By Jun Kiyokawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterThe dance-rock band DISH// is unique in many ways. The four members play instruments and dance, and vocalist Takumi Kitamura is also a successful actor with numerous film and TV credits, making his presence ever more prominent.
The members, who all love food, released their third album “Junkfood Junction” on the Sony Music label in April. Fun, cool and thrilling — the album is filled with all of the elements the band is known for. It’s a “junky” main dish with a variety of flavors.
How many members are there? Honestly, that’s what I was thinking during their recent concert at the Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall in Tokyo. Part rock concert, part dance performance, the show also featured the band members performing skits.
One by one they performed solos: One showed his deftness at singing and playing the drums at the same time, while another, who showed off some tight dance moves while singing, turned out to be the guitarist. It took a while for me to digest the full menu of the concert.
When I posed the question, they were much amused.
“An unspecified number is fine. Let’s say those of us that are here today are selected members from about a dozen,” said Kitamura, the band’s vocalist and guitarist, humorously playing along with my question.
Their versatility of being able to dance and play instruments at the same time has a bit of history behind it.
“At first, we couldn’t play instruments at all and started from scratch. We even called ourselves an air band. We gradually became able to play,” Kitamura said.
The band was formed in December 2011 after an audition within the entertainment agency the members belonged to. Kitamura and guitarist Masaki Yabe had taken dance lessons together since their elementary school days and were both members of a dance group.
In the early days of the band, the members performed at shopping malls to raise their profile. They also went as far as performing in full-body suits and costumes at the request of their staff.
The group made their major-label debut in 2013 with the single “I Can Hear” (Sony Music) and has so far released 12 singles. In 2015, the band performed at Nippon Budokan, the pantheon of rock and pop concerts in Japan.
“Up until then, our career had sky-rocketed, but after the concert we struggled and experienced a few problems,” Kitamura said.
They performed at Nippon Budokan again the following year, for two days this time. But the tickets didn’t sell very well, leaving many empty seats in the auditorium. This halted their momentum.
Although they had successfully performed at the venue for four consecutive years through January last year, if you look at the situation from another angle, it could be said that their careers had reached a plateau.
After losing its direction, the band was given new inspiration by drummer Daichi Izumi, who joined the band in January 2017. He used to be a member of the now-defunct band Customi-Z, but the other DISH// members knew him because they all belonged to the same agency.
“At that point, the other members had been together for five years. I couldn’t keep up with them at first. But everyone was kind and taught me many things, so I was able to become part of the group,” Izumi said. Not only was he a big addition to the band, which had no drummer until then, he was and is a drummer of accomplished technique.
“Then we became more aware of the excitement of performing in acoustic sounds and the joy of music-making,” Kitamura said. “We noticed many things. Masaki became better on the guitar and Toi [Tachibana] became able to express his feelings in his piano playing.”
In addition to their innate star quality, they developed guts, their reactions onstage got better and their performances improved. Before long, the band had entered the most interesting period of its career. This shows in the new album that went on sale on April 3.
“Like the title, this album is delicious and addictive,” Kitamura said.
“Each song is different. Listen to all of the songs, even for 30 seconds. I’m sure there’s one you’ll like,” Tachibana said.
“Takumi used to sing most of the songs before. This time, each of us has more singing time. I hope the audience will appreciate the difference in the styles of all the members,” Yabe said.
Indeed, the songs are all tour de forces with variety. The composers and lyricists must have had fun working on the songs for the group.
The music and the lyrics of “Biribiri ☆ Rule Book” were written by Tomoya Tabuchi of Unison Square Garden. It’s a light-hearted track with Tachibana’s raps. “Sing-A-Long” includes the voice of Aina the End, the vocalist of BiSH, a punk band without instruments. Her deep aggressive sound harmonizes with Kitamura’s cool voice.
Kitamura says he can connect to “Henteko” written by singer-songwriter Aimyon.
“I find it easy to immerse myself in the world of this song. It has the feeling of theater when we perform it,” Kitamura said.
As for “Ironist,” which includes dramatic key changes and irregular beats, he said confidently, “[We] can sing this song without treating it like some kind of dangerous weapon.”
Izumi said his favorite track is the album’s mainstream opening song “This Wonderful World.” “This song definitely fires up concerts,” he said.
Yabe picked “Sumaho no Naka no Love Letter” (A love letter inside a smartphone), which has a delightful pop feeling that is a trademark of the group’s sound. “The lyrics are pretty funny, too,” he said.
Tachibana’s recommendation is “Kanpai” (Cheers). It has a spirited atmosphere, as if the members are singing with their arms around each other’s shoulders. Tachibanas’s harmonica is effective, too. All of the members were involved in writing the lyrics, which are based on conversations among their team at a year-end party.
“There are many different opinions, but everyone is great. We all love DISH//. That’s the essence of this song,” Tachibana said.