Monday, November 21, 2005

Missing Shows

I’m going back to LA for Thanksgiving, and that’s going to cause me to miss a few great shows while I’m away from Tokyo.

The event that’s going to make me most sorrowful about not attending is the second memorial show for the late Takayuki Fukumura on November 26, featuring advantage Lucy, Vasallo Crab 75, and Three Berry Icecream. All three are wonderful bands. I’ve written many times about guitar pop bands Lucy and Vasallo; Three Berry is the unit of female accordionist and singer Mayumi Ikemizu, formerly of Bridge. About ten bands that had worked with Fukumura played at last year’s show, which went all night. This year’s show at the Club Que in Shimokitazawa will feature only the above three bands, but word has it that one band will morph into another, the musicians from one joining another and then leaving.

Oh how I wish I could be there… Really, if you are in Tokyo, have the time, can afford it, and like this sort of music, you owe it to yourself to catch this show!

Another show that will pass me by is that of SGT, Hullabaloos and a couple of other groups at the Que on November 28. SGT is a friend’s band (he told me what the name stands for, but it escapes me now…), and is spirited, hard rock. Hullabaloos is the solo unit of the beautiful-voiced male singer of Sakanobolt, a band I saw a while ago and have been wanting to see again but is now 'taking a break'.

And then there is Caraway and more guitar pop goodness at the Ikebukuro Live Inn Rosa the next day, on November 29. Caraway is led by Osamu Shimada, the guitarist for Swinging Popsicle, one of my favorite Japanese pop bands.

There are probably other knock-out events scheduled while I’m away, but I’m going to avoid looking at Tokyo Gig Guide and Pia magazine show listings for that period so I don’t get depressed. But if you are in town, the three shows above should all be fun.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Orange Plankton At Roots; Changes

Orange Plankton’s show at Koenji Club Roots on Friday night, their first Tokyo performance in several months, made me think about how everything changes, how nothing stays the same. For the last few months the pop quartet was, musically, recharging their batteries: writing songs, practicing, trying out new things, without having to worry about gigs. At the Friday show, I could see that the rest period benefited them. They played a few new good songs (though I missed one because I arrived late), and bassist Tsuji was experimenting with playing a fretless bass and an acoustic guitar, giving more variety to the band’s sound.

What was more striking to me, and what caused me to think about how things change, is what I heard from the band members over drinks after the show. They said that each member now spends most of his or her time working on music alone, and they only meet to rehearse about once a week. Each is also doing more music away from the band: pianist Yuki playing as a guest performer for another band, for example, and singer Yumi writing and recording a song on her own for a TV program. Which isn’t anything unusual for an average band, but with Orange Plankton, it’s a change. I remembered when I first became friendly with the band members about two years ago, about the time I interviewed them, I was impressed to learn that they left free the hours between five in the evening to midnight every night for band related activities like practice and meetings. They were always together at night. Now they were more independent.

Another change, or more exactly, a possibility of change, is that it sounds like the band is on the verge of achieving bigger success. They have already done some songs for TV commercials, which help expose their music to a larger audience. Now there appears to be a possibility that they would release something on a major label. And what struck me most of all is that Yumi said there’s a chance the band might open a show at the Budokan! To put that in perspective, while the Budokan isn’t the biggest concert hall in Tokyo, it’s certainly the most prestigious. All big name musicians play there. I mean, the Beatles played the Budokan! For an indie band to tell you they will be performing at the Budokan is like having a friend who drives a Honda Civic tell you he’s buying a Bentley next.

It’s not clear if that show or the major label recording will come to pass, but I’m sure the band will give it their all to make those things happen, and I don’t know what they will do if they are unsuccessful. Theoretically, musicians can stay in an indie band forever, doing marginal jobs and playing at small venues, but I’m not sure if Orange Plankton would be happy with that. And, though usually I hate going to shows at huge halls like the Budokan, if it were Orange Plankton I’d be willing to line up at Pia in the morning like everyone to buy tickets, because they are great and deserve the success and it would be wonderful to see them at a place like that. Sure, unlike now, I probably wouldn’t be able to hang out with them after gigs, but at the least I’d be able to brag that I knew them when they were recording great indie albums in a small apartment.


