The Japanese music scene will often serve up some intriguing delights that manage to capture the imagination of the public as well as enjoying a measure of success into the deal. Certainly SEKAI NO OWARI would fit that particular bill.
The 4-piece outfit had originally formed in Tokyo back in 2007, although it wasn’t until 2010 that the band began to release records. Consisting of Satoshi Fukase (vocals, guitar), Saori Fujisaki (piano, keyboards), Shinichi “Nakajin” Nakajima (guitar), and DJ Love (DJ, MC), SEKAI NO OWARI (‘End Of The World’) emerged from the vibrant Japanese indie scene.
Their debut 2010 single ‘Maboroshi no Inochi’ presented a confident piano-driven tune strong on melody. But it wasn’t until 2011, when they signed to the Toy’s Factory label (home to such varied artists as Dempagumi.inc, BABYMETAL and Livetune) that things began to kick up a gear. Their debut on the major label, ‘Inori’, offered up a heartfelt slice of pop, bolstered by a lush strings-driven backing. The high production quality of the video also indicated that the band were saying goodbye to their indie roots and moving into a bigger world. As if to clarify the fact, DJ Love (he of the perpetual clown mask) indulges in a true rock ‘n’ roll moment by chucking a TV out of the window – a TV playing previous SEKAI NO OWARI videos.
The evocative beats of ‘Starlight Parade’, which closed out the band’s 2011 releases, helped to maintain the band’s popularity. It also marked the band’s venture into commercial tie-ins as the tune originally featured as a theme song for a NHK radio campaign (and was also later used in a CM for Toyota Ractis featuring the band members).
One of SEKAI NO OWARI’s strengths is also their elaborate approaches to promo videos. Strong on bold visual themes, often with theatrical elements, the videos are a step up from the standard band performances that other artists opt for. Take the circus elements of the video for ‘Hono to Mori no Carnival’ which features the band walking through a forest encountering a variety of carefully choreographed dancers and performers – and all seemingly done in one take.
Although the outfit had released two previous albums as an indie outfit, their 2012 album Entertainment was their first studio release on a major label. It scored them a No. 2 position in the charts selling over 200,000 copies.
It was the release of 2013’s ‘RPG’ however that really put the 4-piece on the map. The tune, actually penned as the theme for anime film Eiga Crayon Shin-chan: Baka Uma! B-kyu Gourmet Survival!! delivers an infectious percussive beat with its military-style drums. The song also utilises vocal tweaks to give Satoshi Fukase’s vocals an electronic component. It’s a song whose composition manages to weave in choral elements and an epic feel that marks it out as possibly SEKAI NO OWARI’s finest moment to date.
The outfit followed up with the wintery beats of ‘Snow Magic Fantasy’, a more staid affair than its predecessor, but which continued the military-style percussion along with another glossy slice of theatre for the video, which combined singing owls and double bass-playing horses. If that suggests that the video might have been cribbing from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s toybox, it’s worth noting here that Satoshi Fukase and KPP are, in the parlance of our times, an item.
‘Dragon Night’, their last single released in October of 2014, offered up a nod to EDM with its electronic licks and demonstrated that the band were keen to explore a more varied musical palette. There’s also talk about a global release for ‘Dragon Night’ with the band working with Dutch DJ and producer Nicky Romero on that basis.
Fukase also lent his vocal talents for label mate Livetune’s 2013 release ‘Take Your Way’. More recently, SEKAI NO OWARI collaborated with Owl City on the American electronic outfit’s single ‘Tokyo’. This appears to be part of a calculated move on SEKAI NO OWARI’s side to step onto a global stage (a selection of the band’s output is available via the UK iTunes store) and they’ve also partnered up with promoters LiveNation with a view to performing outside of Japan, so a UK date could well be on the way.
If you fancied sampling the musical delights of SEKAI NO OWARI, then you’re in luck as their second major album Tree is due for release this month. The new album gathers together an impressive collection of singles, including ‘Snow Magic Fantasy’, ‘Dragon Night’ and the ubiquitous ‘RPG’. The album also boasts the brooding bassy appeal of tunes like ‘Death Disco’ as well as ‘PLAY’, penned as the theme song for a Fuji TV show.
The album features 13 tracks in all and a special limited edition release also comes with a DVD of the band performing live at Saitama Super Arena in April 2013.
Tree is scheduled for release on Toy’s Factory on 14th January 2015.
Text by Paul Browne
6th January 2015