Paellas aim to redefine the sound of ‘now’

by

Special To The Japan Times

Fitting into the sound of the moment while still standing apart from it can be a tricky thing to do. Paellas guitarist Satoshi Anan says he wanted the feeling of “now” to come out on his band’s newest album, “Pressure.”

“But I didn’t want to make it like fast-fashion clothes … or fast food,” Anan says, adding that he rectified this by adding some 1980s and ’90s nostalgia.

Released via 2.5D Productions, the 10 tracks on “Pressure” tap into what’s currently in vogue music-wise: sparse touches of R&B by way of tight bass and chilly synthesizers — not unlike the style favored by artists like Blood Orange — and a bit of Disclosure-esque British house (on the aptly named “P House”).

“I wanted an uncomfortable feeling on this album, too,” Anan says. That unease comes across mainly due to lead singer Tatsuya Matsumoto’s vocal delivery. It’s a nocturnal set, but one better suited for walks alone than crowded clubs. It pulls off the difficult feat of both reflecting Western pop and building on it, something that Anan believes Japanese artists used to be better at doing.

“From the 1970s to the ’90s, when artists on Eiichi Otaki’s Niagara Records were naturally influenced by overseas music, that was brilliant,” he says. “But it collapsed in the 2000s when new music was completely Japanized. Some people are now recovering that territory.”

Paellas — consisting of Anan (who also plays in the band Never Young Beach), Matsumoto, bassist Masaharu Kanabishi, sampler Shuhei Masada and drummer Ryosuke Takahashi — formed in 2011, by university classmates Matsumoto and Kanabishi. Anan met the pair through Japanese social networking site Mixi, and initially the band stuck to a lo-fi style of indie pop, inspired primarily by The Drums, a New York outfit that pops up in the origin stories of many Japanese rock bands from the same period. The late-night vibe came through early on, with the songs on Paellas’ debut album, “Long Night Is Gone,” sounding like they were transmitted from an after-hours lounge.

Anan says the group gradually changed its sound, working in a studio to fold ’80s synths with indie rock on last year’s “Remember” EP. However, Anan has switched to doing the production himself for “Pressure.” The band hopes it demonstrates their openness to pop and electronic music, rather than just sticking to rock.

Songs such as “The Stranger” and “Pears” feature wispy synths and catchy rhythms, but still feature the eyes-to-the-ground air that helped Paellas generate a fan base. It’s something familiar, but presented from a new perspective. And Anan thinks the group isn’t alone in this approach.

“When we started out, we felt alone on this island,” he says. “I think some underground musicians across the country had the same feeling, and gradually we made a little mountain. Around 2015 more and more musicians like us made it erupt, and now people are noticing.”

Paellas will play an in-store event at Daikanyama T-Site in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on Jan. 18 (8 p.m. start). The band plays Club Stomp in Osaka on Feb. 5 (5 p.m. start; ¥2,500; 06-6245-0889), Kieth Flack in Fukuoka on Feb. 12 (7:30 p.m.; ¥2,500; 092-762-7733) and Club Asia in Shibuya on Feb. 13 (7:30 p.m.; ¥2,000 in advance; 03-5458-2551). For more information, visit www.paellasband.com.