MY mind has been working overtime trying…
to recall the last Japanese band featured on my blog. I am not sure there has been one! Maybe I am wrong: what I do know is DYGL, from Tokyo, have provided me a glimpse into the Japanese music scene. They discuss the single, Let It Sway, and what comes next for them. I ask how they got together and what the scene is like where they are; if there are any new artists to look out for – and whether they are coming to the U.K.
Nobuki (from the band) talks about their style and evolution; what the highlights from last year are; why British and American bands have proved instrumental to them; what they hope to achieve this year –some great albums that the band hold close to their hearts.
Hi, DYGL. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi. This is Nobuki from DYGL. It's been kinda-chill week. We’ve started doing pre-recordings for a new track (that's supposed to be the next single).
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
We are four-piece Indie-Rock band based in Tokyo. It's been almost five years since we formed DYGL. It might look little tricky but it comes from the actual English word ‘Day-Glo’ - meaning a fluorescent colour. Lately, it seems like fewer and fewer people are trying to do Rock music - but we are still so attracted to the sounds of the guitar along with a tight drum; the rhythm of the bass. We might be (kinda) the last Rock band in the world…
Actually; there must be thousands of "last Rock bands" in the world, though.
Tell me about the song, Let It Sway. How did that song come together?
I wrote this song by (just) singing along whilst strumming an unplugged Fender Stratocaster. Maybe it was three years ago, already. (Lyrics came later). I think it's interesting that the lead guitar phrase takes the chorus part instead of the vocal. We actually hadn't released this as the single when we recorded it - until we released the limited cassette tape including this and Let It Out when we went to London and Brighton last year.
But; we made the video for this one a little while ago - so I think people recognised this as the single...
The video looks kind of funky. Tell me about its creation and how the concept came together.
We asked our friend Mitch to make the video for us. Actually, it's a little hard to find a good video creator in Japan who can share the same tastes and vibes with us. We're lucky that we can find and work with him. We wanted to make a retro-oldies-type video; so he used Super 8 film camera for the main scenes. Actually; it's was quite a relaxed one: hanging out and filming, then done.
It was fun shooting.
Since your 2015 debut E.P., you have produced a string of fantastic tracks. Is there more material coming this year? What are you working on?
Now, we're preparing for the next single and getting warmed-up little by little for the next album as well. It’s the second album - as DYGL, of course, but, also, personally - I haven't released any ‘second album’ so far, even with the other bands that I had been in. So, I'm really excited for that. Hope we can release it around summer, I guess? We'll try our best to make one that's worth waiting for.
We wanna write more songs, more lyrics: more of something new.
You are one of Tokyo’s fastest-rising bands. What kind of music scene is there in the capital? Are there quite a lot of great bands coming through?
Tokyo is hectic. There are too many scenes - and bands are doing their own things here and there.
But, basically, Indie-Rock music scenes are not that popular. It actually exists but even the Indie music scenes are contaminated by the commercial music market. There's worthless hype, as well - and a few good bands are ignored often. Sometimes; we're categorised in some nonsense genres that the Japanese media have made up - but we honestly felt isolated in the Japanese music scene. But, of course, we're not American nor British (band), so, sometimes, we feel really strange not being part of anywhere. But, I guess that's the good thing: for us to focus on what we wanna do. Ther are some interesting things going on as well. There's a Noise/Avant-garde scene in the city called ‘Koenji’ - and I think it's worth checking.
Koenji is the centre of Experimental music. Historically, many bands are involved with this city like Melt Banana, Boredoms; Yura Yura Teikoku (which Shitaro Sakamoto was in). But, generally, the Japanese music market is all about commercial music; even the bands who are called ‘a Rock band’ care more about business and the market too much. These domestic scenes have been really boring for more than ten years but, recently, some young lads started trying to create something new - inspired by the old Japanese legends like はっぴいえんど (Happy End) or 山下達郎 (Tatsuro Yamashita).
The young bands seem to get bored of all the commercial bands and try to revive some authentic sounds. Still; it's hard to find the really good ones from those scenes, though. There are the other bands who are singing in English in an Indie-Rock style. Tawings are cool. They're gonna play for SXSW at Burger Records' showcase. I like Boys Age, as well. Not too many foreigners stay here to record music - but I met the guy from the U.K. who's doing music in Japan under the name of Harley and the Hummingbirds. He's cool, too.
My friend Ian Martin recently researched and analysed almost the WHOLE Japanese music Indie scenes in unbelievable detail and published a book. It's called Quit Your Band! (You might wanna check that out if you're interested in Japanese music scenes now.
How did DYGL come together and discover one another?
We were in the same university called 明治学院大学 (Meiji Gakuin University) in 2011 and found out we shared the same taste in music: Oasis, The Smiths; The Beatles, The Kinks; The Strokes, The View; The Libertines and these kinds. (Believe me; it's not that easy to find the guys who REALLY like these ones - especially The View!).
In Japan, each university has a community called ‘Circle’; in which people are doing some club activity stuffs: sports, music; volunteers etc. We were in the same Circle called 現代音楽研究会 (Gendai Ongaku Kenkyukai means ‘Contemporary Music Club’, of which the guy from Salon Music used to belong) and we formed DYGL in 2012. Actually, almost everyone was doing Hardcore, Noise; Avant-Garde or Ambient – so, Indie-Rock bands like us looked so weird in there.
