Monday, June 12, 2006


From left to right: Mai, Wadagaki and Shino of Poplar

I chatted with a few of the Japanese bands that performed at the Fanime convention in San Jose (story here), and asked them all the same questions.

The first band I talked to was Poplar, a trio that plays a unique style of music that might be described as experimental/retro-Japanese/hip-hop. They were also the most visually arresting group of the six Japanese bands that made it to San Jose: Mai, the female singer, always wore a yukata (a summer kimono), while Shino, the guitarist, kept his face hidden behind a red Mexican wrestler’s mask, never revealing his true identity.

JAPAN LIVE: What was your first impression of the U.S.?

WADAGAKI: What I felt right when I got here was that the sky is very big, and everything around me was of a larger scale than back in Japan. I felt big too.

JAPAN LIVE: What was it like playing for an American audience?

MAI: The way people responded to us was very direct. They didn’t hold back, and that was great.

JAPAN LIVE: How would you describe Poplar’s music?

SHINO: Back in Japan, people often tell us our music isn’t like anything they’ve listened to before. We ourselves have trouble explaining it. But it’s music that regular people can enjoy: Mai [sings] melodies, I do aggressive guitar parts, and we have both male and female vocals. You need to listen to our music to know what I’m talking about, but we frequently use Japanese scales, so there’s a lot of Japanese melodies.

JAPAN LIVE: Are there any American bands or musicians that have influenced you?

MAI: Yes, many. What got me into music in the first place is Hanson, but from there I listened to hip-hop, R&B, rock, and I used to listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers, melocore, pop…American music has really influenced me.

JAPAN LIVE: Anything else you want to say?

MAI: Listen to Poplar!

SHINO: If people get excited about us, we will be invited again, and we do want to come here again, so please listen to our CD.


Poplar's MP3s can be sampled and bought at, where they are currently topping the in-house charts!

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