O!susume – Yonige

Broadcast 16: Yonige

My pick for July is the joshirock duo Yonige. I discovered this band back when I was travelling around Japan for several months in 2017, when their album girls like girls was being featured at Village Vanguard. Their clean, simple instrumentals coupled with their airy, wistful lyrical flow drew me in quickly, and I was happy to circle back around this year and see how far they’ve come.


Years Active: 2013 – Present (2022)

Core Members: Arisa Ushimaru 牛丸ありさ (vocals, guitar) Gokin ごっきん (bass, chorus) Kanemoto かねもと (drums, 2013-2015)

Point of Origin: Neyagawa, Osaka

Back in 2013, vocalist/guitarist Ushimaru wasn’t exactly on the path to stardom after being kicked out of her previous band for constantly being late. It’s unclear if she knew bassist Gokin before she was ousted, or if the two met serendipitously, but it didn’t take long for the girls to connect and find common musical ground. Both already had experience playing in cover bands in high school, and for Ushimaru, music ran in her family, with her uncle being AC/DC bassist Larry Van Kreidt.

It took a couple years for Yonige to get some attention in the indie scene, but managed to find representation in 2015 with the label Small Indies Table. Ushimaru and Gokin recruited drummer Kanemoto sometime before the release of their 2014 EPs Onnanoko no Gyakushuu (女の子の逆襲 – “Girl’s Counterattack”) and Koi to Uso to Kaerimichi (恋と嘘と帰り道 – “love, lies and the way home”).

The band seemed to experience a significant rise in popularity in the following couple years. Their first full album girls like girls received significant coverage, including featured store radio play in Village Vanguard, a retailer that often promotes bands on the cusp of their mainstream breakouts. Kanemoto had left the band in December 2015, but it didn’t seem to hurt the remaining duo’s momentum, switching from Small Indies Table to unBORDE, a subsidiary label of Warner Music Japan, in 2017.

Despite their success, the group’s indie vibe holds strong, perhaps by design, or perhaps because that’s just the spirit Ushimaru and Gokin bring to their work. The members recount that the band name was originally decided by having one of them close their eyes and hitting random letters on their keyboard. A mutual friend looked at y/n/g and said “Yonige!”, and so it was decided. This lackadaisical energy might have a hidden balance behind it though; in a 2015 interview, the three members were asked, “what are your future ambitions?” Ushimaru, despite her past of truancy, said “I want to take over the world with my music!”, while Gokin’s answer was “get married”, and Kanemoto, for a bit of variety, said “get married and live on someone else’s money.” It’s hard to tell how serious each of their answers were at the time, but Yonige is approaching their 1o-year anniversary with a consistent musical output and an attitude that still feels fresh-faced and ready to play.



I don’t think I could get away with omitting “Avocado” (アボカド) from the recommendations, not that I would ever want to. This is one of Yonige’s earliest triumphs, netting more than 2 million views soon after uploading in 2015. Ushimaru’s gentle voice weaves through jagged guitar riffs that reflect on a time in life well past, save for the unexpected sharp points of errant memories. The MV’s protagonist packs up a room in the sweltering heat of summer, as the lyrics write out retorts to an unfinished argument. The song has a vibe of resentment rising up while trapped in a stuffy room, but then wistfully ebbing away as the doors are thrown open to a summertime downpour. The popularity of this track shows how successful it is in communicating that familiar tension.


Dou demo yoku naru

For a song that feels most “representational” of Yonige, I decided on “Dou demo yoku naru” (どうでもよくなる – “I don’t really care”) from their 2018 mini-album HOUSE. Despite being well into their successful careers, the MV has the duo strumming their guitars in the corner of a garage that likely feels nostalgic to their early days of band practice. Despite heartbreak being a common theme in their songwriting, “dou demo” seems to clear those dark clouds away somewhat, as the lyrics of the song bounce behind Ushimaru exploring a series of buildings, all abandoned save for some private memories. The two girls come to sit together in the end, expressing a kind of satisfaction of being where they are now, even as they play around in a set dedicated to their past.


Saimin Ryouhou

I wanted to include an example of their more recent work, and “Saimin Ryouhou” (催眠療法 – “Hypnosis”) is an enticing pick. It’s got some slightly bizarre instrumentals that sound like a traditional folk horn, though I expect they’re synthesized. I can’t say if it works for the track overall, but it’s certainly unique, and catches your ear when juxtaposed with Ushimaru’s echo-y vocals. I like the song’s spirit of experimentation, and honestly it would probably have a spot on my Yonige playlist. “Hypnosis” is certainly a fitting title for its heady, dream-like vibe.


Other Recommendations

Sentimental Sister, Akarui Mirai, Haru no Arashi

Artist Site: https://yonige.net/ (their website’s a total trip, definitely worth a check-out)