Seventh Tarz Armstrong is the alter ego of Japanese pop idol Hoshii Nanase. Though Nanase was born in Tochigi Prefecture in 1988, press releases would have you believe that Tarz Armstrong was born in Bakersfield, CA, to an American father and Japanese mother. Armstrong claims that she got an earlier grounding in rock music than most: Her "father" worked at the Mosrite guitar factory -- the company's first, apparently -- in Bakersfield. Appropriate, too, that it should be in a Mosrite factory town that Armstrong be born, since two of the acts most often associated with that brand of axe -- the Ramones and the Ventures -- have been major influences in shaping her sound. That said, J-pop holds the most sway: inspired to move to Tokyo following the untimely death of her mother, she soon hooked up with a record label and songwriters from Japan. Furthermore, she sings the words to her cascading, J-pop-style melodies in Japanese, no mean feat considering she barely speaks the language, or so her biography goes. In terms of image, Armstrong eschews the usual "cutie" tropes of her J-pop contemporaries -- including those that wield guitars and snarl a bit -- for an androgynous punk look with her penchant for short-cropped hair and hooded tops. In press shots, she doesn't carry a guitar, either. (Not even a Mosrite.)
Armstrong debuted in 2007 with the album The World Is Mine, which added ska and surf to her punk base and featured songwriting contributions from Akira Takemura of J-punkers Snail Ramp, among others. This was quickly followed up with two simultaneously released EPs, one of which featured a cover version of "Wonderland," by the little-known Japanese screamo act Fact. Later the same year she released Language Destruction Sounds, whose seven pop-punk tracks clocked in at a whizzy 15 minutes. Armstrong's sophomore album Tokyo City Big Nights (2008) is likely the only concept album about an action-fueled 24 hours in Tokyo made by a teenage J-pop singer. It features among its songwriting credits Tim Pagnotta of Sugarcult (who also plays guitar on the album), so the West coast punk sound of Tokyo City is no surprise. It also sees Scott Murphy (Allister, the Get Go) pen one song, "Goodnight War at 3 Cafes." Murphy's Japan obsession is long-running -- he has toured the country frequently, can speak the language well, and has covered J-pop artists from Southern All Stars to Spitz.