With songs about jellybeans and feline transformations, the Osaka band brought joy and fun to a serious punk-rock scene. After decades of cult hits, frontwoman Naoko Yamano explains why she wants to end up the world’s oldest rock star

Very few rock bands make it to 40 years. And for Shonen Knife, this landmark seems all the more unlikely – there haven’t been many all-women rock bands from Japan who turned their obsession with junk food, cute animals and Ramones into an international career.

Their breakthrough came with 1992’s Let’s Knife, released in Britain by Creation Records shortly after a career-changing tour with Nirvana. It was a punk album like no other, featuring lyrical observations on the envy frontwoman Naoko Yamano felt for exotic American girls with blond hair and blue eyes, alongside pontification on life’s more frivolous joys: eating jellybeans, riding a bicycle, fishing for black bass, and – rather less relatably – becoming a cat and growing whiskers.

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