As The fin. is the Japanese Foundation’s guest tomorrow, for a free show right in time for the Music Festival in Paris, the sensational synthpop duo accepted to meet CKJ’s team for an exclusive interview!
If you’re intrigued by this band, and if their music takes you on a journey like it does to us, now is time to find out more about this timeless duo!
Hi, at first could you introduce the band?
Yuto Uchino: We are The fin. from Japan! We are originally from a city called Takarazuka, between Kobe and Osaka. It’s like a very musical city, and there is a big musical theater in Takarazuka. We formed the band when we were 20 or 21. Basically we’re old friends, I met Kaoru when I was 4. We had different bands before, like cover bands. We were covering Asian Kung-Fu Generation, and I wanted to become like them, but I couldn’t. (laughs) But it’s fine because now I’m a friend of the singer, so dreams come true! (laughs) I started writing music when I was 16, and when we formed this band, I uploaded some music on SoundCloud and some people emailed me, replied me, and commented on Soundcloud, then Japanese media noticed us. It was all natural, like on the flow!
And what is the meaning of the name of your band?
Yuto Uchino: Actually, nothing! (laughs) I was playing Winning Eleven, the Japanese version of FIFA, together with our former guitarist. And we wrote many words, and names, and then “The fin.” looked good, so that’s it! It was our name! (laughs)
Tell us a bit more about your path as musicians!
Yuto Uchino: I’ve been a big music lover since I was a kid, and my parents listen to Japanese music and Western music, they even got a record collection with CDs. So for me, it was really natural to listen to Western music, so first I wrote many Japanese songs but in a kind of English melody way. So, it didn’t fit at all, but I really liked Asian Kung-Fu Generation and Japanese bands. Obviously I’m Japanese, who lived in Japan, so I thought I needed to be more Japanese. So, I was ready to struggle with it. I studied cultural things in my university, and my teachers spoke a good English, they used to live abroad, so they told me a lot of things, and I just thought ‘Hum, I don’t have to be like that, I just can do what I want.’ And then I started writing in English, and it was all good. I didn’t have to struggle anymore with the melody, the lyrics. So now, I think it’s because of my parents and my friends too, cause I have many friends who like Western music.
Kaoru Nakazawa: For me, it’s different from him! As a kid, I was not listening to music as much as him, but at the age of 16, he made me listen to some Western music like Red Hot Chili Peppers. At the time, I got so much free time! (laughs) So I just started to listen to Western music and playing music.
Yuto Uchino: Japanese people say about our generation that we’re a very bad generation on an educational level. The government did a special education program for us, which lasted only five or six years, which was like ‘Don’t do anything, you don’t have to study much, you can just be free, be whoever you want’. So, we always had big free time. Sometimes, I just didn’t want to go to school, so instead I stayed home and played games! (laughs) Studying was not a priority and we had so much free time, it was perfect for us to discover new things from outside of Japan, and just be into learning instruments for example.
You are the guests of the Japanese Foundation for the Music Festival this year, how do you feel about performing here, in front of the French audience?
Yuto Uchino: Actually, we had a show last year at the MaMA Festival, and it was pretty good. I think the French crowd is very honest. I guess French people are kind of like me! (laughs) On stage, it’s so easy. Japanese people are very polite to each other, they can’t go crazy sometimes, so it may be difficult to play there. But in Europe and in other Asian countries, it’s really easy, and I think the French audience is really good for us. Last week for example, we had two shows, the first one was at Le Plan (Ris-Orangis). There were not much people there but I had so much fun and everybody was ‘yeah, yeah!’. And the next day we went to Reims, and we were the first band, but it was good. People came to the stage, they talked to me in French and they were shouting at us, so I was like ‘what?’. (laughs)
Talking about your stage in Reims, there were other Japanese artists and Korean artists too on this festival, what did you learn from that experience with them?
Yuto Uchino : I know two of these artists: yahyel and YonYon. We actually met yahyel in London two weeks ago, and we were once in the same radio show in Japan with YonYon. I haven’t seen Korean bands I guess.
CKJ: Some were scheduled on another day of this festival!
Yuto Uchino: If there were Korean bands on the same day as us, I think we would have noticed, because we Japanese people recognize Koreans right away.
Manager: YonYon is actually Korean!
Yuto Uchino: But she’s Japanese, right?
Manger: Her nationality is Korean, she has a Korean passport.
Yuto Uchino: Oh really? I didn’t know that. Actually, we were on the same train, and she was sitting in front of me and I was like ‘Oh, she has a Korean face’. (laughs)
How do you feel about the impact of synthpop and rock, especially in the Western countries?
