Tokyo-based space fantasy-themed rock group 1000say made their first US appearance this year at Japan Expo USA’s 1st Impact, bringing their unique brand of electronic-laced rock music to new audiences. The band has a very American-inspired sound with some unique Japanese rock elements thrown in as well, creating a very consistent, atmospheric sound that makes their music quite an experience.
The band made multiple appearances throughout the weekend of Japan Expo including two concerts and a number of autograph sessions, giving them an awesome amount of exposure to new fans, and they definitely made the most of their time here. I had a chance to sit down with the band and ask some questions, so the interview will begin here, with more coverage of the events afterward.
My questions are in bold text, their answers are summarized afterward:
SH: Hi everyone, please introduce yourselves and state your role in the band.
Hi, I’m MAN and I play guitar, keys, and lead vocals for the band.
Hello, I’m API and I play bass and do lead vocals.
I’m MICHELLE, I play synthesizer/keyboards.
I’m NON, I play drums and do backup vocals.
SH: Is this your first time coming to the US? Are you enjoying your time so far? Besides the language, how do you feel being in the US is different from being in Japan on an everyday basis?
MAN: This is our first time here, and we were super excited to be on stage here since so many of my musical influences are from American bands and we always love playing in new places we haven’t been to and sharing our music around the world.
NON: Everyone seems much more friendly and personal, streets are much wider and less cramped, food portions are much larger, etc. The sky is more open, so the moon seems much bigger because of that. Trees are also more tropical and interesting, there’s less humidity, there’s really a lot that feels different!
SH: Where did you get the inspiration for your sound? What other artists do you listen to that made you start to write this kind of music?
MAN: Well, just to keep it with American artists, The Smashing Pumpkins are a huge influence to us with their heavy punk/grunge sound, and they were also one of the first bands with a female bassist, which we also have. The Postal Service are pretty important to me too, their electronic sound was a big inspiration in how we incorporate our synthesizer sound with a rock feel.
SH: What do you think some of the biggest differences are between Japanese music and Western music?
1000say: We feel like Japanese rock songs have a much heavier emphasis on lyrics and meaning, where Western music feels to us like it has more focus on melody, rhythm and groove in the songwriting process.
SH: Does everyone have an equal amount of input on the songwriting process, or how does it work for you guys?
MAN: It usually starts with me coming up with a basic songwriting idea with some chord progressions, then I pass it around to each member and they expand on the original idea, adding their own parts or suggesting some other ideas that could add to it. API always adds her own bass lines and Michelle adds to the melody with his synths often.
SH: Do you find that there’s a very specific audience for your brand of electronic rock in Japan? What kind of people are they and where do they come from?
MAN: I don’t notice much of a common origin among our fans, but it seems like a lot of people from the club music scene get into our music since some of it borders more closely on an electronic dance/pop sound than on the rock elements. Its cool to have people who like different kinds of music come to our shows to enjoy this same songs.
SH: Do you guys have any kind of overlying message you want to get across to your listeners with your music? How would you sum that up?
1000say: Fantasy is the main message from our music, like a space fantasy kind of style. It deepens the world we create with the music and creates this kind of atmosphere. Of course, having a good melody is one of the most important parts of the song, but once we have that established, we keep it alive and enhance it with some other more atmospheric elements and lyrics.
SH: Do you currently aim to have people from all over the world enjoy your music? Besides Japan Expo, do you have any other overseas promotions planned?
1000say: We’ll definitely have more overseas live shows in the future. Since 2011, we’ve done at least one overseas performance per year in some part of the world, and even though our plans for next year are to be determined, we’d love to have the chance to come back here or see another part of the world.
SH: Do you think it is a realistic expectation for Japanese artists to aim for true worldwide success or popularity? There aren’t many cases of that happening in history, so the odds seem low, but do you think it can happen in today’s market?
MAN: Of course, music is meant to be trans-lingual, so I think it is very possible if the music is good and relatable enough to the target audience. I think our popularity keeps growing, but we’re more satisfied knowing that more people from around the world enjoy it, not so much if it is truly commercially “successful” in a traditional sense.
SH: How can overseas fans follow 1000say after Japan Expo is over? Do you have a message you’d like to give to all your overseas fans?
1000say: We’re on all of the major social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. so you can always look us up on those. We want to share our music, talk to fans all over the world, and make friends with our supporters, so please talk to us through our social media, we always appreciate the contact.
They even recorded a video message for everyone which you can view here:
After the interview, we talked a little about some of our favorite bands and got to know each other a little bit better. These guys were a ton of fun and very cool in person, and I hope to get to meet them again.
The first non-interview experience I had with 1000say was at their concert in the afternoon on Saturday, where I got much more than I expected out of the experience after not quite knowing what to expect.
Though I had listened to some of their songs online, nothing quite prepared me for how awesome the band sounded in a live setting. Their sound was mixed very well, even with as complex as their music was at times, they managed to get everything to sound great, often even better than on their recorded CDs. API’s bass was booming, MAN’s guitars and NON’s drums were loud and in-your-face, and MICHELLE’s synthesizer rushed to the front of the mix when needed for sudden bursts of melody throughout the set.
They really pulled off a set with a power like many American bands that I’ve seen, using lots of crowd interaction to make the concert more of an experience than just a show to observe. Despite Japan Expo’s security trying to keep people further from the stage, 1000say encouraged the audience to get as close as possible and enjoy themselves. MAN even ran into the crowd himself during each performance for a few minutes to get some more crowd participation.
They played through a ton of songs from all of their albums and mini-albums and the whole thing seemed to mesh together almost like one long song with many different parts, thanks to the cohesive nature of their sound and style. The audience was having a blast, with lots of people clapping and chanting, even who had never heard of the band before.
More love was shown later when the band went to sell some merchandise at their booth in the main convention floor, when tons of fans showed up to buy up their merchandise, and they ended up selling out of numerous items that they brought for sale.
The autograph sessions were a lot of fun as well, with tons of people lining up to get some signed items from the band and some quick pictures. The band was really welcoming and even had fans record a short video message after getting autographs for a video compilation of fans from around the world.
At the last autograph session, fellow guest Idaware Noriyuki actually showed up for his autograph and picture with the band!
It was a great experience for Japan Expo USA to bring such a unique Japanese band here that doesn’t fit the usual anime convention stereotypes of J-rock, visual kei, etc. 1000say seems to fit very well with an American audience much more than those other niche kind of bands and I think there should be more bands with unique, non-niche sounds like them coming overseas in the future.
Check out 1000say on all the related links below if you like electro rock and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.