The Watanabes are an international indie folk pop band performing and recording in Tokyo, made up of two British brothers on guitar and vocals, and a Japanese rhythm section. They enjoy drinking banana juice together and are keen students of Ikebana. The group began life in the orange-laden prefecture of Ehime, and named themselves Watanabe in tribute to the warm and friendly people of the region, whilst also alluding to The Smiths. The initial inspiration however came from Toru Watanabe, the slightly troubled and over nostalgic protagonist in Haruki Murakami‘s novel, Norwegian Wood.
Three years later, the band packed up and shifted to Tokyo in search of new inspiration and regular trains, where they began work on their debut album ‘Independent Social Power’. When their work was complete, they popped a CD in a package and sent if off to Japanese indie label BabyBoom Records, who liked it so much that they offered to distribute the record at music stores across the country. The album caught the attention of Japanese indie music magazine Cookie Scene, as well as the BBC, who described their work as “pure Indie, with floating verses and catchy choruses”.
February 2011 saw The Watanabes launch their second album ‘You’re Dancing I’m Absorbed’, recorded under the wise Glaswegian eye of music producer and engineer David Naughton (Belle & Sebastian, Teenage Fan Club, Mojave 3). The record features guest appearances from American folk pop singer Kate Sikora, and British indie Godfather Nick Duffy of The Lilac Time. Two tracks for the album, True Romantics and Concerned with You, were used as part of a TV advertising campaign for Triumph Motorcycles, and their acoustic lullaby Whales Can Sing was championed by Ric O’Barry, star of the Academy Award winning documentary ‘The Cove’. The song was written as an emotional reaction to the documentary and has touched the hearts of other notable individuals including Jim Gellatly (Amazing Radio), race car driver and environmentalist Leilani Munter, 60’s legend David Crosby of The Byrds, and Rock N Roll Hall of Famer and former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum, who The Watanabes performed alongside in Tokyo on August 2013.
On the day before the release party of their second album, a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. Filled with a desire to support their adopted homeland, the band have organised and performed in many charity events in aid of Tohoku, and recently visited Fukushima to help build a playground alongside NPO Playground of Hope. The trip was documented in the shape of a collaborative music video, which will be used to promote the charity, and The Watanabes’ new single Make Things Better. The band’s fundraising efforts have been praised both by Japanese national newspaper Mainichi Shimbun, and Time Out Tokyo, who described them as a band with “more heart than ego”.
The Watanabes have played at venues across Japan, headlining at Japan Music Week, Asian indie showcase Tokyo BootUp!, The Kansai Music Conference, and Shibuya based international indie festival Rock God Dam. In April 2014 they were invited to perform live on one of Japan’s biggest radio stations, InterFm, as part of their 24-hour live radio event. In the space of 8 years, the band have developed a small but dedicated international following within the country. The British Chamber of Commerce recently featured the group as an example of the thriving British music scene in Japan, describing them as “one of the biggest names on the live circuit here”. According to Tokyo Weekender, they are “one of Tokyo’s best known indie bands”, while Time Out Tokyo call them “Tokyo’s answer to The Smiths”. Japanzine magazine simply asks, “You’ve heard of The Watanabes, surely? Everyone has!”
The Watanabes released their 5 track EP ‘Draw What You’ Like at major record stores across Japan and worldwide as a digital download on 29th September 2014. The record has already received airplay from BBC’s Mark Forrest, Amazing Radio’s Beth Elfyn, and InterFM’s Guy Perryman, and gained positive reviews from Metropolis Magazine (Japan) and Music Connection Magazine (U.S.A). Three of the tracks have been aired on CNN International as part of a TV documentary on Japan.
2005年、愛媛への来日を機に日本でのバンド活動を開始。The Smithsを連想させる、”ワタナベズ”というバンド名は愛媛で一般的な名字に由来している。2007年以後は東京を中心に活動中。The Smith やBelle and Sebastianに影響を受けたサウンドと、彼等の特異なバックグランドを表現した歌詞が混じり合い、ネオ・フォークとでも形容すべきオリジナリティを確立。またタイトな演奏と3人による 美しいコーラスが特徴的なライブパフォーマンスは、多くのライブイベントやデザインフェスタでも 評判を呼び、2007年には外国人バンドでありながら、Fuji Rock FestivalのRookie A Go-Go審査突破50 組の一つに選出、イギリスではBBCの新人特集、日本でも日本テレビや毎日新聞やTime Outといったメディアに度々取り上げられる。プロデューサーには、Belle and SebastianやTeenage Fanclubも手がけたグラスゴー出身のDave Naughtonを迎えて日本にて録音。2010年には日本人ドラマーを迎え、4カ国からなる文字通りインターナショナルバンドとしての活動を東京にて展開中。