THE JAPANESE POPSTARS SET TO RELEASE ASTRALWERKS DEBUT “CONTROLLING YOUR ALLEGIANCE”ON JUNE 21st 2011
The Japanese Popstars are ravenous. Since they first tasted success in 2006 with their first two releases on a small indie dance label, their career has been one smooth upward curve, but now that line is about to take a sharp rise vertically. Comprised of three lads from Northern Ireland, The Japanese Popstars have spent the last two years racking up the air miles as they’ve taken their coruscating live show to all four corners of the globe… and still found time to make the record of their lives with their second album, Controlling Your Allegiance, to be released stateside via Astralwerks on June 21st, 2011.
The Japanese Popstars – Gary Curran, Declan ‘Decky Hedrock’ McLaughlin and Gareth Donoghue – may have been together for just four years, but they’ve carved out a reputation to rival the biggest names in dance music as a must-see live act and purveyor of raucous, foot-stomping, energetic electronic dance music. In the two years since their debut album We Just Are dropped on Gung-Ho!(UK), they have played major market dates in the U.S. including Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Electric Daisy Carnival in LA, played in Australia, across Europe and, of course Japan – a place that’s especially taken them to their hearts. No surprises there, then.
The band has also made a name for themselves as sought after remixers, having notched up their own inimitable re-rubs for luminaries such as Beyonce, Depeche Mode, Gorillaz and Kylie Minogue. In keeping with this proud tradition, The Japanese Popstars will also be featured on the April release of the Tron remix album Tron: Legacy Reconfigured with their take on Daft Punk’s “Arena”.
But it’s Controlling Your Allegiance, that’s the real leap forward. The trio admit having to sharpen up in every department, not least because they’ve used vocalists for the first time. And not just any old session singer either. “Destroy” features an idiosyncratic and eerily compelling vocal from Jon Spencer (of Blues Explosion fame) set atop a squelching, brooding slab of nu-electro that climaxes in an unholy riot of angry synths.
Decky from the The Japanese Popstars had the idea of enlisting The Cure’s Robert Smith for one of the rough edits. “We sent Robert an email and heard nothing for six months,” explains Decky. “Then randomly we got an email to say that it had gone into his spam folder.” Fortunately, Robert went onto the band’s MySpace site, loved what he heard and said he wanted to work with the boys. The result is “Take Forever”, which, with its chiming guitar riff, low-slung bass and feint air of melancholia, is a quantum leap from anything that was on “We Just Are.” It’s the sound of The Cure had they been born in 2011.
Other names to get the special Japanese Popstars treatment include Mercury Prize-nominated Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan on the uplifting, melodic house of “Song For Lisa” and Chicago house legend Green Velvet who asked The Japanese Popstars to work with him after the lads had DJ’d with him several times. That led to “Let Go”, a storming, tumultuous, twisted, electro barrage, which is also complemented by an award-winning animated video. Earlier in the year they had remixed the Editors. The boys then drafted in the bands lead singer Tom Smith, recording his icy vocals for “Joshua” in Dean Street Studios. James Vincent McMorrow, the man described as Ireland’s answer to Bon Iver, the American psych folk singer, contributes his unique falsetto to “Shells Of Silver”. At 100bpm, it shows The Japanese Popstars have a milder side.
Perhaps their favorite track of all, “Fight The Night” features Morgan Kibby, the American vocalist with ethereal French nugazers, M83. As huge M83 fans, the lads were especially made up to have secured Morgan’s services. “Her voice is so otherworldly,” says Gareth. “When she sent her vocals back it was a jaw-dropping moment. It was then we realized this was such a move on from the first album.” And that it most definitely is. Too many bands crumble as egos clash and gobs mouth off. That won’t happen with The Japanese Popstars. The sound they make might be brash, loud and in yer face, but that doesn’t extend to the personalities themselves.
As one message from a fan on their Twitter feed points out, there’s some irony to their name as they are neither Japanese nor popstars. Well, they’ll never be the former. But popstars? On the evidence of Controlling Your Allegiance, you wouldn’t want to bet against that now.
Summer U.S. tour dates to be confirmed soon!