Shonen Knife is a Japanese pop-punk band formed in Osaka in 1981. Influenced by 1960s girl groups, pop bands, the Beach Boys, and early punk rock bands such as the Ramones, the band crafts stripped-down songs with simple yet unconventional lyrics sung both in Japanese and English.
The band has been credited with making "the international pop underground more international" by "opening it up to bands from Japan". They have also performed as a Ramones tribute band under the name the Osaka Ramones. Guitarist/singer Naoko Yamano is the only member to have remained with the band for its entire history; her sister Atsuko Yamano was a founding member and, after a long hiatus, returned to the band in 2016. They have released 22 studio albums; their most recent album Our Best Place was released in February 2023.
In the words of the Boston Globe, "something oddly spellbinding occurs when deceivingly silly lyrics are sandwiched between a buoyant guitar and a rapid-fire, pop-punk drum kit. Which perhaps explains why the Japanese female alternative rock/pop punk trio Shonen Knife is still singing songs about cookies, sushi, jelly beans, and, of course, banana chips."
Shonen Knife was formed in December 1981 in Osaka, Japan, by Naoko Yamano on guitar and vocals; her college friend Michie Nakatani on bass, keyboards, and vocals; and Naoko's then 17-year-old sister Atsuko Yamano on drums. Naoko and Michie had both worked at office jobs; Atsuko had received training as a fashion designer and has created many of the band's stage outfits. The band was named after an old brand of pen knife that had been marketed to Japanese boys. At the time of their formation, Shonen Knife was a relative anomaly because all-female rock bands were rare in Japan at the time. While cultivating a punk rock sound, the band emphasized positivity using catchy, upbeat melodies and simple, carefree lyrics that often dealt with sweets, animals, and consumer culture. As explained by Nakatani in an interview, "We've always enjoyed writing songs about everyday things. Besides, there are already enough bands out there singing about pollution, war and poverty. While we all care very much about those things, we also feel that music should be fun."
They played their first gig in Osaka in March 1982, and self-released the cassette-only album Minna Tanoshiku later that year. Their first full-length album Burning Farm was released in 1983, followed by Yama-no Attchan in 1984. While the band's early albums were only officially released in Japan, imported copies attracted a cult following among alternative rock fans in the United States. In 1985, Burning Farm attracted the attention of K Records in Olympia, Washington, which re-released the album in America.
In 1986 the band released multiple international versions of the album Pretty Little Baka Guy, with the American version issued by Sub Pop, and their song "One Day of the Factory" appeared on an international compilation released by that label. In 1987, Shonen Knife was invited to open for Sonic Youth in Osaka, and played internationally for the first time at a concert in Los Angeles with organizational support from Sonic Youth and Redd Kross. The band's cult following among musicians was illustrated by the 1991 tribute album Every Band Has a Shonen Knife Who Loves Them, with cover songs by 23 punk and alternative rock acts.