Eir Aoi is something of a newcomer to the Japanese music scene, but with two singles charting in the Oricon Top 10, she's certainly an artist to watch for. Aoi gave a stirring performance at Sakura-Con this year, performing favorites from her hit debut album, "BLAU." The next day Aoi sat down with the press to discuss her creative process, the artists that inspire her, and some surprising hobbies.
Q: Last night at your concert, a lot of people seemed to enjoy the Madoka Magica opening song, your collaboration with Haruna Luna. What made you pick the songs you sang last night and would you consider doing more collaborations in the future?
EA: I come from the same place in Japan as ClariS, and I have a lot of respect for them as artists. I hope we can do more collaborations like that in the future.
Q: Each vocalist has a specific routine that they follow during recording. What sort of things do you do to feel inspired before you record?
EA: First I pump some iron - I always work out a lot. The abs are really important to singing, so I work out, I rest a lot, get plenty of sleep the night before, and drink a lot of water. I try to imagine what the world the song is trying to depict, then I work out, and then I go to the recording.
Q: How did you feel when you found out you were performing in America?
EA: I think I was a little nervous before my first [American] live, but the people here in Seattle are really, really passionate fans. It allowed us to have a lot of fun, so I think that the fun outweighed the nervousness, which was really great.
Q: How have you evolved over time?
EA: Before my initial debut, I always thought about pitch and how I have to hit those notes, but after I sang more and did more live performances I realized singing is a method of expression so I think it comes down to communication. I want to communicate something: there’s a message that has to be delivered, so I try and entertain the audience, and I try to get closer to them and communicate.
Q: How does it feel to have two top-ten singles so early in your career?
EA: Quite honestly, I did not expect that to happen. It was completely beyond [what I expected] and I was very surprised. It was an unreal, surreal feeling that my singles were up there on the top ten charts. But now I realize that the only reason that could happen is because there are a lot of fans who support me. I would like to give something back to them, and give something back to everyone that’s supported me.
Q: What do you like to do to relax when you’re not singing? Any hobbies?
EA: Games (panel laughs). I play on 360, PS3, PSP, DS... I love all the consoles, but if I had to say there was one sort of genre that I really get into, it’s online games.
Q: What type of online games?
EA: Mainly FPSs (panel gasps). “Left 4 Dead,” “Gears of War” (although “Gears of War” is technically not an FPS), and “Call of Duty” are some titles I spend a lot of time playing.
Q: Now that you’ve worked in anime, is it something you’re eager to continue with? Is there any particular anime you’d like to work on in the future? What is your passion for music?
EA: Ever since kindergarten I’ve really been supported and inspired by anime, so I’m really happy to be here now working on these anime songs, and I think I’d like to continue in the pursuit of working together with anime. And I also want to work really hard to have as many people overseas hear my music.
Q: Are there any artists, either Japanese or American, who you would like to collaborate with?
EA: In Japan, it’s really humbling, but I’d like to collaborate with Mizuki Nana, Nakagawa Shoko, or Hirano Aya. I really love rock so, if I had to choose a Western band to do a collaboration with it would be Linkin Park.
Q: When creating a song, do you try to read as much source material as possible so that [the song] will fit with the worldview [of the anime], or do you go towards a more general feeling?
EA: So, like you said, a lot of [songwriting happens] in a pre-anime phase. The anime doesn’t quite exist yet, so I try to read as much of the original work as possible. I try to imagine what the characters’ expressions would look like in this world, and I try to imagine what the world would look like. And because I also write lyrics, I want to capture the feelings these characters have while they’re going through these stories. So I read it, I imagine it, and I try and use it to inform my performance.
Q: What has it been like starting out as an anime fan and then doing work that contributes to anime?
EA: When I was a fan I really didn’t think about this kind of stuff because I was just the consuming side, but as I began to work more on the creation side of the spectrum I really thought about what I wanted to express what feedback I wanted to inject into the medium. I have to carefully choose every word in the lyrics because maybe sometimes this word will carry a different meaning and will help me express a certain emotion better than other words, so it’s a really difficult process. And again, even with the [music], maybe this section should be a lot softer because that’s a better way of expressing a certain scene or emotion. A lot of times I talk to the director and give him my suggestions as well and say, “Hey, maybe we should try it this way.” It’s been really fun, and honestly I think anime has again taught me a very important lesson.
Q: Have you ever been recognized on the street anywhere? If so, how do you react?
EA: There was one time in the past where I had to go to Akihabara to purchase this brand new game that came out. My album had come out on January 30th, so there was actually a really big sign that had an advertisement with my image on it. So I thought it would be really interesting if I just kind of hung around it (panel laughs). But no one noticed me, so I began to eat a crepe in front of it but still no one found me, so I think I really need to work harder in the future (panel laughs).
Q: With both of your successes with Fate/Zero and Sword Art Online, what other series are both of you aiming to contribute your voice to?
EA: I personally love fighting; anything that has fighting in it, whether it be games or anime. So Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon - they all have an element of intensity and fight, so I really hope that I’ll be able to work on projects in the future that have more fighting in them.
Q: If you’d had the chance to work on Accel World, would you?
EA: I would love to, yes. I’m a big fan of ALTIMA’s music as well, so whenever I listen to the music from Accel World it really excites and energizes me.
Q: Are there any American or Western artists that have influenced your work?
EA: Slipknot, Evanescence, and Marion Raven (she might be a little minor). This is my father’s influence, but I sang a lot of Whitney Houston at karaoke when I was younger, so I think there’s a bit of influence there. And while I was coming over here I watched an Eminem music video. I think that kind of sums it up.
Check back later in the week for our live report from the joint concert!
This interview was conducted as a press conference and could not have been done without the collaboration of several other press outlets including (but not limited to) Japanator, Cosplay Victoria, Japan-A-Radio, SUTORAIKUanime, and, of course, the Sakuracon staff.