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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Q&A with Japanese Pop Outfit An Café

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 12:25 PM

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During their recent tour stop in San Francisco we had the chance to sit down with the members of Japanese pop band An Café and ask them a few questions. The following interview took place at their hotel in the afternoon before the show, which was the last performance of their first world tour. The band were clearly tired, but surprisingly chirpy considering, and turned out to be a sweet, funny group of guys.

Hi, welcome to San Francisco. So, is this your first trip here?

Yes!

And you already played a show in LA, right? How did that go?

Miku - I felt like the environment is very close to what's happening in Japan. It's not about race, the feeling and the response from the audience is very close to what's happening with the Japanese fans.

Did you have enough time off to do anything fun and just be a tourist while you were in LA?

We got here a few days before the day of the show, so we went out looking around.

Where did you go?

We went to a Guitar Center to look for guitars for Takuya. We also went to the discount store in front of Macy's.

I heard that you lost your original guitarist. How has that affected your relationship with your fans? Were they very upset when he left?

The fans were shocked, it was as if they lost one of their family members. It was very upsetting for them.

Do you guys stay in touch with Bou?

Teruki (raises hand) - I do, sometimes.

And how did you find your new guitarist and your keyboard player? Were they people that some of you had known before or did you hold auditions?

Miku - Actually we were talking about it this morning. I think that Yu-ki is a really lucky person.

You mean like he's a good luck charm?

Not really that, more like we were destined to meet each other.

Miku - Maybe he can talk to you about it...

Yu-ki - I was studying music at college, and my instructor asked me to select one or two musical things to get involved with, and I selected one by chance, and the place I selected referred the band, so it's really a weird coincidence.

Miku - We were looking for a keyboardist and were calling a lot of music schools, and Yu-ki just happened to be there because he couldn't graduate the previous year so he was still at the college. So actually it was good for him that he was still there.

So it was the one time where it was good that someone didn't graduate!

(Laughs)

Now, the people that will be reading our paper probably won't be too familiar with the band. How would you describe your band's concept? Imagine you were describing yourselves to a random American reader who knows nothing about you, what would you say?

Kanon - It's a difficult question...

I know!

(Laughs)

Teruki - If I wanted to point out one thing, I would say I'm taking an impression of Harajuku. A lot of visual kei bands tend to be kind of gothic and negative. Instead of that we want to be more of a positive, happy pop band that represents the positive side of the Tokyo scene. That's what we try to achieve and spread out to other countries.

How do you see yourselves fitting into the Japanese music scene? What kind of people are your fans?

Junior school to high school.

Were those the same kind of people who showed up in LA?

Yeah, actually the parents stayed in the back of the hall and there were a lot of teenagers there, and even younger.

You guys have been around for a few years now, why the sudden urge to tour the US? What made you decide to come over here?

At the beginning we were not known outside Japan and weren't gaining any exposure in other countries, so nobody knew us, but as the years went by we started to find fans in other countries. So now we're pretty much sure that people are waiting for us to come here to perform. So it was the increasing of the fans here that encouraged us to come here to perform, knowing that we're getting more popular in the US.

How did you know that you were becoming more popular here?

Teruki - We found out through the fans, it was the growing popularity among our fans that allowed us to come here, because the audience really wanted us to come.

Were you getting emails from fans asking you to come?

Teruki - The American fans actually referred American promoters to us, so knowing that there was so much expectation for us to come here made it an easy decision to come.

Do you have anything set up or in the works to make it easier for fans to actually buy your CDs or DVDs? Are you working with iTunes?

(Manager) The new album is on iTunes and the CDs and merchandise are now available at Hot Topic.

Recently there have been a lot of Japanese bands coming to the US. If there any sense of competition between bands back home in terms of that, who's touring the US and who isn't?

Miku - We don't really care about the competition much, we just want to perform where the audience wants us to be.

You just came from Europe right now, correct? Where did you play?

Seven or eight countries including Sweden, Finland Russia, Germany, France, Spain, then Chile and Mexico...

Was there anyplace that you particularly liked?

Miku - I felt a different response from audiences in different countries. It felt like South America was where the audience was really passionate. For people in Brazil for example, it's so far away from Japan that people's expectations were really high, they get so excited. It seems like it's a big deal for them because when people come from Japan it's like they're coming from the other side of the universe. So, when we got there there was a lot of excitement, so that's why there was more energy in South America. In the US it's sort of close to Japan because people here are used to seeing Japanese people all the time so it's not really a big deal, compared to South America where Japan seems so far away and very few Japanese bands go there, so it seems like that's why they get so excited.

What can fans expect from your live show? You use a lot of electronic sounds on your albums, are you able to reproduce that sound live?

Teruki - In order not to lose the feeling of the original song we use pre-recorded sounds to fill in the gaps but we're not trying to copy the recorded sound exactly because we want people to know that it's live. So we just use some pre-recorded sounds mixed in with the actual live performance.

What kind of impression do you hope to make on an American audience? What feeling do you hope fans take away from the shows?

Miku - I want everyone to be happy. I think An Café have the ability to make people happy, so my main wish is to make other people smile.

Kanon - I also want to make people happy and make them smile but if they find out more about An Café they will be more attracted to our music, so I want fans to have this opportunity to get more involved.

Yu-ki - I want to make people happy too, but at the same time when they're suffering and feel depressed I want to be a help to those people to regain the happiness within themselves.

Teruki - I want to help give people the power to live their daily lives. When people are faced with some difficulties I want our music to be a tool to help them resolve their problems and give them a lot of positive messages that they can use in their lives.

Takuya - I want to express my creativity to the audience.

Finally, is there anything you'd like to say to your fans in San Francisco?

Teruki - The reason this dream of performing in the US came true is because of the fans supporting us in the US, so we love them very much and we're looking forward to coming back again.

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Kirsty Evans

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