If you haven’t yet heard about Peelander-Z, they are best described as a “Japanese action comic punk” band. Their shows involve color-coordinated Power Ranger-style outfits and crazy antics between songs, including human bowling and bringing audience members on stage. The music itself is in the style of classic American punk, with one-minute head bangers and simple lyrics. After years of releasing albums and changing members, Peelander-Z is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary by going back to basics with Go PZ Go!, their latest album released April 6th. The founder and last original member, Peelander-Yellow, spoke to mxdwn about their recent move to Austin, Texas and his personal journey as a punk rock entertainer. An artist in his own right, Yellow describes what it was like moving to New York City as a painter and finding an outlet through punk music. Now, his murals are showcased all across the United States and a documentary about the band called “Mad Tiger” recently hit Netflix after screening at festivals around the world.
mxdwn: Go PZ Go is described as a “back to basics” album for the band after previous albums experimented with metal and New Wave. What inspired the return to your punk roots?
Peelander Yellow: This year is our 20 year anniversary, so we decided to go back to basics, a punk rock style. The songs are short, we’re screaming and singing together one on one, “Bike bike bike!” something like that. So yeah, we are back to our basic style, simple punk rock, short. The songs are commercial style. We’ve restarted because [Peelander-]Purple and [Peelander-]Pink, Yellow, we all moved here to Austin, Texas. We used to live in New York for a long time. We changed our base to here and restarted everything.
mxdwn: How did you make the decision to move to Austin?
PY: I love fishing. I love tacos! [laughs] I do some painting too. I have 25 murals I’ve done here. It’s easy to go tour because it’s kind of the center of the United States. So we want to go East coast, West coast, it’s always easy to go. So that’s why we moved here.
mxdwn: A big part of your act involves high-energy stunts, what keeps you all motivated to deliver a big performance at your live shows?
PY: I don’t know how to play, I’m not a good musician [laughs] but I know how to have fun and I have a big energy. I drink Yellow Bull, not Red Bull [laughs]. People who give us big energy and happy smiles, I give them more heart to smile and even bigger energy. It’s communication.
mxdwn: How would you describe the experience of a live Peelander-Z show?
PY: Somebody said Ramones meets Godzilla movie [laughs]. Anime, comic Japanese style stuff, old school. It’s a big, big toy-box, you can dive into the happy toy-box like you’re back in kindergarten [laughs].
mxdwn: You recently made the rounds at SXSW, what was it like to play the festival after taking a break from touring?
PY: This year at SXSW is our 16th time. Every year – we started in 2003 – we come from New York to SXSW every year. We did our first Peelander set about nine times. I sell my art and people know about us here, I can say we work together with SXSW, I try to do face painting [laughs]. Plus I’m working towards a show too, with painting and everything. That’s why we moved here. We got a good chance, big chances at SXSW.
mxdwn: In your video for “Bike Bike Bike,” hundreds of real cyclists from Austin make an appearance. What was the filming process like for that project?
PY: Yeah, I’m riding my bike everywhere. I go fishing on my bike, I go to the studio on my bike, I love bikes. Purple loves bikes, Pink loves bikes – everybody likes bikes. When I was riding my bicycle I made the song “Bike! Bike! Bike!” I didn’t say anything, just “bike bike bike!” I asked here [Austin], there are a lot of bike people, to keep me company and they said: “okay, we can do it!” They all came together and we rode bicycles while we shot the video. It was a happy time. Get a bike!
mxdwn: When you’re not playing with Peelander-Z, you’re a painter and create murals for the community. How does your life as a painter impact your work as a musician?
PY: Right now Pink, Purple, Yellow, we have three members. We need communication, working together, thinking together. But painting is only me. The creative part is kind of the same but painting is only my world and Peelander-Z has Peelander-Z world. It’s a little bit of a different style. Sometimes I like to work by myself, sometimes I work with a team, so it’s making balance together. That’s why when I make some new paintings I feel Peelander-Z. If I play something new, we play in a new place together, we’re on tour, I’m always thinking about painting. So both are linked, that’s why I’m always rolling, go go go, that’s my kind of an engine, my gasoline. That’s why I never stop, I’m like a yellow tuna fish. [laughs]
mxdwn: Murals are a little bit different than just regular prints, can you talk about what it’s like to plan a big mural?
