By chance, it was Monday morning when I hopped on to our Zoom call with I Don’t Like Mondays. As their name suggests, Monday can be rough for those starting work or school. That said, the present members’ — YU (vocals) and SHUKI (drums) — smiles illuminated the conversation. Though the band has been rehearsing for their upcoming Japan tour, there wasn’t a single time when their enthusiasm faltered. At one point, YU’s British shorthair cat — whose name is Munk and apparently has her own Instagram account — even briefly “joined” the conversation. The members’ endless energy made me wonder if they have a “secret weapon” to deal with the first day of the week.

“It’s coffee!” YU said, proudly showing off his mug. 

The Japanese tour isn’t the only activity on the rock band’s to-do list. Since July, they have been performing in Barcelona, Yantai, Buenos Aires, and later Taipei this November. To top it all off, on September 5, I Don’t Like Mondays. released RUNWAY, their first studio album since 2021. With all these exciting opportunities in mind, we chatted about the making of RUNWAY, their musical journey, tour memories, and future aspirations.

Who Are I Don’t Like Mondays.?

I Don’t Like Mondays. was formed in 2012 in Omotesandō, a Tokyo street lined with buildings designed by critically acclaimed architects and luxury brand stores. The quartet, consisting of members YU, CHOJI (guitar), KENJI (bass), and SHUKI, named their band after an all-too-common sentiment on the unpopular weekday. To ease one’s burdens on Mondays — and every day — they aim to create energetic dance music ripe with catchy hooks. Two years after their formation, the band debuted with a six-track EP called Play.

Since then, the band found success with their fun discography and charismatic performances. With songs about being the life of the party, I Don’t Like Mondays.’s music takes listeners to the center of the stage, even amidst their tedious routine. In 2019, the band signed with Avex Entertainment. Over time, I Don’t Like Mondays. expanded their artistry by playing more genres and showcasing various visual styles. Additionally, their songs, such as 2014’s “BANG!!” and “MR. CLEVER” in 2020, often include English lines, attracting listeners from around the world. In turn, the band has toured multiple times in Japan and overseas to meet their fans, appropriately named “Friday Lovers.”

On (the) RUNWAY

RUNWAY, released on September 5, is I Don’t Like Mondays.’s fifth studio album. On the name, the band drew influences from celebrated fashion shows, including that of Victoria’s Secret. “We needed to create a strong base of our band[’s cultural identity], which includes fashion,” SHUKI explained. By naming the album RUNWAY, the band wishes to immerse listeners into the album’s glamorous soundscape. in which they accomplished. While the album retains the band’s signature party anthem sound — which took the backseat in their previous recordRUNWAY also takes listeners further into their suave and sentimental side. Take “Summer Ghost,” for instance, a light pop rock track that calls for those good, carefree memories of the past. It’s also SHUKI’s favorite track, as it suits their musical personality. “Beautiful Chaos,” which is YU’s pick, continues the light production while sporting a beat listeners can clap to in live performances. “When I listened to our demo for the first time, the guitar parts made me think, ‘Oh, this is chaos.’ ‘Chaos’ is not a positive word — it’s a negative one, right?” YU mused. “But this time, it has a positive vibe, so I could see the beauty in it.”

I Don’t Like Mondays. also delve into various genres through RUNWAY. “Sin City” is a groovy track ripe with falsettos and sleek bass riffs, while “WOLF VIBES” harkens back to their earlier sound with its disco influences. Meanwhile, “Mmmm…,” and “conversation” are the band’s attempt at R&B. The latter came from the work of renowned Korean rapper and producer DPR CREAM. As fans of the Dream Perfect Regime (DPR) trio, the band expresses a sense of honor when working with him. “When [DPR] came to Japan, all four of us went to their live [concert],” said YU. “It made us think that if we could collaborate with them, we would be happy.” Fortunately, they had the chance to do just that. Although the two haven’t met in person, DPR CREAM’s K-hip-hop sound naturally blends with the band’s candid yet sultry word-crafting. 

Another collaboration also made it to the album, namely “Strawberry Night.” The band teamed up with Japanese producer ESME MORI for the second time. Their first was in 2020 with “ENTERTAINER.” Compared to “ENTERTAINER,” which features YU’s stylistically tuned voice over the laid-back track, “Strawberry Night” is more energetic with its instrumental break. “We wanted to include the latest trends in our music, so I asked ESME MORI to collaborate with us and he said, ‘Yeah, I’d love to!’” SHUKI said, followed by YU’s nods of agreement.

