A pop-rock group with a large domestic following, DISH// started out in 2011 as a four-piece act that sang and danced while pretending to play guitars. Eight years on and they’re still singing and dancing. The difference these days is that they now play their own instruments.

“We did the air guitar thing for a while but as we were called a dance-rock group we felt it would be better if we properly learned to play rather than just imitating,” says lead vocalist and guitarist Takumi Kitamura. “I’ve not seen other groups in Japan dance and play the same time. It’s very difficult to get the rhythm right. All we can do is practice, practice, practice.”

Having appeared in many high-profile movies, dramas and commercials, Kitamura is the most high-profile member of the group. Alongside him is fellow actor, vocalist and guitarist Masaki Yabe as well as DJ/rapper/keyboardist Toi Tachibana and drummer Daichi Izumi, who joined the band in 2017.

“I felt a little uneasy before joining,” admits Izumi. “You’re coming into an already established group that has a significant fan-base. The worry is that you’re not going to be accepted. Fortunately, everyone was warm and welcoming. From the get-go, I felt part of the family.”

Topping the Charts

By the time Izumi had started drumming for them, the band had already released two albums, Main Dish and Maeshiagare no Gatling, both of which reached the top five in the Oricon charts. They will be hoping for more of the same, or even better, with their latest record Junkfood Junction, a 16-track LP that’s being released this week.

“Of course, the aim for each album is to make it the best we’ve ever made, and I firmly believe this one is,” says Kitamura. “It feels more coherent and settled than anything we’ve done before, yet at the same time, there’s a real mix of genres. As a group, we can’t stop listening to it.”

According to Kitamura, you can hear a variety of styles on the album and this reflects the contrasting musical preferences within the group. Favorite acts include Japanese indie outfit Andymori (Kitamura), American rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers (Izumi), idols Nogizaka46 (Yabe) and R&B artist Chris Brown (DJ Tachibana).

“Our influences are wide-ranging and anyone listening to Junkfood Junction will be able to hear that,” says Yabe. “The collaborations on the album also give it an extra edge. The track SING-A-LONG for instance features (BiSH founding member) Aina The End. It’s the first time we’ve had a female vocalist on one of our songs. It sounds really fresh and made us realize we can go in all kind of directions.”

Veterans of the Industry

Collaborations are nothing new to Kitamura. Last November he released the digital single Anniversary with popular actress Tao Tsuchiya under the name TAOTAK. The pair first met on the set of the drama Suzuki Sensei in 2011. “It was like working with a childhood friend,” is how Kitamura described their experience singing together.

The Tokyo-born performer was just 13 when he appeared in Suzuki Sensei. Since then he has made a name for himself in a variety of TV shows and movies. One of his most recent roles was as Kotaro Asahi in the TBS series The Good Wife, a Japanese remake of the U.S. legal and political drama of the same name that stars Julianna Margulies.

“I love acting and singing,” says Kitamura. “I wouldn’t say I prefer one over the other. The difficulty is finding enough time to do both. Everyone in the group has different things going on but we try to make sure we get together at least once a week. Of course, we’re meeting much more at the moment to promote the new album.”

Album Released April 3

As part of Junkfood Junction’s promotion, DISH// are currently touring Japan. The next leg of the Dress Up A Burnt Whole Cake tour takes place in Chiba’s Ichikawa City Cultural Hall on April 19 and 20. There are no current plans for any international gigs, but they would like to spread their wings further in the future, playing more shows outside of Japan.

“We’ve performed in countries such as China, Taiwan and Thailand, as well as one time in the US where we played with (American pop band) After Romeo,” says Kitamura. “That was a great experience and we hope to do something like that again. Our main goal, though, is to keep challenging ourselves and grow stronger as a group. Ultimately, we want to create sounds and visuals that nobody has ever seen or heard before.”

Junkfood Junction was released on April 3.