All it takes is the briefest of glances at Peelander-Z to figure out that this band’s up to something weird. With three members wearing striped shirts and outfits in bright shades of yellow, red, and green (each player is named after their color of gear), the self-avowed “Japanese action comic punk” act is an ultra-over-the-top cartoon rendered in real-life—Powerpuff Girls for tweenage rockers. But for as bizarre as Peelander-Z’s world looks, it’s far from an uninviting one. To make sure you’re well acquainted with the group before their Radio Radio show tonight, we talked to Peelander Yellow, a.k.a. Kengo Hioki (a few of his comments here have been cleaned up for the sake of clarity), to prep a quick guide on the basics of Peelander. (Spoiler: It’s gonna get wacky.)
Peelander-Z is both of this world and not
Although the group’s earthly origin involves its Japanese members meeting in New York, they also claim to hail from the Z area of a planet called Peelander. As denizens of that place, their silly costumes are more than foreign garments. “That looks like a costume, but that is our skin,” says Peelander Yellow. In another interview, someone from Camp Peelander noted the meanings of the different colors: “Yellow comes from Sun. Green was born in forest. Red loves fire.”
Peelander-Z shows have contained shenanigans like human bowling (a game in which participants physically slide into pins), karaoke contests, limbo dances, piggyback rides, sets played within crowds, and the band handing instruments off to audience members. The spirit of this showmanship comes from Yellow drawing off a love for pro wrestling. “I’m crazy about old wrestling. I want to be a superstar like them, but my body’s no good for the wrestling,” says the fan of Andre The Giant, Mil Mascaras, Terry Funk, and Hulk Hogan. Peelander-Z’s aesthetic is also indebted to anime and the Power Rangers, and Yellow maintains ambitions of making a space-themed P-Z feature flick and touring with the circus.
10 percent music, 90 percent performance
Yellow’s frequently cited the relative percentage of those elements in the live setting. “I like music, but if I go to see the show, I’m always bored because after three songs, I cannot hear any music. So I want to make it more exciting, like wrestling or Power Rangers,” he explains. “I want to mix everything for the people so they never feel boredom.” This sense of immersion is so important that he stresses that people should hang out with them even if you’re not into punk. Their chaotic hooks pack a lot of oomph, and even total neophytes can cheer for absurd songs like “Ninja-High Schooool,” “Tacos Tacos Tacos,” and “S.T.E.A.K.”
There are more of ’em out there
Core performers aside, several Peelander affiliates exist, foremost of which is Peelander Blue, who left the band to return to his home planet and manage his princely duties. (Green was his replacement.) They’re also often accompanied by Peelander Pink—a cheerleader type about whom Yellow cryptically says, “If you find her onstage, you are an honest, nice person”—Peelander Black, a pal who plays some guitar; and a red squid-like mascot you’ll probably want to hug.
Everything’s ridiculous for a reason
It probably seems like Peelander-Z are intent on being batshit crazy just to be batshit crazy, but there’s a method to their silliness. As Peelander Yellow explains, the whole reason they landed on Earth was to eat the smiles that presumably appear on their audience members’ faces. This is their primary form of sustenance, he claims, and if you don’t smile, the band’s going to croak sooner or later. “I need more big smiles. If you give us a big smile, that taste is like the taste of sushi. We are happy,” says Yellow. “We want to eat your smile with sushi.”