One band worth checking out at this weekend’s Sweet Love Shower festival at Lake Yamanaka in Yamanashi Prefecture is Ykiki Beat.
The five-piece indie act will be playing tracks from its debut album “When the World is Wide,” which sounds like it could’ve been recorded in England. The group is led by songwriter and vocalist Nobuki Akiyama, an articulate, softly-spoken individual who has a pretty impressive British accent when he sings.
“We started out doing covers and I sang with a Japanese accent,” he says during an interview at Amuse Studios in Shibuya. “I studied hard and listened to lots of Western bands, and I think that helped with my pronunciation.
“Poetry — particularly from the Victorian and Romantic eras — has also improved my language skills. I’m inspired by poets such as (John) Keats, (William) Wordsworth and Stevie Smith. Their English is a bit old, though, so in terms of (writing) lyrics I guess I’ve been more influenced by 1950s and ’60s rock bands as well as groups like The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian.”
Ykiki Beat’s other members don’t share Akiyama’s love of poetry but are on the same page when it comes to music. During their teens the members bonded over bands such as Joy Division, The Jesus & Mary Chain and The Strokes. They formed the band in 2013 (originally calling it Kangaroo Fitness Club) and quickly garnered a following in Tokyo’s live-music circuit.
Things started to really take off last year with the release of “Forever“; a track that impressed influential Asian Kung-Fu Generation front man Masafumi Gotoh so much that he wrote on his blog that he’d “have to consider retiring.”
“I was delighted to hear that,” Akiyama says recalling the praise. “I think I must have been listening to (Scottish indie band) The View a lot before we recorded (“Forever”) because a lot of people have said I sound Scottish on that song.
“We’ve been surprised by how well ‘Forever’ has been received here in Japan, but our goal is to be more successful abroad.”
In the hope of cashing in on possible success, Ykiki Beat’s members plan to move to the United States later this year along with Akiyama’s other band, the guitar-heavy DYGL (pronounced Day-Glo). Two of his bandmates — Kohei Kamoto and Yotaro Kachi — play in both groups.
“I thought DYGL would just be a one-off thing, but after starting it I realized it gave us a lot of opportunities musically,” Akiyama says. “I don’t think you can cover everything you want to do in a single band. Ykiki Beat is mellower, and uses synthesizers, whereas DYGL is more like garage punk. I enjoy the different styles.”
Akiyama admits the move will be a challenge, but DYGL is just back from a short tour that took in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York and he feels positive about the possibilities abroad.
“I think musicians are now freer to do what we want,” he says. “In the past, we relied on agencies for exposure. Now if you want to create something you can do so anytime, anywhere. It’s a good time to be a part of this industry.”
Ykiki Beat plays the Waterfront Stage at Sweet Love Shower on Aug. 29 at 4:05 p.m. The festival runs Aug. 28-30 at Koryu Plaza Kirara, Lake Yamanaka, Yamanashi Pref. “When the World is Wide” is in stores now. For more information, visit www.sweetloveshower.com.