The Confusing Side of Boris

The Confusing Side of <b>Boris</b>
There’s nothing less cool than admitting to or aspiring to being cool. It’s something that Japanese outfit Boris have considered time and again over 16 years. As an amorphous force that continually snubs trends in order to expand their sound, if you ask anyone familiar with the band to describe them, the word "cool” is an unavoidable adjective.

Despite universal acclaim, the Tokyo-based trio (including guitarist Wata and vocalist/bassist/guitarist Takeshi) express disdain for the thought that their music might be at all cool. "Something I was conscious of, that made this album much different than the rest, was our growing boredom with ‘cool’ music, rock music, and the normal way of operating a so-called ‘band,’” explains quotation-loving drummer Atsuo Mizuno through his English translator. "I think we were looking for the ‘experience’ that lies at the root of expression, rather than just ‘music.’”

With an uncountable discography of albums, splits, EPs and collaborations, Boris have never sought approval from anyone but themselves. From droning noise to riff rock, funereal doom to heavy psych, the band are as chameleonic as they are electrifying, never hinting at where they’re headed next. "I think we’ve always just pursued what makes us happy. ‘Doing something new’ is definitely something that’s always on our minds,” says Atsuo. "But the music we come up with has always been heavily influenced by our subconscious too, so it goes both ways.”

New album Smile reveals the band’s subconscious is hungry for screaming guitar solos, amp-bursting fits of thrash and tangents that’ll have both psych and prog obsessives declaring the second coming. Settling somewhere between the expansive low-end trudge of 2006’s Pink and 2002’s classic rock homage Heavy Rocks, Smile moves Boris ever closer to a wider audience they never set out to reach.

"Of course, as always, I would like lots of people to hear our music,” admits Atsuo. "It’s hard to express this in words, but I don’t think we’ve actually done anything to make the music more accessible. I think there are various ways we could make the music ‘easier to understand.’ But even attempting to make a song more ‘difficult’ can often have the opposite effect, depending on who’s listening, and ultimately make the song ‘easier’ to understand. This is a difficult topic to discuss.

"We’ve heard various reactions already to Smile, and heard people say that because of the more prominent melodies, and clearer vocals, it’s a more accessible record, but at the same time, for lots of people, the more pop side of Boris is actually the more confusing one.”

Therein lies the paradox of Boris: their music has no real parameters other than to not work within parameters. As Atsuo sees it, the most crucial component of the music is for the listener to make a connection. "I think expression lacks impact if it’s just easy to understand, or at the opposite end of the spectrum, simply a mess,” he says. "I think it’s important to consider how we can share with others our individual take on sound, and more broadly the sort of worldview that’s implicit in the music we make. If these other elements aren’t part of the music, I don’t think there’s any point in making an album.”

Despite what Atsuo wishes, it’s difficult for listeners to connect with Smile and not deem it cool. That said, if "uncool” music needs a convincing lobbyist they’ve certainly found one. "I think we were able to incorporate the discomfort and even disgust one feels when listening to ‘uncool’ or vulgar music into Smile