Lamp “Yume” interview (2014)

Here’s an awesome, in-depth interview with Lamp mainly concerning their 2014 album Yume, including track-by-track commentary by the members. Must-read for all fans of the band.

This interview was published at HMV ONLINE.

Original interview & text: Toshiya Sekine (parts one & two)
English translation: Henkka
Lamp on the web: website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Botanical House

You can buy Lamp’s music directly from the band, both physically and digitally, on Bandcamp.

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Lamp was formed in 2000 by Taiyo Someya, Yusuke Nagai and Kaori Sakakibara. Three years since their monumental, pop music masterpiece, Tokyo Utopia Tsuushin, this winter on February 5, 2014, Lamp are releasing their seventh original album, Yume.

Beautiful melodies that sway to and fro like the waves of the sea, unconventional chord progressions, increasingly uninhibited time signature changes and complex arrangements, lyrics showing the beauty of the Japanese language, and harmony vocals that somehow manage to sound both earthly and heavenly at the same time.

A rare breed of pop music creators, Lamp have garnered much praise with each successive album. However, their newest release shows even further evolution, and it is a masterpiece that could even be considered historical. Especially the album opener “Symphony” and the closer “Sachiko” are both miraculously beautiful and chock-full of emotion, and with them it could be argued that they’ve shown us how pop music, at its best, can truly be considered a form of art.

A wonderful mix of styles, drawing from genres like city pop, AOR, Brazilian music, new soul, psychedelic, SSW and harmony pop, and lyrics that paint pictures of the days of youth to which one may never return.

It’s a work that goes far beyond the times or their genre of music. Indeed, with this release, the band has managed to create a landmark album of perfection.

In this long interview, the band talks mainly about their new album Yume, but also the past and the future of Lamp as they chronicle their personal histories in regards to their stances and feelings towards music. I hope that this interview will offer you a glimpse not only into their wonderful music, but also to the inner mysteries of the band itself.

(Interview & text: Toshiya Sekine)


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— To start off, please tell us how you feel now as Lamp is on the verge of releasing its seventh album, which is also the first to be released on a major label.

Taiyo Someya: Speaking for myself, I just feel like getting to work on the next one already. (laughs)

Yusuke Nagai: There’s definitely a sense of accomplishment and feeling of wanting to get working on another one, yes.

— So your eighth album could already be well on its way to release. (laughs)

Someya: It’s possible. (laughs)

Kaori Sakakibara: We already finished recording this latest one around last Fall, so it’d been quite a while since I last even heard it until we did the pre-release listening event a while ago. Hearing it again, I was suddenly brought back to the world of Yume.

Someya: You mean that as in the world of Yume the album, or world of yume as in the “world of dreams“?

Sakakibara: Both. (laughs)

Nagai: The big difference this time was that up until now, we were always mixing our albums up until just a month before release.

— Were there any changes to your approach in making this album in particular, as in your general feelings towards it, the recording environment, or anything else?

Someya: It was our first time using this studio, but the work itself wasn’t that much different from how we always do it. If I had to name one thing, I guess it’d be that Nagai did more of the pre-production at home this time.

Nagai: Honestly, I’ve never been very good at working with other people, so I changed my approach to doing whatever I can by myself at home. I used to do it in the studio but I realized I was being a bother to everyone, so this time I did all that stuff at home. I’d say it worked out pretty well.

— Doesn’t the sound change quite significantly with a different studio and new engineers?

Someya: Well, we’ve had the same engineers working for us ever since “Lamp Gensou.” It’s hard for me to say if the sound’s changed or not, but I would think our ears have gotten better through the years and it feels to me like that shows in the finished product. I’m not saying we did an enormous amount of work to achieve the sound on the record or anything; it’s just an accumulation of all our previous experiences.

— I see. Next, I’d like to ask you about each individual song on the new album. The first track, “Symphony,” was written and composed by Nagai.

Nagai: I remember hearing Someya’s song “Sachiko” and thinking we hadn’t had a song quite like it before. Or rather, I just thought it was a really great song. To some extent that song was what motivated me to try and write something as good, and that’s what led me to writing “Symphony.”