Expanding Their Musical and Visual Identities

How does one describe I Don’t Like Mondays.? For starters, the band is versatile, always ready to challenge themselves with new styles of music. RUNWAY’s closer, “PAINT,” remains special to the band as it became the opening theme song of the epic anime ONE PIECE from January 2022 to August 2023. Considering their fun, party-hopping repertoire, the band had worries on whether their sound would fit the series’ youthful energy. However, with the golden opportunity of crafting the soundtrack to one of Japan’s largest pop culture exports, the band boldly took the chance. “I was partially motivated and partially scared,” SHUKI admitted in the behind-the-scenes documentary of the track. “But as I am a fan of ONE PIECE myself, I wanted to focus on the true significance of supporting that world as much as possible… how strong we could convey the [series’] messages through our music.” After rereading the comics thoroughly, the band came up with an uplifting track that resonates with the series’ message: Keep chasing your dreams, even if the odds are stacked against you. 

When I asked what kind of pirates they’d like to be in the ONE PIECE universe, YU and SHUKI grinned at each other. “In this world you can’t do bad things, right? So I would like to be one of the bad guys!” SHUKI said, erupting some laughter out of us. YU was also inclined to becoming a morally gray pirate, citing the characters Crocodile and Trafalgar D. Water Law as his inspiration. “He is a cool guy. I want to be like him,” he said.

Fashion is a huge part of I Don’t Like Mondays.’s identity, and it doesn’t end at naming their album with the word. The band never misses the chance to showcase the latest trends with their own flair. In 2015, for the promotional shots of their debut studio album TOKYO, the band teamed up with Leslie Kee, a Singaporean photographer and art director based in Japan. They also provided the soundtrack for THE INDEPENDENTS, a short movie by Kee featuring Yohji Yamamoto’s AW 2015 collection. The next few years saw them collaborating with Adidas on the music video of “Do Ya?” in 2019 and performing in RALPH LAUREN MARINE CLUB in Kanagawa a few months ago. “For me, fashion is not just [about] the clothes… it’s also about the flavor and culture. The main meaning [of fashion] for me is finding my style,” YU said. He described his personal style as “cool” and “sophisticated,” as demonstrated in his Instagram posts. On the other hand, SHUKI preferred comfort, with easy-to-wear fits being his go-to style. “Me and YU, we usually wear black,” he explained; coincidentally, both of them also wore black T-shirts during our call. As for their dream brand collaboration, the band had one firm answer: Yves Saint Laurent.

The Journey Continues

As I Don’t Like Mondays. enter the second decade of their career, we discussed what they’ve learned in the last 11 years. Over the years, the band recognized a change in their mindset. “This time, we try not to think too much,” YU said. “When we were in our 20s, we worked very hard and had a lot of worries. But now, we are calmer, and I think that’s an important trait to have.” The COVID-19 pandemic also affected the band’s approach to music. “For the last album [Black Humor], we had to make the songs during COVID-19. We’ve always had to perform live in front of people, but at that time, we couldn’t. So we had to create music not for live performances, but for listening indoors. It was tough, but it was really fun.”

Now that the band has created songs in various genres, they look forward to exploring methods and instruments they have yet to try in the past. “I personally feel like I haven’t tried [adding] some Japanese instruments into our songs,” SHUKI admitted, “but it’s so difficult because they can be too strong, so we need to know how to make it sound good. But I want to try it someday.” Meanwhile, YU would love to create songs inspired by jazz, as it is one of his favorite genres. “We haven’t really tried incorporating ‘50s and ‘60s jazz, so we would definitely like to try it,” he said.

With the opportunity of meeting fans in person coming back, the band finds touring as one of the most rewarding experiences in their career so far. “If we weren’t a band, we wouldn’t have the chance to meet people from around the world,” YU said. One memory they remember fondly was from this year’s Barcelona show. “There was a beautiful beach… with beautiful girls,” YU explained, chuckling at his own remark. “We also had lunch at a restaurant by the beach. The seafood was great. We were like, ‘Oh, this is like heaven!’”

The quartet has played for a lot of audiences, but there’s one particular country they wish to go to. “The States! New York, San Jose… the band has never been there, so we really want to go.” With everything they’ve learned from the last few months, they are ready for their next stops: the upcoming Japan tour and, perhaps, a second round of their world tour next year.

Parts of this interview have been edited for clarity.

Keep up with I Don’t Like Mondays. on Instagram and Twitter (X), and take a deep dive into their discography on Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music.

Looking for more Japanese artists to add to your playlist? Check out our exclusive interview with boy group Travis Japan here!