Wallice Hana Watanabe (or just Wallice) is indie pop’s antidote to Gen Z’s anxieties. Or something equally as deliberately labelling. Really, the Los Angeles born & raised artist of Japanese descent, and Dirty Hit signing, brings guitars and lush melodies delivered with gorgeous vocals to Hollywood and pop-culture influenced tales that resonate whether you caught Pulp Fiction upon the Tarantino classic’s release in 1994 or by accident rooting through your grandparents’ things decades later – as Watanabe did back in 2021.
Wallice @ MOTH Club
Tonight finds Watanabe and her 3 bandmates at the third of three small U.K. stops ahead of the June 23rd release of latest EP Mr Big Shot, at Hackney’s MOTH Club. Making their way through the crowd and up two steps to the stage, her band get into position and kick off forthcoming EP tune Disappear. “This is a new one that’s not out yet” the 25-year-old offers of the raucous tune. “How are you doing tonight London?” she screams to a response from the crowd of “how are you?”. “I’m doing good” she beams, a conversation across the room seemingly possible above the storming beats and guitars.
90s American Superstar EP cut Little League is offered next, the deliciously delicate tune with a constant, tickling, beat shimmering across the 300-capacity room, next song, new tune Loser At Best, introduced by the singer while the closing notes of League are still being played. “That was my latest song, now let’s take it back to my first song” she says, grinning as the opening bars of 2020 single Punching Bag ring out, the small room crowd adding significant vocals to tonight’s paired-back, guitar-only rendition of the tune.
2022 EP title track 90s American Superstar picks the tempo back up, Watanabe name-checking a number of hit 1990s films with Dude, Where’s My Car?, Dazed And Confused, 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, Breaking Point and Kurt Russell-led Escape From L.A. making the cut along with long-running, era-defining TV series Beverly Hills 90210.
“So I was wondering, has anyone seen my merch here today?” the L.A.-native grins. “Sweatshirt options for what is about to be a sticky summer” she continues, suggesting the audience spend in order for her to become the protagonist of 2022 EP tune Rich Wallice. Screams erupt from the crowd as the tongue-in-cheek, 80s synth-inspired tune kicks off: “I just want more money, wanna buy more stuff”, she sings before self-referencing: “I can’t wait to meet Rich Wallice”.
Wallice @ MOTH Club
“This next song’s about wanting to be a Cowboy, can you guys get a little rowdy with me?” she requests in her shy demeanour as the storming bassline of John Wayne demonstrates intent. Off The Rails EP cut Headache is introduced as a song that didn’t stream well “that’s how things are measured these days” Watanabe offers disappointedly, “but I like it”. And clearly so does her audience, the crowd screaming along with her at the appropriate points during the song’s destroyed outro.
Quarterlife is offered next as more flavour from forthcoming EP Mr Big Shot, the Bossa Nova undertone, layered with distinctly “Wallice” instrumentation and vocals before fans are back to singing along with sun-soaked 2021 single Dramamine.
“Is anyone here named Michael?” she asks of her audience. “This song is for you” she continues as pop culture-referencing Hey Michael is aired, Pulp Fiction, hit TV show Mad Men and Christian Bale-led American Psycho make the reference cut for this one before storming forthcoming EP tune Why Do You Love Me? is offered up, the new tune energising the MOTH Club crowd.
“I’m really excited for this next EP to come out, a lot of it was written in London last summer” Watanabe shares, connecting with her audience as softly simmering new tune Prepaid Wireless echoes out. Boppy Off The Rails has the crowd singing along once more before 2022 single Japan is introduced as “the most serious, slowest and saddest songs I have out”, and while it does slow down proceedings it’s hard not to simply be mesmerised.
Wallice @ MOTH Club
“This next one I usually play last, but I’m finally changing it up” Wallice shares proudly, the crowd immediately and audibly singing (and then screaming) along with Off The Rails EP tune 23. Slow-drive Best Friend is another example of Watanabe’s honey-slick vocals and powerhouse indie-rock song-writing, destroyed choruses contrasting delicate verses deliciously.
Bubbly 90s American Superstar EP tune Funeral closes out a most wonderful hour of indie-rock, “I’ve been thinking about death, how I want my friends to dress” Wallice ponders morbidly surrounded by contrastingly upbeat instrumentation.
Following a stop at Manchester’s YES last night and tonight’s London MOTH Club show, Wallice heads back across the pond to embark upon an extensive North American headline tour throughout June and July before returning to the UK at the tail-end of August for Reading & Leeds Festival stops. Be sure not to miss her before she blows up!
Live review and photography of Wallice @ MOTH Club by Kalpesh Patel on 2nd June 2023