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March 2018

SXSW Interview: Nobuki Akiyama of DYGL


DYGL (pronounced Day Glow) are founded around the boundary breaking power music can have. Founded at their university several years ago, the four-piece Japanese indie rock group would sound more at home in London than Tokyo. And while the influence of groups like The Strokes sand The Libertines is immediately clear, lead singer Nobuki Akiyama has fully embraced these roots as they not only influenced the musicians, but helped form each of the members personalities.  They released their first full length album in 2017 Say Goodbye to Memory Den, produced by guitarist for The Strokes, Albert Hammond Jr. and released a single “Bad Kicks” earlier this year. The group played several shows during the 2018 SXSW festival in Austin, where we had the opportunity to speak with Nobuki about the DYGL, Austin, and his time working with Albert Hammond Jr.

So you’ve had a week in Austin, how’s it been?

It was really cool, this was the second time for us as a band to come to Austin. We played four shows, and we were able to catch lots of performances from some of our favorite bands, which we didn’t get to do last time. Shopping and Idles have been the best ones so far.

When you were recording your album last year I know that you all spent some time living in New York to record it. What was that experience like?

It was nice, we had been really into British music and American music, kind of Indie rock stuff. And we don’t have a lot of the same vibes in Tokyo. We have either super pop, or super underground. There’s no real in between. So we knew we wanted to work with some guys that understood our tastes and understood our vibes, and we’d been looking for some engineers and producers. And we found that and that the city didn’t matter as much as the engineer, and that [New York] is just where the engineer was. But with the engineer and being in the city it was all just really good for us. These guys, Albert and Gus are great at judging everything and knowing, like they would always guide us.

S0 how did you get hooked up with Albert?

We had mutual friends with Albert and Gus, a Japanese guy who worked at the label distributing The Strokes first 3 albums, and while we were looking for some good engineers it was coincidence that Gus was on that list we wanted. But before we even contacted him, Gus contacted us, and we sent him some demos and ended up working together.

Going back to how you said there’s not really your style of music in Japan, how has it been then being that artist stuck in the middle ground of pop and the underground, both in Japan and worldwide?

In Japan, it’s really changing little by little. Twenty years ago there were no kind of indie rock music scenes, it was just like pop and there were only a few bands singing in English, and not a lot of them were good ones. Well, some were but not a lot. But they were still not ready for, the market and audiences were not ready [in Japan]. But gradually because of the Internet, these things have changed a lot. And there’s a few bands trying to do what we’re doing, inspired by the Americans or British and the French. So it’s not terrible, but it’s still hard. Markets are gradually growing.

What made you decide to sing in English?

I was just into the Libertines, the Strokes, and I just thought I wanted to sing in English like that. I actually learned English by listening to Oasis.

Going back to your record you bring in lots of political things in line with your punk influence. Do you take most of these issues as centered to Japan or more internationally?

It depends really; we like to think about the world as international. So singing about Japan’s politics is really connected to the world. I mean also we do a bit of politics but try and sing about everything.

Looking at your most recent single Bad Kicks it gets a lot more punk than last year’s album. Is this a direction you want to take the band in, or just something you’d played with?

This one is a lot more rough and energetic, where I feel like the album is a lot more clean. So now it’s become seeing which way we should go. I feel pretty comfortable with the new single; it’s a lot like what I have in my mind when I write a song. I’d like to make an album with that sound.

How do you feel about moving into the future wit DYGL?

We’re trying to move out from Japan and settle in London or somewhere in the UK.

The world is really changing fast. Politics, markets, people, but good music is always good. In each city and each country. I want to connect with more country’s music scenes and bands and more individuals. And spread more good Japanese bands as well. Sometimes there are so many good local bands and not enough opportunities, especially in Japan. That’s why coming to South by Southwest is so good, to know what’s in the world. You know you’ve got legendary bands playing in a tiny bar and suddenly brand new bands playing side by side, which is cool.

We’re just trying to make timeless music.


Check out the music video for “Bad Kicks” below

by Jackson Tucker

Photos by Christian Senf

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