Catriona and the Screaming Elks
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Catriona and the Screaming Elks

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The best kept secret in music


"The Secret hail from Hiroshima, Japan. They have a Canadian connection, former Plumtree bassist Catriona Sturton. Here’s the story:"

Can you share the story behind the formation of The Secret? What with two continents involved, I’m sure it’s pretty freakin’ intriguing. Catriona Sturton: I moved to a small city in Japan in 2000. At first it was hard to find live music because I didn’t speak or read Japanese. Slowly I was able to find out about shows, and later that year played bass in a rock band and a punk band (covering classic Japanese punk rock with a bunch of 17 year old boys) and harmonica in a rockabilly band. It was all a lot of fun, but communication was difficult and I didn’t feel like I was being very creative. I met Sonnet (originally from Arizona and living in the next town over from mine) the next year and saw her playing with a band called Kiku no Koro. I was so impressed with her band that it really inspired me to try to do something with the songs I had written. We met Rey (our drummer) through her husband. They manage a “live house” (music venue) in East Fukuyama. I had to leave Japan at the end of that year, and luckily Sonnet got Lena to move to town so that the Secret could carry on. Sonnet Bingham: Catriona’s reputation preceded her by a year. When I arrived in Japan in August 2001, I was dead set on learning the guitar and starting a band. Every music store I went into, everyone asked me, “Have you heard of Catriona?” It wasn’t until almost a year later that I met this famed punk rock, bass-playing, shamisen-stuying Canadian. Much to my surprise and elation, she asked me if I would be interested in listening to some stuff she had been working on. She came to my apartment, and played me a lo-fi tape of her songs. I played some of my songs, and our collaboration evolved quite naturally.

You are the first Japanese band to play Wavelength in the five-year history of our series and zine. That’s pretty freakin’ cool. How did your Canadian tour come together? CS: I’m from Canada (grew up in Ottawa and lived in Halifax), and always said that it would be fun to tour Canada with The Secret. Sonnet and Lena seem to have a “thing” for Canada and always talked about how they would like to live here. I’m excited to tour in Canada again because I got really used to how things work in Japan. Shows are expensive, but you are spoiled by generally having amazing sound and light systems, even at small clubs. I will definitely miss the healthier food that you can buy at convenience stores in Japan. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to everyone seeing Canada for the first time, especially Halifax.

I just saw Audition by Takeshi Miike, and it was only the most disturbing thing I’ve ever watched. Pretty freakin’ awesome though. What are some of your favourite films from Japan? SB: NOT Battle Royale. CS: My favorite Japanese movie is called After Life (in English) - Wandafuru raifu ("Wonderful Life” in Japanese) by Hirokazu Koreeda. I’m watching it this weekend to try and remember some Japanese before the rest of the band arrives!!

In one song, you sing, “I hate playing games/ Especially this one.” Can you tell us what it is? Or is that a freakin’ secret? CS: Someone is totally acting like they have a crush on you, but you are not sure if they really do. Add another language and culture into the mix, and it becomes even more frustrating. It’s even better if the two people involved are ridiculously shy, live in cities far from each other, and only communicate with cryptic text-messages in a language that is not their mother tongue. These messages should be received and read late at night, on emotionally fragile days. Perfect. Crushes. I think that’s why most of our initial songs got written. Now all my songs are about death. SB: If you really like someone, you should say it. (Fab, if you are reading this, I really like you.)

The Secret
Filed under: Bands
WAVELENGTH 239 - Sunday Nov 14, 10pm
Purveyors of: J-pop meets Can-rock
- Wavelength Music Series and Zine

"The Secret Bring A Taste Of Japanese Pop To Canada"

Japan loves Canada and our music. Recently artists such as Ron Sexsmith, The Riff Randells, The Stills and Aaron Booth have completed successful tours of the country, making new fans and getting to see some very cool things in the process. In an effort to increase this cross-cultural exchange of musical talent, Hiroshima's The Secret are preparing to embark on their first Canadian tour.

The band formed in 2002 when former Plumtree bassist Catriona Sturton met American ex-pat and long time Hiroshima resident Sonnet Bingham in Fukuyama City. The two were playing in other groups at the time, but decided that they wanted to collaborate on something. They recruited Rey Iwamoto to play drums and The Secret were born.

The trio toured throughout Japan and began to garner national press before Sturton had to return back to Canada in late 2003. Prior to her departure, the band recorded and self-released an EP, entitled Himitsu. They later added a handful of live tracks to the album to make it a full-length. Mixing Go-Go-esque pop sensibilities with the indie virtues of their Japanese peers, The Secret created a sound that rocks, but is still very kawaii (Japanese for cute) at the same time. Although she originally felt it was the wrong time to record an album, Sturton is satisfied with the finished product.

"Recording in Japan is really expensive," explains Sturton. "We had the opportunity to record and wanted to before I moved back to Canada. At the time, I thought that it was too early to record, but we ended up being happy enough with the results. I guess it captures a certain time in my life. I would describe it as an album of early, early work, which may have some charm to it, but maybe mostly for people who like that kind of music."

Officially, The Secret have brought in Lena Hashimoto to replace the relocated Sturton. However, the group will be performing as a quartet, as Sturton will be rejoining the band for the shows. Depending on how things go, they may attempt to record a few songs together at the end of the tour. Sturton is thrilled to be playing with her former bandmates again and feels that those attending the shows are in for a fun, albeit fully clothed, night.

"Expect dance moves, doe eyes, crazy guitars and screams of wild abandon," she says. "Oh, and beautiful pop songs. I don't think that Canadian fans will take off all their clothes. That happened sometimes in Fukuyama."

Although she's happy to be back in her native country, Sturton still misses Japan a lot. If possible, she'd eventually love to return to Japan and do another tour with The Secret and play at Numarock, an annual punk festival that's held in Hiroshima's Numakuma district



Al Tuck

The Secret


Feeling a bit camera shy


Catriona Sturton has had a diverse music career, ranging from playing in a Japanese teenage punk band to touring Canada with The Weakerthans and Joel Plaskett as a member of Plumtree. She is joined by The Screaming Elks for her venture fronting a band.
Catriona began playing harmonica as a teenager in Ottawa, studying with Larry “The Bird” Mootham, and sharing the stage with Juno Winner, The Mighty Popo (African Guitar Summit) and Tony D. New Orlean’s Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone gave Catriona the nickname “Sonny Girl” (after Sturton’s favourite harmonica player, Sonny Boy Williamson). By the time she finished high school she was an accomplished harmonica player and was invited to play with Neko Case, Canadian Blues Legend, Dutchy Mason (“The Prime Minister of the Blues”), and a Halifax country music super-group which included Chris Murphy from Sloan. While playing the harmonica and bass guitar with Plumtree and The Secret (a Hiroshima based garage rock band) Catriona has toured Canada five times, played shows across Japan, released three CD’s, made 4 music videos and appeared on national stations such as Much Music, CBC, YTV, WTN, and on the Open Mike Show.
The Screaming Elks (Henri Faberge, Andy Summers and Dana Snell)