Perfume 4th World Tour Interview
Interview Date: February 25, 2019
Japanese electro-pop group Perfume continues to move forward. The trio of Ayaka Nishiwaki (A-chan), Ayano Omoto (Nocchi) and Yuka Kashino (Kashiyuka) wowed listeners and critics alike with 2016’s Cosmic Explorer, an album released internationally and one that Rolling Stone named one of the year’s best pop albums. Following a domestic dome tour, Perfume continued their Cosmic Explorer jaunt to the United States.
Few J-pop groups have achieved as much both in Japan and abroad, but in 2018 Perfume remain focused on exploring the new. Their live shows continue to incorporate cutting-edge technology, highlighted by the NTT docomo Future-Experiment which found them performing live despite every member being in a different city and their Reframe show this past spring which saw them utilizing a variety of new digital tech.
Now comes Future Pop, Perfume’s seventh full-length album. Alongside long-time producer Yasutaka Nakata, it finds the three adding in elements of future bass music into their electro-pop sounds while also giving each member a chance to highlight their vocals. Future Pop might seem like a hugely ambitious album title, but one look into Perfume’s world and it becomes all the more clear why these three women truly represent the future of pop music.
Selective Hearing had the opportunity to speak to Perfume at the beginning of the international leg of their 4th world tour promoting Future Pop to discuss their thoughts on the Future Pop album, Coachella 2019 and their next plans for global expansion.
What were your first impressions of the music on Future Pop?
A-chan: First, with “Start Up,” it sounded so soft. It was like opening up a picture book, and the story is just beginning. But it’s not like I’m following the story itself. It’s like I am walking alongside the album. It’s like my partner on a journey. Nakata always betrays us, but in a good way. He always surprises us with the music. I was so impressed to listen to this whole album in its final form, even though I had already provided vocals.
Kashiyuka: Basically, I thought the same thing. It was like a new world opening up. With “Future Pop,” I actually cried when I listened to it for the first time. I always am surprised or impressed an album is ready, listening to it the first time. It’s never happened before that I got so happy and cried, though.
This time, Nakata requested that we do not check the order of the songs beforehand. Just listen to the album on the best sound system you can. I was so surprised by the order of the songs. He never requested something like this before. But now I get what he wanted us to feel.
Nocchi: Nakata always made our songs, and shared them. I listened to the songs over and over, but when I finally listened to the album as a whole, it sounded so different! I was also surprised by how cute they sounded in their final form.
What was the process of making the album like?
A-chan: The first time we met to talk about the album over dinner, we didn’t actually talk about it until the last five minutes. Nakata mostly talked about his favorite YouTuber, Hikakin. He just kept talking about how nice he was. It was for awhile since we had last seen him.
In the last five minutes, he said he was trying to make future bass music, so he said it might be more along the lines of future bass. We thought “OK, a future bass album is coming,” but that’s not really what happened. You’d hear the songs and think, oh it’s like an anime opening, or it is so cute! Like the melody for “Let Me Know.” And there were a lot of songs highlighting our vocals.
What did you think of the idea of “Future Pop?”
A-chan: The title track itself was actually the very last song we put together for the album. It took a month for Nakata and everyone else involved to finish up the song, and it seemed like there was a lot of trial and error involved in putting it together. Everyone was so busy, but we just had to trust them to make another great song for us. We watched Nakata try to cross over to a new genre — and he did! He’s a person who can make history.
Nocchi: I think with the idea of “future pop,” it was important that we deliver the idea of “future bass” to more mainstream listeners via TV and other platforms. I think Nakata could do that well. And I think something that works well on Future Pop is the variety. Like, the connection between the song “Fusion” and “Tiny Baby” made us feel so excited, it was so unexpected.
A-chan: Before we released “If you wanna” as a single, we had a lot of debate within the team about what to do. Some people didn’t want to put it out as a single, but Nakata defended why he believed it should come out as the single. It was like what he did with “Polyrhythm,” back in 2007. He said he could always release the song under his own name, but he believed it was important to release it as J-pop, through Perfume. That would have a greater impact. I was so touched by…he wanted to release this important song with Perfume.
Nocchi: Even if the chorus of the song — the most important part — didn’t really have lyrics!
A-chan: But everyone got on the same boat as Nakata after that. After we released the song, it had bit of a slow reaction, even with us. But over time, after releasing more music and performing it during our recent fan club tour, it really has grown with us. It feels like we raised the song. When we got the demo of “If you wanna,” “Everyday” was on the same CD.
That latter song sounds more mainstream music, like TV might like it more. So why will we release “If you wanna” as the main single song. Then he told us, well maybe you don’t know, but this is popular sounding in the rest of the world. He showed us videos from a festival to point out what happened. “See, they got excited here.” He’s like a teacher.
What was the relationship with Nakata like while making the Future Pop album?
A-chan: This is the album where we talked the most with Nakata about music. He’s a real music nerd! He doesn’t really define specific sounds. He doesn’t mind to release his best song as Perfume. He always thinks what the best way to deliver the music. Nakata told us he also always tries to put in some sort of nostalgic part into his music. That’s why I thought we always connected with Nakata.
Kashiyuka: I think for the group and team itself, performing “Fusion” in three different countries at the same time was really important. Nobody knew if it would be a success or not. It was a total experiment. But we had to trust our team. But after “Fusion,” as a team, we got stronger. And we can trust them even more. Before, it was always three as one. But with this and what came after, we had to get over so many challenges, and after it we felt some relief, because we can take on anything with this team.
