Japanese pop queens Perfume have had quite the stellar release week. After receiving glowing reviews of their latest album Future Pop (including one such review featured here), the record debuted at #1 on Japan’s Oricon Charts, as well as on the top spot of iTunes’ electronic category in the U.S., Canada, France, and 16 other countries. With special screenings of the album’s visual aspect planned throughout Asia, as well as a partnership with docomo on their latest video, the trio of Nocchi, A~Chan, and Kashiyuka show no signs of slowing down throughout the rest of the year. With the aid of Universal Music Japan’s Aya Nogami acting as translator, I had the opportunity to ask Perfume a couple of quick questions about the making of Future Pop.
Much of the Japanese pop world seems to take a lot of inspiration from your music, especially after you drop a new record. I’m curious though as to where Perfume looks whenever they themselves need something musical inspiration.
Nocchi: It’s always our producer [Yasutaka] Nakata that makes our music. We believe in him, so we sort of let him lead on how he wants to approach J-POP.
What was the relationship with Nakata like while making Future Pop?
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. (laughs)
What would you say was the most challenging song to record on Future Pop, and how did the three of you overcome said challenge?
A~Chan: For me, it was “Fusion”. At the time of the recording, we weren’t even given a lyric sheet. So we were asked, “Can you say ‘fusion’ or ‘watashi no fusion’ in a low voice, like you’re in a bad mood?” And I don’t have a really low voice, so that was really hard for me! (laughs)
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 truth 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.
“Tiny Baby” is one of my personal favorites on Future Pop, as I feel it captures Japan’s kawaii culture in one wonderful melody. Can you go into what sort of mindset the three of you had when creating this song? What brought out the happiness from within you that helped bring this song to life?
Nocchi: Nakata is really good at writing kawaii challenging words in the lyrics. So if you just naturally and happily sing to the melody, it comes out very happy and cute!
A~Chan: Nakata actually suggested that we make a video for this song, so he probably really likes it.
What’s the song that would be best gateway into Perfume on Future Pop?
Nocchi: Probably “Fusion.” We used that for the Future-Experiment, and it really forced us to challenge ourselves.
Kashiyuka: “Future Pop.” Partially because it is the title track, and also because it took Nakata a full month to come up with the song. I think it hints at the future of Perfume. I want people to enjoy the sound of Japanese with a little bit of Oriental flavor in it. It’s future bass, it’s future pop…everything in one song.
A~Chan: “Tokyo Girl” because Tokyo is such a big, challenging city. It’s a place people come to when they want to make their dreams come true, but it is such a big city that it is easy to get lost in it. In this confusing big city…for Japanese people, international people seem easy to be free, to just be themselves. But Japanese people tend to compare themselves to others. This song really represents Japanese people well, in my opinion.
Does Perfume have any plans to tour the U.S. sometime in the near-future?
A~Chan: Yes! Will you come to the show?
If you play in Boston, I will absolutely come!
A~Chan: Please bring your friends! (laughs)
Future Pop is now available in stores on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. Special thanks to Aya Nogami and Jess Valiente of BMF Media for making this interview happen!
About the Author:
Evan Bourgault is a gaming/anime/music critic and Podcast host over at the ElectricSistaHood and its “brother” site Boston Bastard Brigade, as well as a voice on the Nerdy Show’s Wicked Anime. His love for the Japanese music scene inspired him to start the No Borders No Race radio show in 2006 at his Salem State College alma mater, which he now does as a Podcast show every other Tuesday. Through his One-On-One interview series, Evan has had the opportunity to interview the pillows, Satellite Young, and Electric Eel Shock, as well as non-Japanese acts such as Frank Turner, Fucked Up, and Skinny Lister. Follow Evan on Twitter at @KingBabyDuckESH!
Perfume & The Future Pop Fusion: A Small Q&A With Japan’s Biggest Pop Act