FLOWER FLOWER’s new work “Mannequin”
Interviewer: Tanaka Hizakazu
Translation: Kikino, AIKO, junghau.
Now that I think of it FLOWER FLOWER has never done a solo concert. When they formed in 2013 they joined summer festivals and band collaborations, but no concerts of their own.
By the end of 2013 they performed at COUNTDOWN JAPAN and after that, yui’s health worsened, she eventually got married and became a mother.
Due to all those important events, they didn’t participate in any notorious activities other than studio recordings. But suddenly, in May 8th they announced a series of concerts in Osaka and Tokyo. After that they will participate in summer festivals, the first single after a year, “Mannequin”, was released on August 2nd. The signal fire of FLOWER FLOWER’s perfect comeback was lit.
– First of all. What are your impressions of the concerts that just finished?
yui: It’s been 3 and a half years, so there are a lot of things that I had forgotten (laughs) For example, the way to express our band’s groove had escaped me. But along the way I felt things gradually coming back to me. I think I managed to do a good performance. Personally, I also forgot how it felt to sing in front of an audience. At the beginning I was extremely anxious. But, the audience also seemed to be nervous, even more than I (haha). When I felt that was the case, the tension fell apart little by little.
– When did you start doing rehearsals?
yui: It was on May. By getting together and rehearsing we slowly turned the switch back on.
sacchan: We did recordings in parallel to the rehearsals too, so I felt like our band’s “feel” came back immediately. But surely, as the day of the performances approached I started feeling a bit more anxious.
yui: By letting us doing these concerts I raised the conviction that our activities as a band are heading towards the correct direction. I feel like I started to see our future as FLOWER FLOWER from now on.
– yui-san, the environment around your private life changed drastically. I’m sure your life with your family became the most important thing. What are the things that changed the most in regards to your music, singing and yourself as part of FLOWER FLOWER in comparison to the time you started the band?
yui: When I first started FLOWER FLOWER I had a preference for rock and distorted tones, I used feelings of indignation and impulses of the initial stages as motivation for our works. After experiencing my marriage and giving birth to my sons I thought all that would change. But after going back on rehearsals and producing sounds with my band mates I felt like there were many things that remained unchanged. I thought that rock is what this band probably suits the most, regardless of my opinion. So I changed my mind and I proposed to the band members to release a heavy rock single, “mannequin”, instead of what I originally had planned.
– By moving completely from the warmth of your previous work “Takaramono” to “Mannequin” it felt like you recovered the heat of the initial impulse you had when you started FLOWER FLOWER for the first time. The sensation of “I’m back” could be felt strongly.
yui: At first I did want to create a somewhat summer-feel single as I kept listening to rock and pop from the 90s again and again when I was in teenage years, I felt that summer-feel and simple pop song would be nice too. However, I started to become more serious by the time we got into pre-production and recordings.
– The promo art and CD covers do have a pop feeling (Laughs)
yui: That’s right. We started from a pop song, so we said we would also use popish artwork for promotion. And yet, what we came up with was different from what I initially intended (Haha). Feels like I missed the mark just a bit. It also happened with “Kamisama” (From 2014). At times I feel like focusing consciously on making meaningful songs with a strong claim. And since I had the time to spend on it, I thought it was okay.
– It’s certainly rooted in reality. Lining up burning words.
yui: That’s correct. I wasn’t thinking on writing burning lyrics from the start. When I was in the midst of the process I thought: “Let’s hit at something”. It’s not aligned at a perfect perpendicular angle with the sounds, but I thought it would be nice because it doesn’t float strangely. I also wanted the mix to have a western feel, so it would have an additional presence. I think it gives a strong impact.
– With a heavy acoustic image, strong sounds and simple, yet burning and strong words seemed to head towards my direction.
yui: I would really want female high-school students to listen to it. While i was writing the lyrics two characters appear. In the beginning I write strong words, and yet, towards the end you can see a weaker self not worried about it.
There are many different emotions inside people’s hearts and I think that’s good.
I feel like when japanese people meet, they are often swept away by other people’s opinions. But wouldn’t it be better if we just spoke more freely? It’s not necessary to agree on anything is it? When I put that into words I felt like the answer came back at me. I felt like I was told by another self within me “I’m weak, but that’s fine! Don’t say anything to me!.” That’s why it feels like there are two people in the lyrics.
