Interview with HALCALI in Chicago

interview - 13.06.2008 22:00

After their show at Anime Central HALCALI answered our questions about the performance, their beginnings, manga, where they're headed and more.

HALCALI has made a number of trips to Europe but this was their first time to perform in the United States. They were kind enough to answer some of our questions after performing at the large anime convention, Anime Central.

First, thank you so much for doing this interview. We would like to start with a few questions about the early years of HALCALI because you have a really interesting beginning.

You two met in a dance school when you were kids, and you won the grand prize at the "FEMALE RAPPER Audition." Was there any specific reason you decided to try your hand at hip hop and rapping? And at that time, did you have certain idols in the hip hop scene who inspired you? If so, who were they?

Yucali: Hip hop has always been our favorite music - we love dancing to it. But we weren't necessarily determined to become rappers or musicians, actually. We thought it would be fun to do the audition and were lucky enough to win it and our musical career started.
Halca: Yeah, so we pretty much went with the flow (laughter).
Yucali: As for a hip-hop artist that inspired us, Missy Elliot is our idol.

Your first album peaked at number five on the Oricon charts in 2003. At that time you were still in middle school, right? Was it difficult being a celebrity and being in school at the same time? Did your classmates and teachers give you special treatment?

Yucali: When we put out our first record, we didn't feel like we'd made it or like people were talking about us. I mean, we weren't on TV that much. We were kind of embarrassed because we hadn't told our friends that we were going to make our debut, or even about the audition. When they found out that we’d made our debut, they were all surprised, but they supported us. Our teachers too.
Halca: One day at school, our song Tandem started playing on the PA system during lunch time!
Yucali: And I thought, "This sucks!"(laughter) I was so embarrassed.
Halca: We had no idea they were going to play the song.
Yucali: I think they did it to support us, but still.

How did the teachers react?

Yucali: They said, "Just do your best. But you have to keep coming to school." But I ended up really sticking out, so then I was told, "you have to be a role model for the other students." I definitely got yelled at more than the other kids. But I did work hard. (laughter)

How did the collaboration with the brand "Lovers House" come about?

Yucali: The designers designed it with HALCALI in mind. We didn't actually do a collaboration with the designers. It was more like they used our logo, and then we wore what they designed.
Halca: I was really happy when I heard about it.
Yucali: Yeah, me too, because I'd loved the brand ever since I was a child. So I was like, "Really, our logo? You really want to use it?"
Halca: It made me glad to be in HALCALI.
Yucali: They put out t-shirts and jumpsuits, which we wore at the time, with our logo on them, and sold them at the stores.

Also on the topic of fashion, you always appear in very interesting and original outfits. Where do you get ideas for these ensembles?

Halca: Lately we want to stand out, so we wear colored pants or dress like twins. But basically we just find something we both like in a store and buy matching clothes.
Yucali: I think we started wearing matching clothes when we started going to perform in other countries.
Halca: Because if we stand out in our matching clothes, people will recognize us as HALCALI.

You've worked with many different producers and artists. Were any of them especially difficult to work with, or have different ideas from what you wanted to do?

Yucali: Utamaru from RHYMESTER and AlLI-KICK from Roman Crew produced a song called Driver’s License, and it was our first time being involved right from the process of choosing the song. Before then we always let the producer write the song, and just wrote the lyrics ourselves. It was our first time choosing from a few different songs, and we thought this track was really cool. We agreed on it right away. But then we had a really hard time writing the lyrics for it.
Halca: Me too. It's a song that you want to listen to while you're driving at night. Even just the instrumental version. It was really hard to write the lyrics (to live up to the track). I didn't want to ruin the image of the song, I wanted the track to stay the way I liked it. But it was fun being able to choose the song.

Is there one experience that stands out as the most exciting collaboration for you?

Yucali: That's a really tough question. All the producers and artists that we worked with were so awesome that it's hard to pick just one. Everyone was full of unique ideas and it was such a great learning experience to work with each one of them.

A number of your songs have been featured as theme songs for anime. Are you fans of anime and manga, and if so, which ones have you been enjoying in recent years?

Halca I love this Korean manga called "Lovekyon," which is about the Korean royal family. The story takes place in the present day, and the pictures are so cute. Also I got a lot of manga since we're coming to ACen, so I can't wait to read them all. I think I may be really into manga soon. (laughter)

You've made a music video with the song Sister Ship that will be a tie-in with the new comic book "eV." How did this collaboration come about? Did TOKYOPOP or Spacedog approach you, or had you already been wanting to do something with this comic book?

Yucali: We heard about the collaboration from our staff so we're not exactly sure how this opportunity came about but we thought it was very exciting.
Halca: I love Japanese manga and anime but I also like American comics too because the artwork is very unique and cute. So I was really happy when we heard about the collaboration.

You recently went to Paris for a performance. What did you most enjoy about this most recent trip to France? Were you able to relax while you were there?

