by Chua Wei Ling
Two weekends ago, the annual Anime Festival Asia (AFA) was held in Singapore again for the 8th running year. We got behind the scenes for some interviews with some of Japan’s music names to understand their thoughts on music, the event and even more!
Aimer, which is French for ‘like’, is a Japanese singer well known for her sentimental songs. Having debuted with the song Rokutosei no Yoru which was used as the ending for the Japanese animation No.6, Aimer has since branched out her singing styles to jazz and more.
In 3 to 4 words, can you describe your music?
I personally think it is easier to answer that with two words – “Dark” and “Light”. To me, they are two extremes, but it is important to have both to appreciate the balance.
You are known for singing soothing and gentle songs, and they all come with very meaningful lyrics. Are there any other genre of music that you would like to try?
I do not see myself restricted by any genre – be it rock, country or even EDM. As long as it is sentimental, and has the themes of happiness and sadness, I’m open to try it.
What are some of the challenges that you face in your career, and what are some advice you can give to aspiring singers?
As a singer, there are many different stages that you have to perform on, and many different genre of songs too. I feel that you should understand the music, and find a unique form for yourself for aspiring singers.
You have collaborated with some other Japanese singers – tell us, what was it like?
I have collaborated with, just to name a few, One OK Rock, Egoist, Kalafina – from my collaboration with Kalafina, because each of us had a unique voice, it is from there that I realized my own strength and I’m hoping to reinvent my own voice as such.
We understand that you have a new tour – Dawn. What does this new tour mean to you?
I’m hoping to match my own songs to the feeling of my fans with this tour – hopefully, I can be closer to the fans.
Consisting for vocalist, Maria, and producer, Toku, GARNiDELiA is a band known for their electronic and indie songs.
How has the band changed over time from your early days as an indie group till now?
We recently released a compilation of our early works and we realised that when we sing all the songs again that we have really become more matured. We definitely have more fans now and are much more popular, this helps give us more confidence.
How much input does the band have on the cover art? And how do you feel about being on the cover as opposed to the mascot you used in the early days?
The mascot was for when we were not as popular and did not have as much of a presence as we do now. Now, as we’ve gained more fame, we want ourselves on the cover to let people know who we are. I (Maria) has full creative input – which means I decide the clothes and costumes and submit a proposal to management to get their input. When we were indie, it was more popular to use a mascot, so we used it to get more sales.
Where does Maria get her fashion inspiration?
I don’t get it from any one source or person. I just go out on the street and see what people are wearing, sometimes I follow seasonal trends or even the Paris collection. Once I’ve got an idea I’ll discuss it with my stylist to come up with a look to go for.
What are the main challenges you’ve faced?
Back when we first started our main challenges were upping our views and taking criticism. Sometimes the comments and feedback was very harsh and we had to learn how to deal with it. Back then, our concerts would be very bare, with only a few people, and once, there were only 10 people there. Now we’re much more popular and we have a duty to stay healthy and perform well for our fans.
What was the happiest moment you had as a group?
Our major debut was our happiest moment.
How do you relax away from music?
Music is our life. We love it and our career is very fulfilling. Most of our rest time is spent sleeping or eating, but when we’re awake we’re always linked to our music, always trying to come up with new ideas and looking for inspiration.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
There is an increasing talent pool now, and it is easier to get noticed than before, but that also means that the competition is more. Our advice would be for young artists to find their own style, be firm in their beliefs and not get swayed by other people.
Known for her singing voice for the character Sheryl Nome in the animation Macross Frontier, May’n has been a regular guest at AFA since 2008.
Tell us more about your 10th anniversary concert?
It’s actually still on this year – from 2014 till now I’ve had a world tour and met many fans. I’m very grateful for it.
What was your inspiration?
My inspiration was definitely Amuro Namie-san – when I was younger, I always wanted to be like her.
Tell us a bit about your new single?
It’s a very expressive song for me. I put a lot of feelings in there, especially since I’m onto my 11th year and I want to improve myself for my fans.
You’ve been to AFA almost every year since it started, which year would you say was most fun for you?
It’s really difficult to choose a year because each has been very different, but I feel that last year’s was the best.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as an artist?
I was hospitalised this year with throat problems, and I had to cancel a few of my concerts, so I feel I really need to take care of myself more. I want to be better for my fans and not let them down.
How has your style changed over the years?
My performances are very real these days as opposed to my early days when I wanted to more like Sheryl Nome. These days I am able to be myself more.
What is your motivation?
My no. 1 reason is my overseas fans and meeting them. The very first time I ever performed overseas was in 2008 at AFA. That was also my first time travelling overseas in my life. It was interesting to see how closely linked Japan and SG are.
This year you performed in universities, are there any memorable moments?
School festivals are great because everyone gets excited. It was good for me as well cause it helps me build confidence. The staff are all students and it makes me happy to see them enjoy the performance after putting in the hard work to set it up.
Do you love anime? If you do, do you have a favourite character?
I love all my own productions, and I feel that the person I am now has a lot to do with all my anime.
What was your most memorable song?
Definitely Diamond Crevasse. That was when I changed my name to May’n. I was nervous at first and didn’t know where it would go. After that I got many opportunities for tours and events. At the first AFA I was very touched when everyone sang in Japanese.
Like Aimer, Mika Kobayashi has worked with famed anime song composer Sawano Hiroyuki, and her song, Bauklötze was featured as the ending for the hit anime series Attack on Titan.
You’ve done a few songs for anime so which is your favourite?
I really love all my songs but I feel that Bauklötze was really fun to do as I had to imagine the feeling of being a Titan.
Do you face difficulties singing in English or German?
Yes it is really difficult, especially with the nuances of each language. Sometimes I get really frustrated.
What image do hope your songs convey?
My songs usually convey the deepest feelings of being female and of Japan.
Can you speak German since you sing in it?
No I can’t unfortunately. My producer for the song wanted a chant and he felt that the German language brings out the chanting. When I sing I have to read a script because I can’t speak the language.
How did you develop your style of singing?
For my self-composed stuff, I always think about how I want to express it. For anime songs, I listen to Osanosan. For rock songs I always imagine fighting in a big battle.
If given a chance, what kind of songs would you sing?
I mostly sing big epic fighting themes for action bits. I would actually like to try out singing fantasy songs sometime.