Joker’s Hand founding members Kevin Kawano and Matt Lau are admittedly awkward in social situations. Raised with a rigid upbringing, the two rose above their anxieties and created one of alt-punk’s brightest bands. The group’s new single “War Profiteer” is a sarcastic take on people who profit from others’ suffering.
New Noise are proud to premiere “War Profiteer” below:
“Every deck of cards comes with two jokers in it,” Kawano says about the moniker. “The joker cards are cast aside. You don’t expect to use them in a game. I’m half-Japanese and half-white, but my upbringing was more akin to a strict Japanese household. Matt, who is full Chinese, grew up in a similar fashion so we were pushed toward a ‘normal,’ career-driven life. We weren’t raised to take chances or speak our minds.”
As Joker’s Hand, the duo took a chance with a mélange of genres that are, in turns, buoyant or devastating. With their roots in punk rock, rock and hip-hop, the South Bay band explore those genres in their three forthcoming songs, the reggae-tinged “War Profiteer,” the guitar-heavy “Hibakusha” and “Devil’s Nest.”
“These songs are very different sonically,” Kawano says. “‘Hibakusha” is a harder, faster punk song. ‘War Profiteer’ is a new sound for us. It shows our reggae-pop side.”
Joker’s Hand don’t hesitate to show their serious side. “Hibakusha” is a Japanese word that translates to “survivors of the bomb,” a nod to the atom bombs that fell on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
“That became a blanket statement for survivors plagued with everlasting effects of radiation,” Kawano says. “In the decades following, after the conflict ended, they were shunned by the Japanese who didn’t understand what radiation did.”
The survivors were unemployable and cast aside in a horrible, cruel fashion. Joker’s Hand covers the Americans’ subsequent visits to Japan when they forced survivors to strip naked in front of a roomful of people and succumb to experimentation, Kawano says.
The subject has such a grasp of the duo that they’ve played concerts to oppose Asian American violence. It’s a movement that Kawano and Lau are passionate about.
“It’s messed up what’s going on,” Kawano says. “I get that people have been locked away for a year and this has not been easy for anybody. They’re looking for someone to blame because of where the virus came from and, frankly, it didn’t help with that president we had calling it the ‘Kung Flu’ and the ‘China Virus.’ We’re trying to help give a voice to people who may feel threatened by the current political climate and xenophobia.”
With the pandemic waning, Joker’s Hand are proving their music is timeless and their commercial accessibility can reach across the generations.