Otenki is the best Houston band you've never heard of, according to guitarist Enoma Asowata. This could be true; we had heard the name thrown around but had never seen them live or knew much about their music. Despite this fact, they've used social media and large-scale festivals like Warped Tour to establish a wide-range of fans from the different parts of the world.
The online activity got the attention of Billboard Music, who asked them to participate in a nationwide contest with seventeen other bands competing to perform live at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas on May 22.
Otenki made it to the final three for the Southwest region and fans have until Friday, April 8, to cast their votes. Band members have been spending a substantial amount of time on the internet, urging their fans to vote as many times as they can.
We met Asowata at a Starbucks last Sunday to talk about the contest and ended up chatting about the band's long career, upcoming projects, and the pop rock bands he gravitated towards in high school. Much of the band's influences come from bands like Further Seems Forever and Jimmy Eat World. We always assumed that this strain of music was buried in 2003 with our last FSF album purchase, but Otenki has worked with big names in the industry to prolong the genre; specifically, producer James Paul Wisner, who helped launch the careers of Paramore, FSF, and Dashboard Confessional.
"When we walked into James' house studio in Florida, the first thing I saw was the Further Seems Forever plaque on his wall," Asowata told Rocks Off.
Wisner produced the band's most recent EP, KINETIC, which has a tentative release date of May 3. Depending on the group's advancement in the contest, they may wait to release the EP or expand upon the 5-song set for an LP. No matter what the results of the contest are, Asowata has been plotting his next move.
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"I'm always thinking about what's next," he said.
The band is competing against a female-fronted Dallas band and an Austin electronic duo. If Otenki wins, they plan to document their trip to Vegas. Before they can perform at the Billboard Awards, they'll have to compete with the other five winning groups in a "battle of the bands" event.
Fans can vote as many times as they wish. Otenki wants to give back loyal fans who have been sitting at their jobs, ceaselessly voting throughout the day.
"We talk to our fans all day long," Asowata said. "we're on Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace, doing it for the fans."