— Indeed, it really struck me with how good it is from the very first listen. It especially surprised me hearing the song start with that high-pitched synthesizer. My first impression of it was that it’s really different compared to the earlier sounds of Lamp what with that very prominent, shall we say, hardness or sharpness. Was that intentional?

Nagai: That intro might indeed leave an impression. That really started with me just thinking, “wouldn’t it be cool to start an album off with a sound like this?” I only wrote the actual song that follows it afterwards.

— It’s like the rebirth of Lamp, or that’s how it sounded to me anyway.

Someya: It’s definitely quite lively. The rest of this album, too, is overall quite striking, sound-wise, compared to our previous material.

Sakakibara: At first, Nagai meant to use that synthesizer sound only on the demo. It was supposed to be replaced with some other sound on the album itself, but Taiyo really liked it and so that’s what ended up being used on the finished recording, too.

Nagai: A lot of the time I trust what the other two say about my songs in instances like that. If they say something is good, I tend to start believing them and just end up going with that.

— The second song, “A Toshi no Aki,” was composed by Someya and written by Sakakibara.

Someya: With each album we make I obviously want to feel satisfied with the material we produce, and it’s in my nature that first and foremost I think about writing songs that are high quality — it’s like I can’t rest or settle down before I do. This song especially is one I wrote with that mindset. You could say I sort of wanted to answer to the expectations of our listeners with this one. But I’m not the type who can write songs like that easily, so I really struggled with “A Toshi no Aki.”

— My first impression upon hearing it was that it was quite complex in structure and that there’s almost a dizzying amount of song development in it.

Someya: Right. I’m not sure if that’s because of the song itself, or just the arrangement.

— This song, along with the opener “Symphony” and the third song “Tameiki no Yukue,” were arranged by Minami Kitasono (who is just 23 years old, having been born in 1990!) He became notable among music fans after uploading his material on SoundCloud. Could you tell us how you came to work with him on this album?

Someya: There’s this youngster I follow on Twitter who has a music recommendation service, and I’d previously listened to and enjoyed some stuff this person had recommended on it. So when he was highly praising Kitasono and his music, I checked it out and really liked it. When I find someone I enjoy like that I try to immediately message them, and within that same day I was already in contact with Kitasono. On the phone, I told him I really enjoyed his music and we talked in detail about stuff he’s doing right now. After some more chats with him, I started to think it might be a really good idea to have him work with us on the new Lamp album, too.

— So he was on board with the idea from the get-go?

Someya: As a matter of fact, he’d actually seen us live when we played in Nagoya in 2011. So he already knew about us. He told me he’d first learned of us when he heard “Ame Furu Yoru no Mukou” playing in a bookstore and thought “wow, these guys are great.

— So it was like mutual love before you’d even met. (laughs)

Someya: Right. We got along great from the start.

— The third song is the romantic ballad “Tameiki no Yukue,” composed and arranged by Nagai and written by Sakakibara.

Nagai: I wrote this song thinking I wanted to try doing something I’d never done before, and that something was film music. I wrote the string arrangement to the first half of the song, but I just felt like it wasn’t coming together like I wanted it to. That was right around the time we’d started keeping in contact with Kitasono, so what happened was that I only did the arrangement up to just before the interlude and the rest is all Kitasono. In other words, the song suddenly has a very different arrangement style starting mid-song. At first it did sound a bit out of place for me, but now, not so much actually. Now it just sounds like a pretty seamless switch to me. Another thing about this song is, it was actually originally meant to be sung solely by me but I just wasn’t able to do it as well as I’d have liked. So we raised the key and made it into a song where Kaori sings lead, whereas the male voice heard in the B melody-like section belongs to this singer-songwriter called Tadashi Shinkawa who’s also a great vocalist. The way it incorporates canonical singing is something I’m pretty happy and it’s a pretty new sound for Lamp in my view. All in all, I’d say I succeeded pretty well in writing something that was unexplored territory to me.

