Zazen Boys is a Japanese band formed by former Number Girl guitarist and vocalist Mukai Shutoku. Stylistically, their music consists mostly of complex rhythmic songs reminiscent of math rock, as well as extended improvisational songs characterized through live performances.
After the breakup of Number Girl, Mukai Shutoku began touring solo under the moniker Mukai Shutoku Acoustic and Electric. Although initially performing new versions of Number Girl songs, he quickly developed many that would appear on Zazen Boy’s first album. After touring through June 2003, Shutoku commissioned friend and former Number Girl drummer Inazawa Ahito, and after former Art-School bassist Hinata Hidekazu and guitarist Yoshikane Sou (formerly of Kicking the Lion) joined, the first incarnation of Zazen Boys was formed.
Using Shutoku’s experimental mindset, influenced by Buddhist chants, hip-hop, funk, punk, and improvisational jazz, Zazen Boys achieved unexpected success. They released Zazen Boys and went on successful tour. During this time, the band released the single “Hantoumei Shoujo Kankei”, as well as the acclaimed live album Matsuri Session 2.26.2004 Tokyo. Five months after their debut, Zazen Boys II was released to even more critical acclaim. In early 2005, Inazawa left to form his own band, Vola and the Oriental Machine. Whether or not the split occurred due to personal or creative differences remains unclear. Undaunted, Shutoku quickly recruited session drummer Matsushita Atsushi to replace Inazawa. Zazen Boys recorded a five-track EP, Himitsu Girl’s Top Secret, in July of 2005. They continued to release live recordings, the online-only album Live at Osaka, Matsuri Session Live at Yaon, and Matsuri Session 12.27.2005 Tokyo, as well as Live at Shibuya, an iTunes-exclusive performance from the opening of the Shibuya Apple Store.
In early 2006 the band released Zazen Boys III. Zazen Boys III featured the improvisational and experimental elements prominent in live performances, and was met with more mixed reactions from fans and critics than their prior releases. The next month, a limited edition collection of improvised studio tracks, Live at Matsuri Studio, went on sale at concerts. For the rest of 2006, the band toured constantly, releasing another online live album, “Zazen Boys Live at Okinawa 2006”. In early 2007, Hidekazu left Zazen Boys to pursue other projects, and was replaced by former Nine Days Wonder and 12939db bassist Ichiro Yoshida. The band is currently on tour and working on new material.
Additionally, Zazen Boys have contributed songs to several movie soundtracks.” Mayonaka no Yaji-San Kita-San” was comprised mostly of original Zazen Boys tracks, and an alternate version of Jimonjitou was featured on the soundtrack to “Canary.”
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