Orange Plankton, which plays gorgeous, somewhat jazzy piano pop, seems to often end up playing at extremely eclectic shows, with bands that are nothing like them. Once I saw them on the same bill as a sort of death rock/noise group. Another time they performed with an idol wannabe girl band that was an otaku magnet.

Tonight, after their show a break beat hiphop duo called Osaka Guerrilla Beatniks hit the stage. These guys have the most super-fantastic band name I’ve heard of in a long time, and they also did a memorable thing right before their last song. The rapper said before they finish, he’d like to read a poem. He then whipped out a copy of Kenji Miyazawa’s collected poems, and recited some Miyazawa verse. I was surprised because the poem was sort of Marxist in content: we will all become one and rise together, that sort of thing. Miyazawa is famous for his dream-like children’s tales, but considering the era in which he wrote (in the early 20th century), when Marxism was a major intellectual movement in Japan, and considering his poverty, I thought maybe it wasn’t surprising he wrote communist-sounding poems.

The rapper read this poem as his sidekick strummed beatnik like-notes on an electric bass. It made me wish I had on a beret and a black turtleneck, clicking my fingers to the verse.


Foreigners, and especially Americans, often complain about Japanese pizza. Mayonnaise, chocolate and other foodstuff just do not belong on the top of a pizza pie, they say. I don’t care either way (and think some of the mayo pizzas aren’t bad), but I thought the pizza that was served at the after-show party would have horrified these pizza purists.

It was an “Okinawa”-style pizza. The toppings: corn; goya, or bitter melon, the bumpy green fruit that, as the name suggests, is very bitter; and that Okinawan favorite, spam! Was pretty good, actually.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ex-Clicks To Be In New Bands

The guitarist and drummer of the Clicks, the great Japanese girl rock trio that split up earlier this month, have decided to form a new group called--newbie! They haven't made any songs though. Meanwhile, the bassist, Chiharu, says she will also be in a new band, but she will make a formal announcement on it next year. All of this info is from the Clicks' BBS.

I don't know what kind of intra-band drama led to two girls starting one band and the third girl getting into another, and I'm not sure I want to know, but it's good to hear they will all stay active in the music scene. (By the way, you can now sample all of the Clicks' energetic, straightforward rock songs on, here, and you can buy the song downloads too. Also check out Mix Market, another good K.O.G.A. Records band, while you are there.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Tokyo Pinsalocks At In The City

Thursday night, I went to a free show at the Shibuya Take Off 7 and there saw an amazing band called Tokyo Pinsalocks that made me both ecstatic and filled with mild despair.

Ecstatic, because I’d seen a lot of Japanese bands and was starting to feel that not much could surprise me, but then this all-girl quartet appeared and completely blew me away, making me realize there was a lot of great, unexplored music still out there.

Mild despair, because discovering them also made me think I’d never be able to see all the wonderful bands in Japan, that I’d always miss some group or another. The Tokyo music scene is like a huge, ever-changing organism, and no matter how many nights I go out or how many CDs I buy, I will only see bits and pieces of the whole.

I’d already known about Tokyo Pinsalocks because I saw film footage of one of their shows in a DVD called Indies Rock Vol. 4 Dramatic Girl. I wrote about this DVD before, and can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who likes Japanese indie rock. Not only does it include bands I'm already big fans of such as advantage Lucy, Condor 44 and School Girl ’69, but it’s also turned me on to groups I didn't know about, like Limited Express (has gone?), and, now, the Pinsalocks.

The Pinsalocks' live show was one of those happy shocks I experience every once in a while in Tokyo, like the first time I saw Orange Plankton or Pop Chocolat or Limited Express. The band creates a distinct musical world on stage. Singer Naoko, with long braided hair, reminded me somehow of a Balinese dancer: maybe it was her bright, flowing hippie dress, or the intense focus of her eyes, or her jerky dance moves. But her singing was pure cute Japanese girl pop.

The band says they were influenced by a wide variety of artists including Bjork, Kraftwerk, and a Japanese band called Super Junky Monky (who I’ve never heard of), and their music was eclectic too. At times Naoko played organ sounds on her synthesizer, and the band as a whole created psychedelic music like the Doors, though played by four attractive Japanese girls rather than American men. At other times she made beep-y, piko piko sounds with her synthesizer, and the rest of the band accompanied her with hard rocking parts. It was a cool combination of musical styles, and inspired me to rush over to their merchandise table immediately after the show to buy their first full-length album, rhythm channel (pictured above). At the table, Naoko autographed the CDs and shook hands with fans. I’ve listened to the album a few times, and it’s outstanding.

