September 15, 2016


Perfume's Bold Ambition: J-Pop Group Talks Fan Stunts, Babymetal & Taking Over America

Jeff Benjamin for Fuse
Jeff Benjamin for Fuse

Onstage, Perfume is the otherworldly, Japanese pop-techno trio that delivers its high-pitched pop melodies with robotically precise choreography—like they did at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom earlier this month to close the U.S. leg of their Cosmic Explorer Tour. Offstage, Perfume still has their high-pitched voices, but have a warm, almost childlike amusement about themselves and their success that just this year includes their biggest U.S. tour to date and their first charting album.

Talking to Fuse at the west Manhattan site of their Perfume: A Gallery Experience costume and technology exhibit, the three members see their personalities shine in a different way than on stage or in a music video. While Perfume doesn't have a dedicated leader, A-Chan more or less embodies that role, seeming the most at ease and speaking slowly to make sure each of her words are heard. Meanwhile, Kashiyuka comes off as friendly and warm, making some eye contact through her perfectly straight bangs. And the cool Nocchi, with her bob cut and dedication to wearing shorts and pants, is the most guarded of the bunch, but even she can't check her emotions when something piques her interest (like mentioning J-pop idol Utada Hikaru or beloved Perfume single "Glitter"). 

From the fans that made an impression on them to what the future holds, get to know Perfume a bit better before they return again for another (undoubtedly bigger) tour.

FUSE: Welcome back to New York, Perfume! How are you feeling as the tour comes to a close?
Kashiyuka: Before we started, a two-week trip seemed so long. But it went by so fast and before we knew it, we're here in New York. So far, we haven't had a perfect day in terms of production, but we hope to do that in New York.

What have been some of your best memories from the tour?
Clam chowder soup with a bread bowl was so good.
Nocchi: Deep dish pizza. I just had it, but I want it again. I want it now! But a lot of fans sing along to the new songs from the album, so that was surprising. But I found someone who had dance moves for the new songs already totally memorized. I was looking from the stage, but it was like watching the stage since they knew the moves so well.
A-Chan: During the show, there's a part where I say "Copy me" and [make shapes with my body] like "Apple," "Banana" and "Cheeseburger." So in Los Angeles I did that. But in San Francisco, when I said "Banana," these fans put on banana costumes and I told them, "Hey, don't give it away, don't spoil it!" And then in Chicago they didn't do it. So I think there might be a community of fans in each city that talk and tell them what not to do. I really like that community going on within our fans.

Jeff Benjamin for Fuse
Jeff Benjamin for Fuse
Jeff Benjamin for Fuse
Jeff Benjamin for Fuse

You're finding more success as the years go on. Do you feel your global popularity growing?
Nocchi: In Japan, even when we hear our album's on Billboard or "You're growing in the U.S.," it's hard to get the feel of it. But when we come here and see the excitement from the fans, we do notice it.

How are you going to keep growing this international popularity? 
It's nothing really in particular, but we have [long-term] goals, and that's to play Madison Square Garden. To do that, our short-term goal is to play as many cities as possible and build up that fanbase. But we want to participate in festivals in America. 
Nocchi: We're actually performing at a lot of rock festivals in Japan.
Kashiyuka: I think Coachella would be a good fit. [Laughs]

Pentatonix recently did a medley mashup of some of your songs. What was your reaction?
A-Chan: Really cool, just awesome. Thanks for loving our songs, Pentatonix. 
Kashiyuka: They chose really great songs and it's a great arrangement. Even the breakdown in the parts that they mashed together to make the medley was very unexpected and it totally gave a total new life to these songs.

Babymetal (@babymetal_jpn on Instagram)
Babymetal (@babymetal_jpn on Instagram)

Japanese music and J-pop are having a moment, with you and your friends Babymetal doing so well. 
We're very happy for Babymetal and we're very happy that we're both sort of trying to spread J-pop together. Very, very happy.

Utada Hikaru, someone else who helped spread J-pop, is making a comeback. Were you fans or inspired by her?
We all loved her—we're very much the Utada Generation. One of the first songs we practiced after school was "Automatic." We were told, "Express this song with your body!"
Nocchi: We didn't have any singing or dance lessons at the time, but were told to "express it." That's one of our earliest memories as a group and of Utada. We're very excited for her comeback.

Three of you make up Perfume. What are the three songs that you think best define the group?
"Chocolate Disco." It seems like everyone's favorite wherever we go, everyone gets excited. It's a very call-and-response song. 
Kashiyuka: "Star Train." It's like our history compiled into one song. We've had some songs where we thought, "Oh, maybe [Perfume producer/songwriter] Yasutaka Nakata wrote this about us?" but we were never really sure. This one it was just really direct, it was about us. It felt like he was with throughout the last 15 years. It's about our past and our future in one song. It's a very good song.
A-Chan: "Spending All My Time." It's a very simple song with a great melody and the performance incorporates vogueing. I really like that video. But what's memorable about this song is that we performed this song with the projection mapping at the 2013 Cannes Lions [International Festival of Creativity] and we won an interactive award here. 

Anything else to add?
Nocchi: I want fans to keep watching our videos and keep checking us out.
Kashiyuka: I want you to come see our show and experience it. Whatever we do—whether it's releasing CDs and recording music—it's all to go on tour to come see you guys. So please come see us. 
A-Chan: Onstage and in photos, it's just three of us. But there's a whole Team Perfume behind us. We're always thinking about what's cool with them, what's fun to do with them. So, I want to ask fans to become a member.