INTERVIEW: Otonana Trio
>Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
We are doing great, thank you! Tokyo is getting warmer and beer is tastingeven better.
>Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Sensei”?
OTONANA TRIO wants to help you to learn to speak Japanese… which explains what “Sensei” means. Feel free to call us “Sensei” anytime.
>Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
We write while we are on the road, so our concerts inspire the songs we come up with. We like to share Japanese language with our audiences, and ‘sensei’ is a word that people know. As far as the music, our drummer Hikari was into jazz for a minute, so we added a minute of jazz to the song to make her happy.
>How was the film experience?
Our plan was no plan – we just decided to let the camera roll for an hour or so and let Hikari be the school teacher and Kaz and I were the bad students. As usual with Otonana Trio, drinks happened… the footage is part crazy and part random, but I was able to at least that find three minute to make a music video.
>The single comes off your new album SpacePowerDelight – what’s the story behind the title?
The concept behind the SpacePowerDelight is about embracing something new. The storyline for the album starts by diving into a new environment. Through that you can understand who you are, learn new things, deal with ups and downs, then you figure it all out and have peace (and ramen).
>How was the recording and writing process?
The main theme of our albums isusually decided in a band meeting over some drinks! We want at least ten songs- five up tempo, two slowish, a few experimental songs, and a blues-oriented song. I usually give myself two months for the song writing, and recorded SpacePowerDelight in Tokyo in Summer 2016. This year we are changing it up by working in Los Angeles with Grammy Award-winning producer Robert Cutarella on new songs, he is challenging me as a songwriter, and even got Kaz and Hikari to sing for the first time.
>What is it about the 60s that you find so fascinating?
The emergence of music with amplification! Louder music was always popular –the Big Band Jazz era had a bunch of horns, which are naturally loud instruments. As amplified music happenedin the 60’s, the electric guitar became the “IT” instrument. Because of that development, the music was able evolve – and still does – in so many ways.
>What role does Japan play in your music?
I think Japanese traditional art practice tends to find importance in the process more than the outcome. There is positive and the negative in that habit, but it definitely has a huge role in my music. Also, It seems to be a cool thing to be a Japanese person from an outsider’s view. We definitely play it up at our shows, wearing kimonos, telling everyone about ramen, and we sell comic books illustrated in Japan.
>You played with different genres on this record – did one particular style shine out from the rest, lyricallys?
I like making the lyrics positive, rather than cynical. Our timing is placedon top of the beat, to make it feel that more uplifting. The funkier parts were definitely designed to shine!
>Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
Controversy. No one makes any sense, including me. I love listening to both sides of an argument, especially when I am buzzed. While we could usually find the good part in any statement, some statements force you to stay put. I am all about moving forward, whether it is right or wrong.
>Any plans to hit the road?
Fall tour in the U.S. is boiling.
>What else is happening next in Otonana Trio’s world?
We just played the Spring Scream Fest in Taiwan, it is Asia’s oldest music festival – we connected with a lot of new people on our side of the world. Before that we had a great tour in the States. We are now in Japan finishing songs for a new EP to come out in the fall, plus prepping a remix album of some of our best singles played in concert. Writing and recording with such a super experienced producer is challenging us to plan our record release and tours to be bigger than ever! Now we have a ‘Sensei’ too!
– Kentaro Saito is the leader singer, guitarist and mastermind of Otonana Trio
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