Interview with fhána

interview - 26.09.2015 04:00

Ahead of their first overseas show, fhána breaks the ice with JaME in an in-depth interview about their musical background, first full-length album, favorite anime and more.

Pop quartet fhána consists of three music producers/composers – Junichi Sato, yuxuki waga, and kevin mitsunaga – and a female vocalist, towana. The group’s polished, electro-synth driven pop sound has been notably featured in a variety of anime series, including its newest Lantis single, Stardust Interlude, which is currently featured as the ending theme for the series, "Celestial Method". The group also contributed theme songs for series such as "Witch Craft Works" and "Prisma Illya" and was named as an iTunes Japan 2014 New Artist to Watch.

Ahead of their debut USA concert at Anime Weekend Atlanta, fhána broke the ice with JaME in an in-depth interview about their musical background, first full-length album, favorite anime and more.

As this is JaME's very first interview with you, please introduce yourselves and tell us about your concept.

Junichi: We are a rock band, but also a pop unit, as well as an anisong artist. At the base, though, is a concept of creating wonderful music that brings tears to the eyes. We want to express the emotional storylines that movies, anime, and games have through our music.

Please tell us about your background. For example, when did each of you start taking an interest in music? Who or what inspired you to take up music as your career? How did all of you come together to form fhána?

Junichi: When I was in elementary school, I would immerse myself in the music of games such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, along with computer games such as Ys and Sorcerian. I would copy the playing of such songs on CASIO’s toy keyboard. I would also create original songs on the spot, which was the beginning of my musical interests. During my teenage years, I would listen to Shibuya-styled bands such as FLIPPER’S GUITAR, as well as the Yellow Magic Orchestra. I am also influenced by American alternative rock bands The Smashing Pumpkins and Foo Fighters, along with the artistic Northern European electronic singer Björk.

yuxuki: I began to play the guitar when I was 13 years old, having been influenced by a friend. During my school years, I often listened to alternative rock bands like Radiohead and Weezer. I am also greatly influenced by American indie bands, such as those under Polyvinyl Records. When I was around 20 years old, I began to create VOCALOID music while staying active with my own band.

kevin: I began to create music when I was 14 years old. Back then, I would be active in bands, but when I was around 18 years old, I began to concentrate on electronica and sampling. The music that has given me the biggest influence is Cornelius’ album Sensuous.

towana: I played classical piano for over 10 years, starting when I was three. I loved to play the piano and sing songs since I was little. I received great influence from female artists such as Sheena Ringo and YUKI during my teenage years.

Junichi: Such was our musical background, but it was just yuxuki, kevin and I who came together initially. Until then, the three of us had been working on music individually, but we all had something in common: the Internet was where we would show our creations. I debuted in 2006 with the band FLEET. The chance for making my debut came along because I had been posting full versions of original songs on my own website, before posting things on Nico Nico or Myspace. yuxuki, who is of the following generation, would post VOCALOID numbers on Nico Nico. kevin, who is from an even newer generation, was active in the culture of “net label.”

We first met one another through the internet, when yuxuki sent me a message on Twitter. yuxuki was a big fan of my old band FLEET when he was still in school. It also turned out to be that the internet was not our only common interest. The fact that we all like anime and games as hobbies allowed us to hit it off with each other. I wanted to create a group with individuals from three different generations on the internet, and make music with a feeling similar to the emotional stories of the anime and games we enjoy. I brought this idea to the others, and this is how we got together. At first, we had the practice of inviting a guest vocalist for each song. towana sang as a guest vocalist for two numbers in our independent album New World Line. Her voice really matched our songs, so she naturally became an official member, leading us to become the band we are today.

You will be making your debut US concert at Anime Weekend Atlanta soon. What are your thoughts about it?

towana: This is fhána’s first overseas show, so we are very excited. We are truly happy that those in the US will be listening to our music. I hope that even though the language is different, we can connect and enjoy the music together.

Your songs have been featured in a variety of anime such as "Celestial Method", "Witch Craft Works" and "Prisma Illya". Please tell us about your song creation process for anime tie-ins such as these.

Junichi: When we receive a request for a tie-up song and there is an original work, we read the original manga or novel to immerse ourselves in the story’s atmosphere. For anime without an original work, we read the screenplay or proposals, and see the writer’s past works to grasp the perspective. From there, we begin the song-making process. There are cases where the creators of the anime have special requests. We answer such requests, but don’t dedicate our music solely to “client work”. We take in what we want to do at that time and what we personally enjoy into our music. Through this process, ideas that we never would have thought of are brought in, creating a great synergy. There are also times where we imagine the actual footage of the anime openings and endings to make the songs.

