Interview by Nhu Nguyen
July 3, 2015
The eight members of WagakkiBand are performing their first American show at Anime Expo located in Los Angeles this weekend. We spoke with Yuko (vocals) and Asa (bass) about their thoughts and feelings on their first American live, performing as part of “Cool Japan”, and of course, their music.
WagakkiBand will be performing for the first time in the U.S. at Anime Expo in July. How do you feel about your first concert in America?
Yuko: I think that this will be a very important first live show to see if we will be accepted to the U.S. I’m really looking forward to the audience’s reaction.
What are you each looking forward to during your visit to America?
Yuko: More than half of the band members are going to the mainland of America for the first time, so we’re looking forward to the seeing city life and interacting with American people.
Asa: We won’t have much free time, but we’d like to feel the atmosphere at least.
You’re coming as part of the “Cool Japan” program. What do you feel is cool about WagakkiBand that brings out the cool in Japan?
Yuko: It’s the fact that Japanese traditional music and rock’n’roll are fused together. Please pay attention to the new styles of sound and performance. The image of playing the Japanese instruments, which are normally played on tatami mats, being played in a rock style instead. Singing while dancing with sensu (Japanese fans), and the performance of the members with Western instruments like electric guitars. We’d like you to see what the stage will become when these are blended together.
You each have a background in creating music, but how did you become interested in Vocaloid?
Asa: We discovered so many wonderful Vocaloid songs! I think the interesting point of Vocaloid songs is that they’re created by many composers. While we were writing our own lyrics and music compositions, we heard the Vocaloid songs and we were very impressed by the work of the “vocalo P” (Vocaloid producers) who have hidden talents and publish their work through Vocaloid. That made us want to see how we could arrange those wonderful songs into something that would work with our style of playing music.
All the songs on your first full album Vocalo Zanmai are covers. What qualities did you look for when you chose these songs?
Yuko: We looked for the coolest songs that we felt would be interesting if we arranged them. Some of them had sounds of Japanese instruments already, but we really wanted to surprise people. That’s why we chose songs with a high-tempo or high key, or songs that you wouldn’t normally imagine with Japanese instruments.
Asa-san — “Yoshiwara Lament” is your most popular Vocaloid work. How did you feel about re-composing it in the WagakkiBand style?
Asa: “Yoshiwara Lament” has the sound of shamisen (Japanese 3-string instrument) in the original version and that carries a strong image of Japan, so I was sure this would be a good match when it was decided.
In the MV for “Ikusa”, all the male band members had training for the fight scenes. Asa-san, what was the biggest challenge?
Asa: I felt “Dual wielding is difficult….!” when I tried. (laughs)
You’ve started releasing original works such as “Hanabi” and “Ikusa”. What’s more fun, cover songs or new songs?
Yuko: Each has a completely different type of fun. But, in order for each member of the band to develop, and to continue to express even more interesting things in the future, we’d like to focus on original songs.
The band recorded the opening and ending themes to the anime Sengoku Musou. How does it feel to have your music featured in an anime?
Yuko: (about “Nadeshiko Sakura”) It was really moving to see the animation and our own song played at the same time on TV for the first time. I was very excited about the fact that it’s possible to express the ideas even more vividly combining imagery and song. Anime is such a strong part of current Japanese culture. We’d really like to work on anime songs again in the future.
Asa: (about “Ikusa”) Since it was my very first time to create an anime theme song, I was simply happy. I’d like to work on anime theme songs again if there’s an opportunity.
Yuko-san — you’ve been learning to sing since you were young, and you’ve developed an impressive vocal style. Your singing is very impressive! What would you suggest to anyone who wishes to sing like you?
Yuko: I get this question often. The Japanese scene starts with imitation. When I was small, I didn’t know how to do “secchou” which is the characteristic singing style of Shigin (a type of singing performance). But I slowly started to get it by imitating the Shigin teacher’s voice.
What do you hope to accomplish with the music of WagakkiBand?
Yuko: We’d like to become a band from Japan that is loved by people all over the world. We will do our best!
Anime Expo 2015 presents Cool Japan Festival featuring WagakkiBand & IA
Performance date: Saturday, July 4, 2015 from 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM (PDT)
Venue: Club Nokia
Anime Expo official site
WagakkiBand “Senbonzakura” MV (20 mil views)
WagakkiBand Official Global Fan Club