PY: I used to paint small a long time ago, for a long, long time. Around 2011 my friend started a food truck in Austin, Texas called East Side King and he asked me to paint the trailer for that, so I started doing murals at that time. It’s big, big, bigger and the first time I was very worried about that. But by now I made a lot, I probably have 50 murals right now in the United States. So now it’s easy to do the big ones. If you do the big ones, small ones are very easy to do. If you do only small ones, it’s very hard to do the big ones. So always think big and you can make small. That is a kind of lifestyle. You worried about that? You think big and you can do the small.
mxdwn: Mad Tiger, a documentary about the band directed by Jonathan Yi and Michael Haertlein, was successful at IFC and can now be seen on Netflix. What was it like turning the story of Peelander-Z into a film and how did the band feel about the final product?
PY: The director Jon and Mike, they asked us to do a documentary. We are an indie band, not really famous. People know about us but we’re not a huge famous band. So they said they wanted to show the people our background in our later life. We always said, “We are Peelander-Z, we come from the Peelander planet, we’re not human beings.” In the beginning, we were worried about showing our background because we’re entertainers, like a theater. But we have new fans now. People who don’t care about music, they don’t care about crazy punk rock shows, but they watched our documentary Mad Tiger and they say “we love you guys, we understand you, I want to come to see your shows even though I hate punk rock music, I like your style, please don’t give up” something like that. So we have new fans. That was a big success, we were so happy and they screened it in Europe, Asia, Japan, all over the place. And yeah, we can sell our name and it’s good for us.
mxdwn: How old were you when you started getting into punk music?
PY: Ooooh how old? [laughs] Maybe 20? When I came here, to New York, I felt I had a big story to say in New York, I wanted to scream all the time, and I started Peelander-Z. At that time I did painting, but I found solace in the city, always screaming like “Ahhhhhhhhh!” I picked up punk rock music like that. So I think at that point I guess I started doing punk rock. Maybe punk rock has a lot of meanings, but my punk rock is trying to open things up, kick open doors. Everybody has a different style of punk but that’s what it means to me. I wanna say kick your door! Open your door! Open your sad eyes with punk rock! [laughs]
mxdwn: There’s a song on the album called “I Am Not A Singer,” but you actually have a really good voice. What’s the story behind that one?
PY: That’s actually a very funny story. My friend’s band Octopus Project (also based in Austin), they’re old friends. I’ve known them almost 15 years, they’re best friends of ours. I [was joking around one day] and said “I’m no singer, I’m a performer, blah blah blah” and I started [singing dramatically] and he copied the melody and we sang together, “Oh I can’t sing, I’m not a singer! blah blah blah.” But that was a long time ago, almost five years ago, and I forgot the melody. But he memorized it! He kept it in his brain and he came to me a few years ago singing, “I’m not a singer!” And I was like, “Oh wow! You remember that!” and he said it was a good melody, he said he loved it and it was catchy. So I decided to make it a song. So he’s kind of a composer [laughs].
mxdwn: This will be your first time on the road since 2014, what should fans expect from the band for the upcoming tour?
PY: Get our CD, get our songs, we’re gonna play a lot from this album and then, of course, we wanna play the older famous songs too. And we’ll do human bowling, jump rope, something special for you, so you have to bring all your friends, family, pets! Brings something, yellow for me, yellow fishing rod for me [laughs], yellow cake for me. Pink and Purple will make you smile, so come to see and have fun with us!
mxdwn: I’ve looked at some of your paintings and I really enjoy your work, where is the best place to buy your art?
PY: Yes! Right now, I’m starting a webshop soon because people ask me a lot about my artwork. The best way will be to wait a couple months and it’ll be set up online. Sometimes I sell them through the Facebook page, so you can find them there, and I also sell prints at Peelander-Z shows. Keep an eye out!