MUSICSeptember 10, 2021

5 Pop Punk and Emo Bands Tearing up the Scene in Asia

These artists prove that teen angst and distorted guitars can transcend oceans, cultures, and continents

WHITE SURF! — Osaka, Japan

Stand out track: "Farewell"

An intoxicating blend of emo, punk, and surf rock, Osaka’s WHITE SURF! formed in April of 2018 and set out on a self-assigned mission to “connect the indie emo scene in Japan with likeminded bands from all across the world by playing raw, energetic live shows and releasing relatable music online and in analogue”. Their most recent release, a split EP entitled “Discover Sister” alongside fellow Japanese punk act Shizuku, is emblematic of their raw, passionate sound — think FIDLAR meets Moose Blood and Citizen. Comparisons to Western acts don’t really capture the breadth of the album, though, nor can they do justice to the magic that is WHITE SURF! The band also has one other EP (“Seeing Blue”) that was released in 2018 as well as two singles (“Farewell” and “Stargazer”) that were released in 2019. In all of these, frontman Keita Nishioka offers up contemplative lyrics dripping with nostalgia backed by an impossibly large wall of sound. Genuine and cathartic, WHITE SURF! is perhaps the perfect soundtrack to growing up. What more could you want in an emo band?

Đá Số Tới — Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Stand out track: “Em”

By far the most conventional pop punk act on this list, the sounds of Ho Chi Minh City’s Đá Số Tới would feel at home at Warped Tour or in an Hot Topic. Their sound lies somewhere between power pop, pop punk, and mid-2010s emo — and, after releasing their first single “Em” in 2020, the band has skyrocketed to the forefront of Vietnam’s independent music scene. On their most recent single, “Cà Lem Kem Chuối”, Đá Số Tới pulled out all the stops in crafting a pop punk hit: chunky power chords and soaring melodies that form the basis of an up-tempo love story. They’re edgy, fast-paced, and, most importantly, fun as hell. If you like catchy hooks and sunshiney vocals, Đá Số Tới is definitely worth adding to your playlist.

Chinese Football — Wuhan, China

Stand out track: "Electronic Girl"

A four-piece indie gem from Wuhan, China and a tongue-in-cheek wordplay of the legendary emo band American Football, Chinese Football burst onto the scene in 2015 with their self-titled EP. Although singer Xu Bo has cited more mainstream pop punk acts like Jimmy Eat World, Saves the Day, and Brand New as early influences, Chinese Football’s sound is much more akin to the Midwest emo tunes of the mid-90s, with its twinkling guitars and melancholy lyrics (“suddenly near, suddenly far; suddenly gone, suddenly there”). Chinese Football’s cult success netted them a string of shows with American Football, their Western predecessors, in 2019, though their artistic vision and musical style has blossomed into a genre all its own. In 2017, their track Electronic Girl went semi-viral, amassing over 250,000 views on YouTube and 1.5 million plays on Spotify, and since then, they’ve released three singles and one EP, 2019’s “Continue?”.

Little Whales — Mumbai, India

Stand out track: "Faults of Youth"

When he started his solo project Little Whales 2016, Mumbai-based punk rocker Vrishank Menon was at a creative impasse. The frontman of an up-and-coming hardcore group entitled Death by Fungus, Menon took a step away from the scene after a run-in with a particularly unwelcoming crowd back when Little Whales was just a side project. A year later, he returned with the band’s first self-titled EP, which was followed by another in 2020, entitled “An Exercise in Patience”. The band’s sound is complex, drawing influences here and there from various Western emo and post-rock groups, most notably American Football, Codeine, and UK shoe gaze pioneers Slowdive.

day's eye — Tokyo, Japan

Stnad out track: "daisy"

Powerful, jangly, and unapologetically emotional, Tokyo's day's eye is deeply tied to both the MIdwest emo and screamo genres that emerged out of the 1990s. They've only ever released one, three-track EP, entitled 'MARGARET", but it may be my favorite album covered in this article. Track one, "daisy", is a blistering entry into day's eye's extreme, nearly-apocalyptic soundscape; multiple guitars, both clean and distorted, work in tandem to belt out dissonant chords that provide a sturdy foundation for singer Ayumi Miura's wailing vocals. From there, the EP shifts to "dusty miller", a heavy track set to a minor key in which Miura puts her full range on display, and "MARGARET", the album's title track, a quiet, reflective song acting as a bookend to an otherwise intense musical experience.

The band has almost no social media presence, and their music isn't available on Apple Music or Spotify. Since they also don't have any content on YouTube, I've linked their Bandcamp below. As of this writing, it's unclear if the group is even still together, but one thing remains certain: day's eye's sound is at the same time raw and multi-faceted, simple and deceivingly complex — everything that emo needs to be.


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