Exclusive Interview: 5 minutes with DYGL

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DYGL are a Japanese alternative indie-rock band consisting of members Nobuki Akiyama (vocal & guitar), Kohei Kamoto (drums), Yotaro Kachi (bass), and Yosuke Shimonaka (guitar). Formed in 2012 while studying at Meiji Gakuin University, they’d all been members of high school bands and were keen to exercise their musical creativity. Starting out as a bassless 3-piece, they played their first few gigs for fun, and after realizing how well received they were, DYGL was formed.

DYGL self released their first EP in 2015, EP #1, followed by Don’t Know Where It Is in 2016, and later that year the band produced two new songs, releasing a 7-inch record Waste of Time, which was mixed, recorded and mastered by Aaron Dobos (The Avalanches). Their touring schedule has taken them to Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, and China, culminating in a total of 34 concerts in 32 cities. DYGL have since honed their skills to combine the factors that influence their love for indie-rock, including sound, style, and scale.

We spoke with DYGL on studio experiments and influential inspiration:
(Be sure to stream DYGL’s latest single ‘Let It Sway’ below!)

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Arts sometimes speaks better than actual words.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

Both affect each other but I think the idea might be the base of what kind of sounds I want. And the sound influences the idea. Lyrics are more important sometimes.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

We’ve released a demo cassette, a 7-inch single, one EP and one album. Early works (including demo cassettes and many pieces of demo songs uploaded on SoundCloud or Bandcamp back then) are all made by with just some friends. It was quite DIY. Using random studios or in the bedroom controlling Logic on my Mac. But after a while we wanted to record our songs properly so we started trying to find better place and people for the recordings. As for the EP, we recorded it at Lolipop Studios in LA which has good analog recording gear. About the single, we recorded it at some recording studio in Tokyo with the engineer guy who we invited from Australia called Aaron Dobos who did the recent The Avalanches album. And we recorded the album at the end of last year (2016) in NY with Albert Hammond Jr. (The Strokes) and Gus Oberg. We’ve been influenced a lot by Albert’s records and many stuff that Gus produced, so that was an honorable collaboration for us. But the best thing is that the recording sessions had been done so great and professionally. The process we’ve done together totally worked out excellently – we recorded 14 songs in 9 days (including mixing). That was real fun!

As for the designs, we’ve done many things by ourselves. Since we’re into album covers, music videos and all that stuff, we’re always trying hard to look for the creators who can make the best ones for us which would describe our music perfectly. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the best artists to work with so we’ve been doing some design by ourselves. The 1st demo cassette, EP, and the single, all of these covers are made by ourselves. We also worked on the cover of the latest album as well, but we could find a good enough designer to work with to lead the process to form our ideas. He’s also doing his own band (called WOOMAN) so he knows what the album cover means to the music, so we asked him. We’re really glad that it went well.

What’s on your current playlist?

Wild – Trudy and the Romance
Chronic Sunshine – Cosmo Pyke
Violet – The Districts
In Undertow – Alvvays
Tears Dry On Their Own – Amy Winehouse
God’s Children – The Kinks
This Year – Beach Fossils
Dub Attack of the Avenge – kyu-shoku
Tasteless – Shame
Blue Train Lines feat. King Krule – Mount Kimbie

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

We bring music, the people bring the energy and the atmosphere. Basically I love when people go wild while we play, but I love natural emotions anyway – if it’s furious or silent or whatever. So I don’t force people dance or shout or anything, we just let them do what they feel, hoping they feel free and behave at our shows.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I was born and raised in Japan, also formed the band in Japan. But I suddenly was obsessed with the sound and atmosphere of English music (or rather say music sung in English) when I was 14 years old. I would sing in Japanese in the indie style of music that would be unique in a way but I decided English was the sound for this band. We want to experiment with mixing up the good aspects of many types of genres into our music. I mean, Japan is quite far from any other countries where Rock music is major, so in some way we kinda have a privilege to listen to the foreign bands equally not based on their popularity, nationality, hit charts, bias, or prejudice. So I guess there is a chance for Japanese bands to make French-like melodies on Manchester sounds with recent Ausie indie guitar tones. Maybe. Sometimes a little bit of asian essence thrown in. So I think we want to try and combine many styles of beats and melodies into our music, but the most important thing is the music we create. which should be guitar-driven rock’n’roll. We want to update the rock music scene. It needs to be guitar rock. That’s kinda simple statement but in 2017 it seems like almost unique idea to do when the rap music or club music are getting over the analog rock music. I love other types of music as well but as DYGL we want to make classic rock music. New classic with the little hybrid taste.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

