Apocalyptic musings are often associated with lost love (think Skeeter Davis or The Cure), but Japanese pop-rock group Sekai No Owari — literally “the end of the world” — takes on the doomsday catastrophe with a whole different ball of wax. While vocalist Fukase cites the musical project as a way out from darker times after being hospitalised for a temporary illness, it seems that the band’s sound has expanded beyond that, displaying a visceral collision of upbeat electronic, dance and pop influences. Besides collaborations with Owl City and Nicky Romero, the quartet worked on tracks for the live action flick Attack on Titan, ushering them into an age of global perusal. Though few Asian artistes have successfully dominated musical stages worldwide, it is evident (from YouTube hits to chart-topping sales) that these four are poised for a supermassive global takedown.
Bringing their all-encompassing passion and flair to the region, we caught up with the band midway through their recordings with Spotify Sessions in Asia, following the footsteps of previous international acts like Hunter Haynes and Yuna. Though the language barrier saw some conversation points lost in translation, Sekai No Owari exhibited their commitment to speaking in English despite the presence of a translator, ultimately telling of their eagerness to connect with audiences beyond the Japanese variety. The recording session will be released exclusively sometime next year, and will see the band taking different renditions to their well-known hits. Those who are unaware of this eccentric outfit might want to get a headstart, lest you get swept off your feet.
Most band members don’t live together like you guys do; does that help the creative process or improve the chemistry of the crew when it comes to making music?
Fukase: Of course! We always share the same memories and emotions, and we also get to make music together in our kitchen or living room. This is a sort of ‘strange’ style that allows us to discuss our music whenever we want.
You guys draw from a lot of narratives and themes in your tracks — “SOS” is about how an old man would view the end of the world. Is this the method you guys take when creating music?
Fukase: Well sometimes it just comes from our imaginations, but the bulk of it is from our memories and experiences. We also believethat we create music when we discuss and talk about our experiences and things that happened to us. But we mostly draw from anything really.
“Although many Japanese artistes are going global, they sing their songs in Japanese. But I feel it’s starting to change…Therefore, we feel that it’d be great to collaborate with other artistes and expand out of J-pop.”
Why do you think your popularity as a band grew so quickly in the past when you guys first started, and also right now in the world?
Nakajin: We don’t think our popularity grew quickly; it’s not too fast is it? We started to build up our own live music house when I was 19, and it was only after five years that we debuted as a group. It’s not too fast.
Do you think that the world has a narrow view of what Japanese music is – perhaps they only know of J-pop or J-rock – and would the band like to change that perspective if so?
Fukase: Until recently, a lot of Japanese artistes didn’t think they’d be successful outside Japan. Although many Japanese artistes are going global, they sing their songs in Japanese. But I feel it’s starting to change; a lot of groups are beginning to sing in English. Therefore, we feel that it’d be great to collaborate with other artistes and expand out of J-pop. Also, it could be because many people outside Japan see J-pop as music only for Japanese people.
Are there any musicians, from Japan or around the world, that influence the way you guys sound, more recently in Tree?
Saori: I love classical music, like Chopin, Beethoven, and Bach.
Nakajin: I have loved video game music ever since I was a child; I am always so impressedby it. Likethe music of Nintendo for example.
DJ Love: I love punk music and songs that remind me of my adolescence.
Fukase: I love rap music because I’m not a rapper and I respect them, like Eminem.
Do you guys prefer singing in English or Japanese, and can we expect a full album in English?
Saori: Well, it is different, they’re both interesting and fun to make, but now we are making music in English so as of now it’s more fun for us. And yes, you can definitely expect an English album!
If you guys can only take one album with you till the end of the world, which album would it be?
All: Whoa, we didn’t expect that question to come out. It’s hard to choose, maybe Daft Punk’s Discovery and Americana by The Offspring.
How do you think Sekai No Owari will be received by the people here, after all Singaporeans can get a little crazy about Japanese artistry.
Saori: What do you think?
We think you guys would be received very well over here.[Laughs] Thank You!
Listen to Sekai No Owari’s Spotify Session recorded live at Yellow Box Studios, Singapore below.