Someya: From the very first time I heard him, I always thought Shinkawa has a really great voice and I figured that fans of Lamp would also like him. But he just seems like the type who’d be really picky about the type of music he does, so until recently we actually weren’t close enough with him to dare ask him if he’d do it.

— He really fits the music of Lamp well though. Reading Someya’s liner note for the album and learning that someone outside of the band would sing lead vocals really gave me a bit of a shock, but listening to it now, it doesn’t feel weird at all. On the contrary, it’s really good. There’s something similar about him and Nagai’s vocals, I thought.

Sakakibara: The usually so picky Nagai suddenly leaving the arrangement up to Kitasono and the vocals to Shinkawa… honestly, it did make me a bit worried, too. But, in the end it only made the song better — not that I think Nagai’s vocals are bad at all. I really like it anyhow.

Someya: Yeah, well. Nagai had a lot to do on this album. (laughs) If it was like on the last album where he only wrote two songs or something, he might not have given them away that easily.

Nagai: Probably not, yeah…

— Having a song like this here kind of reminded me of Yuumin’sRyuusenkei ’80” and the duet song featured on that album, “Corvett 1954.

Sakakibara: I thought that, too! It’s kind of like that, yes.

— Do you think you’ll continue having guest singers on future releases, too?

Someya: You never know. It all depends on if we come across the right people really.

Nagai: It’s not like we were actively looking for one this time either. It just sort of happened.

— I see. Aside from Tadashi Shinkawa and Minami Kitasono, featuring on this album you also had, among others, Takero Ogata (from Minuano, doing percussion), Daniel Kwon and Kyota Sugai. It almost feels like there’s a sort of musical circle not unlike Brazil’s Clube da Esquina or Tropicalismo being formed around Lamp. It’s pretty exciting to think about the possibilities of such a group.

Someya: Well, I’d guess usually a musical circle like that would be more organized, but that’s just not our way of doing things. We’re more isolated. We mostly only have connections like that with people who are working in music by themselves, although I guess it’d be nice to be in more contact with other bands as well. The way it usually works for us is that we’re always the one contacting the other person, and then whether that leads to a collaboration is case-by-case. And what’s more is that usually the people we do like are kind of twisted, so basically none of them will admit to actually liking Lamp themselves. (laughs)

Sakakibara: It’s pretty much just Shinkawa and Ogata that do.

Someya: Right. (laughs)

— I see. I think there might be listeners though who will listen to this album while being reminded of that. I’m guessing lots of people will listen to Shinkawa’s albums thanks to this, too, not to mention Minuano’s music as well.

Someya: Well, that’s true.

Sakakibara: Yep…

— The fourth song is “6goushitsu,” composed and arranged by Someya and written by Sakakibara.

Someya: I wrote this song hoping it’d become one that sort of grows on the listener with each successive listen. I don’t think it’s the kind of song that, for example, has a very impressive chorus, or one that has that many key changes or such. It’s just a simple song with a natural melody and chord progression. I just wanted to write a good melody. That was my mindset when I was writing the song.

— What especially left a strong impression about this song for me was the harp with lots of added delay and how it made the song sound almost spacey in a way. Although it’s not sequenced, it still kind of feels in a way like a modern pop song. The song sounds quite close to that kind of thing for me, as far as Lamp’s music goes.

Someya: The harp was inspired by two songs: Ennio Morricone’s “Veruschka” and the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Cupid De Locke” from their album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Those two songs feature a harp with delay, too, and the organs and such sound just a tiny bit off. I’ve always liked that kind of sound, and that’s the kind of thing I was trying to accomplish, too.

Sakakibara: At first you said you wanted to make it shoegaze-y. (laughs) I was looking forward to hearing it, thinking it was going to be that kind of song all along.

Someya: In the end it turned out to be nothing like shoegaze music.

— This must be devastating news for your fans. (laughs)

Sakakibara: Yeah… you ended up not putting that kind of thing in there.

