We’ve already taken you around the Western world—from Canada to the U.K. and even out to Australia—in our examination of new, prominent forces in pop-punk music. Now, it’s time to set our sights eastward and make a stop in Japan.
Here are 10 Japanese pop-punk bands that are leaving their mark on alternative music.
You only need a few seconds with UNMASK aLIVE‘s high-energy riffs to know that they’re straight Warped Tour material. This Kyoto-based band have been making music together since 2014 but only just debuted onto the alternative scene with their self-titled EP in 2019. Now on the heels of their first studio album, UNMASK aLIVE II (My mother is “CAT”), they possess a boundless potential that we can’t wait to see play out.
AIRFLIP may be based in Japan, but their presence within the alternative scene is hardly confined to the country. Since their debut with “Ringing From The West” in 2015, the band have aptly mingled with the Western music world. Not only have they supported bands such as State Champs on local stops, but they’ve also worked with Yellowcard‘s Ryan Key on their 2019 album, NEO-N.
Just go ahead and pull up all of your favorite summer playlists because LONGMAN are a must-add. This band boast sunshine-y, energizing pop-punk vibes with the 2000s anthemic quality of bands such as My Chemical Romance. It’s a bizarre breed of eclecticism, to say the least, but not one that will go underappreciated. Be sure to check out their 2020 album, Just A Boy.
We’re pretty sure that sunsetinfall‘s name alone may tell you everything you need to know about their alternative foundation. This Tokyo-hailing band are about as new as they come, having debuted with their Fog Clears Up / The lines EP in 2018. But don’t put it past them to hit you with some serious nostalgia. Their screamo, post-hardcore-leaning approach to pop punk is deeply reminiscent of the 2000s alternative scene. Take a listen to their 2021 singles, “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind” and “Lost Property,” and you’ll see exactly what we mean.
When Japan’s incredible sights are mentioned, your mind probably doesn’t go straight to pop-punk music. But maybe it should… SIGHTS are another newly emerging band that are well on their way to becoming a staple of the broader alternative genre. They’ve dropped three EPs since their debut in 2017—all masterful displays of hard-hitting, melodic-as-hell punk rock. We recommend giving them all a listen, but 2020’s Back To Life is definitely the place to start.
Give ENTH even a brief listen and you won’t be surprised to hear that they’ve already shared stages with Descendents. The band harness the power of classic, thrashy pop punk but accent it with a wide variety of different alternative styles to make it feel totally fresh. Every song stands on its own as a colorful display of eclecticism, all the while contributing to the discography’s coherence. Their 2020 album, NETH, is a particularly effective showcase. It’s a ride you won’t want to disembark.
Five State Drive
Less Than Jake fans already know that they’re in luck. Named after one of their influencer’s notable songs, Five State Drive are a modern powerhouse in the realm of ska-infused pop punk. The Nagoya-based band first formed in 2013 but only debuted with their first mini-album, We’ll be the Next, in 2019. They dropped their follow-up EP, Nice Coke!!, last year, and we’re nothing short of smitten by the captivating breakdowns and ultra-hyper bursts of frantic energy.
Good Grief have a propensity for the refined, radio-ready brand of pop punk that washed over the early 2010s alternative scene. In fact, you’ll probably be surprised that their 2021 singles, “Sapphire” and “Back In Action,” haven’t been around for the better part of a decade. That said, they don’t lack nuance. Incorporating stylings that range from 2000s post-hardcore to modern indie pop, their eclecticism knows no bounds.
We don’t often describe pop punk as “polished,” but that’s really the best description of AFTER SQUALL‘s take on the genre. There’s a gorgeous sense of refinement to their style that carries through even the darker, hardcore-influenced corners of their discography. Ranging from twinkling sweetness to full-on aggression, this quartet push sonic boundaries in all directions. Take a listen to their new full-length, THE PINKY, to hear their genre-defying displays in full force.
See You Smile
We started on a totally Warped Tour-reminiscent band, so why not end on one, too? See You Smile feel like they may have been plucked off the same pop-punk branch that yielded the likes of With Confidence and Between You & Me. It’s an impressive feat for a band that have only been gracing us with alternative bangers since 2016. Take a listen to their 2020 single “Twister” for all the clean and catchy relatability your heart can handle.
Who are some of your new favorite Japanese bands that are making waves in alternative music? Let us know in the comments!