The Watanabes performing live in Tokyo, 2011.
|Years active||2005 - present|
|Labels||Babyboom Records Japan|
|Associated acts||Kate Sikora|
|Past members||Flavio Jerome
Their jangly alt pop sound has drawn comparisons to melody driven indie acts such as Belle and Sebastian, Teenage Fan Club, Crowded House and 1980's Liverpool band The Pale Fountains, while their lyrics often touch upon their experiences in Japan. Time Out have described them as "Tokyo's answer to The Smiths" although their soft acoustic melodies make an easier comparison to other British bands such as The Beatles or The Kooks.
The band are fronted by British brothers Duncan and Selwyn Walsh on vocals and guitar. New Zealander Ashley Davies and Belgian Flavio Jerome were also founding members and co-songwriters but have since left the band.
The band have featured in several of Japan's English speaking publications including The Japan Times, Metropolis, Japanzine and Time Out. In November 2009 they began working with Glaswegian music producer David Naughton 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.
The Watanabes have featured on the BBC Introducing Series, and in September 2010, their acoustic green lullaby “Whales Can Sing” was championed by Ric O'Barry, star of the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove, as well as race car driver and environmental activist Leilani Munter. 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.
The band have received praise for their fundraising efforts, particularly in aid of Tohoku following the Tohoku earthquake. In 2014 they released a collaborative music video with NPO Playground of Hope.
In the autumn of 2014 they released a 5 track EP entitled Draw What You Like. Three tracks from the record were adopted by CNN International for a documentary on food in Japan. Their fourth record, a four track EP entitled Spoiled and Nostalgic, was released on November 25, 2016. The second track on the EP, 'Tonight' was included in Tom Robinson's BBC Mixtape, aired on BBC Radio 6. 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. Watanabe is a common surname in this region of Japan, and the group used the name in order to ingratiate themselves with the locals, whilst also alluding to British band The Smiths. It was initially inspired however by Toru Watanabe, the slightly troubled and over nostalgic protagonist in Haruki Murakami's novel, Norwegian Wood.
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. In August of the same year they moved to Tokyo where they began work on their debut album, Independent Social Power. Recorded at KRH Studios in Harajuku, the album was independently released in association with Manchester based record label BabyBoom Records.
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- バイク新車カタログ トライアンフ, Triumph Motorcycles, 2011
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- Music Fundraiser for Playground of Hope, Tokyo Weekender, May 2014
- The Watanabes 'Draw What You Like' album launch, Time Out Tokyo, August 2014
- CNNGo in Japan: Wagyu, Ramen, Sake, CNN International, October 8, 2014
- This & That Café Vol. 30: 'Spoiled and Nostalgic', Time Out Tokyo, November 2016
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