Someya: But even if I had, it’s not like it would’ve been an all-out shoegaze song — it would’ve kinda just had a bit of a shoegaze “feeling” in there.

— There’s a kind of sampled sound effect thing in the interlude there, too. The English spoken word part.

Someya: We asked Daniel (Kwon) to do that for us.

Sakakibara: At first we didn’t have anything in there so it felt kind of empty. I happened to see this film by Robert Bresson called Four Nights of a Dreamer which has the protagonist recording his monologues on a tape recorder. He then spends his time listening to those recordings. I really liked that. At first we thought we’d ask Shinkawa to do it since he has such a good voice, but hearing it in Japanese, it kind of just felt odd, so we decided to go with English instead. And since Daniel is pretty much the only person we know who can speak English and has a good voice, that’s who we asked. The way it worked is, I first wrote the monologue in English, gave it to Daniel, and he then arranged it to be more Daniel-like. (laughs) It didn’t take long for him to record it for us.

— Oh, I see. I really thought you’d just used a part of some movie for that sample. (laughs)

Sakakibara: Right, that’s how we wanted to make it sound. There’s even the sounds of a tape recorder on there.

— The fifth song is “Sora wa Gray,” composed and arranged by Someya and written by Sakakibara.

Sakakibara: This one’s quite rock-y with prominent drums and bass. I really like it. I sort of pictured Nagai when writing about the cool guy featured in the lyrics, so that was fun.

— The way it starts with the guitar cutting sounds a bit electronica-like for me. For me it’s a really modern sound as far as Lamp is concerned. You could say that you started experimenting with more modern sounds starting around your previous album, right? Listening to this song with that in mind, it doesn’t sound out of place at all. Still, I thought this song especially might be really different for you. Everything about it sounds so modern; I didn’t expect to see you approaching a song this way. Actually, I feel that way about many bits on this album.

Someya: Really? It’s interesting hearing opinions like that from people outside the band. (laughs) For us, we can’t even tell anymore.

— So for you nothing about it sounds especially “modern” or “old.”

Someya: Well, I did feel like trying something new with this song, so I I’m sure you feeling that way is only natural. But for me, I wouldn’t be able to specifically point out any one part in it as being something new.

Nagai: More than trying to do something that’s currently new in the music world, it’s just that we’re trying to do things that are new for us. I think that might be more evident in songs like this.

— The first verse feels that way, but by the middle of it, it sounds like Lamp again for me.

Someya: I think the way it works with us is that the longer we work on a track, the more we end up making it sound like Lamp. If we record something in a shorter period of time, it’ll sound like something new for us.

Nagai: Right. The more you work on it, the more of yourself you end up putting in it.

— Up until now, my image was that you basically liked older stuff, stuff from the 70’s and so, and that’s what you were striving to create yourselves. But in reality that’s not quite the case, right?

Someya: Right. We’re not as hung up on only using sounds from the 70’s as we used to be. We just use the sounds we like ourselves. With that said, generally speaking I don’t really like how modern music sounds like.

— There’s also something mid-song that sounds like someone smoking a cigarette.

Sakakibara: Yes. I really wanted to put that in there, so I had to try and convince Taiyo by playing him songs like The Beatles’ “Girl” and Happy End’s “Dakishimetai“…

Someya: I wasn’t that against it to begin with. (laughs)

Sakakibara: I know, I know. I’m just always so terrified of being rejected for some reason. (laughs)

— It feels like there’s quite a lot of that kind of trickery on this album, just like with “6goushitsu.”

Someya: Right. Our past albums didn’t have that kind of thing much. On the contrary, it’s like we purposefully tried to avoid it.

— With this album having so many of those minute details, that gives it a feeling of freshness, too.

Someya: That could be. I don’t know, maybe we have a bit more confidence to try those kinds of things now.

— The sixth song is “Nagisa a la Mode,” composed and arranged by Nagai and the lyrics co-written by Nagai and Sakakibara.

Nagai: With this song, rather than wanting to create something genuinely new, I just approached it like I wanted to write a normal, everyday pop song. I think it was a good call having Kaori sing the chorus, but we actually had various challenges recording this song. It was a bit of a tricky one.

