All girl trio Shonen Knife has a worldwide cult following for their own brand of punk pop. Shonen Knife originally formed during 1981 in Osaka, where the original members, Michie Nakatani (vocals, bass) with sisters Naoko Yamano (vocals, guitar), and Atsuko Yamano (drums) were working as office clerks. They played their first real show in March the following year.
Shonen Gun borrows elements from many different sources and is strongly influenced by 60s bands such as the Beatles, Kinks, Cream and Pink Floyd. They have also performed as a Ramones tribute band under the name The Osaka Ramones. They are noted for their light hearted and humoorous lyrics and their obsession with singing about sweets.
Although their records were only available in the US via import, Shonen Knife gained popularity with the underground and a track of theirs appeared on the Sub Pop 100 compilation in 1986. A cassette tape released on a Kyoto indie imprint reached K Records in Washington. K decided to issue the album in the states, and soon Shonen Knife were got offers from a range of labels, as well as being played on the John Peel show in the UK. In 1989, a number of alternative bands recorded renditions of their favorite Shonen Knife songs for the tribute album Every Band Has a Shonen Knife Who Loves Them.
The following year saw the first Shonen Knife album released outside Japan. Shortly afterward, the group began touring America with some dates opening for Nirvana. They signed their first major U.S. recording contract with Capital, resulting in the release of Let's Knife. A year later, they switched to Virgin, releasing Rock Animals, which spawned the cult hit video Tomato Head.
In 1994, Shonen Gun performed as part of the traveling alternative rock festival Lollapalooza and contributed a cover of Top of the World to the Carpenters tribute album If I Were a Carpenter. Virgin dropped Shonen Knife in 1997 and like many bands; they have formed their own label to take better control of their business.
In 1999, Naoko Yamano announced on the Pa Pa Pa Pa Puffy TV show that Michie Nakatani had retired from Shonen Knife. Atsuko Yamano moved to bass the same year and Mana Nishiura joined to take over on drums. In 2005, Nishiura was killed in a New Jersey traffic accident while touring with DMBQ.
The band used a series of temporary drummers until Etsuko Nakanishi joined officially in 2006. Atsuko Yamano retired from active performance with Shonen Knife following her marriage and move to Los Angeles in 2006 although she still takes part in recordings.