Translated by Erin Grace
Quruli paints a picture of “the things that tend to be overlooked.”
Quruli: the band whose B-side compilation “Boku no Sundeita Machi” (released in May) achieved their first #1 ranking on Oricon. Quruli’s new album, “Kotoba ni Naranai, Egao wo Misete Kure Yo,” is designed to make you re-consider the current state of pop music. With its simple 3-piece composition recorded in their hometown of Kyoto, this album is, according to Kishida Shigeru, “a low-specced train.” It’s not just that it has a special topic, or that the theme crosses and fuses genres (that’s to be expected from Quruli). Instead, when you see their music suddenly hit the charts, you come to recognize that, in a world of mediocre modern music, albums in which the artists having fun and playing freely are necessary. This is an album that’s quintessentially Quruli, full of a rebellious spirit at odds with their loose style.
(Interviewer: Akiatsu Kaneko; Photos: Kashiwai Mansaku)
We're artists and show-offs, so we perform for all of you, but we have to think of it as "for the world, and for others."
--Congratulations on reaching #1 on the Oricon ranking with “Boku no Sundeita Machi.” It’s very rare for a B-side to reach #1; what are your thoughts on it?
Kishida: We’re generally happy about it. We never thought we’d make it to #1. (laugh) It wasn’t a prize for working on it so long, but it felt that way.
--And what did you think, Sato?
Sato: I thought we were really lucky. (laugh) Back in the day when we had a release, people would say “Your album is coming out at the same time ‘this’ or ‘that.’” We had to listen to stuff like that for a long time. But this time I have no idea who else is releasing something. The week we hit #1 we were right in the middle of a tour, and we’d been talking about making the weekly #1 right before it happened. That’s what gave us the strength to perform well on the tour.
K: It was like getting a perfect score on a test, or taking first place in a race. I think our staffers were even happier than we were.
--Although the band’s predictions as to whether it could sell ran counter to the staffers’, were you aware of this relationship with them?
K: There's one way that you hope it turns out, and the book I'm reading by Yoro Takeshi [anatomist and philosopher] explains it perfectly, sort of like how Matsushita Konosuke [industrialist] said, "For the world, and for others." That is, at this point in history, young people don’t do this; everyone works for themselves. Everyone just works for their salary. We're artists and show-offs, so we do it for you all, but so that we don’t get full of ourselves we have to think of it as "for the world, and for others." We wrote songs like that, and we and the staffers both shared an awareness of that purpose.
K: Also, no matter how you slice it, we were in the right place at the right time. Just like the Power Rangers, it's not enough to be talented or to have power, right? Even if you have power, there are some people who work really hard with it and some that don't do anything with it. The Power Rangers were made of up all kinds of superhumans.
K: I think people who can work really hard are amazing, but they're not in the same position as people who can't work. And there's work that even people who can't work do, right? Anyone can work. When you overlook that, the structure begins to break down.
We’re very sensitive to the spirit of the times.
--So then, do you have more of a sense of leading or changing the Japanese music scene now than you did previously?
K: I think the feeling of leadership is stronger now. In terms of us changing it, I think people are doing things now that they didn’t used to. It’s not exactly that they’re playing around with the music. Before, if you did something, you felt like you were in the flow of things, but now even when you do something you want to make some suitable changes to it.
--So, for example, in the time period between “Antenna” (2004) and “NIKKI” (2005), rock bands were held in a high regard. And then three or four years later there was a huge increase in the number of young people forming rock bands. How do you feel about things like that?
K: That really hits the mark, but we tend to be pretty far ahead of the curve. We notice something and we do it pretty quickly. It’s not exactly adopting a new style of performance or developing new musical skills, but rather we’re very sensitive to the spirit of the times.
S: When we’re writing, it’s not like we have something clearly in mind before we begin, but rather new things that we’re thinking about, or we try out things that we’ve never done before. Even if you always write the same things, your band’s foundation is in the things that you can’t stop yourself from working on.
Art is gathering up and shifting the focus to the things that are easy to overlook.
--So then, let me ask you about your new album. “Kotoba ni Naranai, Egao wo Misete Kure Yo” is the single phrase that makes up the lyrics for “Mudai,” the first track. Why did you decide to convert this phrase into the title for the whole album?
K: There are all kinds of songs on this album. There's a scattered sense to them all, and this title was the closest to summarizing them.
--In my viewpoint, this album offers a point on the nature of communication. It’s good that you’re able to connect with many people at the same time using tools like Twitter, meanwhile the “person to person” world can be expanded through j-pop and guitar rock. In that way, it seems like your point of view is to focus on closer communication with family and neighbors.
K: Yeah. I don’t use Twitter, or even really understand it, but aren’t there a lot of things that are easy to overlook? Art is gathering up and shifting the focus to those things. But that’s our job, and before you being to write you just think “I’m an artist, and I have to write this kind of stuff,” and you look at things that are really far off and create many things with conceptual thoughts. You think that “this is fine how it is,” or “that is just how it’s done,” but isn’t that the nature of orthodox art? If you went to Africa, to the savannah, and saw the sun set, it would be wonderful, but that’s not how it is…
--You’re saying that there are things all around you, and if you change your point of view you’ll notice them.
K: Yes, exactly. Comparing communication in the past with Twitter, we’re now using a form of communication that allows anyone to put their ideas forward. It’s like everyone is walking around with beam sabers: there are people who are prone to fight, and because of that people will die. There are more people who can wield the power than have mastered it. Although it was originally simple, the simplicity has allowed the misuse of communication. This is something that’s really caught my attention, and that I’ve been thinking about a lot.
--There are a lot of people who are tied up by the tool.
K: And that, of course, is a threat to music and art. I watch YouTube like everyone else, and download music through iTunes, but they in themselves are far from artistic.