Earlier this month, South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival has announced its third round of showcase artists with the addition of 11 new Japanese acts. We are positive that the list will keep growing with more showcase artists to be added weekly until the festival kicks off. So far, 16 Japanese bands/musicians have been included in the SXSW line-up for this year.
These artists come with great diversity, and I’m not just talking about the genre, though of course we indeed see varieties of genre with hip-hop, folk, punk, indie pop, and even Enka on the table. While some of them are so new that it’s almost impossible to find any information about them on the internet, others were in fact big hits nationwide back as far back as the 80s selling millions copies of records but have yet to achieve recognition on an international stage. A fact we often ignored – new music isn’t just about age.
Also we welcome the change with including more female acts – Female workers are usually rarely seen and undervalued in the traditional Japanese working environment. We are more than delighted to see these female indie musicians taking the stage that should have belonged to them long ago, and we know they never disappoint.
We understand not everyone will be at SXSW this year, but the good news is some of them will tour the country after the big event so you might still be able to catch them at your local venue. Now, no matter if you decide to attend or not, here are some acts we handpicked for you and you do not want to miss them!
This is their second time playing the festival. Following 2017 SXSW and US Touring, they released their second EP “Homegoroshirizzu” in April and a full album “Pink” in October. Both have received critical acclaim and wide popularity. These four teenage girls are the hottest indie girl band in Japan this year without doubt.
Despite originating from Nagoya, an industrialized city, the band members decorate their funky tunes with lurching color and daring theme to illustrate the hyper dimension in their eyes. The whole world is their playground. Being no newbies to SXSW audiences, CHAI know they can set the bar higher and blow our minds with the most extraordinary performance that they may have not even given in their homeland.
If you listen to bands like Hinds, Shonen Knife or Dum Dum Girls, you are guaranteed to fall for this Tokyo four-piece garage band the minute their brisk riffs and spruce rhythms slink down onto your knees. Their music is surprisingly pithy and directional for a band only surfaced less than two years ago.
Last year, they opened for American indie band Japanese Breakfast in Tokyo. Influenced by western bands such as Suede and Elastica at a young age, they never downplay their overseas ambitions. With that much talent of theirs, it’s hard not to see their potential. And you, I want you to be able to proudly tell your friend one day, “You know this girl band TAWINGS playing Bowery Ballroom tonight? I saw them at their first America show at SXSW! ”
You can catch a strong 90s vibe from this surfpop outfit. The band features a lo-fi power pop with a laid-back melody sense uniquely presented in J-pop. In their music I can hear a hint of bands like Weezer, Oasis and many more, but most importantly, I hear that boy from ten years ago who just bought his own guitar and strummed his first chord. They are passionate and sincere, though from the first glance they look just like a bunch of college kids who do everything for fun.
Their music is naturally foot-tapping and after a few listens I got seriously hooked on this band. I now secretly play their debut album on loop every day with a big foolish smile on my face like an ice cream man. But no, TENDOUJI are the ice cream man. I am the kid who puts down my macadamia nut brittle gelato and runs to a street plain vanilla cone with 75-cent sprinkles on top. And that vanilla ice cream they sell, just as Pavement sang, “Everybody needs one”.
Despite their name, they are not extra-terrestrial creatures like Vulcans, but a five-piece synth/electronic band from Tokyo. For a while, they tried to keep their identities mysterious by covering their faces in music videos but later it was later revealed that Yahyel share lead guitar/singer and drummer with another indie dance rock band DATS. The two bands have since been frequently mentioned together. I however see these two as very differently styled and definitely prefer the more futuristic Yahyel.
One interesting aspect of Yahyel is their emphasis on visual effects. They even have a VJ (Visual Jockey) to manage stage technology. But that’s not where they stop. Yahyel’s ultimate goal is to make people aware of their ideology. For example, they observed Japanese people’s twisted struggles over the deep-rooted complex towards westerners and felt responsible to ask why in “Black Satin”. The alienation across races is one of their most discussed topics and also the reason they chose to play it low-key about their nationality.
There are some other notable musicians such as DYGL and JP The Wavy that we have introduced following the initial line-up release. See the article here to catch up. You can also check the list below of confirmed Japanese artists or visit www.sxsw.com to view more international showcase and technology/entertainment panels SXSW has to offer.
List of Announced Japanese Acts (in alphabetical order):
JP The Wavy