The Watanabes

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The Watanabes
The Watanabes live at Moon Romantic.jpg
The Watanabes performing live in Tokyo, 2011.
Background information
Origin Japan
Genres Indie rock
Years active 2005 - present
Labels Babyboom Records Japan
Associated acts Kate Sikora
Members Duncan Walsh
Selwyn Walsh
Ayumi Sato
Yoko Osawa
Past members Flavio Jerome
Ashley Davies
Stefan Samuelsson
Tadashi Yoshikawa

The Watanabes are a Tokyo based indie pop rock band with members from the UK and Japan.[1] Their sound has drawn comparisons to melody driven indie acts such as Belle and Sebastian, Teenage Fan Club,[2] Crowded House[3] and 1980's Liverpool band The Pale Fountains,[4] while their lyrics often touch upon their experiences in Japan.[1]

The band have featured in several of Japan's English speaking publications including The Japan Times,[5] Metropolis,[6] Japanzine[7] and Time Out, who referred to the group as "Tokyo's answer to The Smiths".[8] In November 2009 they began working with Glaswegian music producer David Naughton[1] and released their second album, You're Dancing I'm Absorbed, in February 2011. It includes guest appearances from American singer songwriter Kate Sikora and British multi-instrumentalist Nick Duffy of The Lilac Time. In December 2011 two tracks from the album, True Romantics and Concerned With You, were used in a TV advertising campaign for Triumph Motorcycles.[9]

The Watanabes have featured on the BBC Introducing Series,[10] and in September 2010, their acoustic green lullaby “Whales Can Sing” was championed by Ric O'Barry,[11] star of the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove, as well as race car driver and environmental activist Leilani Munter.[12] On August 29, 2013, The Watanabes performed live in Tokyo with former Guns N' Roses drummer Matt Sorum at an event organized by Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project.[13]

In the autumn of 2014 they released a 5 track EP entitled Draw What You Like.[14] Three tracks from the record were adopted by CNN International for a documentary on food in Japan.[15]


The band formed in the rural prefecture of Ehime in Japan, during the summer of 2005.[16] Watanabe is a common surname in this region of Japan,[17] and the group used the name in order to ingratiate themselves with the locals, whilst also alluding to British band The Smiths.[18] It was initially inspired however by Toru Watanabe, the slightly troubled and over nostalgic protagonist in Haruki Murakami's novel, Norwegian Wood.[19]

In April 2007 they sent off their first demo to the Fuji Rock Fesitival, and were selected alongside bands such as The Bawdies and Avengers in Sci-Fi in the top 50 nominees for the Rookie a go stage.[20] In August of the same year they moved to Tokyo where they began work on their debut album, Independent Social Power.[21] Recorded at KRH Studios[22] in Harajuku, the album was independently released in association with Manchester based record label BabyBoom Records.[23]


Independent Social Power
There Are Ghosts Around Here EP
You're Dancing I'm Absorbed
Draw What You Like


  1. ^ a b c Ryall, Julian (March 2013), "Living the Dream", BCCJ Acumen 
  2. ^ Morel, R (7 March 2011), "CD Reviews: The Watanabes: You're dancing I'm absorbed", Metropolis Magazine 
  3. ^ Tiernan, L (February 2012), Live Reviews: The Watanabes, Music Connection Magazine, p. 53, ISSN 1091-9791 
  4. ^ "Reviews and News". Sound & Recording Magazine: 199. March 2011. 
  5. ^ Tiernan, Laurier (27 May 2014), "Gaijin band scene welcomes music fans of all kinds", The Japan Times 
  6. ^ Grunebaum, Dan (8 October 2009), "The Watanabes", Metropolis Magazine 
  7. ^ Davies, Jonti (9 October 2009), "The Watanabes: A Tale of Indie Success in Japan", Japanzine 
  8. ^ Wilks, Jon (2 February 2011), "On the Up: The Watanabes", Time Out 
  9. ^ バイク新車カタログ トライアンフ, Triumph Motorcycles, 2011 
  10. ^ Standley, Gary (12 November 2008), "Big in Japan with The Watanabes", BBC 
  11. ^ O'Barry, Ric (29 August 2011), "The Road to Taiji: A Night at The Pink Cow for the Dolphins", Earth Island Institute 
  12. ^ Münter, Leilani (September 2011), ""Whales Can Sing" Taiji, Japan", 
  13. ^ Palmer, Mark J. (30 August 2013), "Matt Sorum Rocks Tokyo", Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project 
  14. ^ The Watanabes 'Draw What You Like' album launch, Time Out Tokyo, August 2014 
  15. ^ CNNGo in Japan: Wagyu, Ramen, Sake, CNN International, October 8, 2014 
  16. ^ Wilks, Jon (November 2007), "Starving Artist: Duncan Walsh", Japanzine 
  17. ^ Sakaki, Mariko (23 August 2011), "東日本大震災:復興支援へ演奏会 ALTらの「ザ・ワタナベズ」", Mainichi Shimbun 
  18. ^ Ryall, Julian (March 2013), "Expat bands from all over Britain enjoy firm following in Tokyo", Japan Today 
  19. ^ Ostrander, Daniel (20 June 2012), "Bands Of Japan: The Watanabes", Japanzine 
  20. ^ Fuji Rock Rookie A Go Go, PIA Corporation, 2007 
  21. ^ "Independent Social Power". Tower Records. 
  22. ^ "KRH Studios". KRH Studios. 
  23. ^ "BabyBoom Records". BabyBoom Records Japan. 

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