Your Wonder Stella music video was released recently. Please tell us about its filming process. What message are you trying to convey through the song or music video?

yuxuki: We filmed overnight at the foothill of Mt. Fuji. The work we tied up with involves magic, so the music video has magical scenery, combining real-life footage and computer graphics. It is a song that goes from one moment to the next as if one were on an adventure. We had an image of growing a bond with listeners through this adventure of Wonder Stella.

You released your first full-length album Outside of Melancholy in February this year. What are the highlights of the album?

Junichi: The album is influenced by science fiction stories that feature time traveling and time leaping. When you change the past through time leaping, this causes many parallel worlds to be born. I realized that the many stories of the anime fhána has created songs for is a part of our larger story of fhána itself. After I became aware of this, the album-making process quickly progressed at once. The first track Outside of Melancholy ~Yuutsu no muko-gawa~ and the last track white light have lyrics that directly express such realizations. Between these two numbers are our past tie-up songs and new songs, numbers that show that there are various possible worlds. I hope listeners can enjoy this album structure as well.

The message I want to tell through this album structure is to have positive feelings towards the reality one faces. The present changes infinitely based on past choices, allowing any self to be possible. In reality though, your present self is you, yourself. The fact that your present self exists even after infinite possibilities is an irreplaceable miracle. There are many sorrowful things that happen in everyday life, but the world you live in right now is in fact a world outside of melancholy, a world of hope.

Any interesting behind-the-scenes story to share regarding the creation of Outside of Melancholy?

kevin: We were creating the image album for the anime “Celestial Method” right before starting with the album-making process, so we were very busy. It was fun taking photos for the artwork and answering several interviews. During our music video shoots, we would also shoot behind-the-scenes footage. I would shoot food reports showing the bento and meals at the scene. It was really entertaining. You can find some of these on YouTube, so please check it out!

What is an off day like for you?

Junichi: I have pet cats, so I play and lie around with them. I often go to see the movies as well. I also go to the hot springs and take little domestic trips to relax.

kevin: I go out to take photos. I also eat out with the band members of fhána and go window-shopping.

yuxuki: When I go outdoors, I will go cycling or shopping. At the house, I tend to play television games.

towana: I enjoy spending a peaceful time at home, reading books and listening to music.

What are some of your favourite visual novels and anime? Why do you like those titles?

Junichi: My favorites are "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” and the movie “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya”. Not only are the characters charming, the entire story itself is a great science fiction story. The science fiction aspects and characters’ relationships and subtle emotions are tied tightly together, creating an impression unique to this story. I also love Maeda Jun’s creations such as “CLANNAD”, “Air” and “Angel Beats!” because they are emotional, fantastic, and science-fiction styled. I love Nasu Kinoko’s works like “Fate/stay night” and “Kara no kyokai” with its distinct atmosphere; I enjoy the detailed backgrounds that relate characters across stories.

kevin: I like “ARIA”, “CLANNAD”, “GHOST IN THE SHELL”, “Coil – A Circle of Children”, “PLANETES” and “Psalms of Planets Eureka seveN.” I watch a variety of works, ranging from fantasy to science fiction, but as a whole, I enjoy human dramas that put an emphasis on the characters’ delicate feelings.

yuxuki: I enjoy “THE IDOLM@STER” and “ARIA”. “THE IDOLM@STER” shows each idol’s growth process very well, and it gives me energy to try hard myself.

towana: My favorite is “ARIA” because the music is wonderful; I love the soothing atmosphere of the entire anime.

If you could transform into an anime character, who would you transform into? Why?

towana: I want to become Illya from “Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya” so that I can become a magical girl with cute costumes!

What are your future plans?

Junichi: We are in charge of the opening theme Comet Lucifer ~The Seed and the Sower~ and the image song Cosmos no youni for the original television anime “Comet Lucifer” that will begin in October. The single will be released on October 28th, and we will be having a concert in Osaka on October 4th. Please look forward to the television anime, as well as the single and live show.

To wrap up our interview, please leave a message for all JaME readers.

towana: We will make cool music so that our music will reach those in America! Please look forward to our future activities!

JaME would like to thank MediaLab and fhána for making this interview possible.
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