– What did you think when you heard yui’s “mannequin” for the first time?
mafumafu: It was a rough version without lyrics, I felt it had a great worldview. She just sang “lalala” and played guitar over a simple “step recording track”, but that was plenty enough. In regards to the bass, I thought it could provide support with firmness.
If I continue playing simple notes the rest of the band will follow adding more sounds. The feeling of a meeting after a long time could be perceived, so I felt I as being entrusted with it, that it was not pointless. In regards to the band’s positioning, there was a gap of 3 years, so we all did many different things and I feel it all influenced in our current sound. These 3 years were not in vain.
yui: I always say this jokingly, that I do play in FLOWER FLOWER to boast about my bandmates. Their balance is great and their sound is really cool and stylish.
murajun: she played acoustic guitar with her usual gentle style, but the phrasing was really strong. It was clear and clean, topped with a strong melody. It had a 16 beats drum pattern which gave it a summer feeling. The melody and rhythm were well crafted. I felt it had the potential to become a great song.
sacchan: They already mentioned the heavy acoustic concept, but I also felt exactly that. Honestly, though, I didn’t get the summer feel at all (Haha). It felt lethargic. I thought it was cool and different from traditional japanese music. When yui sent me the file I remember I promptly replied over LINE “It’s super cool!”
– There are not only yui’s usual floating-feelings, but also a different floating-feeling felt in british rock. In combination with them, the song becomes a habit that makes me want to listen to it repeatedly.
yui: we don’t have producers so we talk and work on it together. We tend to choose structures that are easy to listen by most people, but I also want it a bit strange. I think we fall between that threshold.
The b-side “Drama” has a serious sound coupled with piano. It’s a sound only possible by a first-rate band.
yui: Mannequin has a western sound and arrangement, but using japanese lyrics will make it sound more japanese right? Drama becomes more impure and “chic” in that sense, but easy to listen. I thought it was a good idea to balance a strong song next to a more graceful one.
– This song’s lyrics were made by you, but is named after FLOWER FLOWER It gives a very strong feeling of being played in a music session.
yui: It was made more than 3 years ago. We started making many songs during the pre production stage. This is one of those songs. Our band tries many music genres, so we often don’t know what kind of songs we will come up with. This song is interesting and fun, but I wasn’t sure if my voice would be good enough to sing it properly. I’m sure it would sound so much better if a black gospel singer were to sing it. But, when I tried to sing it myself, it fit into me very much.
– From the sounds alone it feels monotone, but yui’s singing puts the colors in and both sides become prominent. It really makes me want to watch this band live.
yui: I also look forward to it.
– Performing live after a long time and releasing these songs, and facing towards your career as a singer once again, do you feel that all that would make you sing in an natural way more than before?
yui: Entering my own world, When I express my feelings using only my voice I have to focus. At those times, if people are looking at me, it can become difficult. But now, I think I can go straight “There” in an instant. I can come and go “There” as I please. And even I’m surprised by that. Without the limits of the voice, I became able to express so much more. I can hear the band’s sounds even more clear and vivid than before. I think this is the aspect of my singing that has changed.
– You could say the band pulled you back. The band reclaimed your voice back.
yui: yeah, something like that. I feel like I’ve been wearing an armour by myself all this time, but now we all wear it together and the armour doesn’t feel so heavy. And sometimes I don’t feel I need it at all. That’s why I can sing freely now.
– We can say that you stepped up into the next stage
yui: I hope so (Haha) Maybe it’s because I’m not worried about many things anymore…
I think that is now being reflected in your songs and singing in a good way.
yui: Up until now, my own candle was burning with a big flame, but it started to dwindle little by little. Now that flame became really small. I think it is because my children were born and I got things I want to protect, so I had to be strong and try not to collapse under any circumstances. My band mates also supported me. Considering all that, I feel I started singing in a way that I wouldn’t feel cornered, that I wouldn’t become a burden. So now I can sing feeling very positive. I don’t think i’ve been so free before.
-I was shocked when I learned that yui-san became 30 years old. I earnestly think that time has passed so quickly.
yui: I have grown big! (Haha) I thought I would discard many things in life by the time I turned 30. I had a 3 years break too, so the fact that I was able to return to where I am now was something I am very grateful for. I didn’t think I would be able to do so. To me, being a musician means creating and performing, and by doing so constantly you come into existence. So when 3 years passed I had to make considerable preparations. I even thought I had lost everything. Even so, I was given such a chance and my band mates followed my path too. I will surely try my very best and give my all.
(Band members nodding)
The following interview was published in FLOWER FLOWER’s official website on August 2nd.