It was a really interesting experience being in the club.
I hear elements of The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys in your work. Are British and American bands (like them) a big source of inspiration?
Yeah, it's huge. I've been listening to a bunch of music from overseas since I was thirteen or so - the bands you're mentioning as well. Personally, I've really been into U.K. Rock music - especially from the 2000s. Also, some of my favourite ones are from Sweden, France and Australia. But; I wanna say we're all just looking for good music: all we care about is the music itself. If it's good, it's good no matter where they come from. But, yeah, I definitely recognise that I was influenced by the music from the U.K. (all the time).
I don't know why - but I am really attracted to the British sounds.
Which artists did you all grow up to? Did you all bond with music fairly young?
I think we all started listening to music around elementary-school or junior-high. None of us was trained at Piano School or anything. We started listening to Japanese Pop or Rock bands, first, when we were nine or ten and gradually began to find some more interesting Rock bands from Japan - or even from outside of the country. Each of us used to be in another band when we were in high-school (before we all met). We did have similar tastes by that time, already. To me, the first experience was the View's first album, Hats Off to the Buskers.
I was fourteen when I first listened to the album at an instrument shop in Jiyugaoka - which is the city between Shibuya and Yokohama. At the corner of the shop, there was C.D. section and I had been hanging out there often to check some new music. At that time, I started listening to some foreign bands and realised it's quite different from Japanese bands – but The View's first album blew my mind and I quit listening to all the bands I was listening to at that moment - and rapidly fell into this kind of music. I read the liner notes inside the C.D. and found out that the guy, James Endeacott, who found The View also found The Libertines and The Strokes - and I thought, like, ‘I really need to check these bands’.
Last year, you played so many gigs and countless new fans flock your way. What were your highlights from the year? Was it a quite a tough and challenging 2017?
Yeah. 2017 was a really busy year. It was the tour-life. The number of the shows we've played is the largest ever. We went to many countries to play gigs. Most of them were Asian countries and they are way more beautiful than we've expected - especially China. We've done seven shows there and it was a really huge experience. We spent many crazy nights hanging out. Everything is huge, audiences got so excited: it's beyond imagination. We quite enjoyed Thailand as well. I love the atmosphere there.
It seems like there are many music fans and they’ve got a cool taste for art and music. We always appreciate how Taiwan’s people are welcoming to us! I think we’ve been there over five times - but we're always happy to come back there. We could only do one show each in Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia - but can't wait to come back to all of the countries that we've been to. Playing in London and Brighton was totally epic. I've been dreaming of that for centuries - since I got really into Indie-Rock music when I was thirteen or fourteen-years-old.
Really glad that one of my dreams come true.
LOGO DESIGN: Kieran Riddiough
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
We all are into the young Liverpool band called Trudy and the Romance these days. Shame are also cool. As I mentioned before; you can check Japanese four-piece girl band, Tawings. They are a Post-Punk band and sound tight.
The Districts from Philadelphia are really amazing as well! (Maybe you might know, though). We recently covered Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen in Love (You Shouldn’t’ve) for the compilation album called Rhyming Slang Covers (released in Japan). There are so many local Indie bands in this - so it'd be cool if you check it out.
IN THIS PHOTO: Tawings
If you each had to choose the one album that means the most; which would they be and why?
For me; I wanna name The View's first (and best) album, Hats Off to the Buskers
This one opens my entire music world - to know a bunch of indie rock bands – and are all classics. This one is massive in my life.
Yotaro: For me; I wanna name Atlas Sound’s Parallax
Yosuke: To me; the album that means the most is Dog Man Star by Suede
It has been my favourite since I saw them on Japanese T.V. when I was a teen.
Kohei: Figure 8 by Elliott Smith
Because this brings back memories and bums me out.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
The closest show we're playing is the Beach Fossils tour in Japan (in March). We're planning to record our album around April; so we wanna do the tour in the second half of this year! We might be going all around including Asia, Europe and North America…we're thinking Australia and Canada as well. It'd be even greater if we could come down to Brazil and South Africa, but let's see.
Will you play the U.K. anytime soon? Might we see you gig here?
We're coming to the U.K. this February to record the single - but we're be coming back for some shows and festivals soon! It's on our list to do the festivals in the U.K.; so, it's a great honour for us. Actually, we recognised there are so many good music cultures in each city in the U.K. – so, we hope we could do a U.K. tour by driving around in the tour van!
That'd be awesome.
Any New Year’s resolutions made this year? What do you all hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
Because of the tight tour schedules; we couldn't really focus on writing new songs last year. We're gonna try to focus on songwriting this year – do it even harder than before. That's the main thing, I guess. (As much as we can). To me; maybe learning Spanish and Chinese is (still) on my list. As a band, we wanna try to find some new style of Rock music.
Also; we want to find a good label or record company who’ll understand and support our music.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Ok, sounds cool. I'll list these up down below. Enjoy!
Nobuki: Yura Yura Teikoku - Kudo Desu (Hollow Me)
Yosuke Shimonaka: Psychic TV - White Nights
Kohei Kamoto: Elliott Smith – Happiness
Yotaro Kachi: The Velvet Underground - Pale Blue Eyes