Skip to main content

Yuma Abe’s Maiden Voyage to the US: Unveiling the Motivation Behind His Audacious Pursuits

2024.5.2

#MUSIC

Yuma Abe of never young beach embarked on his inaugural North American tour. Starting from Los Angeles’ San Diego and culminating in Brooklyn, New York, Abe traversed a dense schedule of approximately 2 weeks, covering 11 cities and performing 12 shows. Despite having held numerous tours domestically and even headlining major festivals, the band’s frontman found himself sharing dressing rooms, repeating the cycle of performances and travels daily. Abe’s drive to challenge himself was fueled by a sense of urgency to expand beyond Japan and a yearning for new, unexplored stimuli.

never young beach is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Since their debut in 2014, amidst the end of “Waratte Iitomo!” and the introduction of an 8% consumption tax, the band has steadily progressed while also experiencing member departures. What used to be cheerful lunch breaks have transformed into times of nitpicking others, as intolerance and efficiency-driven attitudes have proliferated in society. Consequently, as the consumption tax continued to rise, GDP plummeted, resulting in Japan slipping to fourth place in the world rankings.

In an era where cost-effectiveness is emphasized in everything, embarking on a tour across America in a short period, even at great effort, may seem outdated or lacking foreseeable returns. Nevertheless, Yuma Abe, who runs his own label “Thaian Records,” undertook this North American tour fully aware of the risks as a business owner. What he reaffirmed there was the necessity of “doing foolish things” and the potential as a “Japanese” artist.

Connections with Overseas Audiences Fostered by Yuma Abe’s Pandemic-Era Solo Album “Fantasia”

Yuma Abe
Born in Tokyo in 1990. Started activities as a member of never young beach in 2014. Heavily influenced by Tokyo culture, including figures like Haruomi Hosono and the “Tora-san” film series starring actor Kiyoshi Atsumi. In 2021, he established his own label, “Thaian Records,” and released his debut solo album “Fantasia” in June. In May 2023, he released the EP “Surprisingly Alright” under Thaian Records / Temporal Drift (U.S). In February 2024, he embarked on his first-ever North American tour, covering 11 cities and 12 performances.

-First, please tell us about the first moment you became aware of overseas opportunities. When did you start considering performing live abroad?

Abe: I’ll turn 34 this year, but since my late twenties, I’ve had this vague sense of concern that if I were to continue making music only in Japan, it might lack freshness.

Although I’ve performed at events in Asian countries as never young beach, seeing Japanese musicians thriving all over the world excites me, and it makes me want to take on new challenges. There’s always been this sense of urgency, this feeling of “I need to do something.” Because of my tendency to compare myself to others, when I see Japanese artists performing live overseas, I feel a strong curiosity about it and think, “I want to try that too.” I didn’t know what would happen, but I wanted to take the plunge and give it a shot.

-Your first album under your solo name, “Fantasia,” was released in 2021. Please tell us about how you started making music under your solo name as well?

Abe: “Fantasia” was an album I made to help myself mentally during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the songs weren’t written with the intention of performing them. However, being followed by users from overseas on Instagram and receiving positive feedback on the album marked my first contact with an international audience. From there, I started making music with the overseas audience in mind.

-Through the releases under your solo name, it seems that the emotions you’ve harbored since your late twenties have become linked with the direction you aim to take as an artist, haven’t they?

Abe: I believe there’s a limit to the feeling of “as long as it’s enjoyable.” Music that’s just about “having fun with friends” tends to lack depth. It might depend on one’s mental state at the time, but music that shines usually involves dedication and obsession. For me, recognition from others serves as one motivation. It’s truly gratifying to be acknowledged. While I haven’t received much recognition overseas yet, since I make a living through music, it pushes me to think more about “how can I get more people to listen?” with a feeling of “let’s do this.”

-In 2023, your solo EP “Surprisingly Alright” was released on vinyl through Temporal Drift, an American label that also releases works by artists like Hiroshi Yoshimura and Les Rallizes Dénudés. How did that release come through this label?

Abe: Just before various countries went into lockdown due to the novel coronavirus, I visited the United States and was introduced to Yosuke Kitazawa of Temporal Drift through an acquaintance. During a meal together, I mentioned that I was working on a solo album, and after sending him the finished tracks later on, Kitazawa proposed the release. The trip wasn’t intended for this purpose, but I believed that making friends locally while directly visiting the United States would lead to something, so in hindsight, it turned out to be meaningful.

-The distribution of solo listeners on Spotify includes Los Angeles, Taipei, Brooklyn, and Chicago among the top cities, alongside Tokyo. Did you consciously engage with the staff of the American label to reach out to overseas audiences for worldwide distribution of your music?

Abe: Kitazawa, being from the label side, didn’t discuss much about live performances or production with me, but I learned that the way labels operate in Japan and America is completely different. In Japan, individuals often handle multiple roles, while in America, roles are clearly defined, and there are more people involved, which means money flows more efficiently. Regarding production, I also received advice on my music from another Japanese staff member based in America, whom I’ve known for a long time. He gives straightforward and simple feedback like, “I don’t quite get this,” [laughs]. But the process is really enjoyable and feels like a daily learning experience. Additionally, during this North American tour, I found many things that made sense through actual performances.

The Second show of the US tour, at Zebulon Café Concert in Los Angeles. Photo by Asami Nobuoka

RECOMMEND

NiEW’S PLAYLIST

NiEW recommends alternative music🆕

NiEW Best Music is a playlist featuring artists leading the music scene and offering alternative styles in our rapidly evolving society. Hailing from Tokyo, the NiEW editorial team proudly curates outstanding music that transcends size, genre, and nationality.

EVENTS