Based in London (UK) Dead in Shibuya brings you a twisted mesh of dark pop and hard rock. The band started as a project around late 2019 but it was during the pandemic in 2020 that they really started seriously writing together.
“It was during those first few lockdowns that we wrote and recorded our first demos and then album called ‘Night Machine’.”
They just released their second album ‘Valedictorian’ which was recorded over the course of late 2021 – 2022.
“It’s been an amazing journey, we’re so proud of it and we think it really shows how much we’ve grown and developed as a band.”
Before we take a closer look at the new album, let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little bit about how you ended up with Death in Shibuya as a band name and what other name options (if any) you also had in mind?
“Our bassist and lyricist used to teach English in Japan and he actually used to work in Shibuya every Saturday. It’s such a bustling amazing corner of Tokyo and when you’re going there every week you get this amazing blend of the excitement of the lights and the more familiar elements of work life. That blend together, the pleasure and pain is why we ended up picking the name.”
Who are some of your musical influences as a band?
“00s Pop Punk and Emo are big influences on us. We grew up loving Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and then harder punk bands like NOFX and Alkaline Trio. Those sound really forms the core of Dead In Shibuya.”
“There’s also a big dollop of classic rock in our sound, Elton John and Queen are big influences. And then more modern artists like Kanye West, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, especially when it comes to production choices and our use of synthesisers.”
What would you say makes your band distinct or unique?
“The mixture of 00s rock hooks with synth and rnb influences. That and our quite abstract lyrics and visuals make us stand out.”
Your debut single ‘Hotel Inferno’ was released in December 2020. You released seven singles and two albums since. Do you feel the past pandemic years helped your creative process and artistic drive?
“Definitely initially. It was a wild time, we’d started putting some songs together pre-pandemic but then we were suddenly dropped into this lockdown era of being stuck in doors all day. The whole world was totally different and we at least had a creative element to channel that anxiety and uncertainty into.”
“It was a difficult time for everyone obviously and I think after several months it became pretty difficult. That’s why ‘Valedictorian’ ended up being a kind of response to that pandemic fatigue – trying to find a way out of this seemingly endless series of crises by being creative and using that to uplift ourselves and our listeners.”
What is your favourite thing about making new music?
“Having a creative spark, an idea, a lyric or musical motif you want to express, and then putting all of the different parts together to make it come to life and fully express itself – that’s always an awesome feeling.”
Is there any process that you can cite when it comes to writing music?
“It depends, the initial idea might be a song title or a little riff or a melody or line. It could really be anything. That initial spark that catches your ear, we’ll usually build out from there giving it verse, chorus, middle 8s etc. But the idea has to be hot and have promise, we don’t tend to put together songs that are a struggle to get through. As long as it has some kind of strong internal idea or narrative then the songwriting process is usually pretty easy.”
Some of your songs have an 80s feel. What is it about the 80s that inspires you?
“Queen and Elton John are huge inspirations especially to our singer. The combination of their gigantic ambition and the strength of their songs. The kind of music that was so good it could make you a global superstar. That kind of thing is very 80s and it’ll always be a source of inspiration. “
You recently released your sophomore album ‘Valedictorian’. What can you tell me about the album?
“Since we were all stuck inside or kind of confined to our immediate surroundings for so long it was really inspired by the idea of the suburbs and the darkness and promise that come with that. A big inspiration was the Wes Anderson film ‘Rushmore’, it deals with being a kind of eccentric outsider surrounded by what you perceive to be a mundane boring world. Sometimes that can be true, but other times it’s a story you tell yourself because you’re afraid to fit in or to reach out to other people.”
“The isolation of the pandemic and the general breakdown of social connections definitely fed into these ideas. So the narrative of the album is about this insane schoolboy trying to make sense of the world around him. Partially real and partially in his head.”
When did the songs for the album really started coming together?
“We started putting together ideas for it around mid 2021, and then writing in earnest late 2021 and recording early-mid 2022. It was nice to be able to take the time we needed. We tried out a lot of initial ideas to see what worked and ended up writing this song ‘Left For Mission and Revenge’, it was building off our initial album Night Machine with a very dark driving sound, but it was a bit more focused and honed.”
“The strength of that song really led us to explore these ideas of the darkness of suburbia and then that got joined together with the aesthetic and story themes we were playing around with. After that the album really started to take shape.”
Can you touch briefly on some of the songs as far as musical and lyrical inspirations?
“‘The Graduate’ is very much that central theme of suburban schoolboy madness that ties the album together. Opening the album with a real suckerpunch of what we’re aiming to do.”
“‘Box Car Racer’ was actually written a while ago, 2018 or maybe even earlier, it was an old idea that got used almost as is. It’s quite a tender song, really just about how important friendship is and how we want our friends to think the best of us. It’s that light to the darkness that you find in other songs.”
“‘Evil in The Suburbs’ was written really early on, and is really solidily capturing that creepy 80s dance vibe of the danger lurking behind every corner.”
“‘Don’t Leave Me At The End Of The Night’ was a song we actually wrote for our last album ‘Night Machine’. But there was something different about it so we left it off that album. It has a really sweet, tender British indie feel to it like The Cure’s Wish album, and we found that kind of impassioned romance worked well near the end of the album. The key question being whether the romance envisioned is actually real or total fantasy.”
I’m about to ask you to do the impossible now, what’s your favourite track on the album?
“For all of us it’s gotta be ‘The Graduate’. When that song came together it was the aesthetic and musical heart of the album. It tied together the songs we’d already written and the songs still to come. There’s a lot of memories tied to that song and it’s something we’re all super proud of.”
Now that the new album is out, what are your plans? Any live shows?
“Live shows would be fun! Honestly we’ve been so focused on the album release we haven’t booked up anything just yet. If we do we’ll be sure to let everyone know.”
“For the moment we can say we’re working on new music and have plenty of fun stuff in the pipeline so stay tuned!”
Most memorable day as a band?
“Hearing the final Masters from our first album, that came around November 2020 – it was just incredible to hear these totally finished gleaming songs which we’d put so much work into. That feeling is definitely what we’re chasing.”
What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?
“Confidence by carlzonbeats. One of the most important things for us is to take inspiration from different genres and this is absolutely the kind of thing we’d listen to and pass around the band. That crisp production and the grooves are just excellent. Love the vocal samples too.”
What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?
“It’s got to be ‘Find Yourself’ by The Seafloor Cinema. Absolutely incredibly mix of pop punk, math rock and emo, it’s so varied joyous and infectious. The synths too! It’s simply lovely.”