We got stronger, but we could also be more free. In our 20s, there was so much pressure on us, we always had to do 100 percent, but now we can enjoy the experience more. Trial and error is more fun. It’s so much fun to age!
A-chan: I always thought you had to do something big by age 25, or else you fail. But now, I realize getting older is fun.
Nocchi: Perfume gets along more and more since we met for the first time. This relationship is becoming something beyond beyond just friendship.
A-chan: I didn’t even know I could care about a team this much.
Perfume has had a chance to reach out to international listeners over the last few years, with releases and tours. With Future Pop what new elements or sides of Perfume do you want to express to international listeners?
Nocchi: It’s not just about the music, but the audience outside of Japan really liked our personalities based on past visits. But even if they don’t, this album is something they can enjoy.
Kashiyuka: I like how the Japanese lyrics collaborate well with the future bass sound. I want people to enjoy the wordplay and the interplay between words and music.
A-chan: That’s a tough one. I want people to blast this album while they are driving down a bumpy road, in a big car. A big car!!! You can’t really do that in Tokyo, the streets are too narrow to drive a regular car, let alone a big one.
In January the 2019 Coachella lineup was announced. What are your thoughts on being the first ever Japanese girl group to perform at Coachella?
Kashiyuka: We are looking forward to bringing a special performance on stage at Coachella. While it is very different from our dome tours in the past, we feel our music transcends borders and would translate well to the audience at Coachella.
A-Chan: Because we don’t really know when we will be performing, we’re putting together a preliminary set list that hopefully meets people’s expectations along with providing a few surprises.
What do you like most about your foreign audiences as you’ve performed overseas?
A-chan: American fans in particular are super expressive! They usually come up to us and say things like “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH PERFUME!”. That type of audience tends to not just like but love the things they love, but also on the flip side hate the things they’re dissatisfied with. It makes planning a particular set list both easy and challenging at the same time. You know what the audience wants, but surprising them becomes a little difficult.
Why did you choose San Jose as one of your upcoming U.S. tour cities?
A-chan: We absolutely loved San Francisco. The scenery was so beautiful and the feel of the city is something we all enjoyed and we wanted to stay close to the area, but still try out a new city in the U.S. Our staff then researched locations and suggested San Jose as a potential location. Hopefully we’ll be able to go to Alcatraz this time!
Every once in a while you perform acoustic versions of your songs in concert. Would you consider releasing those formally in the future as a special single b-side or compilation album in the future?
Nocchi: Now that you mention releasing acoustic versions of our songs as a b-side, I never really thought about it. I think it’s interesting and I would like to try that one day, especially given that it would be a sound that we would self-produce.
A-Chan: If we sing acoustically I think we’ll sound like children singing. What do you think?
Having heard you on stage you definitely don’t sound like children but you do sound unique in your own ways.
A-Chan: Well if there are people who want to listen to acoustic versions of our songs maybe we’ll release them.
You have collaborated with various artists in Japan for your Perfume-Fes concerts (9nine, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Rip Slyme) and have worked with Ok Go in America. Who else would you like to work with?
Nocchi: The voice actress Maaya Sakamoto.
Kashiyuka: Kraftwerk. Despite being in the same genre, the way that Kraftwerk approaches and performs their music is so different that we think it would be interesting to see what a collaboration would lead to.
Los Angeles Dodgers Pitcher Kenta Maeda has used Perfume songs for the past two seasons as his walk up song. Are there any plans for him to use a Perfume song for this upcoming season?
A-Chan: There are talks to have Maeda use another song for the 2019 season but it has not been confirmed as of yet. I want him to choose whatever song excites him to get on the field.
By the way, there is a Dodgers home game the day after you perform at Coachella. Do you plan to go to Dodgers Stadium?
A-chan: Yes we really want to try to go, hopefully with Maeda playing!
Lastly, do you have any comments on Negicco Nao’s marriage, especially since she mentioned meeting at your event. How do you feel about your shows impacting the lives of your fans in this way?
All: We’re so happy about this!
Kashiyuka: We are very happy for them and to have been part of the bond that brought Nao and Okada together! Being able to have people become friends and couples over our music makes it seem like Perfume is a part of that happiness.
A-chan: Negicco and Perfume have been very supportive of each other for a long time as idols and friends, with a long history of collaborating and pushing each other to the next step. They’ve worked so hard until now that we want to continue supporting them.
Kuso Iinkai’s members are a great group of people, especially their lead singer (Ryuichi Miura), full of members that passionately support each other. Given that shared warmth we really think they are super compatible, and only wish the best for both of them!
The Asian leg of Perfume’s 4th World tour concludes on March 2nd in Taipei at the NTU Sports Center. Their tour then comes to North America starting on March 30th in New York City at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
The rest of the North American dates are:
April 2 – Queen Elizabeth Theatre Toronto
April 5 – Chicago Theatre
April 7 – The Bomb Factory Dallas
April 10 – Paramount Theatre Seattle
April 17 – Civic National Civic San Jose
April 19 – Ace Theatre Los Angeles
Perfume Official Website: http://www.perfume-web.jp/
Perfume on Twitter – @perfumeofficial
Perfume on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Perfume.global/
Perfume on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/prfm_official/