--We’re very interested to hear about your winning the “Senkou Riot 2008” Gran Prix prize, worth 1 million yen (~$12,000). (laugh) That’s $3000 per person. What do you plan to do with it?
Yuuki: Get new instruments. When we went into the contest, I was playing a $120 guitar. I’ve upgraded it to a $1200 one. The sound, the way it plays... Everything about it is different. (laugh)
Kazuki: And on top of that, my brother [Yuuki] stole my prize money and bought an effector. (laugh) I just bought a $725 snare.
Sakou: I bought a nice bass.
Iwai: I wasn’t in the band at that point.
--So when you were finally able to get your hands on the instruments you’d always dreamed of, did your passion for the band grow?
Y: It did. We all began to feel that the band was a priority.
--But you’d been writing your own original music. I’d think you were serious about it before then.
Y: We were. When we first started writing original songs, I think we all had the subconscious thought that we wanted to do the cool parts of the music that we liked. At the same time, we wrote our lyrics instinctively, expressing the things that pissed us off or made us happy.
--That was around 10th grade?
Y: Yeah, except that I straight-up didn’t go to school. (bitter laugh) Even when I went, my friends weren’t there and I’d just fall asleep on my desk. But elementary school was fun. I’ve been hanging out with my good friend Hitoshi [Sakou], and it was by playing in his garage that the band got started. That’s the place where I ran away to, where I was healed. It was also fun to connect with the other band members there.
--In other words, it became a very important place for the band. After you played at the “Senkou Riot 2008,” Iwai joined the band. Didn’t he tell you that your songs were lame? (laugh)
Y: Iwai was the vocalist and guitar for a different band called Guild, and he was just a tall guy, very cool. We met him later that the “Senkou Riot 2008.” He came over to us while we were playing our entry song, and said “That song’s lame.” He said, “It’s seriously annoying. I don’t want to have anything to do with it.” (laugh) He kept heckling us, saying things like “Look at this cheap guitar!”
I: I remember wanting to say that I liked the song. (laugh) But I’m shy, and I’m usually not the heckling type. I was able to play Galileo Galilei songs by ear, and I looked at everything from the guitar to the effector. (laugh) I loved them that much, and when I finally met them I felt like I just didn’t know what to do. (laugh)
Y: After that, once we understood where he was coming from, we got to be fast friends. I used to call him in the middle of the night and just open up about my problems being the frontman. One of those times I asked him if he’d join the band.
I: I immediately agreed.
Y: The shock of him joining, it was like if someone were to start playing a song that I had written and only I knew about. I was more convinced than ever that the band was the right way to go.
I: If I didn’t trust Yuuki as a frontman, I would never have joined the band. But even before I joined the band Yuuki’s lyrics and songs never betrayed me. I respect him so much, and there was no hesitation when it came to joining.
--And so, with these members, you had your major debut in 2010 and completed your first major album, “Parade,” in 2011. This album suits your style.
Y: This album is made up of music that we recorded and saved since before our “Yotsuba Sagashi no Tabinin” single; since we were in middle school. At that time, we were worried about a gap that we saw between ourselves and the world at large.
--You seem to be a more herbivorous* band.
Y: Yeah, like a pop band. We don’t dislike that music, but I don’t think we are that kind of music, either. Because we’ve played in multi-group lives, we often hear that our image doesn’t fit that style. Of course, we don’t have any particular message we want to get out there, so popularity has been more important to us from the beginning. But I want us to try music that’s more experimental. “Parade” is the “highlights” of the beginning of our career as we move forward to the next stage.
--There’s a taste of electronica in “Dou Demo Ii,” and we can already begin to see this new side of the band.
Y: We really wanted to try electronica. We’ve also been thinking that we can do post-rock, which stuck with us during our teens. Because of that, we came up with the concept of playing songs like those from the beginning of our career but on electronic instruments. That’s how we wrote “Frappi” and “Dou Demo Ii.”
--Even outside of those, there are many songs whose arrangement intentionally fuses a different flavor into the middle of the song. Even though you’re young, your songs are very enthusiastic.
Y: Thank you. We write a lot of songs during jam sessions. Everyone just does their thing. There are even songs where I don’t play guitar. There are even songs where I come in on the synth bass. My brother [Kazuki] does keyboards. Even though we all have our parts in the band, when it comes time to do the arrangement, we go into multiplayer mode.
I: When we jam it’s all just impulsive. When we arrange, we’re subtle. That’s how we coexist together
--Is the horn in “Wakanai” Kazuki on the synthesizer?
Y: No, that horn is a brass band from our hometown. My dad did it as a hobby when he came home from work, and I listened to their concerts a lot when I was in middle school, and I found that even I was interested in it. I was so happy to collaborate with them. We love Hokkaido, where we grew up, and even now there are times that we write our songs in Hitoshi’s garage.
--I’ve noticed that in interviews Sakou doesn’t say much, which is common for bassists. He can lay down a secondary melody and puts a lot of variation into each song.
S: People usually start playing the guitar first, and so they want to use phrasing on the bass too. (laugh) We wrote “Natsuzora” when I was a junior in high school, and I didn’t think too hard about my playing, and my phrasing just got kind of turned inside out. This is my quintessential summer song, feeling determined to have fun during the short summer. (laugh) But in “Yoru no Madobe to Yotsuba no Clover,” I played a violin bass in the studio and I felt like Paul McCartney from The Beatles. It’s melodious, but the phrasing is raw.
--Although the tempo of the drumming feels similar in each song, they’re all played with a different beat. It’s from being very particular about your drumming, isn’t it?
K: Exactly. When I was in middle school, I didn’t play anything but one beat, and it made my brother really mad. (laugh) After that, I didn’t want to play the same beats and phrases. I’m particular because of Yuuki. (laugh)
--It’s through your treatment of the band sound through your music and lyrics that you’ve created “life-sized” work that expresses the impatience and hope of young men going into their 20s.
Y: In terms of the sound, we’re always aiming high, but the lyrics emphasize the “now.” I’m not just singing about things that are important to me, but also things that are important to the other band members - to all of us.
I: I’ve always like the songs and melodies that Yuuki writes. They just go straight to my heart. I always think that, because he’s a guitarist, he’s able to write the music even more beautifully.
--Who are you dedicating this album to?
Y: Well, I wrote the music for everyone. I wrote the music like I was bouncing ideas off someone, and that someone can be anyone. I’m not trying to get sympathy, I just want to know people’s reactions.
--You say that you want to try your ideas out on people, and it’s like you were kidding about falling asleep at your desk in middle school and high school.
Y: I think that’ll add to our appeal. I think it expresses me. I like songs that are a little sad. I have other songs in me that are similar to “Dou Demo Ii” and “SIREN.”
* “Herbivorous” has become a slang term for young men who don’t fit the traditional stereotypes of being obsessed with money and sex. These young men are family-oriented and tend to be interested in “girly” pursuits like eating sweets.