Yucali: The show was so much fun. We did one show at Japan Expo, and this year we did a show for the people who came to see us. We weren't sure how many people there would be. I mean, at that point our album hadn't even come out in Europe, but they were really pumped, so that show made us the happiest.
Halca: Of course the show was a lot of fun. It was also fun because they taught us how to say things in French.

What about sightseeing?

Yucali: Our schedule wasn't too tight, so we had some time to sightsee. The city was full of really photogenic places like it was a museum. I took about 300-400 photos in the week we were there. Even just going from place to place was fun. We went shopping too. We ran into a bunch of college students from Kagoshima, Japan who surrounded us, and the French people were so surprised. (laughter) We were traveling as a group and wherever we went they took pictures of us.

Your latest album, Cyborg Oretachi, is very exciting and mixes a lot of genres. Jazz, disco, island, classical, and rock to name a few. Have any of these genres been difficult to make and perform your music or dances with?

Yucali: We worked with different producers for almost each track on the album.

And the title track Cyborg Oretachi was a very unusual song with a lot of interesting electronic influences, and even with that robotic feel, it’s still very catchy and free; was there anything specifically that inspired you to make this kind of song? How did that concept come about?

Yucali: We ended up using the work Cyborg Oretachi for the album title as it sounds funny and makes a great impact, but the song is not necessarily a title track. The song is produced by Hayashi from POLYSICS so the track was his idea. We're both big fans of them so we were very happy to have worked with Hayashi-san. In person, he has a very mature demeanor and wasn't hyper like when he's on stage (laughter) but he's very funky and had lots of cool ideas. It was so much fun to work with him.

Concerning the title, "ore" is usually reserved for male speech. Why did you choose to use "oretachi"?

Yucali: It was Hayashi-san's idea. He said that it was interesting because the girl uses the masculine pronoun of "ore."
Halca: It had a lot of impact.
Yucali: We thought of a lot of different titles, but we thought this one had the most impact. We decided on this title because once you hear it, you'll never forget it.

The pictures in the CD jacket are very funny. It seems to be set in the desert, and there's a large robot chasing the two of you who are smaller robots. Could you tell us a little about this? And was it designed after you had already established the album title?

Halca: I really love the album artwork.
Yucali: It does feel like "We, the cyborgs"("Cyborg Oretachi"), but actually the artwork was finished before the title, and it was like a miracle because it fit perfectly. The artwork was made with the opinions of the art director. And that was the robot that was made.
Halca: They photoshopped our faces onto the robots. Even though it was just photoshop, it was cool to be on the robot. It made me glad to be in HALCALI.
Yucali: Everyone was jealous. Some people were like, "I would pay money to get my face put on the robots." (laughter)
Halca: I really think the album jacket came out well. The colors are cute too.

Since this was your American debut, was there anything you were looking forward to seeing or doing while you're here, and have you been able to do it?

Yucali: We ate the famous Chicago deep dish pizza on our first day here! Before we came here, everybody told us "You should eat Chicago pizza!" but we had no idea what was so special about it. Now I know why everybody talked about it. It's HUGE and so tasty.
Halca: Tonight we're planning on going to a big shopping mall and I'm very excited about it.

What's your general reaction to the American audience? And were they able to follow along with your dance choreography, or were they completely disorganized?

Yucali: The American audience was awesome. They were great at call-and-response and they could follow our moves perfectly yet they were also disorganized, in a good way (laughter). I could see each one of them enjoying in their own way, which I think was great.
Halca: Yeah, I could see from the stage that the audience was really having a good time and that made us really happy.

This time you performed at Anime Central. Did you see a lot of American cosplayers? If so, did you find it strange to see foreigners doing this?

Yucali: Yes, we saw a lot of cosplayers. Just like the concert audience, the cosplayers looked so confident and really enjoyed their cosplay. That is so cute.

What kind of gifts do you like to receive from your fans?

Halca: It's all way beyond how I imagined it.
Yucali: The caricature I got at the meet and greet yesterday really looked like me. But the fan letters made me most happy.
Halca: The letters were amazing. They wrote them in Japanese and English. And they were written by hand which made me happy.

Can you tell us anything about your future plans and the direction your music will go in, like musical styles you might incorporate, or people you'd like to work with?

Yucali: We'll be back in the U.S. soon! This time, we'll be performing at NYC's Central Park for an event called Japan Day 2008. We're so excited about it! If you have a chance, please come see us there.
Halca: As for our music, we want to keep working with different musicians and producers and incorporate different styles of music, even heavy metal, maybe (laughter). The key is to make the kind of music that we can enjoy.

And finally, could you give a message to your overseas fans?

Halca: All we can do is make songs and then meet them at shows, but I'd be happy if that's enough. I think that having them come to a show and sing with us is great communication. I'd love to see everyone at a show.
Yucali: I agree with Halca. This job gives us the chance to connect with people we normally wouldn't be able to connect with. There's a great sense of give and take: we touch people from all over the world, and cheer them up with our music, and they cheer us up at concerts. Please support us.

Thank you to Sony for making this interview possible and to HALCALI for taking the time to answer our questions.
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