— From a listener’s point of view, I really liked it. After the preceding songs that felt like new territory for you, hearing this one is kind of a relief.

Nagai: That might be true, yes. I think it might have that familiar sound world of Lamp.

— It kind of even feels like with this one you just relaxed and didn’t take it too seriously, and those kinds of songs might be necessary for an album, too. I really think it’s a good song, even fitting to be a single in my opinion.

Nagai: Well, yeah. For example the chorus is just straight-up pop. I think in that sense there might be a lot of listeners to whom this is actually the best song on the album.

— Next up, the 7th song. “Zanzou no Sketch,” written, composed and arranged by Nagai. Apart from the drums, flute and backing vocals, this song is almost entirely performed by Nagai.

Nagai: This song and the opener “Symphony” really felt to me like I’d managed to do something new. I really like it. What with there only being a limited amount of chord progressions and all that stuff in the world, and with pop music having progressed this far, at this point it’s very difficult to write anything that’s truly original — if not impossible. But even so, this song to me really felt like a song that only I would be able to write, and even when it was still just a work-in-progress, I already really liked it. I’m not entirely sure how old fans of Lamp are going to think about this song, but I think it has things in it you won’t hear on any of our past albums.

Someya: I, too, don’t quite know how the listeners will react to this song. One thing I do feel though is that I would’ve wanted to see how it’d sounded had the basic tracks been recorded by four people or so at first, and only then with just Nagai working on it by himself. I think it might’ve sounded quite different that way. When you record an entire song by yourself like this you’re forced to use a click track, and I think songs recorded with a click track will probably always sound similar even in a hundred or two hundred years from now. When you go “one, two, three, four!” and hit record and you perform it with other people — music like that is always going to have something about it that could’ve only been captured right then and there. Well, I just would’ve wanted to maybe go about recording it a bit differently.

Nagai: Yeah. I like this song a lot, but I’m not a hundred percent happy with the recorded version either. There are things I would’ve wanted to improve on the performance of it, like having the bass and drums sound more organic and that kind of thing. It originally sounded much more groovy in the version that was in my head, but I wasn’t able to achieve quite that.

— With the bass being so heavy, I thought it was more than enough groovy though. This might apply to the whole album actually, but I felt that especially in Nagai’s songs the bass was very prominent. I felt like it has a lot more low tones than on previous albums.

Nagai: Especially with songs like this, the bass is what pretty much makes it. So you could definitely say it was a conscious decision.

Sakakibara: I got to watch Nagai constantly recording this, and since it was all just fragments in the beginning, I couldn’t really understand what it was about, but little by little it just started getting so cool. I felt like it wouldn’t be good for me to butt in and say anything about it. It would’ve felt like I was intruding on a man’s world. (laughs)

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— Next, the eighth song. “Futari no Ita Fuukei,” written, composed and arranged by Someya.

Someya: This one has both straightforward passages as well as more interesting ones, and the trick was in mixing them into one song. When I asked Kitasono to play a bit of piano on it, he, too, said he really liked it.

— So Kitasono took part in this song as well?

Someya: He only arranged the first three songs, but he actually performed on about six of them. His playing is really distinct and I think it’s easy to tell which parts were played by him. He sounds completely different from Suzuki Jun who plays on another song. Anyway, what did you think about this one?

— I really liked it. Moreover, I think this song might be something that DJ’s might really feel like using. It’s like a medium groove song similar to like something by Leroy Hutson or the Ryuichi Sakamoto-arranged “Tokai” by Taeko Oonuki.

Someya: Right, how it suddenly goes in 3/4 time and so. (laughs)

— Right. But I think that’s really Someya-ish, or like, you refuse to just let the listener get away too easy. (laughs) Usually when someone does a song like that, it stays that way from beginning to end, but with this song you of course don’t stick with it for long. I think it’s really Lamp-like — in a good way.