Yuto Uchino: Hum, I don’t know about synthpop. Do you know M83?
Yuto Uchino : Are they French?
CKJ: Yes, but they’re not really popular here. We mostly hear them in movies or stuffs like that, but not really as a music band.
Yuto Uchino: Oh, I see. They’re the most underrated producers, but they’re quite famous in America. So maybe, when I was 18 years old, French kind of pop electro was really popular in our school, I don’t know why! (laughs) Like Daft Punk, Justice or Yuksek! British artists too, like Metronomy. But now, hip-hop is huge and synthpop is more cheap music. I don’t really care about hit charts, I just want to express my feelings, so It doesn’t really matter. I don’t really think like ‘I’m doing synthpop now’ or ‘I’m doing hip-hop next’, it’s not like that. I just don’t really care.
Where do you find the inspiration for the feelings you try to bring out?
Yuto Uchino: It’s just very natural. I think making music is really really important for me mentally speaking because I’m a quite a talkative person but I still find it difficult to express my real feelings. Sometimes people just don’t understand words as I understand them. For me, making music and saying something through music is more natural. And I can use everything, so it’s very in my nature I guess, so now I can’t quit. (laughs) Like this sound express this kind of vibe, and my lyrics help it to make it more real or something, and this beat is kind of like this feeling, it’s pretty much like drawing a picture.
How was it working with a famous producer like Bradley Spence? What did you think about this collaboration ?
Yuto Uchino: We worked for the first time together in 2016, three years ago. And at that time, I was like ‘Woah, oh my god‘ because he used to work with Radiohead, big artists and I was like… I don’t know, too excited? I couldn’t be natural 100%. I could do my best, but this time I was staying in London and I was mixing and producing with them, for the new EP and we worked already in an interesting way. It was more natural and pretty much like… a cosy vibe. So now, it’s like a very natural thing for me because since ten years ago, I’ve been writing music all alone so I didn’t study and write with someone. Always in my room and alone. (laughs) I mixed the first album, second EP so I learned mixing on my own, and mastering too, so it’s really important to have someone to get my music through, like a filter. And then I feel like my music become more perfect, and get some new aspects. It’s been great and they are amazing so I’m always like “Woah, you guys are genius!” .(laughs)
Do you plan to collaborate with other producers?
Yuto Uchino: Yeah, yeah! I want to collaborate with other producers because I want to learn more.
Recently, you released a brand new song entitled “Come Further”. Can you talk about its meaning?
Yuto Uchino: I wrote this song, maybe, last year? Last year was really really hard for me. The former guitarist left… Actually since I’ve lived to London. It was three years ago now? My life has changed a lot because my family lives in Japan and my ex-girlfriend too. So many things changed, my friends too. I thought it was so hard to keep my life tidy. Because you know, my artist life and my private life…?
CKJ: Personal life?
Yuto Uchino: Yeah, personal life. I can’t have them all right? I can’t make it perfect. Sometimes I need to choose. Sometimes I felt like my heart had ripped out. But I love music and I have many supporters and they love my music so I want to keep doing this. I don’t know, I felt like the more I went further, the more I felt lonely sometimes. The song is something about that. It’s like painful emotions, but it’s not like negative or down. It has got a big power, bright.
CKJ: Beautiful feelings despite the darkness.
Yuto Uchino: Yeah, yeah… Too deep! (laughs)
Your music videos are very creative. Do you take part in the creation of all of your music videos?
Yuto Uchino: Actually, our music videos, not all, but ‘Night Time’, ‘Till Dawn’ and ‘Shedding’ were directed by a producer, Kosai Sekine. I think he won Cannes once. Con ? Can? Cannes ? (laughs) He was great, great. He was random. He heard our songs on the Japanese radio and he liked it, and he emailed us ‘Let’s make some videos’. Basically, he’s amazing so I don’t need to say anything because he understands our music well and he always talks a lot about his works before we shoot. I can always be very relaxed and I don’t need to worry about anything. I can just be like ‘Ok, ok, ok, let’s do it!‘ I’m really happy.
We assume that some people tell you to write in Japanese too. What do you think about all that creative experience in English?
Yuto Uchino: Uhm, I think that maybe, when I get older, I could write in Japanese for someone. But I don’t see myself singing in Japanese to my crowds right now. Not now maybe? Now, it’s really comfortable writing in English. Maybe when I get old. (laughs)
Among all of the countries you didn’t visit yet, is there any where you would like to go?