Smashing Mag has a lot of nice live photos of Tokyo Pinsalocks here.


The show was free because it was part of a multi-night event called In The City, which has been going on for a few years, and is meant to showcase up-and-coming Japanese bands. The shows, taking place at several clubs in Shibuya, are produced by influential people in the indie scene, like the owners of K.O.G.A. Records and Club Que in Shimokitazawa. One of my recent Japanese band favorites, The Kitchen Gorilla, played one night, but, sadly, I missed that event. All you have to do to get in is to pick up the tickets at Tower Records, and contrary to my expectations, you don’t even have to pay for one drink as you usually have to do when you enter a club (though I ended up buying something to drink anyway, two drinks, to be exact).

However, reading over the In The City pamphlet, I found out that these shows weren’t, strictly speaking, free. Whenever you buy recording media like disks in Japan, part of the amount of money you pay is supposed to go to musicians whose music you record, but since it’s impossible to keep track of whose music is being recorded, some of that money is put into a fund. That money is then used for things that supposedly benefit the music community as a whole, such as music events that introduce new artists like In The City, the pamphlet said.

So, in fact, I paid at least some money already for this event by buying things like mini-disks and CDs.

There’s no such thing as a free show, I guess.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 On Nomiya Maki Show

A nice review of ex-Pizzicato Five singer Nomiya Maki's record release party show is up on Many of Patrick's references to post-Shibuya-kei (?) artists went over my head, but I found I enjoyed just imagining what these guys with wacky names are like. For example:

Then p&art sasanoooha came on stage, dancing around wearing their superb "panda blousons" and playing with three large panda heads, for their song odoru "oshare techō". After a quick costume change, Oui Oui appeared, and sang their great cover of tATu's Not Gonna Get Us, which fit perfectly with the Oui Oui concept. Next, Akagi Tadaharu (ex-Films) joined Maki to sing the Yamo (Kraftwerk)-produced Yamate Line. Then appeared a few surprising dancers in white KKK-ish outfits, later to reveal themselves as girls of Romantica (and their undies as well), while Maki sang Kiss' I Was Made For Lovin' You.

Monday, November 07, 2005

advantage Lucy In Osaka

I’ve been wanting to visit Osaka for a while, so when Tokyo pop band advantage Lucy said they will go there on a one-band tour I decided to tag along.

Osaka, in my mind, is Japan’s number-two city. Yokohama is Japan’s second biggest city population-wise, but it’s right next to Tokyo and is basically just an extension of the giant metropolis. Osaka, on the other hand, has its own character and a long history as a merchant’s town.

Of course, Osaka locals might counter that it is their city and not Tokyo that is Japan’s top city, Tokyo being nothing but a heartless, upstart urban desert. And in truth, there are people out there that truly love Osaka and would never think of moving to Tokyo. I myself only had a few hours to spend in the city in between advantage Lucy’s show, and got just the smallest feel for what the appeal of this place is. I had time to make only the most feeble observations, such as: people stand on the right on escalators rather than on the left as Tokyoites do; many shops have huge, brightly-colored displays of sea creatures like octopus, squid, crab and poisonous blow fish on their facades; people walk fast and talk loudly; a female fashion fad is to wear boots with tiny, almost illegal-looking mini-skirts (this could be fashionable in Tokyo too, but I’m pretty sure I would have noticed if it is); and so on.

One other thing I noticed was that Osaka has great music audiences. The Lucy show was at a club called Live Square 2nd Line, which is located literally right below a railroad bridge, and I had about as much fun there as I’ve ever had at a Lucy show.

The thing that got me was the totally positive vibe of the audience, starting with the huge cheer that erupted when the show began, the non-stop dancing, and the general fun that everyone seemed to have. Tokyo crowds enjoy themselves too at Lucy shows, but they are more subdued in the way that they express their joy, possibly because they have more chances to see Lucy shows, and maybe also because Tokyoites are more self-conscious and shy because many of them are originally from regional prefectures. Whereas, people in Osaka grew up there and feel more sure of themselves, and feel fine with cheering if that’s what they feel like doing.

Whatever the reason was for the crowd’s abundant show of enthusiasm, it was a pleasure to be part of it. As in the Tokyo show I wrote about earlier, advantage Lucy played for more than two hours, doing both songs from their new album Echo Park and their older songs. One guy at the very front hopped in place energetically during all the faster songs. He’s apparently a legend among Osaka Lucy fans because he’s always at their shows, is always at the very front, and always does his hopping. (It reminded me of a video of an early advantage Lucy show I saw where about a dozen people in the front center sort of pogo-ed to the songs, like people used to do at the very beginning of punk rock. It was like some happy, peace-loving version of a mosh pit.) After the show, he came up to each Lucy member and shook hands, and didn’t let go of their hands for an extended period, like a person in some country where the handshake is something that takes a long time.

advantage Lucy

Every few minutes a train would pass right above and a rattling sound would fill the club, sometimes during the quieter songs. I didn’t mind it, but the band thought it was noisy and even lost their rhythm at one point because of it.

Harvey of OtsumamiMusic was also at the show, his first time seeing Lucy live, and has written a very nice report on it. Check it out!

Both the Tokyo and Osaka shows had lively, happy crowds, but several sources, including my friend Dr. I, have told me that the most impassioned advantage Lucy fans during this three-city tour were at the show in Nagoya. The crowd asked for and got three encores from the band, and at the end the band and audience kept on saying ‘thank you’ to each other over and over again. I wish I could have seen it.

After the Osaka show I went out with the band to a place that served delicious raw chicken (you can only eat it raw if it’s as fresh as can be), and there the musicians said again that they wished the tour wasn’t over and that they could do more shows. Earlier, singer Aiko had repeatedly said that on stage too. As a fan I shared their wish.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

INTERVIEW: Spangle call Lilli line

From left, Ken Fujieda, Kana Otsubo and Kiyoaki Sasahara of Spangle call Lilli line

I recently had a chance to interview Spangle call Lilli line, the brilliant Japanese rock trio that this year released two new albums, Trace and For Installation. There was much to talk about with these three musicians. For one thing, the band made a major change in its musical style with Trace, going from long and luxuriant post-rock-like songs to almost danceable pop numbers in the new album, and I was curious to know what was behind this move.

Spangle is also an interesting band because its three members all have separate full time creative careers: singer Kana Otsubo is an illustrator, guitarist Ken Fujieda is a graphic designer, and the other guitarist, Kiyoaki Sasahara, is a photographer. Why do they continue with this artistic double-life? I wanted to ask them about that.

The band members, in person, were friendly and talkative. In fact, many questions I asked caused them to launch into rap sessions in which they joked, poked fun at each other, came up with involved metaphors, moved far in their talk from the original question and generally had a lively conversation with lots of laughter. These are musicians who really get along with each other. At times I’d almost wonder whether they might have forgotten about my presence because they became so immersed in their talk. But, at the same time, I was happy to be able to hang out with them for more than an hour. I’m not Rockin’ On magazine, after all, and this is a popular band. That didn’t stop Spangle from telling me fascinating stuff about themselves.

JAPAN LIVE: Can you talk about the beginnings of Spangle call Lilli line? What led to the band being formed?

OTSUBO: The two of us (Otsubo and Fujieda) met each other by chance at a live house, and we said we should start a band.

FUJIEDA: Yes, we ran into each other at a live house [a rock club]. We hadn’t met in a while, and we had a lot of time on our hands [laughs], and since we met at a live house we decided we should start a band. And we thought two people wouldn’t be enough for a band, and he (Sasahara) had just quit the band that we went to see, and had time, so, in 1999, the three of us started playing in a band together.

JAPAN LIVE: Which live house was it?

FUJIEDA: It was the Shibuya O-Nest.

JAPAN LIVE: When the band got its start in 1999, what sort of music did you want to play, and who were your influences?

FUJIEDA: To tell you the truth, there was nothing at all! Truly, no concept.

SASAHARA: No plan.

FUJIEDA: No, no plan. We just wanted to go into a rehearsal studio and have guitar sounds come out of the amp, or sing songs using a mike, that was the level we were at, and we didn’t think at all about what sort of band we should be or what our sound should be like. Usually, people get together because they have some sort of music they like in common, but in our case we knew each other from college and were the same age, and because we all went to the same art school we felt we would share the same sort of sensibility.

OTSUBO: We didn’t ask each other about preferences.

FUJIEDA: Yeah, we didn’t ask about the sort of bands or music each likes—

OTSUBO: Because we were friends—

FUJIEDA: We were friends, so we thought everyone would have decent taste, and for the first year or so nothing happened. We didn’t plan to release a CD, or do a show, we just wanted to get together over weekends and it was a way to vent stress.

JAPAN LIVE: How then did you become a band that makes albums and plays shows?

OTSUBO: A year went by, and I had been playing drums the same time that I sang, but that was getting tiring, so we decided to find a drummer. We got Kabasawa (Nobuyuki), who was a friend of all three of us, to join the band, and when we jammed, suddenly our whole sound changed.

FUJIEDA: It showed how bad the drumming was until then [laughs]. All of the sudden, we saw a shape (of how the band should be).

OTSUBO: Yes. It was moving.

JAPAN LIVE: But it’s very surprising you didn’t have an idea about what you wanted the band to be like when you started.

FUJIEDA: If it had been like, let’s do jazz, or let’s do punk, it wouldn’t have been so hard for us. We’re always asked now what we want to do, what sort of music in what genre we want to do, but we still don’t really know, so we make some sounds, bit by bit—

SASAHARA: And move forward—

OTSUBO: And stumble back [laughs]—

SASAHARA: We see whether we can walk across a place or not, and if we sink we go back, and we try climbing mountains, or go to the sea…

JAPAN LIVE: So you see (making music) as a nature thing?

ALL THREE: Yes, a nature thing!

SASAHARA: Like a child of nature—

OTSUBO: We might pick up a mushroom—

SASAHARA&OTSUBO: And get sick eating it—

FUJIEDA: Or get high [laughs]. But there’s really a lot of wasted work involved.

JAPAN LIVE: Your new albums Trace and For Installation are two very different works, and both are also very different from the previous albums like Or.

FUJIEDA: Basically we don’t want to do the same things, but our true essence doesn’t change, and the rest is a matter of what sort of format (the album) will be, or what style, or what texture, or sound quality.

JAPAN LIVE: What is the “true essence” of Spangle call Lilli line?

FUJIEDA: Probably, the pure thing that doesn’t change is Otsubo’s melody and singing, or, rather, voice, and whether we play acoustic music or minimalistic electronic music or more band sound type music, we are always trying to make Otsubo’s singing come alive.

SASAHARA: Since it’s the same people (making the music), what comes out, like the smell of sweat, doesn’t change, whether or not you put perfume on it. You still like hamburgers, whether you prepare it Japanese style, or put demi-grasse sauce on it.

FUJIEDA: You really like hamburgers.

JAPAN LIVE: I like your metaphors.

FUJIEDA: He explains everything by metaphors.

OTSUBO: They are easy to understand.

SASAHARA: But I’ve been trying to talk without using metaphors, recently.

FUJIEDA: Because everyone makes fun of you for that [laughs].


JAPAN LIVE: The song lyrics that Otsubo writes are unique, and are almost surreal. How do you get the inspiration for your lyrics?

OTSUBO: When I start out with a song, I sing words that are somewhere between English and Japanese, and ultimately I change those words into Japanese. At that point, I look through the dictionary, or when I listen to what I sang I think ‘this is what it sounds like’ and write that down, or I make up new words. There isn’t really that much meaning (to the lyrics), but sometimes I think somewhere in my memory, for example if I have some memory about this cup [pointing to a black and white cup on the table], I would include the colors black and white in the lyrics, or, if I have memories about a shoe, I think I actually include fragments of that memory, or experience, in my lyrics.

JAPAN LIVE: So in writing your lyrics, you think about both the sound of the words and mental images?

OTSUBO: Yes, I mix both of those. I also want to highlight Japanese words that aren’t used often. It’s a sort of kindness [laughs]. It’s as if, by using in my lyrics Japanese words that don’t usually see the light of day, I’m telling people, look, there are Japanese words like these.


JAPAN LIVE: What is the meaning of the band name “Spangle call Lilli line”? Did you come up with it based on how it sounds?

FUJIEDA: Yes, it was chosen 100% based on how it sounds.

SASAHARA: Grammatically, should it actually be “calls”?

FUJIEDA: What do you mean, “grammatically”?

