Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Kitchen Song”?
Since I moved to Tokyo and started living alone, my kitchen is my favorite place. It’s really small, but I feel relaxed there. I’m a night owl. When the world is silent and sleeping, I’m in the kitchen, thinking, writing in my diary, letting out emotions that I normally keep locked away, taking an objective look at myself, and getting inspiration from myself. “Kitchen Song” is a love song that came from me just doing my usual routine.
One night when I was standing in my kitchen, I was thinking about someone that I loved, but they were gone from my life. I finally accepted that, and I couldn’t stop crying. I was blaming myself for everything that happened, looking back on our memories together. I wanted to remember that night, so I wrote a song about it. It really helped me get through those feelings, and I could feel that there were other girls, somewhere in the world, crying in their kitchens at night just like I was.
Producer Kei Maruyama worked on the track. I told him I wanted it to sound like 80s and 90s Japanese pop mixed with modern alternative that you hear in the Europe and the US. There’s also a version of the song that has an ambient pop feel. It will be released to streaming sites (Spotify, Apple Music, etc.) on December 5.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
When you love someone, you seek happiness from each other. Even though you loved them so much, after awhile you might forget what their face looks like. There’s also sadness, and feeling pathetic and alone. I wanted to capture both ends of the spectrum. You can’t write about these feelings unless you’ve gone deep into what’s behind those emotions. It was a bit frightening, but I did my best to go there.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
My video is on the Spincoaster YouTube channel. They find new music from all over the world. They do “Moving Jacket” videos, which feature the album cover moving around. I thought it was a good fit for my album so wanted to work with them. “kitchen song (dance version)” has a clear image in the song, it expresses a part of life. I liked the idea of one symbolic image that keeps moving, and the album cover is just the word “life.” So moving that around and seeing it in different ways, different shapes, is something I found I never got tired of. Just like my life.
The single comes off your new album LIFE – what’s the story behind the title?
“kitchen song (dance version)” is more than a single, it’s the lead song that PRs the whole album. I really like this song.
Anyway, LIFE is the title, and it has many meanings, but I gave the album that title in the sense of “living life.” I moved to Tokyo a few years ago and started living alone. It was a major turning point in my life. Tokyo is about 2 hours from the house I grew up in. I used to come to play shows, or just hang out. Since I started living here, I’m surprised at how fast time passes. The people and the city just never stop moving. Everything is so expensive, and you can’t do anything without spending money. The sky doesn’t seem as big. People who live here are always inundated with so much information and always pressed for time.
I came up with the album concept when I finally grasped what life is like as a woman living in the big city. I had a strong image of women who live in Tokyo, including myself— when things don’t go your way, when you’re at your breaking point, you just have to keep living as best you can and get through. Those are the feelings I put into this album. I hope people will always value themselves and take care of themselves.
This an EP, not a full album. I want the listener to feel my life and think about theirs. It’s about 25 minutes, so you can do that and listen to it over and over.
How was the recording and writing process?
I used to write lyrics first, but this time I started with the melody, or wrote the lyrics and melody together. That’s how I wrote the album and it all came together. “Counting on my fingers” and “Angel in Blue” were a new type of song for me, I wanted them to sound J-pop. “I want to understand you” and “muse” are all about the groove. “kitchen song (dance version)” and “Sleep to Dream” have a melody that repeats and brings up stronger feelings in the listener.
For the recording, I worked with producer Kei Maruyama. Some songs were all all electronic, some were done with live musicians. “Counting on my fingers” and “I want to understand you” have more of a band sound. “Angel in Blue,” “kitchen song (dance version),” and “Sleep to Dream” are all about Kei’s electro-pop arrangements. It was my first time working with Kei, and I learned so much. I also sang my own backing vocals for the fist time.
This album was a major turning point for me in that I drastically changed the way I sing. When we started recording the vocals, I wondered if I could sing in a way that would fit the songs better. I came up with a pretty unique sound, doing a whispery voice and combining falsetto parts with the same line sung an octave lower. It worked out really well. Recoding this album helped me discover that, I feel lucky.
What role does Japan play in your music?
Many Japanese people are shy, and I am one of them. Japanese people aren’t good at expressing their thoughts and feelings, but they are good at grasping what lies at the heart of people and happenings. Expressing those invisible emotions and moods is essential in creating lyrics and the atmosphere of a song. Since I’m Japanese, I feel like that ability is naturally a part of who I am. It’s part of what makes me unique. I’m proud of that.
How do you go on balancing your own cultural background with a much diverse, “American vision” on your music?
This entire album is in Japanese, but now I want to write and record songs in English. I’ve already started. English versions of “Angel in Blue,” “kitchen song (dance version),” and “Counting on my fingers” are finished. They’ll be available on streaming sites in late December or early January. My voice and style work really well in English. People are saying they hear a variety different messages in the lyrics and melodies, so I’m very happy about that. I think of the voice as an instrument, making sounds, not just words.
I’m looking forward to working in the US.
What aspect of love and life in general did you get to explore on this record?
Whether it’s a boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, family or coworker, all relationships will eventually come to an end. You meet, you part ways. People feel uncertainty and many other feelings in the midst of these seemingly common events that make up a life. I was able to express those feelings in the vocals, sound, lyrics, everything.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
One person that has influenced my music the most is Haruki Murakami. I read Kafka on the Shore as a teenager, and I still read his work today. His influence is all over this record. “Sleep to Dream” was inspired by Paul Auster’s Moon Palace. The novel even makes an appearance in the lyrics.
It’s not a book, but one line in “kitchen song (dance version), “Little cowboy does does a little dance, sliding across the floor,” was inspired by Jim Jarmusch’s movie Down by Law. Three men escape from prison and end up in a cafe. Roberto starts to like the female lead character, and they put on a record and start dancing. They’re in this wonderful, private world. I like cute love scenes that you can laugh at. I pictured the two of them dancing as I was writing the lyrics.
Any plans to hit the road?
I’m a recording artist right now. I’ve never done a show outside of Japan though, so I would love to do one in the future.
What else is happening next in Ayane Yamazaki’s world?
I’d like to live in NY, London, Paris, and talk with people from all over the world. I want to learn about different cultures, absorb those cultures and make art from that inspiration. I also want to know what other young people around the world are thinking about as they live life.