Interview by DJ Greg Hignight (Tune in Tokyo) and David Cirone
April 4, 2017
Puffy AmiYumi first gained notoriety in the early 2000s as breakthrough artists from Japan, with their own animated series on Cartoon Network and multiple tours. JRock247 had the opportunity to talk with Ami and Yumi before their performance at the historic Belasco Theater in Los Angeles as part of their 2017 tour — their first time performing in the U.S. in ten years.
You’ve been popular in the United States for many years. How do you feel about your long-term popularity here in America?
Ami: You know, a lot of fans in Japan — and regular people also — know us aside from the music, because we both have unique personalities. That’s part of our appeal in Japan. But in the U.S., before people got to know us, the music was the first thing that came in. We’re happy to have that base, the good music to back that up. A lot also has to do with the cartoon, that helped with our popularity.
Since you’ve been working together a long time, your relationship must be like family, How has that relationship evolved and grown over the years?
Ami: When we first started, we were really close as friends – we got together because we were really good friends. As our careers progressed, we realized that we had to be business partners as well. In that sense, because we were working together so long, only we know it feels to be Puffy AmiYumi – in a way no one else in the world, even our families, would understand.
Let’s talk about your video and recent EP, “PAFFIPIPOYAMA”. What’s the meaning of the title, and how does it connect to the crazy visuals in the video?
Yumi: Actually, how the song title came about, was that we released a song as part of our twentieth anniversary celebration. We didn’t write the lyrics, but when the songwriter Hyadain (Kenichi Maeyamada) -– he was the one behind the song — when he submitted the lyrics, the title was “PAFFIPIPOYAMA”. And we didn’t know what it means either! But it sounded good so we went along with it.
Ami: For the video, it was directed by a 2-person unit called Suminemu, and one of them is an idol named Nemu (Yumemi Nemu), she basically drew out everything she wanted the two of us to do on a piece of paper — and it was already that kind of strange world that she played out for us. So there’s not a direct meaning, because there’s no strong meaning behind the name, but we do get asked about it. We’re glad people like it.
Very fun video. What was the best part about shooting it?
Yumi: The most memorable part was the dance, because the two of us don’t dance very often. We hadn’t danced for a while, so it took a while to get the moves down. And everything else was really fun though.
The other 2 songs on the EP, “Colorful Wave Surfers” and “Coco Hawaii” — were you thinking a lot about vacation while making the EP?
Ami: We would always like to go on vacation! Especially for “Coco Hawaii”, that was made for a TV program about vacationing in Hawaii.
On the EP, there are a lot of different music styles represented. There’s ska punk influence, 70s glam, for example. How would you describe the “Puffy AmiYumi” sound. What are the essentials?
Yumi: We try to do a lot of new things, and we don’t want to be stuck into one genre. If, for example, we are a color, we would be white – but we want to pull a lot of rainbow colored things into ourselves, we always want to do new things, and it’s boring to stick to one sound.
You’ve had a lot of really interesting collaborations in your career — you’ve worked with talented people like Tamio Okuda and, recently, Kouki from Okamoto’s at Anime Boston. How does working with different musicians and producers bring out different parts of personality, and how does it change your performance style?
Ami: For Okuda-san, he’s our producer so we’ll always be influenced by him no matter what. For others -– Kouki from Okamoto’s for example, they’re a younger, newer style of band, so we take these influences and differences and make it a part of our music too, and it helps us to evolve and grow over the ages. And we hope to have these collaborations in the future as well.
Do you have a special message for fans in the United States?
Ami: It’s been 10 years since last U.S. tour, so we’re really happy and thankful for everyone who’s coming out for the tour. And we hope –- once we go back to Japan -– to continue working hard so we can come back for another tour in the future. So please look forward to that.
Yumi: Since it’s been 10 years, we’ve wondered who’s going to be coming out to the shows. We’ve been looking forward to seeing everyone.
PUFFY AMIYUMI Website: http://www.puffyamiyumi.com
PUFFY AMIYUMI Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PuffyAmiYumi
Paffipipoyama – EP
Apple Music/iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/paffipipoyama-ep/id1105260435