Swinging Popsicle are a 3-member Japanese indie pop/rock band. The members are Fujishima Mineko (Vocals), Shimada Osamu (Guitar) and Hirata Hironobu (Bass). Formed in 1995, their career has spanned 20 years producing 5 albums and 2 EP’s.
They have contributed music to the NITROPLUS PC games STAR MINE GIRL (SUMAGA), AXANAEL, Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo to Koi and various songs for the Nitroplus mascot Super Sonico’s band, Daiichi Uchuu Sokudo (First Astronomical Velocity).
The band has built an international fan base with multiple independent releases and tours of Korea and the United States. They have also embarked on solo projects with guitarist Shimada Osamu forming his own band The Caraway. Lending support to Seikama II’s Ace Shimizu Project, Face to Ace, Korean pop vocalist Taru and J-Pop artist Fujii Fumiya.
Fujishima Mineko has performed backing vocals with J-Pop/R&B artist Kusuo and performs regularly with the 9-drummer experimental band DQS.
Bassist Hirata Hnorobu is a music producer for the aforementioned NITROPLUS games and Sonicomi. He has also provided musical arrangements for 7!!, Kanako Ito, Kazuhiro Watanabe, Taru, Yozoh and Daiichi Uchuu Sokudo. He also plays support bass for DQS.
2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the band and it marks the release of their latest album flow on December 10. Selective Hearing had the opportunity to chat with Swinging Popsicle about their 20 years together, their new album flow and their plans for the holiday season.
NOTE: This interview was conducted before the holiday season started.
Please introduce yourself to the readers of Selective Hearing and tell us an interesting fact about yourselves.
Hironobu Hirata: I’m Hironobu Hirata, and I’m the leader and bassist of the band.
Mineko Fujishima: Hello, I’m Mineko Fujishima. I’m the vocalist and I mainly write the lyrics.
Osamu Shimada: I’m Osamu Shimada, and I’m the guitarist of Swinging Popsicle.
Congratulations on your 20th anniversary as a band. Have you done anything special to celebrate this milestone? If not, do you have anything in mind?
Fujishima: First, the biggest activity this year was releasing the new mini album. On December 5, we hosted an event in Nagoya, and pre-released flow. Also, we’re having a live show as a release event in Kouenji on Chiristmas 12/25. This year it’s been 20 years since the band was formed. Next year will be 20 years after our indie-debut, and the year after will be 20 years after our major-debut. So, I want to make these 3 years exciting for our Popsi 20 Year Anniversary!
Shimada: We just released our new album flow this December, and we’re going to do a release event live show at Kouenji Show Boat on Christmas Day.
Your last album was a compilation released in 2009 (Loud Cut). 6 years between albums is a long time. What were you doing or working on during this break between albums?
Hirata: For Swinging Popsicle, we’ve released at least one song per year. We wanted to deliver a lot more music every year, but it feels like 6 years went by so fast. For me personally, I’ve been working as music producer for the music of Nitroplus games, Super Sonico, and her band Daiichi Uchuu Sokudo (First Astronomical Velocity).
Fujishima: We’ve constantly released songs in some form every year, but it was difficult to match our timing because each of us have our personal activities. But, this year is the 20th anniversary of forming the band. We got together, thinking “There’s no way to let this opportunity go!” (laughs)
Shimada: In addition to Popsi, I played the guitar for many bands as a support guitarist.
When did you decide to start working on flow? And did the break bring a new perspective to crafting songs for this album?
Hirata: We started talking about creating an album the year before last. Since 2015 is our 20th anniversary, we decided to release it in 2015. This album contains a few songs we’ve made before, so we worked on a new way of delivering the songs by re-mixing and re-mastering. Since I did the mixing at my home, I used all the time I had to give my best.
Fujishima: We had some vague ideas before, but it was this year when it became certain. Almost all are songs that were recorded previously and put together in this CD. Except for the first track, we had almost finished mixing all the songs, but they hadn’t been released due to the timing issue. Now they can be heard, and I’m relieved. (laughs)
Shimada: In November of last year, we started talking about releasing a new album in 2015. The album was completed after we did a fresh mix of the new songs that were in progress and the ones we’d already released as singles.
flow contains a cover of the Jackson 5’s I’ll Be There. Was this your first choice for a cover song or were there others that you wanted to cover instead?
Shimada: All the members have always loved this song.
Hirata: I already knew that Mineko’s performance of the Michael Jackson song was wonderful, so I wanted everyone to hear it, too.
Fujishima: The start was when I was invited to perform with a friend’s band and I sang this song as a guest vocalist. Since then, I’ve sung it at friends’ weddings, and started to cover it at Popsi live shows. Everyone likes this song, so it didn’t feel awkward or anything.
As a follow up, if you could do an entire album of covers what songs would you absolutely like to perform?
Hirata: I think it would be interesting to cover the songs that Shimada and I have created for other artists. Although the other members would probably be against it, I’d like to try RATT’s “You’re in love,” with a similar feeling when Aztec Camera did Van Halen’s “Jump.”
Fujishima: I can’t say “absolutely” because I change my mind a lot (laughs), but right now I want to cover KISS’s “Shandi”.
Shimada: Elvis Costello’s Alison. Everything but the girl covered it acoustically, and I really admired it.
Your overseas performances have mainly been within the United States. Are there any other countries you would like to visit?
Hirata: We don’t have anything decided for now. I’d like to see the overseas fans we’ve met before again.
Fujishima: Nothing planned for now… but since we haven’t performed in Europe, I want to go and see people’s reaction!
Shimada: I’m afraid that we don’t have a plan to visit overseas for now. But we’re always thinking about it.
What are you currently listening to? Is there anything you would recommend that our readers pick up on?
Hirata: I love Alabama Shakes’s “Sound & Color” because its mix is wonderful as well.
Fujishima: I’ve been listening to jazz recently. When I drive, I only listen to jazz. (laughs) Especially, I’ve liked Chet Baker for a long time.
Shimada: I happen to have been watching this on YouTube this week because it was really interesting, an artist called Open Reel Ensemble. The style has a big impact on me, the way he he performs with a few analog tape recorders lined up.
The holiday season is starting up, do you have any special plans for Christmas and/or New Year celebrations?
Hirata: After the Christmas live show, I want to relax with my family for the New Year.
Fujishima: I’ve mentioned it already, but on Christmas we’re having a live show like a release party in Kouenji!
Shimada: I’m going to spend a quiet Christmas and New Year with my family. No particular plan to go somewhere. I’ll visit a shrine in the neighborhood, and eat Osechi dishes (traditional food eaten for New Year) at home.
Thank you for your time. Do you have anything you would like to say to your overseas fans in closing?
Hirata: Since our new album has 6 songs, I want the fans to listen to it as though they’re listening to one side of a vinyl record.
Fujishima: Everyone overseas, it’s been a while. How are you? We were finally able to deliver our mini album to you! It came out to be really wonderful, so I’ll be happy if you would listen to it for a long time! Please keep supporting us.
Shimada: Swinging Popsicle’s new album flow is filled with very Popsi-like, good-melody songs. And there’s no doubt that you’ll be knocked out by Fujishima’s wonderful voice! I’d really love for everyone in the world to listen to it.
Swinging Popsicle Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Swinging-Popsicle-302720713086316
Swinging Popsicle 20th Anniversary Website: http://www.swinging-popsicle-20th.com
“Small Blue Sailboat” (preview): https://soundcloud.com/flavour_of_sound/small-blue-sailboat-digest