area for when Bryony and John had their son, Tayvian (who is now two, but already a pro drummer!). Coleen remembers those days fondly:
“We would be practicing with dimmed lights and Tayvian would be in his little cage.”
He is now one of the bands biggest (although physically smallest) fans, coming to most live events and out-dancing anyone who dares cross his path.
In 2010, Semi On toured Britain, culminating in a gig at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Along they way they had a ho-down in the top floor of a Cheshire barn, played at the Constitution pub in London, where the sound guy was a little deaf and the beer garden of a 17th Century Scottish pub. Playing outside in Britain is a risky business, as some stereotypes are pretty accurate and it does rain a lot! The crowds came and went depending on the rain, but one group who got really into the gig was a set of Japanese Embassy workers who were too shy to ask Kazuya if he was Japanese or not. Being Japanese however, they invested in a little Dutch courage and proceeded to get wasted, later they were ecstatic when Kazuya confirmed their suspicions.
You can pick up Semi On’s music at most of their live events, or through iTunes. Their website has information on tracks, upcoming gigs, photos from their tours, bios of each band member and much more: