Wednesday, June 14, 2006
CHAT IN SAN JOSE 2: Swinging Popsicle
From left to right: bassist Hironobu Hirata, vocalist Mineko Fujishima and guitarist Osamu Shimada of Swinging Popsicle
On the sidelines of the Fanime animation convention (story here), I interviewed a few of the Japanese bands that flew across the Pacific to play there. I asked all the bands the same questions because I thought it might be fun to see the different ways they answered.
One of the bands I talked to was the trio Swinging Popsicle. If you are a J-Pop fan and have never listened to Swinging Popsicle, you’re missing out. They are a band that consistently makes some of the brightest, catchiest, most melodious pop songs in Japan. As their guitarist Osamu Shimada says, Swinging Popsicle is a group that “plays beautiful melodies, and treasures good melodies”.
JAPAN LIVE: What was your first impression of the U.S.?
SHIMADA: It's the first time in my life to come here, and I feel that while everything in Tokyo is cramped, here the roads are wide and there’s a lot of space.
HIRATA: The climate is very pleasant, everyone is kind, and there’s all this space. It’s a lovely place like I imagined it to be.
JAPAN LIVE: What was it like playing for an American audience?
FUJISHIMA: This is different from a normal music festival and the people that have come to see us are those that already love Japanese culture, so the atmosphere is warm, and it’s easy to perform. If we came here and no one knew who we were we would have been very nervous, and worried about how the audience would respond, but we knew there were people here who had listened to our songs on MP3s, so even compared with when we play in Japan we haven’t been nervous at all.
JAPAN LIVE: How would you describe Swinging Popsicle’s music?
SHIMADA: I think we’re a band that plays beautiful melodies, and treasures good melodies.
HIRATA: Yesterday an American guy asked me what were the words that came after “I just want to kiss you” in the song “I Just Want To Kiss You”, and when I said, “if I was there baby”, he said, ‘ohhh!’ And the fact that he asked me that means he probably wants to sing along, and really relates to the song. I’m happy that people feel close to our songs, and I’d like them to love our songs even more.
FUJISHIMA: We’re not a loud band, so if people want to go wild our music might not do the trick. I'd be happy if people enjoy our music for what it is.
JAPAN LIVE: Are there any American bands or musicians that have influenced you?
FUJISHIMA: A lot!
SHIMADA: I listen to the Beach Boys the most—I was listening to them just now. I listen to them every day.
FUJISHIMA: I listen to Laura Nyro a lot, and on the West Coast I often listen to A&M stuff, and I like soft rock. I've really been into Chicago post-rock music recently too. When I started out I really liked Madonna. American music has truly influenced me.
HIRATA: What got me into music and led me to take up an instrument was L.A. metal, which was popular when I was in intermediate school. Now I like music with beautiful melodies by people like, well, he’s a huge, but Burt Bacharach.
JAPAN LIVE: Anything else you want to say?
HIRATA: I want to come here again. I truly loved playing for all the people that came here and met me.
FUJISHIMA: I think if it were this festival, everyone would accept us next year too. If it were other festivals I’d feel nervous. I visited Los Angeles and San Francisco about ten years ago on a regular sightseeing trip, but compared to then, this time around everyone was nice and good things kept on happening to me.
SHIMADA: Everyone was warm, and easy to become friends with.
Swinging Popsicle's music is available in various places, including Amazon, CD Japan, and as MP3s in JapanFiles.com.
Some cool person has also uploaded a video recording of Swinging Popsicle playing at Fanime, here. It's not exactly a professional video, but you still get a feel for what they are like live (despite what Mineko says in the interview, you can really go wild listening to them live!).