With their infectiously bright melodies and diverse soundscapes that merge pop, rock and electronic beats, the fast-rising Japanese act Yoasobi handily captivated the crowd at the Manila stop of the “Head in the Clouds” festival last December.
The crowd danced, chanted and sang their hearts out to the eight-song set the group had prepared. Every so often enraptured fans screamed, “Daisuki (a Japanese word to express love or fondness)!”
The uninitiated, meanwhile, found the music irresistibly catchy, bobbing their head, shifting their feet and humming along to the music—nevermind that they were in a language they didn’t understand. “It’s like hearing anime songs live,” one reveler said.
And as it turned out, Yoasobi—composed of vocaloid producer and songwriter Ayase and singer Ikura—was just as enamored by the Filipino audience’s enthusiasm and warm welcome.
“It was a very fun experience for us both, because in Japan, we couldn’t really [perform for cheering crowds] because of pandemic restrictions. So it was one of the first instances where we were able to hear actual voices or screaming from the crowd again,” Ayase told the Inquirer through an interpreter in a recent group Zoom interview arranged by Blackstar.
“It was also our first time performing before a Filipino crowd, so it was a nerve-wracking, but fun experience,” he added. “I had a great time. Realizing that there are people overseas who listen to our songs was a very happy moment for me. It was a pleasure,” Ikura said.
The pop unit was formed in 2019 for a project by monogatary.com—a Japanese social networking service for aspiring creative writers and illustrators — which aims to produce songs inspired by novels published on the said platform.
Yoasobi’s debut single, “Yoru ni Kakeru (Into the Night)” was based on amateur writer Mayo Hoshino’s short story “Thanatos no Yūwaku (An Invitation from Thanatos),” which touches on the themes of love and death.
The single was an immediate hit, staying atop the Billboard Japan Hot 100 chart for a total of six weeks. It pulled in big streaming numbers, catapulting it to the No. 1 spot of Spotify Japan’s “Most Streamed Songs in the Last Five Years” category. It also became the first song for streaming to be certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of Japan.
The group continued to churn out hits like “Gunjō (Ultramarine)” and “Kabutsu (Monster); and collect various awards along the way, including the 2021 artist of the year title from MTV Music Video Awards Japan.
Now, in hopes of reaching a wider global audience, Yoasobi recently put out their second English-language EP titled “E-Side 2.” It features a new song titled “The Blessing,” which also serves as the opening theme of the anime series “Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury.” It also contains English versions of seven previously released tracks, like “The Swallow” and “Romance.”
Excerpts from the interview:
What’s the process like for your English-language releases?
Ayase: There’s a dedicated translator, Konnie Aoki. He made a translation based on our originals, and he made it in such a way that sounds like the original Japanese lyrics. And then, Ikura sings the translated version.
Through these English releases, we hope to reach out to more fans overseas and help them understand our songs better.
We don’t have an exact date, but we would love to come back to the Philippines again and do a solo concert some time.
Does anime figure into your music in any way?
Ikura: I’m not a regular anime watcher. But in terms of how anime inspired me, there’s one called “Kirarin Revolution,” which I watched when I was young. I was inspired by the main character, Tsukishima Kirari, an idol singer. That’s when I actually thought for the first time that I wanted to be a singer.
What’s it like reinterpreting a novel into a song?
Ayase: The main inspiration is the original novel or story that I turn into a song. I write based on what the story is about. And I draw inspiration from my own experiences, like when I go out on tours and perform. I try to remember the emotions I felt during those times and incorporate them into the songs.
When you write, do you put yourselves into the character or story you’re working on?
Ayase: Definitely… The first thing I think about is, “What will this character feel?” Sometimes, I look at him from the outside and imagine how other people view the character. For each song, I change the choice or pronunciation of the words based on how the character speaks. That’s how I change the mood of the song.
How do you guys strike a balance between staying true to your art and achieving commercial success?
Ayase: Other than music, we also do activities that can inspire us to create songs. It can be hard to balance; we get overwhelmed, too, sometimes, when things become too busy. But I think it’s good that we have other activities we can focus on.
What can the fans expect from you in the near future?
Ayase: We will continue producing songs without specific genres. I believe we will be able to surprise our fans with our upcoming releases. INQ
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