Shawn Despres has been contributing to the Japan Times’ music page since 2005, and he has a passion for writing about the independent music scene in East Asia. He spent several years living in Yokohama and currently resides in Seoul.
For Shawn Despres's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Feb 3, 2015
In September 2013, weeks away from celebrating their 20th anniversary, Tokyo rock act Zoobombs announced they were disbanding. The group's leader, guitarist and vocalist Don Matsuo, and his wife, Zoobombs' keyboardist Matta, went on to form a new group called The Randolf. However, that project was short-lived and Matsuo instead spent much of last year gigging in support of his solo material.
Dec 16, 2014
The year-end album charts in Japan have a tendency to prop up the same acts year after year: Exile, anything that ends in a "48," and almost every group from the Johnny & Associates stable of boy bands. Writers at The Japan Times, however, spent the year looking past the charts to find a few gems lurking in the underground of the country's music scene. Here are some of their favorite albums from 2014.
Nov 25, 2014
Sep 30, 2014
Organized each fall by Fuji Rock promoter Smash, Asagiri Jam is a much more laidback affair than its famed older sister. It features two stages and the music wraps up early each night. And while Fuji Rock has some 200 plus bands, Asagiri Jam only invites two dozen, which means a lot less running around for everyone.
Sep 2, 2014
Jul 24, 2014
Since 2001, Fuji Rock's Rookie a Go-Go stage has spotlighted indie talents not quite ready for the festival's larger areas. Acts apply to play — this year 1,300 bands vied for 15 slots — and with the exception of Taiwan's Go Chic in 2010, all the past performers have been locals. But this summer sees Rookie a Go-Go again adding a dash of international flavor, with Taiwan's Manic Sheep and South Korea's Wedance earning invitations.
Jun 3, 2014
Feb 21, 2013
Feb 7, 2013
It's tough to figure out where to take your band when you get some buzz in the media right out the gate. After getting noticed for its fuzzed-out pop jams from highly regarded online music outlets such as Pitchfork, Noisey and Gorilla vs. Bear, Kyoto's Hotel Mexico knew early on that it would need to play overseas. Finally, last summer the group made its first foray abroad with a pair of gigs in New York City.
Feb 7, 2013
The highlight of 2012 for experimental postpunk trio ZZZ's was meeting Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore in Miami. It turns out the feeling was mutual. American record label Matador Records posted their artists' and employees' favorite things from the past 12 months online recently and Hyogo Prefecture's ZZZ's (pronounced "zee zee zees") were No. 1 on Moore's list.
Nov 1, 2012
Since making their major label debut in 2005, Chatmonchy has established itself as one of the country's most popular female rock bands. As a trio, they released several chart-topping discs and sold out gigs at the iconic Nippon Budokan. In 2010, the band played its first American shows with Spin Magazine and MTV Iggy labeling their South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival appearance as a "must see." In the fall of 2011, drummer Kumiko Takahashi split from the group. The remaining members chose not to replace her and "Henshin" ("Transformation") is the band's first album as a duo.
Aug 30, 2012
In September, Fact will embark on a monthlong Japan trek in support of their fourth full-length effort, January's "Burundanga." The gigs will be the Chiba posthardcore act's first domestic concerts since performing last December at the popular annual Countdown Japan yearend music festival. They will also be Fact's first local shows with their newest member, British guitarist Adam Graham.
Jun 28, 2012
Nagoya five-piece instrumental rock band Mudy on the Sakuban's "Zyacalanda" EP is their fifth release in as many years. The eight-track effort was produced by Yoshimitsu Taki, the guitarist for local emo/post-hardcore act 9mm Parabellum Bullet. Impressed with Mudy on the Sakuban's output on the EP, Taki joined the group as a temporary sixth member for their "Zyacalanda" June release gigs in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.
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