Rhylli Ogiura is one of the best, most charismatic frontwomen in hardcore, screaming her heart out — sometimes in English and sometimes in Japanese — and stalking the stage with a David Yow–meets–Missy Elliott swagger. But the Krimewatch vocalist "was never super into hardcore," she admits, nor did she originally want to sing in a hardcore band.
"I did not want to do it, but they convinced me," she says of the New York City group's co-founding duo, bassist Emma Hendry and drummer Shayne Benz, who formed the band in 2015 with Ogiura, a friend of friends, in mind as their first choice for vocalist. "I always admired her positive and magnetic presence, and I knew it would translate well onstage," Benz says. "We knew this was the job for her."
Unlike Hendry, who grew up in a punk-friendly household where classic bands like the Ramones were in constant rotation, Ogiura doesn't namecheck Miret or Brannon or Raybeez in her list of influences; instead, she nods to Lil Kim, Big L, Nas, Mobb Deep, Jay-Z, Missy Elliot and others. "There is something about hip-hop music that is so empowering and important to me," the singer says. "While I can't possibly relate to the struggles of the black man, there is something about it that is universal ... the rhythm of the city, the people, riding the train."
The tension between Ogiura's hip-hop influences and her bandmates' more traditional punk-rock background has placed Krimewatch among the most exciting groups in hardcore, catchy and upbeat while bursting with "go fuck yourself" attitude and furious blasts and breakdowns. Since the February 2016 release of their highly circulated demo, things have snowballed quickly — the band's first gig a month later, a deal to release the demo with Lockin' Out two months after that, and show offer after show offer in the NYC area and beyond.
Which brings us to now, and Krimewatch's self-titled debut LP. Across nine songs jammed into a snug 12-and-a-half minutes, the new effort captures the NYHC sound of the early Eighties as reinvented for kids today. "I love listening to it!" Ogiura enthuses. "It has so much heart and hard work and emotion from everyone. I'm really proud of where we are and what we've become."
Krimewatch started out with a song — specifically, a composition now known as "song one" or the crowd favorite "小便 たれ" — which also happens to have been the first thing that Hendry ever wrote on the first bass she ever owned. As a fresh NYC transplant from Boston University, her primary source of escapism after work was the four-string. "It's not the most happening area, so I had a lot of time to play bass by myself," she recalls of the stroller-riddled neighborhood of Park Slope in Brooklyn where she lived. "I wrote a bunch of songs then."
Hendry had previously played keys in Boston-area bands including psych rockers Native Son, all the while watching her identical twin sister Sophie on the come-up with punk groups Leather Daddy and Firewalker. Once the latter act began to gain momentum, it inspired Emma to dedicate herself more seriously to her music. Krimewatch is her first gigging band. Even more remarkably, the group is Ogiura's first band ever.
"When I first started, Emma convinced me to concentrate my lyrics on things that were important to me — things I hated or things I really liked. She knew that I would sing that passionately," recalls the vocalist. Born in Japan, Ogiura has said that she's driven to shout some of Krimewatch's songs in Japanese in order to defy the stereotype of the submissive Japanese woman. "If you have any perspective to offer that isn't just from a cis white man's, I think it's very valuable and important to share," she says.
"Those are the voices that I'm interested in and want to encourage and see more of. What's fulfilling about Krimewatch to me is being able to share my experience as an Asian woman with others and show the world that hardcore — or anything really — isn't something that's exclusively for one type of person."
In keeping with that sentiment, while Krimewatch initially planned to have an all-female lineup, they had no qualms about welcoming a man — guitarist Sean Joyce, who previously played with NYC punk favorites Ajax — into their ranks. "Women are a totally underrepresented force in the hardcore/punk worlds, so the focus was to make music with all women," Benz explains. "But having a male in the band hasn't changed anything as far as what our message and principles are, either." Joyce has not only proven an invaluable part of the group's songwriting nucleus, but he's also literally become a family member: He and Benz were married 10 days after the release of Krimewatch's demo.
"This is more than a band to all of us," Ogiura emphasizes. "We get shit done, but it's also about friendship. When I go to practice, I'm just as excited to hang out with my friends and gossip as I am to play together. These three are very important to me."
CORRECTION: In the version of this article that was printed in the February / March issue of Revolver magazine, we misstated that Rhylli Ogiura was born in the United States. She was born in Japan.