Yago just got into Pittsburgh from her home in Tokyo; I shake her hand and bandmate Dan McNellie points out solemnly that I'm teeming with radiation now.
A singer-guitarist in the otherwise Pitttsburgh-based garage rock band Test Patterns, the one-named Yago estimates that her home is a four-hour drive from Fukushima, where the nuclear crisis has unfolded after the earthquake and tsunami early this month. The danger to Yago herself was minimal, but the continuing hardships throughout the country have had their effect. The irreverent band treats the topic with a characteristic mix of gravity and hyperbole, with the focus on the latter.
Test Patterns formed in 2006 when Yago, then in the Japanese garage band Gito Gito Hustler, met McNellie, formerly of The Radio Beats, while on a U.S. tour. They began playing together as a side project, living in Pittsburgh, and enlisted the help of bassist M. Schor and drummer Kevin Parent, touring the eastern United States, then Japan and Europe.
With Yago spending most of her time in Tokyo, the group wasn't easy to keep together. But record offers from labels like Contaminated and Tic Tac Totally and worldwide touring opportunities made the band viable.
"I'm impressed that something that started as a joke got this far," Parent says.
"The best bands are always the joke bands," Schor adds. "It's always whatever band tries the least that ends up doing well."
But this band is calling it quits now. Why?
"She lives in Japan," Schor says in a deadpan, gesturing toward Yago. "Did we mention that?"
The real reason is that McNellie is moving to New York; since the members are all playing in other bands as well, a three-way geographic split seems too much.
The band's final show is Saturday at Brillobox. "The show costs six bucks," McNellie says. "Or bring a canned good for Yago. Or toilet paper," he adds, in a sort-of-joking reference to the very real issue of scarcity of resources in her country.
Yago, whose English is minimal, lights up. "Yes! Please give me toilet paper!"
TEST PATTERNS with Slices, Passengers and The Ceiling Stares. 10 p.m. Sat., April 2. Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. $6. 412-621-4900