“We don’t intentionally do the music we want for our lives, we do it intuitively.” (Furumura)
--I listened to this album, and I thought that it was an incredible peice of work where the band’s vigor and the depth of the music really shines through. When did you start work on it?
Mitsumura: We’ve been writing songs continually since around the time we concluded our Budoukan performance last year. We started talking about recording an album at the beginning of this year. We didn’t think about what kind of album, but instead we thought about which songs would be fun to play in a live. There were a lot of songs, and when it came time to add them to the album there were so many good ones that it was hard to pick.
--You were at the Budoukan in March 2010, so you had the condense the songs that you’d created over the past year.
M: The span of time since our previous album isn’t all that different from other times, but that year we were mainly working on the tour, so the amount of things to do was different than usual. So had new songs poking out all over the place. That made us really happy, and it really increased our confidence as a band. We were really proud because all of them were songs that showed we’d gotten really good.
--So you focused on songs that would be good in a live.
Furumura: We’d finished the first stage of the tour, and when we gathered up the songs that we had it was easy to break them up across the live. We don’t intentionally do the music we want for our lives, we do it intuitively. But I think we got even more deep into it this time than ever before.
--You felt that you had an even greater degree of performance freedom. This time you included a song by Sakakura [“Matryoshka”], and in many ways this is a perfect album.
Sakakura: I was really happy to have my song included, and I also think it’s very good for the band. In the middle of last year’s live, the drum and bass complimented each other perfectly, and I think we hit our stride. I think we’ve grown as a band with this album.
--It has energy and a strong sound, but it’s not because creating energetic music is your guiding principal. There’s a message in each song, and you dig deep for it.
M: I think the songs this time are very “real.” On our last album, “Aurora,” we took a very “writerly” approach the to writing and felt like we’d achieved something, but this time, in contrast, we tried writing from within ourselves. Because of that, I can put more into it when I sing, and the words come more clearly than on our previous albums. We were strongly aware of what the performance will be like live. You can’t just have the fans read the lyrics off a card in a live.
--The first song, “Rodeo,” is like a declartive statement for the whole album. The sound is like riding a mechanical bull, and the lyrics set that mood as well.
M: The concept for that song is, “What would it sound like if a Mexican mariachi band tried to play ‘My Sharona’ by The Knack?” From there, we hit on the idea of a Mexican/Arabian sound, and from there were went in the direction of a stateless sound. It was the first time in a long time that we’ve written such a strange song. But it has an exciting feeling, and it doesn’t feel like we’re overreaching ourselves, so it really feels like we’ve found our groove. We were writing music at the end of the year, so the staff didn’t think we’d be recording, but as a band we just thought “Now we really want to do an album!” and this is the number one song that we twisted their arms on.
F: Mitsumura and Tsushima wrote the first draft. When we were thinking about what to do with the guitar, we thought we’d try an Arabian sound. It was like we were testing ourselves, and we had fun creating it.
S: The theme for the rhythm section was also to give the feeling of a live. More than just playing accurately, Tsushima and I seemed to get into our own groove. No matter how many times we pre-processed, we worked together through the places that we didn’t understand and where we didn’t jive well, and we went through it a number of times.
M: On this album, more than those before it, the bass and drums really laid down their parts well. When we did the arrangement, their groove made up the “guts” of the band, so if they seemed to be getting a little too loose we’d stop right away. Sakakura would make faces (laugh), but we were really focused while we were recording, like we were weight training.
--”Mousou Taiin A” has powerful lyrics that give the impression of reality and fantasy mingled together.
M: We were going for a sound like “Erotica Seven” by Southern All Stars. Our generation was right in the middle of the mid-90s pop. I don’t know if there’s a trend in terms of themes right now, but we wanted to release stuff that shamelessly reflects our roots.
“Until now my ideas had been fragmentary, and this is the first time they took shape.” (Sakakura)
--Was [“Mousou Taiin A”] fun to perform?
F: It was. We played it according to our interpretation of the song, without diluting the impact of the music.
S: There were a lot of songs that we’d already completed the lyrics for, so we placed a lot of importance on the feeling of the song. We unified our image of the songs as a band, then we put that together with the lyrics and recorded.
--What what your image for the mysterious ballad “Kimi Dake?”
S: We kept using the phrase “insane love.” A one-sided love. I’ve been in that position myself, so I understood what it was about. (laugh)
--I think this is an experience that people everywhere can relate to. And it’s also very beautiful song.
M: More than just beautiful, it’s a scary love song. I don’t have a philosophy about love that would fit in with a shoujo manga; I wrote a love song about the way love is, like a tightrope walk. Even when we were doing the arrangement and figuring out the instrumentation, we wanted the song to feel cold.
--From the beginning, Nico Touches the Walls has had a strong UK flavor, but this album also includes country elements with “Page 1,” some American flavors, some Arabian sounds, and there are all kinds of other styles to accent it. Were you specifically looking to break out of your style?
M: We weren’t really looking to break out of our style so much as it just happened before we noticed it. We recorded in the fervor that comes with the end of a live, and when we listened to it afterwards we realized that it was different from our previous work. We really felt like our songs and our band had come alive.
--“Matryoshka,” the song that Sakakura wrote, is a solid rock song that would sound great in a live.
S: Until now my ideas had been fragmentary, and this is the first time they took shape. I think it really suits the band.
“We want people to take strength from this album’s positive energy.” (Mitsumura)
M: It’s fashionable to to do songs with a connection to UK dance, and we’ve been doing it since before we went major, so we don’t feel like we don’t have to do it anymore. But Sakakura’s song is direct and strong, so we decided to give it direct lyrics, too.
--Mitsumura wrote “Yuujou Sanka” when he was a senior in high school, but it doesn’t feel out of place on the album.
M: If it weren’t for this song, we wouldn’t have “Matryoshka,” or “Rodeo” or “Mousou Taiin A.” I think this song is the root of them all. Even when we play it live, we have fun.
--The final song on the album is the title song, “Passenger.” What are you trying to convey with it?
M: From the very beginning, we wanted the title of this album to be a word that combined “passion” and “messenger.” It’s meant to convey our enthusiasm and feelings. I think that all of our thoughts and feelings about music are packed into this final song, leaving nothing out.
--I think this song is very direct in terms of the singing and music.
M: While doing our tour in the Budoukan last year, we made the resolution to “live within the music.” So I wanted to sing as though I really was living within the music. I want people to listen to our songs, but this past year I unconsciously tried to leave a part of myself in them.
F: I think Mitsumura made the lyrics very plain, and it’s easy to see in the lyrics the things we did and thought about over the past year. Since we so intimately understand it, it’s easy to perform.
S: When we did our final recording, we liked this song better than any of the others. We even like the lyrics best. When I listen to it on my headphones, there are parts that make me cry. It’s a personal song, which gives it universality.
--And you’ll be going on tour again starting in April.
M: We were able to create an album that focused all the energy from last year’s lives, so we want to do a tour to pick up the feedback energy from our fans. We want to thank everyone for giving us everything it took to create an album of this caliber. We want people to take strength from this album’s positive energy.