O!susume – Quruli

Broadcast 30: Quruli

Back when I was first starting to get into indie Japanese music, I was also very curious about the history of the genre. Who were the bands that paved the way for the music that I was so engrossed with? That led me to pick up the book “Quit Your Band: Musical Notes From the Japanese Underground” by Ian F. Martin, which led me to give Quruli, a band I had only heard about in passing beforehand, a closer look. Quruli is an alt-rock band with a rich history and their music is perfect to dig into with headphones to fully experience the relaxing and subtle expertise the band has exhibited since their beginning, going all the way back to 1996. I’m excited to share a few songs with you today and a little bit more about their history!


Years Active: 1996 – Present (2023)

Core Members: Kishida Shigeru 岸田繁 (vocals, electric guitar, songwriter), Satō Masashi 佐藤征史 (bass, president of label Noise McCartney Records)

Past Members: Nobuyuki Mori (drums), Christopher McGuire (drums), Tasshin Ōmura (electric guitar), Yūji Tanaka (drums), Shōnen Yoshida (electric guitar), Fanfan (trumpet, electric keyboard)

Point of Origin: Kyoto


Who is Quruli?

Quruli has been a mainstay on the Japanese music scene since 1996, with their music often cited as an inspiration by many contemporary alt-rock bands and members. Originally formed from three students in a university’s music club in Kyoto, the band has included many different band members and musical inspirations throughout the years incorporating jazz, techno-pop, alt-rock, pop, punk, folk, classical, and other trends and musical expressions. As of 2021, the band consists only of two of the original members—songwriter, vocalist, and electric guitarist Kishida Shigeru 岸田繁, as well as bassist Satō Masashi 佐藤征史.

The word “くるり” (Quruli) is an onomatopoeia expressing rotation, inspired by a sign in the Kyoto Municipal Subway marking a U-Turn. The band members have a close history with Fuji Rock Festival, currently the largest outdoor music festival in Japan. While still in the University’s club, the original band members attended the first ever Fuji Rock Festival in 1997 when a typhoon halted the festivities halfway through. The next year the members went to the event again, and in 1999 Quruli was able to perform there for the very first time, with many more performances to follow at subsequent Festivals. Quruli has since helped curate their own Kyoto Music Festival, and while the band itself is signed to major label Victor Entertainment, for years they helped deliver artists they liked to the world through their own label, Noise McCarney Records (active from 2002-2012).

Quruli’s influence on the alt-rock scene in Japan is undeniable, with the band’s sound helping to pave the way for contemporary artists. Popular around the same time as Number Girl and Supercar in the early 2000s, Quruli has also been able to make music consistently for over 20 years, with over 20 albums to their name. I found Quruli around 2018 because I had heard about their influence on the bands that I was listening to at the time, and instantly connected to their newly released music. That being said, a lot of their earlier music sounds like it fits right in with the modern indie, synth, and alt-rock albums that are being released now. Just check out their 2000 album, 図鑑 (“Picture Book”), which according to music critic Ian Martin is one of the most cited albums of influence by Japanese alt-rock bands today. While I haven’t been able to listen to Quruli’s full discography, I keep going back to the songs that I love by the band over and over again, so I hope you enjoy today’s recommendations!


Bara No Hana

“ばらの花” (Bara No Hana – “Rose Flower”) from the 2001 album TEAM ROCK, is a wonderful classic song from the band that has a relaxing, hopeful, rainy day vibe to it. The song is about the narrator’s plans being broken with someone because of the rain, and they go on a metaphorical journey together instead, similar symbolically to a rose. The music video, also released in 2001, is probably one of the earliest iterations of music videos I’ve seen by indie bands (such as Oisicle Melonpan or Kinoko Teikoku) throughout the years—the members are on a beach, and there are different motifs thrown in, such as a lighter being lit, and the members holding a flower, in this case a rose.

“Bara No Hana” is a song that seems timeless. It slowly reveals more elements throughout the song with a wonderful bass line that makes the song truly sparkle. If you are interested more in depth about the chord progression in the song, I highly recommend the video “Quruli /くるり “ばらの花” – Dr. Capital & Gustavo” to learn more! I love the overall effect of the song, slowly building with great background vocals and synth effects setting the tension in the song, which feels nostalgic and bittersweet at the same time.

I also love the special project released in 2019 to promote two train companies opening up a new railway together which mixes “Bara No Hana” and “Native Dancer” by サカナクション (Sakanaction), as well as with new vocals from yui from FLOWER FLOWER and Mizobe Ryo (ミゾベリョウ) from the band odol. I think this project shows off how well Quruli’s music is timeless and has had a great influence on modern music.


Sonosen wa Suiheisen

“その線は水平線” (Sonosen wa Suiheisen – “The Line is Horizontal”) is one of the first songs I listened to by Quruli, and it instantly became one of my favorite songs that year. This song came out in 2018 on the album Songline, and is a great successor to “Bara No Hana.” Both music videos feature an ocean view, but this one also has a woman running alongside of the beach and crying as well as dancing. The song is beautiful in subtle ways, with progressing elements making the song worth listening to over and over again. I love the electric guitar at the end of the song, which is a culmination of the overall tone of pulling at your heartstrings; basically everything about this song is an emotional release straight from the heart, which also feels hopeful and relatable at the same time.


World’s End Supernova

“World’s End Supernova” is from Quruli’s 2002 album THE WORLD IS MINE. When I first heard this song, I easily felt like I understood how important Quruli has been for the Japanese indie/alt-rock scene with how they incorporate synth into their music. It’s easy to see how Sakanaction, Lucky Kilimanjaro, WEDNESDAY CAMPANELLA and other bands that include synth elements have come to be because of songs like this. The music video again includes the beach both at night and during the day, as well as the band in a white room, but it’s also weird and interesting to go along with the song. “World’s End Supernova” is cool and relaxed, and progresses in the way that I love about Quruli, slowly yet still interesting and worth listening to over and over again.

Quruli has been around for 20 years having an impact on the Japanese music direction as a whole. Never afraid to adopt new styles and trends in music and make it their own, Quruli lives up to their name of turning around and going with the flow, letting them be inspired by whatever comes their way. Kishida even recently composed his own symphony played by the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra in 2016, and the band even played alongside 10,000 singers to “Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9” in 2017. They’ve also composed a theme song for the children’s series Rilakkuma’s Theme Park Adventure back in 2022, and they don’t seem to have any limits on what they could do next.



Website: https://www.quruli.net/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/QuruliOfficial


Quit Your Band: Musical Notes From the Japanese Underground by Ian F. Martin



This Broadcast was written by Erin; you can find them on instagram at @thekniterin.