Ever heard about a new band, but had no idea where to start listening? Breaker Japan’s resident music expert, Luke, emerges from a dark corner of the office to help you out. Every month, he’ll be handing out his thoughts on the most original musical acts in Japan. In a musical landscape usually associated with girl groups and anime robot singers, these are the artists that make the Japanese music scene come to life.
Are you a fan of those naughty (I mean the 00s–not in the sense of misbehaving… or do I?) bands like The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys or The Libertines? Well, with their clean cut indie sound, it’s pretty obvious that Japanese indie rockers, DYGL, are.
DYGL is pronounced “Day Glo”. Try not to make the same mistake as one interviewer who kept calling them what sounded like “Digilo” through the entirety of an interview, which according to Urban Dictionary means “A homosexual man without a penis and only balls who likes to take it in the…” Well, you get the idea. Just be careful. It’s “Day Glo”.
Comprised of Nobuki Akiyama, Yotaro Kachi, and Kohei Kamoto of Ykiki Beat, another beloved band on the Japanese indie rock scene, along with Yosuke Shimonaka, this bright-faced youthful four piece have achieved what very few Japanese bands have and emulated a British sound.
Notably, bands such as The fin. have crafted a sound that steps out of the confines J-Rock mainly by singing wonderfully in English. DYGL’s singer Nobuyuki is just like that and at times sings with an almost Scottish hum, maybe as a homage to The Fratellis or Franz Ferdinand.
Growing up as a teen in the 00s, my ears were saturated with a plethora of indie bands alongside all of the aforementioned. To be honest, I hated most of it. Indie music can seem like a lazy craft that revolves around the pathos of not giving a toss. However, every now and then, a band would come around that would radiate good vibes and create a song that becomes your anthem to a summer.
DYGL have done a great job at finding something in the genre and taken it to a level that works for them. They’ve explained that their writing process is very fluid and never really ends until it is pressed onto a CD.
This leaks into their live performances, and they adjust their sound as they play. Gauging the audiences reaction dictates their adjustments. When they enter the studio, the mix down turns into another opportunity to fine tune. This process has resulted in the release of a well-rounded debut album, Say Goodbye to Memory Den, in April 2017 and a new single, “Bad Kicks,” this year.
They recorded most of their music in New York, allowing them to combine their knowledge of what works in Japan with the ideals of a Western producer. It’s a step towards achieving the goal of flattening the scene, erasing the polarizing sense of a “foreign” sound vs. what is more common in Japan.
Unlike a few other Japanese bands of this calibre, they skipped playing the Rookie-a-go-go stage and took straight to the Red Marquee at Fuji Rock Festival. Then, they went on to play Summer Sonic and Rising Sun Festival this year. With a leaping start into the public eye, it just leaves us open to the expectation of more good music to come.
Let It Out
Let’s start with “Let It Out”, a track that sits slap bang in the middle of DYGL’s debut album, Say Goodbye to Memory Den. This song will show in a heartbeat what this band stands for. They aren’t trying anything particularly new or novel. Nonetheless, what they are doing is adding something quality to a much loved genre and doing it particularly well.
Leaving no room for anyone to doubt the appeal of their polished indie sound, DYGL’s debut album kicks off with a great track. Led in with a chunky bassline from Yotaro, this song alternates between a moody verse with that distinctly indie tone of rebellion and an uplifting chorus bursting with a youthful energy.
Boys On TV
This track, through a twangy guitar riff and off-beat ska chord stabs, is a lively number that stands out in the album as the dancier one. From the perspective of the overall sound, it could feel like a formula that has been tried and tested. However, with the small additions of a metallic guitar riff created by super fast delay and subtle electronic drum licks, the production feels modern and unique.
Don’t Know Where It Is
This track demonstrates how producing simple indie songs is about paying attention to the detail of the guitar sounds. By creating simple dynamics between two guitars and some overdrive pedals, you can create a harmonious sound that does just what good indie music should make you do: feel good, let loose, and not give a f$%k about all your problems.
Backed up with a dreary, 80s, This-is-England style music video, DYGL’s newest single “Bad Kicks” is another middle finger to all-the-care-in-the-world kind of song. For a young Japanese band, it somehow encapsulates a very British indie sound spanning decades. Moments of shouty singing–not dissimilar to punk rockers, The Clash–makes this song ooze anarchy and will make you want to punch the nearest plaster wall and feel ‘ard, innit!
From December 17th to 28th DYGL will embark on a Japan tour spanning Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, and Sapporo. If you are in any of those areas, make sure to check them out.