Broadcast 1: Do As Infinity
Welcome to the very first broadcast of O!Susume RadioBeat, Nagi’s personal music blog project that lets him jaw on and on about his fav Japanese artists and tries to get you, dear readers, to give them a spin as well.
After a lot of deliberation about who would take the honorary spot of this inaugural episode, Do As Infinity won out.
Do As Infinity
Years Active: 1999 to 2005, 2008 to present
Core Members: Tomiko Van, Ryo Owatari, Dai Nagao
Point of Origin: Tokyo
Do As Infinity formed as a project of Japanese record label Avex Trax, when composer Dai Nagao recruited Tomiko Van and Ryo Owatari during open auditions in Tokyo. During their first signed year, the trio put on free performances in spaces like train stations and record stores. The band became a performing duo when Nagao retired as a front member and focused solely on writing the group’s songs until 2005. In September of that year, DAI disbanded exactly six years to the day that their first single was released. The band reformed in 2008 after appearing as “secret guests” at a national music festival and announced a free concert in Yoyogi Park to commemorate the event.
While they didn’t quite become a household name, DAI did have some traction in the international scene; Van was on a roster alongside BoA, Ayumi Hamasaki and Namie Amuro for an album project whose proceeds would benefit the victims of 9/11. Van also met Michelle Branch during the American pop star’s 2003 promotional tour, and the next year DAI performed in NYC and Dallas. Their international fame was sustained due to their songs being featured as themes in anime, live-action drama, commercials and video games.
DAI seemed to value a close connection with their fans, likely never forgetting the days of their free concerts. The group initiated a project that asked fans to send in short stories they wrote based on the band’s songs, specifically including the word “truth”. A selection of these stories were published as a compilation entitled “Your Truth”. They also held contests for fans to write songs for them; at least three songs became official DAI tracks in this way.
From my perspective, Do As Infinity’s sound still belongs to the era of early-aughts Jrock, when a lot of bands were still growing out of their visual-kei influences. However, I think DAI has aged better than similar-sounding bands like TM Revolution or Garnet Crow because their musical profile extends beyond a single genre. If you listened to a certain selection of DAI’s tracks you might think they’re a folk-rock duo, or you could exclusively listen to their large portfolio of dark, moody ballads.
If I were to imagine the soundscape of music in geographic terms, DAI is a road I like taking between the destinations of my favorite artists. DAI doesn’t have any smash hits that stick with me, but putting a large playlist of their albums on shuffle-by-song is an excellent BGM for long, aimless strolls near sunset hours. It’s a band you rarely miss listening to, but whenever you come across them again, you always find them to be better than you remembered.
(Also, for real, do yourself a favor and go listen to their album Eight (2011) on Spotify or someplace. That’s the good shit right there)
This is Do As Infinity’s Fukai Mori (2001), which is probably one of their most widely-known tracks due to being picked up as the second ED song for Inuyasha. I also feel compelled to show my appreciation for DAI’s indulgence in what I call the EXTRAvagance aesthetic in this music video. It’s a visual style whose “substance” is made up of excessive layers of glitz and grandiose flair; any one layer by itself would be far too thin to be considered anything but shallow or kitschy, but it’s the earnest adherence to this style that somehow makes it work. The singers parade around in outfits that are obviously inspired by the American hip-hop and gangsta rap elite, while copying modern pop’s material luxury fetish of vintage cars and McMansions that are, realistically speaking, an architectural heresy. I could say so much more about this phenomenon, but that also means I should probably make that discussion its own post.
This is Under The Sun (2002), which shows off DAI’s more upbeat mainstream pop side. It’s a bit disappointing (though understandable) that it’s tracks like this that get the music video treatment, when more complex/interesting tracks like Kouzou Kaikaku (on the same album as Fukai Mori) remain more obscure. Not trying to bash tracks like this, but seriously, these folks have some range.
This is TAO (2005), accompanied by a music video in which, from what I have been able to surmise, Van alternates between being a boss motorcycle babe and not realizing that the middle of the road is not a great place for a chorus, and Ryo gets his white blazer real dirty with a top-down convertible. In a moment of tremendous catharsis they meet in in the middle of their respective journeys for an excellent high-five.
Band Site : http://d-a-i.com/
Twitter : https://twitter.com/doasinfinity929
Sources Used: Wikipedia, allmusic.com, jpopasia.com (top image)