SASAHARA: Spangle calls—

JAPAN LIVE: The ‘call’ in Spangle call is the verb ‘call’?

SASAHARA: Yes. Spangle is calling Lilli line [said in Japanese].

FUJIEDA: It doesn’t come out that way in English.

SASAHARA: Is ‘Spangle’ a singular noun?

JAPAN LIVE: Yes, I guess so.

SASAHARA: So I guess it should be ‘calls’.

JAPAN LIVE: I thought the name was all nouns.

FUJIEDA: Yeah, I think that’s probably what people would think. But the name is all words that Otsubo likes the sounds of, lined together.

JAPAN LIVE: What’s ‘Lilli line”?

OTSUBO: I wanted (the characters) ‘Li’ to be repeated a few times.

FUJIEDA: That’s what it’s about?

OTSUBO: I like girl’s names like Lily. And I like the word lily, as in tiger lily, so I wanted to include ‘Lily’ in the band name.


JAPAN LIVE: You all have full-time creative jobs separate from the band. Why did you decide to do both?

FUJIEDA: That’s a difficult issue.

SASAHARA: It wasn’t an intentional thing.

FUJIEDA: We wanted this to be an After Five thing—

SASAHARA: Like a drinking party. We started this as if we were just going to get lunch or something—

FUJIEDA: The music started out as break from work, but then little by little the importance of the music part became bigger, so that now they [the music and full-time jobs] are starting to look about equal in importance. But, after all—

OTSUBO: To us, things haven’t changed.

FUJIEDA: It’s like a hobby.

SASAHARA: It’s not different from going traveling, or going skiing.

FUJIEDA: Although I hate traveling and skiing [laughs]. Even in my hobbies outside of work, I need to be making something. I need to be productive.

OTSUBO: In that sense, I guess being in a band works, because we’re making things.

FUJIEDA: Right. It’s at the same time a great way to vent stress, but also a creative thing—

SASAHARA: We create something that remains.

FUJIEDA: Yes, we create something that remains. Nothing remains after you go traveling.

OTSUBO: Well, how about photos?

SASAHARA: Or experiences?

FUJIEDA: See, that’s what everyone says, but nothing remains.

SASAHARA: He’s never gone abroad.

FUJIEDA: No, I haven’t. In fact, I don’t want to leave Tokyo at all. I’ve only been on a plane once in my whole life.

OTSUBO: And that was for a performance—

FUJIEDA: When I look at an airplane, all I can think is that it’s something that will crash. It just doesn’t make sense that something big like that—

SASAHARA: It shakes a lot.

FUJIEDA: There’s something wrong with it.

OTSUBO: But it’s fun.

FUJIEDA&SASAHARA: It’s not fun at all!

OTSUBO: Some day, I want to fly first class.

FUJIEDA: But that would still be flying. Traveling just feels like a vain thing.

OTSUBO: You don’t even want to, say, go to the beach?

FUJIEDA: I guess it would be fun once I go.

SASAHARA: You should go to Hawaii or some place once. If you go to, say, India, it will probably get you thinking. I don’t really like traveling either, but when I was a student I thought I went just for the experience.

OTSUBO: Where did you go?

SASAHARA: When I was a student, I went to Thailand. And I also went to London and Paris. And to China for work.

FUJIEDA: But you like Tokyo the most, right?

SASAHARA: We’re the same that way.

FUJIEDA: There needs to be a Doutor [a coffee shop chain] and bookstores [laughs]. If there are no Doutor and bookstores, I feel anxious.

JAPAN LIVE: So, no overseas tours are in the works?

FUJIEDA: I don’t think so.

OTSUBO: I want to go!

SASAHARA: If (a tour) is decided, we will force ourselves to go.

FUJIEDA: But I probably wouldn’t want to ride a car for over an hour.

OTSUBO: What?? How about a train then?

FUJIEDA: I wouldn’t want to be on a train for over an hour either. It just feels like it would be time wasted.

SASAHARA: You can read a book.

FUJIEDA: But if I were in a car, I’d get sick. Maybe I just dislike moving from one place to the next.


JAPAN LIVE: It’s surprising that you can make great music like you do on a part-time basis, as a break from work.

FUJIEDA: Yes. But it’s because we’re really having fun. And because we’re serious about making the music. So it’s a little different from, say, traveling being your hobby.

