Continuing from our first article covering the history of the pillows, the celebrated Japanese alternative band made internationally famous largely because of their involvement with GAINAX’s FLCL OVA series, this volume picks up around their second American tour and covers the band’s more modern endeavours, including their return to anime with FLCL Progressive/Alternative and more!
Lostman Go to Anime - BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad
The story of popular rock band manga BECK seems to be partially inspired by the pillows, especially in regards to their success in America. Sawao Yamanaka actually makes a cameo appearance and pillows’ songs are used in two late episodes of the 2005 anime adaptation, although his in-universe band is called "The Heroes" for some reason (supposedly, it’s a pun based on the katakana for the pillows).
Wake Up! - avex trax & more Anime!
In 2007 the pillows signed with avex trax and released their 25th single "Scarecrow" which was included on their next album Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake Up!. Both "Scarecrow" and "BOAT HOUSE" from that album were used as the ending themes for the anime adaptation of Moonlight Mile. That same year, they would release another single, "Ladybird Girl", which was chosen to be the theme song for the Japanese version of American cartoon Ben 10.
Following some compilation albums and live concert DVD releases, the pillows would make some new singles that would later be included in their PIED PIPER album along with "Ladybird Girl". In 2008 they would return yet again to America, with a tour in SXSW, San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, and Anime Boston, their second (and most recent) U.S. convention appearance after Anime Central in 2005.
Hybrid Rainbow After The Rain - the pillows 20th
The band was riding high in 2009, the year of their 20th Anniversary, releasing their highest performing single ever, "Ameagari ni mita Maboroshi", which peaked at #3 on the Oricon charts. That track was included later that year on their popular OOPARTS (out-of-place artifacts) album and they played for the first time at the legendary Nippon Budokan arena.
Movement - Into the modern era
After their successful anniversary, the pillows would release their 30th single "Rodeo Star Mate" in 2010, which was used for the second opening theme for Stitch!: Itazura Alien no Daibouken (a TV series based off of Disney’s Lilo & Stitch). The next year they would release a new album, HORN AGAIN and a single called "Comic Sonic" which was the second ending theme for the anime SKET Dance, which would also use the pillows’ "Funny Bunny" as the ED for one episode.
Revival - Delicious Label & FLCL’s Return
Losing no steam, the pillows would continue releasing high profile albums with Trial and MOONDUST with avex in 2012 and 2014, hitting #9 and #5 on the Oricon charts respectively, along with a series of popular revival concerts playing their old music from their historic “movements” of musical experimentation to their modern style, even inviting original bassist Kenji Ueda to play with them.
In 2015 Jun Suzuki was fired from the band for alleged poor conduct but the pillows continued touring with guest bassists including Kenji Ueda, former support Tatsuya Kashima, and Yoshinori Arie (from Vola and the Oriental Machine). Arie is the band’s current guest member. MOONDUST would be their last release with avex, switching to Sawao Yamanaka’s own Delicious label for their subsequent releases of Stroll and Roll (2016) and Nook in the Brain (2017).
The next year the anime world was shocked with the announcement of two new FLCL series from Production I.G, Toho, and Adult Swim, with the pillows reprising their role providing the music. The new series used many songs from the original OVAs, along with back-catalogue tracks like "Freebee Honey" from 2003’s Penalty Life, and new material like "spiky seeds" and "Star overhead" which are used as the ending themes to Progressive and Alternative respectively. To promote the new series, Adult Swim brought the pillows to America for their seven-city Mono Me You Sun Tour in 2018 alongside all-female Japanese alternative group Noodles and Cullen Omori, formerly of the Smith Westerns. The tour was a huge success with numerous ticket sellouts and great acclaim from fans.
Final Thoughts - Bustin' Makes Me Feel Good
As one of the preeminent bands to ever come out of Japan, the pillows have had a huge impact on the alternative scene in their home country as well as tremendous success internationally. Their infrequent but memorable contributions to anime, particularly with the FLCL series, have left a deep impression on fans around the world and cememented them as icons in the medium. With bold experimentation, ever-youthful energy, and a standout sound, the pillows continue their legacy today. With their next album REBROADCAST set to release in less than a week on September 19, 2018, we can’t wait to hear what the pillows have in store for us as they approach their 30th anniversary next year as the FooL on CooL generation continues!
We hope you enjoyed this micro historical series about the pillows. Please leave us a comment below with your favorite thing about the band, and make sure to check out their new album! Keep busting...