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Shinobu Releasing New Album, ’10 Thermidor’

In Music
Don’t Call It A Comeback: Emo punk may be experiencing a Renaissance, but San Jose-born Shinobu have been at this for a decade.

Don’t Call It A Comeback: Emo punk may be experiencing a Renaissance, but San Jose-born Shinobu have been at this for a decade.

“Everything is kind of cyclical,” says Mike Huguenor, lead singer of San Jose-based indie-emo-punks Shinobu. He’s referring to the tendency for musical trends to fall out of favor for a decade or generation before returning, slightly transmogrified and infused with a new youthful energy.

Huguenor is currently experiencing this phenomenon first hand, as his band is benefitting from what has been called an “emo revival”—a recent explosion of interest in bands playing ramshackle, indie-punk with emotionally raw, sardonic, literary lyrics.

It’s nothing that Huguenor and company ever expected or could have anticipated, he says, recalling the past decade or more that his band spent slogging away and playing shows with poor turnouts.

“For the first seven years, we were kind of grinding and going on tour and not getting reviewed at all,” the singer says of his band, which formed in 2002 and remained highly active until mid-2009.

During the years Shinobu were most active, Huguenor recalls that “screamo was really big”—as were other pop punk groups (who were often labeled “emo”) making the rounds on the Vans Warped Tour. Then there were the “bands that were trying to do the apocalyptic, fun dance-rock music,” like The Rapture. And then there was Death Cab For Cutie, playing the “really twee” stuff.

“We didn’t really fit in anywhere,” Huguenor says. At the time, some of his biggest influences were Built To Spill, Sebadoh and Pavement, and the singer was proud to be making music that didn’t sound like any of the other bands on the local circuit—music that was hard to boil down to a neat, one-word genre. “I always thought that if you’re going to be making music, it has to be a little bit dangerous.”

Shinobu craft rollicking, nervous, punk tunes, which roll forward with what Huguenor describes as a “fractured energy.” Guitar lines seem to clash and tangle as they twist through chugging bass lines and loose drumming. Huguenor’s voice breaks through in yelps and cracks and often sounds flat or sharp, but nevertheless feels like it belongs.

And while the prevailing tastes of the middle-aughts might not have gravitated Shinobu’s way, things have changed in recent years. Bands like Joyce Manor and The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die are achieving critical and mass appeal. And in San Jose, young bands like Bread Club and Kill the Bats are playing for large, enthusiastic audiences.

“There is an ear for the sound now which wasn’t there before,” Huguenor says. “It’s the first time ever that I’ve felt that way. It’s great.”

It is into this newly energized environment—with its rekindled taste for Shinobu’s brand of guitar-driven rock—that the band are releasing a new album, 10 Thermidor. It’s been a long time coming.

“We kinda had this album in us and we basically just found the time to get together and record it,” Huguenor says, explaining that Shinobu hasn’t been able to play music together, as it’s various members are spread around the country and the world (guitarist Matt Keegan now lives in Australia).

As such Huguenor says, fans of Shinobu shouldn’t expect to see a proper reunion anytime soon. “We’re just going to be playing whenever we can.” Shinobu will be playing at their record release party on Jan. 9 at The Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco.

While Shinobu is holding their album release show in San Francisco, Huguenor says he remains firmly committed to San Jose, and is adamant about making sure his other band, Hard Girls—who will be playing later this month at the Billy DeFrank Center—proudly proclaims that the South Bay is their home.

If remaining true to his hometown has any impact on bringing the cycle back around for the San Jose art’s scene, Huguenor is all for it.

“For a long time, San Jose has had so much potential but been so primarily interested in the main economic factors,” he says. “For how multicultural it is, it really doesn’t have much of actual culture. It feels like the arts are really not encouraged.

“San Jose is a place that needs to be fostered,” he continues. “We could easily say we are from San Francisco or Oakland, but that wouldn’t be true and it would be a fake statement—a hashtag—and I think that’s kind of bullshit. We are from San Jose.”

Shinobu play the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Jan. 9. More info.

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