Yuto Uchino: Australia?
Yuto Uchino: Because they’re crazy! (laughs) I have some Australian friends. They are all interesting, crazy in some ways. They just seem special. (laughs) They are so free! I’m really curious about their culture, their education, their state of mind. And I want to go to America again, and maybe Canada too? Because there are many great Canadian artists. I think synthpop is a Canadian thing.
What is for you the main difference between the Western and the Japanese indie music?
Yuto Uchino: We have a very original culture, which is from samurai and kimono, something like that. But we don’t wear kimono and we don’t have samurai anymore. It’s like the real Japanese culture killed by World War II, or before, with Meiji generation because they thought that we had to fight with Western countries to save Japan. They became more serious about it and then, they started thinking they could rule Asia or something. We fucked up! (laughs) After that, our culture became more mixed. Everything is mixed, food and clothes and music, and films too. So everything is different, but at the same time still the same. I don’t know how to say it, but everything’s cooked in a Japanese way. We can make it very Japanese. I guess that Japanese indie music is something like that? I still feel sometimes like, if I sing in Japanese, I really can’t do that. I still can’t. I can be like a Japanese Kanye West or something and no one guess I would stay in Japan. But Japanese people don’t know Kanye West well and they’ll think ‘Oh, he’s so cool, he’s so new‘, but it’s stolen, and not original. But I sing in English and I need to create too, I need my signature sound, The Fin.’s sound. That is not an easy thing and I don’t think we can create a whole new thing, it is impossible. Everything is always an old part and a little bit of new part. People think that its is new, that it is something different. I always feel that the Japanese music scene is still, only inside Japan, but now I think that the young generation, our generation, is trying to change maybe, which is good. I hope that I can be… I can achieve something. And Western music is very original to me. Jazz and rock. America and England have roots music, which is mixing together and creative new things together. This is very natural, from their history. For us, we just import. It’s like building at some point rock music. (laughs) They don’t have any ideas of roots, behind their music. That is the biggest difference I guess. Nowadays, with Internet, we can connect with everything. We can learn a lot. Maybe that is why a lot of Asian people start a band and are making music I guess.
If you knew that your music could be able to change that in Japan, would you consider returning to Japan?
Yuto Uchino: Uhm, I love Japan. I’m Japanese and Japan is my home. I wish my music was big (laughs), bigger than now in Japan and I really hope that. But I still feel like I know it is difficult. I think we’ve been doing great. For our generation, we were the first band who played outside. I want to. I think I want to die in Japan. I love England and I love London, but yeah… I want to die in Japan.
CKJ: Yes, in your home.
Yuto Uchino: Yeah. Like fishes.
Can we expect new stuffs, new projects for this year coming soon?
Yuto Uchino: Uhm yeah, I’m making a new EP now, so it’s gonna be released in August?
Manager: Maybe in September. (laughs)
Yuto Uchino: Actually, in London, I collaborated with a Japanese producer. Basically, he’s a singer. He’s doing producing stuffs as well. We’ve been friends for five years? He lives in London now. He said that it’s because of me. (laughs) I went to his studio to work on a track. I wrote the lyrics. I think it is going to be released soon I guess, in June or July. It’s not like The Fin., it’s a totally different thing. It was fun.
About the recording sessions, as you are playing instruments, how do you feel about this process of composing music? You Kaoru are the bassist, you were the drummer and you changed to the bass, how do you feel about this instrument change, especially in The Fin.’s musical career?
Kaoru Nakazawa: Actually, when I started making music, I was a bassist. For this band, I started to play drums. Moving from drums to bass is not that hard for me. The most difficult thing was to remember all of the songs because we had an Asian tour! (laughs)
Yuto Uchino: He was so sad when the bassist left. He just left. We were just like ‘Oh my god, you need to play bass, learn everything‘, we had many upcoming gigs in Asia, and in England too. He couldn’t come out from his room (laughs), practicing whole day.
Do you have a special message for the French audience, maybe in French?
Yuto Uchino: (laughs) Ok, ok. Je m’appelle Yuto Uchino, j’aime la France, j’aime la french food, j’aime la bière, french bière (laughs), so I hope you guys will enjoy the show and let’s drink together! (laughs)
CKJ: Thank you so much, we hope you will enjoy your show!
Just to remind you that the show of The fin. tomorrow is free, so you have no excuse to miss it!
We would like to thank Keiko Kawashima and Aya Soejima from the Japan Foundation in Paris, Lauriane Bedin from HIP LAND MUSIC CORPORATION and of course The Fin. for this wonderful interview!