It was the first time I'd thought of it, so I was surprised
--"Sharp #" has been chosen to be the opening theme for "'Mobile Suit Gundam AGE' Asemu Arc." It's a song that conveys strong, earnest emotions. When and how did this song come to be?
Aoyama: We created it as an original song in July of last year. After that we added the orchestra, and after that we got the word about "'Mobile Suit Gundam AGE' Asemu Arc." The anime really suits the worldview of the song, which had a quick, strong feeling from the beginning. So rather than it feeling like we're using the anime as a pretext for the song, it feels like they let us write the song that we wanted to write. Until now we've tended to do music that does something really impressive with the instruments, like in "Merci Lou." But this time [Masuda] Mizuki gave us the theme of "emotions" right from the get go.
M: The impetus was that we saw The Birthday perform a song called "Ai de Nuritsubuse" at the Fuji Rock Festival (7/25/09). Chiba Yusuke [of The Birthday] took the stage. Abe Futoshi [a member of Chiba's previous band, three michelle gun elephant] had just died three days before. Chiba just said "This song is for my close friend, Abe Futoshi," and then played the song. It was of course a good song, but the emotions were so powerful, and it had a lot of energy. That's when I realized that it's important to consider how you want a song to impact your audience. It was important for us to make impactful music too, so in that moment I thought, "I want to write a song like this!" It was the first time I'd thought of it, so I was surprised.
Fujisaki: Mizuki was saying, "I want to do a song inspired by 'Ai de Nuritsubuse,'" and "I want to write a straightforward song," and "I want to write something that's totally new for Negoto." So even though we put everything we had into the arrangement, we were able to reassert our lyrics and our theme. We were finally able to create a song without getting lost. At first using "emotions" as our theme was just an experiment, but I thought it turned out really well.
Sawamura: For me, I really wanted to make sure to give it a sprinting feeling, but I wanted to include some more difficult drum work. If I had to say what, it would be snare and high hat and cymbals. I was also more particular about crafting the sound than I was about the arrangement itself.
A: When you listen to the orchestra that we pulled together, this song is the most simple and straightforward that we've done yet. It's filled with passion, and I feel like you get a sense of the cool spirit we're projecting. We wanted to use a new feeling to write a song that conveys our thoughts bluntly, so we started by writing the lyrics. We started with the phrase "Ai janai / Furenai / Tada hakanai negai deshita" ["It's not love / I feel nothing / It was just a fleeting request"] at the beginning, and I thought "This is the perfect way to start." It really expressed the situation I was in at the time.
--What situation was that?
A: It's not easy to explain. I was trying to get to the place where I wanted to be. I was thinking things like "I want to do this" and "I want to be kind to this person," and I wasn't sure if those kinds of emotions were love, or if I was just being conceited... But I realized that I just needed to get past it, and that I couldn't do anything but move forward. When we created "sharp #" last year, I started to think about what exactly Negoto is. From there, the sound and lyrics appeared naturally, so I think from now on I'm going to be focusing on what's good for the song.
You can't move forward, and some parts of your work won't be strong
--What was the answer you came up with when you asked yourself what Negoto is?
A: I think the answer to that is bigger than what you want to listen to... I was wondering how we wanted to convey our music. In 2011 we went on a tour, played at a festival, and tried some new things in our concerts. In the midst of that, rather than reflect on the band, we focused every ounce of our energy on facing the next challenge. That's what it was like at the time.
--What's with the "star" that you mention in the lyrics?
A: We liked the idea of using a "universe" word since before we wrote the song. In this case, "star" doesn't meant a celestial body that sparkles in the sky, it's something that's unobtainable unless you're willing to put yourself out there. It has the image of a strong spirit. There's also the lyrics "matataite" ["twinkle"], and the song itself is like a mass of energy. It doesn't just shine, it tears at your heart. It's fierce; it's something you can't reach without passion. That's the feeling.
--While you repeatedly say "Ano hoshi ni naritai" ["I want to be that star"], you clearly say at the end, "Shoutai ha ai shiyou" ["Let's love one another for who we truly are"].
