"Midwest emo" isn't reserved just for American suburbia.
There is an emo band in China called Chinese Football and another in Japan called Japanese Baseball.
For too long, emo has been deferred to the white guys. Even the title of "Midwest Emo" — the subgenre that arose from pioneering bands like American Football and Cap'n Jazz — inadvertently implies that the space was reserved for suburbanites in one of the whitest regions of the United States.
In the past decade, however, emo has made its way to the Eastern Hemisphere. With platforms like Bandcamp flattening the globe in terms of music discovery, a huge emo boom has taken over East Asia, with thriving scenes in Tokyo, Singapore, and other cities. Believe it or not, emo has never been just for the white midwesterners — lest we forget that time Chinese Football opened for American Football on the former's home turf.
Below, we've listed just a few of our favorite emo bands from Asia that are definitely worth a listen and available to stream everywhere. Sadness is worldwide, after all.
as a sketch pad
Japanese four-piece as a sketch pad made their official debut with a self-titled EP last May. With a heavy focus on melodies, the band seamlessly bridges the gap between emo and indie rock. While mainly based in Tokyo, the band also has ties to the United States: as a sketch pad's lineup includes Andy Schueneman of Florida emo band, Worst Party Ever.
Hailing from Singapore, Subsonic Eye evoke midwest emo tendencies with their tight-knit rhythm section and agile guitar. Flourishes of dream pop emerge through the band's saccharine melodies, accentuated by vocalist Nur Wahidah's crystalline croons. Subsonic Eye's fantastic third record, Nature of Things, was released early this year.
On the more "math rock" side of the emo coin is Arigarnon Friends, a self-described "sparkle punk" four-piece also from Japan. Their debut EP, Boy to Man, was reissued in 2017, finally spreading their killer guitar riffs, breakneck drums, and unforgettable melodies to a wider audience.
By the End of Summer
The fact that By the End of Summer have received a coveted co-sign from the 1975 frontman Matty Healy is probably all the convincing you need to check them out. Namedrops aside, the Kyoto band live up to the hype with their raucous blend of emo and pop-punk that sounds like the most fun you could ever have at a sweaty basement show.
For the emos whose tastes veer more towards the grit of late-'90s groups like Mineral, Braid, and Clarity-era Jimmy Eat World, Weave are a treat. The Japanese band's latest record, last year's The Sound II, is chock-full of gargantuan heavy hitters that call to mind the heyday of emo's second wave.
Another gem from Tokyo, Falls make rollicking, emo-tinged pop-punk in line with their American contemporaries in bands like Joyce Manor and Modern Baseball. Their solid drumming and hightailing guitar riffs are indicative of blink-182 worship, but done impressively well.
Just a glimpse of the tracklist of Forests' 2019 album, Spending Eternity in a Japanese Convenience Store, indicates the Singaporeans are here for a good time — song titles include "Kawaii Hawaii," "This Town Needs Fun," and "Tater Tots," to name just a few. Like beloved emo revival icons Algernon Cadwallader, Forests offer a playful take on midwest emo, with plenty of yell-along gang vocals to go around.