OTSUBO: It’s like your hobby is making plastic models, but you made plastic models that are incredible.

FUJIEDA: It’s as if the plastic models you made as a hobby became so elaborate that people were willing to pay money for them. And then, without your knowing it, people started calling them art…


JAPAN LIVE: Do you think the next album you make will be as different to Trace as Trace was to Or?

FUJIEDA: I guess it would depend on what sort of mode we are in at that time. But if you ask will it be the same sort of album as Trace, the answer is ‘no’, it will be very different from Trace. That’s all we know.

OTSUBO: But what kind of album it becomes will depend on how we three are feeling at that time.



JAPAN LIVE: Who writes the melodies of your songs?

FUJIEDA: Basically, Otsubo writes the melodies.

OTSUBO: For the song as a whole, I also make suggestion like, how about this for the guitar part? All three of us make parts of the songs.

FUJIEDA: The melodies sometimes are created right away, and at other times they gradually come into being. Sometimes when the musical arrangements change the melody also changes. Rather than making the songs in a clear order, we tend to gradually create new versions, so at least one or two songs on each album end up being completely different from the way it started. We’re not solo musicians making our own songs, so the songs often end up different from what each person intended. They don’t end up the way I would want them to be if I had 100% control over the song-writing. You know what I mean, right [to the others]?

SASAHARA: Yeah, that’s how all of us feel.

OTSUBO: It’s as if we planted sunflower seeds, but what ends up coming out of the ground are morning glory flowers.

FUJIEDA: That’s a hard to understand metaphor!

SASAHARA: We end up with something that is neither sunflower nor morning glory.

FUJIEDA: There’s a lot that is accidental.

JAPAN LIVE: My impression of Spangle call Lilli line’s music was that in your songs you gradually developed musical themes, but in Trace the themes seem to come right away.

FUJIEDA: That’s right. The peak comes right from the beginning. But that was our aim, structurally we made it in a pop music way. Put it another way, we wanted to do the opposite of the gradual approach. There were people who liked it, and those who didn’t. But Spangle-like elements are still there.

SASAHARA: People who started listening to us from Trace didn’t think there was anything unusual (about the album) and liked it, but those who knew us from before—

FUJIEDA: Thought it wasn’t quite what they expected.

SASAHARA: Lots of people say For Installation is more their thing.

FUJIEDA: But we have to be challenging. We have to challenge.

JAPAN LIVE: Will the next album be more like Trace, or For Installation, or neither?

FUJIEDA: If we could make something that is neither, that would be best.

SASAHARA: Maybe something that has a southern hemisphere feel.

FUJIEDA: Yeah! We could go to Bali.

SASAHARA: Yeah, it will be relaxing.

JAPAN LIVE: I’ll be looking forward to the new album. Do you have any messages to fans abroad?

SASAHARA: It’s a strange feeling…

FUJIEDA: Yeah, isn’t it a strange feeling?

SASAHARA: It’s a wonder enough that we can release CDs in Japan and that there are people willing to listen to them—

FUJIEDA: Yeah, it’s a wonder.

SASAHARA: So to imagine that happening abroad too—

FUJIEDA: But when it comes to this band, people abroad and Japanese people don’t listen to our music that differently. Because even Japanese people say they don’t understand the meaning of our lyrics [laughs]! No one can really imagine a message or story in the songs. They come up with an image for the songs based on fragmentary interpretations of the songs. So foreigners can be reassured that they are listening to the music in the same way as Japanese fans.

SASAHARA: But aren’t foreigners thinking as they listen to our songs that Japanese people must understand what the lyrics mean?

FUJIEDA: But the truth is that Japanese people don’t understand either.

SASAHARA: Foreigners are probably enjoying the songs purely based on the music rather than the way Japanese people do, which is by also listening to the words.


SASAHARA: I’d like to know what kind of music foreigners who like our music enjoy other than Spangle.

FUJIEDA: It must be no different from the way we listen to (foreign bands like) Sonic Youth or Tortoise.

SASAHARA: What I mean is, are there people who like Madonna but also Spangle, or are there people who like Tortoise and also Spangle—

FUJIEDA: I guess it depends on the person.


OTSUBO: Anyway, the message…

SASAHARA: All we can say is thanks. Thanks for finding us.


SASAHARA: We appreciate your reaching us.