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 pop
Years active 2005 - present
Labels Babyboom Records Japan
Associated acts Kate Sikora
Members Duncan Walsh
Selwyn Walsh
Ayumi Sato
Yoko Osawa
Matt Hogan
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]

Musical style[edit]

Their jangly alt pop sound[2] has drawn comparisons to melody driven indie acts such as Belle and Sebastian,[3] Teenage Fan Club,[3] Crowded House[4] and 1980's Liverpool band The Pale Fountains,[5] while their lyrics often touch upon their experiences in Japan.[1] Time Out have described them as "Tokyo's answer to The Smiths"[6] although their soft acoustic melodies make an easier comparison to other British bands such as The Beatles or The Kooks.[7]


The band are fronted by British brothers Duncan and Selwyn Walsh on vocals and guitar.[8] New Zealander Ashley Davies and Belgian Flavio Jerome were also founding members and co-songwriters but have since left the band.[9]


The band have featured in several of Japan's English speaking publications including The Japan Times,[10] Metropolis,[11] Japanzine[12] and Time Out. 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.[13]

The Watanabes have featured on the BBC Introducing Series,[14] and in September 2010, their acoustic green lullaby “Whales Can Sing” was championed by Ric O'Barry,[15] star of the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove, as well as race car driver and environmental activist Leilani Munter.[16] 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.[17]

The band have received praise for their fundraising efforts, particularly in aid of Tohoku following the Tohoku earthquake.[18] In 2014 they released a collaborative music video with NPO Playground of Hope.[19]

In the autumn of 2014 they released a 5 track EP entitled Draw What You Like.[20] Three tracks from the record were adopted by CNN International for a documentary on food in Japan.[21] Their fourth record, a four track EP entitled Spoiled and Nostalgic, was released on November 25, 2016.[22] The second track on the EP, 'Tonight' was included in Tom Robinson's BBC Mixtape, aired on BBC Radio 6.[23] In September 2016, BBC Radio Norfolk made 'Hummingbird' Track of the Week.


The band formed in the rural prefecture of Ehime in Japan, during the summer of 2005.[24] Watanabe is a common surname in this region of Japan,[25] and the group used the name in order to ingratiate themselves with the locals, whilst also alluding to British band The Smiths.[26] It was initially inspired however by Toru Watanabe, the slightly troubled and over nostalgic protagonist in Haruki Murakami's novel, Norwegian Wood.[27]

In April 2007 they sent off their first demo to the Fuji Rock Festival, 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.[28] In August of the same year they moved to Tokyo where they began work on their debut album, Independent Social Power.[29] Recorded at KRH Studios[30] in Harajuku, the album was independently released in association with Manchester based record label BabyBoom Records.[31]


Independent Social Power (2009)
There Are Ghosts Around Here EP (2009)
You're Dancing I'm Absorbed (2011)
Draw What You Like (2014)
Spoiled and Nostalgic (2016)


  1. ^ a b c Ryall, Julian (March 2013), "Living the Dream", BCCJ Acumen 
  2. ^ "New Music Critiques: The Watanabes". Music Connection: 53. January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Morel, R (7 March 2011), "CD Reviews: The Watanabes: You're dancing I'm absorbed", Metropolis Magazine 
  4. ^ Tiernan, L (February 2012), Live Reviews: The Watanabes (PDF), Music Connection Magazine, p. 53, ISSN 1091-9791 
  5. ^ "Reviews and News". Sound & Recording Magazine: 199. March 2011. 
  6. ^ Wilks, Jon (2 February 2011), "On the Up: The Watanabes", Time Out 
  7. ^ Terrestrial, Esther (29 October 2014), "Review: Draw What You Like, The Watanabes", Toxic Online 
  8. ^ Tiernan, Laurier (December 2014), "Music: The Watanabes: Indie Alt Rockers Release New EP", Metropolis Magazine 
  9. ^ "Lomo Amigos: The Watanabes", Lomography Japan Magazine, 5 February 2015 
  10. ^ Tiernan, Laurier (27 May 2014), "Gaijin band scene welcomes music fans of all kinds", The Japan Times 
  11. ^ Grunebaum, Dan (8 October 2009), "The Watanabes", Metropolis Magazine 
  12. ^ Davies, Jonti (9 October 2009), "The Watanabes: A Tale of Indie Success in Japan", Japanzine 
  13. ^ バイク新車カタログ トライアンフ, Triumph Motorcycles, 2011 
  14. ^ Standley, Gary (12 November 2008), "Big in Japan with The Watanabes", BBC 
  15. ^ O'Barry, Ric (29 August 2011), "The Road to Taiji: A Night at The Pink Cow for the Dolphins", Earth Island Institute 
  16. ^ Münter, Leilani (September 2011), ""Whales Can Sing" Taiji, Japan", 
  17. ^ Palmer, Mark J. (30 August 2013), "Matt Sorum Rocks Tokyo", Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project 
  18. ^ Building Playgrounds and Making Music Videos, Tokyoite: The Time Out Tokyo Blog, 21 May 2014 
  19. ^ Music Fundraiser for Playground of Hope, Tokyo Weekender, May 2014 
  20. ^ The Watanabes 'Draw What You Like' album launch, Time Out Tokyo, August 2014 
  21. ^ CNNGo in Japan: Wagyu, Ramen, Sake, CNN International, October 8, 2014 
  22. ^ This & That Café Vol. 30: 'Spoiled and Nostalgic', Time Out Tokyo, November 2016 
  23. ^ BBC Mixtape: 19 Dec 2016, Fresh on the Net, December 2016 
  24. ^ Wilks, Jon (November 2007), "Starving Artist: Duncan Walsh", Japanzine 
  25. ^ 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 
  26. ^ Ryall, Julian (March 2013), "Expat bands from all over Britain enjoy firm following in Tokyo", Japan Today 
  27. ^ Ostrander, Daniel (20 June 2012), "Bands Of Japan: The Watanabes", Japanzine 
  28. ^ Fuji Rock Rookie A Go Go, PIA Corporation, 2007 
  29. ^ "Independent Social Power". Tower Records. 
  30. ^ "KRH Studios". KRH Studios. 
  31. ^ "BabyBoom Records". BabyBoom Records Japan. 

External links[edit]