Shonen Knife is a Japanese garage rock band formed in Osaka, in 1981. Heavily influenced by 1960s girl groups, pop bands, The Beach Boys, and early punk rock bands, such as the Ramones, the trio crafts stripped-down songs with simple yet unconventional lyrics sung both in Japanese and English. They have also performed as a Ramones tribute band under the name The Osaka Ramones.
Shonen Knife was formed in December 1981 in Osaka, Japan with sisters Naoko Yamano and Atsuko Yamano and their friend Michie Nakatani. Naoko sang lead and played guitar, Nakatani was also a lead singer and played bass and keyboards, and Atsuko sang backing vocals and played drums. The group was something of an anomaly when they started, as they were founded at a time when all-female bands were scarce. Eschewing the then-rising, early J-pop movement, Shonen Knife was influenced by 1970s punk rock and new wave bands such as The Ramones and Buzzcocks. Following their first Tokyo gig at Hosei University, Shonen Knife released their debut album Burning Farm on Zero Records on July 21, 1983. They then contributed to the Zero Record compilation album AURA MUSIC which was released on November 15 and included three of their songs: "Watchin' Girl", "Banana Fish", and "Parrot Polynesia". Their second album, Yama-no Attchan, was released by Zero on May 25, 1984. Named after drummer Atsuko, the album saw the band growing as musicians. The album was also influenced by a broader selection of musical acts, ranging from Motown to heavy metal. At the end of the year, Shonen Knife contributed "Parrot Polynesia" and "Elephant Pao Pao" to another compilation, Huddle No Trouble, for Balcony Records. Around this time, Burning Farm was first played on UK radio by English disc jockey John Peel, although Peel did not find out the name of the band until a few years later, in 1987.
By June 1985, the Burning Farm cassette had made its way from its Kyoto imprint to K Records of Olympia, Washington, who decided to release the cassette in the United States. A year later, on June 20, 1986, Shonen Knife released their third album Pretty Little Baka Guy. Four months later, the album was re-released with three additional live tracks. While their records had previously been available in the US solely through import, in 1986, Shonen Knife's track, "One Day of the Factory", appeared on a Sub Pop 100 compilation. The album was released on November 1, 1986 by the independent record label Sub Pop. Soon after, Shonen Knife began receiving lucrative offers from a range of US labels. By this time, many alternative rock groups had begun citing Shonen Knife as a favorite of theirs, and the resulting word-of-mouth created significant exposure for the band. On March 26, 1987, the trio's songs were played again on BBC radio by John Peel. After spending some time concentrating on their live performances, they had the opportunity to play with Sonic Youth as guests at the Muse Hall in Shinsaibashi, Osaka.
The trio's international cult following flourished during the early-1990s. After releasing a self-titled compilation album comprising tracks from their first two albums in the US market, the trio began touring America on a somewhat regular basis and released their fourth album 712 on July 1, 1991 in Japan on Nippon Crown. That same July, Sub Pop released "Neon Zebra" as a single in the US. Shortly after, a slightly different version of 712 was released in America by Rockville Records. In August, Shonen Knife was featured on CNN News during its This Week In Japan special. On September 25, Pretty Little Baka Guy was re-released in the US by Tokuma Japan. The 1991 US re-release of the album was coupled with eight live recordings from 1982 and 1990. The trio performed with Fugazi at the Sun Hall in Shinsaibashi, Osaka on November 14. Days later, the Christmas-themed single "Space Christmas" was released to British and American audiences by Seminal Twang and Rockville Records, respectively. It was in 1991 that Shonen Knife came to find one of their biggest fans in the form of Kurt Cobain. Nirvana asked Shonen Knife to serve as the opening act for their UK tour, just prior to the release of their breakthrough album, Nevermind.
After touring through the US and signing onto Capitol Records, the trio released their major-label debut, Let's Knife, on August 26. They then embarked on a brief three-show tour through the UK. While on tour, the trio appeared at the 20th Reading Festival alongside bands such as Nirvana and Mudhoney. They also recorded another John Peel Session and filmed a music video for "Riding On The Rocket" in London. On December 2, the group released the mini-album Do The Knife on MCA Victor before going on another, longer UK tour with BMX Bandits as their opening act.
Michie Nakatani left the band in December 1999, with Atsuko Yamano moving to bass. Mana Nishiura took over on drums, though was not considered to have officially joined the band and continued to play with her other group, DMBQ. On November 4, 2005, whilst on a US tour with DMBQ, Nishiura died in a car crash in New Jersey. Etsuko "Ettchan" Nakanishi, who had been playing drums for Shonen Knife during this period, became her permanent replacement. In 2011, Shonen Knife celebrated their 30th anniversary and released Osaka Ramones - Tribute to The Ramones. The album was recorded between Osaka, Japan and Buffalo, NY and co-produced by Robby Takac of the American rock band The Goo Goo Dolls. The release was followed by a world tour. In June 2012, the band released Pop Tune, followed by a US tour. The band completed a new LP, Overdrive, for worldwide release on April 16, 2014, to be followed by an extensive UK/European tour in April/May/June 2014, followed by a North American tour in September/October 2014. In 2016, the band released their album Adventure. In June 2019, the band released their latest studio album, Sweet Candy Power. It features ten tracks. In March 2021, the band performed their first on-line streaming concert to a worldwide audience and announced a 40th anniversary UK tour.