Morning: We arrive by a van and bring the gear into the studio, which takes about 2 hours or so to set everything up. While setting up, I talk with the engineers and the producer guy about the demo we sent few days ago, and discuss where to start the recordings, drinking a couple of coffees or Japanese tea. Before noon we’ll play the songs a few times together to check how it sounds at the cockpit and adjust things. After a little lunch we basically start to record the basic tracks with the full band playing together, and later we’d start layering, one at a time. It often takes from noon to midnight. After recording full tracks, I record vocals in a small room, and this is the most sensitive part. It’s like breathing life into the track. The mixing process would fall on a different day, but sometimes we’ll do it on the same day. Eating some Vietnamese noodles, or slices of pizza might help. And some beers too!

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

The first time I listened to the second song of The View’s debut album ‘Hats Off to the Buskers’ – I was stunned. Just like punk rock in the 70s made young lads start their own band, this album did the same thing to me. I thought this is what I can do. What I wanna do. Soon after that I found the guy who formed The View – James Endeacott, he also worked with The Strokes and The Libertines. That determined the future of the one young Japanese kid.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

The one thing we’re focused on is to not lose emotions and concentration from the music itself. We always try to dive and swim into the music as deep as we can while we perform. Because if we couldn’t immerse ourselves in the music, how can the audiences immerse themselves? Playing perfect is not an important matter to me. We respect the mood of the each show more.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Trudy and the Romance, Shame, Tout, Steve Lacy, Cosmo Pyke

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Great music, inspiring words, and the silence being alone. Oasis and The Beatles too.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

I guess we’re traditionally a rock’n’roll band, our set-up is just 2 guitars with basic pedals, bass with few pedals, and simple drum sets. For pedal-wise I always use Tube Screamer (TS 808) and OCD on my pedalboard. I love simple-gained guitar tone because it makes the sound stronger. Personally I’m really into Fender stuff – I’m using Fender USA’s black Stratocaster and relacquered Mustang. I’m also using Fender Hot Rod Deluxe for my regular amp (my pick is Fender too!) Another DYGL’s guitarist Yosuke using his white Japanese vintage Greco Stratocaster and owns some other babes like Epiphone Casino and black Danelectro (thought it was DC59). His amp is Orange, the head and the cabinet both. The bassist Yotaro now using off-white Tokai bass which is also Japanese vintage. Kohei, the drummer, doesn’t want the huge exaggerated sets for his style so his things are simple. Kick, hi-hats, snare, one tom, a floor tom, just 2 cymbals. Cymbals are Zildjian. Snare is Ludwig.

Any side projects you’re working on?

Sometimes each of us do our own thing, but nothing in particular yet. Yosuke had once played to support the few Japanese indie bands before, but not anymore. The other day Kohei did solo live set by just using analog synthesizer. I’m making my own music sometimes but just for fun, for now. Yotaro’s kinda the same. I got the solo acoustic show sometimes as well and I play DYGL’s songs and a few of my own things. It’s kinda chill.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

I haven’t even realized for a long time, but the other day I checked some videos of our show (which is few centuries ago) and found that was quite messy. For me the vocals have improved fortunately, and of course the ensemble of the band is way better than when we were in university. I think some recording sessions we’ve come through gave us a new point of view to see and listen to our own music objectively. And I also have to say that the countless tour shows are becoming fundamental to our strength as a band or ensemble.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

We’re gonna open for U2 (I’m kidding). We will be heading to the UK for the first time to play some shows this November. We’ve dreamt it for an unbelievably long time, so can’t wait til this finally happens. And we’re also officially heading to SXSW next March. There are some great opportunities – we’d love to play at some festivals in the UK. A few more to be announced soon though, I guess!

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