“There’s this idea (among Japanese bands) that you have to make something different from the Western music you listen to,” says Yuto Uchino, singer for indie rock band The fin. “I was really trying hard to write in Japanese, but it was awkward. The words just didn’t fit and I could never really say what I wanted to say. After I switched (to English), the melodies and words I had been looking for came together.”
Formed in 2010 in Kobe, The fin. (the full stop is included in its name) consists of Uchino on vocals and synthesizer, Ryosuke Odagaki on guitar, Takayasu Taguchi on bass and Kaoru Nakazawa on drums. The band self-released 2,000 copies of its first EP, “Glowing Red on the Shore,” last year. Sales went well enough to convince the Hip Land Music label to give it a nationwide re-release in March.
The band sounds like a cross between M83 and Phoenix, citing chillwave acts Toro y Moi and Washed Out as influences. It’s an ethereal dance-pop sound that isn’t often heard in the domestic scene and that has earned them a yōgakuppoi (Western music-esque) descriptor in the Japanese press. This is interesting because The fin. is very much a word-of-mouth band and the domestic fanbase has shied away from Western music in recent years in favor of the more Japanese sound of idol groups. Now The fin. is set to perform at Saitama Super Arena for the Viva La Rock festival in May.
The fin. released its output slowly over its Soundcloud webpage, and Uchino credits that strategy for the band’s buzz. Recent success stories, such as Scottish band Chvrches, have seen bands getting international recognition by releasing one song at a time (Chvrches ended up playing a major festival here last summer without an album out.) Uchino believes this model is a way to circumvent traditional indie-band approaches, putting the emphasis on their art more so than live shows.
“In the band I was in before, we would just play shows over and over again,” Uchino says. “As if we were following this guidebook on ‘the Japanese way to become a rock band.’ ”
“We did that for two years,” says guitarist Odagaki. “We figured there must be a better way to go about doing things. Bands would engage in the pay-to-play system of venues here, as if they were saying, ‘Look at how hard we’re trying!’ I thought that was strange. You have to really think about how to operate as a band, but a lot of bands were being easy and safe by just trying not to think about it. We wanted to re-evaluate that.”
“It’s like a type of training,” adds Uchino. “A lot of people believe that, even if it’s hard, if you can endure it, then you’ll grow — but that’s not the case. Nothing will change if you just keep on acting that way. You won’t get a bigger audience . . . and you’ll just end up becoming friends with the owner of the venue!”
The band members believe a trip to France and Britain they took together shortly after the current lineup was solidified influenced the way they approached music and each other.
“Our style didn’t change after going, but our way of thinking definitely expanded,” Uchino says. “We realized that we can do what we like. The world widened up for us.”
The three-week vacation was like a musical study-abroad program. The four members went to blues bars regularly, a dance battle and nightclubs. They made an effort to meet as many people as possible — particularly people standing in the lineups at the various events they attended.
“We broke through a wall and now feel like we can do whatever we want,” Uchino says. “Stuff like worrying about playing in Japan, or about the opinions of others, went away.
“Even if the people around you think it’s weird, there’s meaning in the act of trying to create something new. If you don’t do that then you’re just a follower.”
The fin. play the three-day Viva La Rock festival at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama on May 5 (¥9,711; 12:30 p.m. start; 048-600-3037). The fin.’s album release tour goes to Pangea in Osaka on May 6 (6 p.m. start; 06-4708-0061); Club Rock ‘n’ Roll in Nagoya on May 7 (6:30 p.m. start; 052-262-5150); Shinjuku Marz in Tokyo on May 10 (6:30 p.m. start; 03-3202-8248); and Club Shaft in Sendai on May 11 (6 p.m. start; 022-722-5651). Tickets for all shows cost ¥2,000 in advance. For more information, visit www.thefin.jp.