A: That assertion is the central theme of the single. Until now, I've thought that it's lying to say something you're not sure about unless you say that you're not sure about it. Actually, there's a lot that I'm not sure about. That viewpoint is one way to think about it, but you can also come off looking stupid by not being firm about what you're trying to say. You have to be responsible about what you say, and there are risks, but if you can't be firm about what you're saying, you can't move forward and some parts of your work won't be strong. We put a lot of work into our music, so it's important for us to have courage in our lyrics, too. There were so many ambiguous lyrics before that now we're determined to write music with purpose.
--By looking at it that way, you were able to find a new outlook. Hearing you speak this way, I feel like Negoto has really matured, and that you're opening new doors. How did you decide on the title "sharp #?"
S: When Mizuki plays the opening swish swish swish on her guitar, the lines of the strings blur together and look a lot like the sharp sign (#). That's where the title comes from.
Masuda: There'd probably be a lot of black keys if we played it on piano. (laugh)
S: On top of that, the # symbol means "to raise the pitch by half a step." So I think another meaning is that we want to improve our music in the same way, even if it's just half a step at a time.
--I see. It's a very straightforward song, and you put everything you had into it. You need to have a lot of band unity for this song, don't you?
M: If we don't have solidarity in our performances, our music suffers. We want to convey something with this song, and although we grappled with the theme of putting your heart into something, we can't convey anything if we don't have unity. Even when we perform live, we all take a deep breath, as though to say, "Okay, GO!" (laugh) The way we work together is just amazing.
The first half of 2012 is an important turning point in the evolution of Negoto
--The B-side, "drop," has a comfortable melody, and feels like it exists in a different time from regular life.
M: This is a song we've had for about three years, and we just brushed it up. It's easy and has a little bit of a fantasy feeling to it, but this is the kind of song that we've always liked, so it's fun to perform and it always makes us feel good.
A: It's easy to think if imagery for this song, so we thought it would be best to use our original, romantic lyrics with words like "roadshow," "ring," and "lover."
--When I listen to it, the image that comes to mind is of sunset on a beautiful beach with the wind softly blowing. Did you have a specific image in mind when you wrote it?
M: We each had our own idea, but I imagined the wilds of Mongolia. A black-haired girl and boy wearing traditional red outfits are holding hands and spinning in a circle. (laugh)
F: For me it's European. I also think of the setting sun, and I wrote it thinking of something warm. But listening to you all talk, all kind of totally different images are coming to mind, and I think it's interesting.
S: For me, it's a city of glass. Everything is transparent, and I imagine walking through it. It goes out as far as the eye can see. Of course, there's nothing like that in Japan, and probably nothing like that on this planet. (laugh)
A: I also thought of a different country, but I think the image depends on the listener.
--You're releasing two editions of your CD, and on the third track of your regular edition you try your hands at cover of "Tonight" by The Cribs.
M: In our independent project "Orkuchi Pokaan?! Fes," we try do something every week to make the audiences' jaws drop. To that end, we tried performing as a group called "Nozo No Shuudan" for the opening act. (laugh) We started talking about doing a copy song for that group, a night-ish song, and this song was one of the contenders. We were originally a copy band, so we eventually started talking about doing a cover of it.
A: On the limited release, the third song is "sharp♯-tofubeats remix-." Tofubeats of course does dance music, and we can both do anime music. We wanted someone who could achieve a good balance with the remix, so we asked him. We're all also about the same age. We asked him to help us out, and what we got back was very interesting. (laugh) We also put "Charon" onto the Gundam version of the single. The people who know Negoto from Gundam might have heard "Charon" before, so we hope that they'll hear it and think, "Oh, this band!"
--You're going on tour in April and May. Tell us what you're excited about.
A: First in April we have "Student Only Battle of the Bands: Okuchi Pokaan?! Students Only Tour ~end of studenTOUR~." We're really excited for the battle of the bands, so we were like, "What do we play?!" (laugh) We felt like we wanted to play for people the same age as us. We really want people to come. After that, starting in May, we have our Tokyo/Nagoya tour, starting with our solo live at Shibuya AX, which we're really excited about. But the first half of 2012 is an important turning point in the evolution of Negoto, so we really want to give a good performance. After that we want to do better and better with each performance, have a good time with our fans, have an emotional experience, and come back home.