Nagai: Yeah, I think when you listen to this song, you’ll think that it’s quite typical Lamp — which was probably Someya’s intention, too. But I think it’s the result of having done so many recordings before. We’ve gotten better, both at arranging and at performing. If we’d tried to do this sort of song before, I think we would’ve had a hard time achieving exactly what we wanted. On the flip side, I think it would’ve come out sounding like something that we could’ve only done back then, too. So for better of for worse, we’ve now changed so that we’re able to do this kind of thing, too. I always think that when listening to this song: we’ve gotten better.

Someya: But I always try to be conscious about not making the sound production too mature. If you do, it won’t sound enjoyable to the listener anymore. Like “SONGS” by Sugar Babe or something, they’re not playing perfectly on that album, but there’s good in that immaturity, too, right? But when you listen to stuff from the late 70’s or early 80’s, music in the city pop vein and stuff, the sound production was often so flawless, it sounded like absolutely nothing was even the slightly bit off — although that had its own merits, too. I wonder what people who hear our music will think when it comes to that aspect.

— I think it’s like you put it in that you aren’t completely flawless in your performances, but it’s just that the music that’s currently out there, the current pop music scene, there’s simply nothing else out there that has this many constantly changing chords and rhythms and all that, so in that sense Lamp does sound like a very “mature” band. Or maybe just a very different band compared to anyone else out there now.

Someya: Well, when you try to do something really artistic, it can often lead to the songs themselves becoming hard to understand. And some might say that if a song is hard to understand, it’s also going to be a hard sell. But I actually don’t think that. I think it’s the opposite: if you really just write music that anyone could’ve come up with, wouldn’t that make it a hard sell?

Nagai: I think it’s important to try and get better, technically speaking, but at the same time it’s also important to try and resist sounding too mature. You need to constantly try doing something unexpected, something that almost contradicts what you were previously doing. Let’s say that there’s a limit to how good you can technically be; if that’s the level everyone tries to strive for, everyone will just end up sounding the same in the end.

— I don’t think Lamp is stuck in its tracks in that sense. I definitely sense a great deal of evolution or maybe just change in general. I think that might be due to your dislike of that overt “matureness,” and that playing into the end result.

Someya: Hearing you use those two words, “evolution” and “change”… I just realized, up until our last album, I was always very conscious about “evolving.” But after that album was done, I think I sort of came to think that maybe it’s fine to just “change” instead.

— I would argue that Lamp has gone through a pretty considerable amount of evolution, too, though. (laughs) … Next, the ninth song “Shizuka ni Asa wa,” written, composed and arranged by Nagai.

Nagai: For me the “folkiness” of this song is what strikes me the most. On this song I tried using some chord progressions I’d never employed before, but I think it’s so good, you hardly even notice it.

Someya: With this song I actually revised the B-melody written by Nagai, and I also suggested that we remove a bridge part that was originally in it. So I was responsible for some changes to it. And then Nagai revised the B-melody even further. I don’t have a songwriting credit, but yeah, there was that kind of thing, too, involved in the making process of this one.

Sakakibara: The thing that most surprised me was the drum pattern.

Nagai: Yeah, we approached it with the intention of having the drums be a little different from what you’d normally hear in a pop song. We asked the drummer, a guy called Daisuke Sakakibara, to set the hi-hat and snare in a really specific way before recording. Well, I originally wanted it to sound like a much simpler, folkish 60’s song, but by the end it’d become much more than that. There’s this album called McDonald & Giles made by two founding members of King Crimson after they left the band, and it’s really proggy and folky, plus the drumming on it is so good. My original idea was to make a song that featured a drum part like that.

— It definitely leaves an impact. You don’t often hear drum rolls used as a backing like that nowadays.

Nagai: Right, I’d think it’s pretty rare.

— With Nagai’s songs on this album, it almost feels like they’d been silently building up inside you for the last two albums or so until they finally burst out there into the open with this album. I’m not sure if it’s correct to assume you got over a type of writer’s block or something of that sort, but it kind of does feel like that.

Nagai: You know, that’s pretty much exactly it. (laughs) I feel so motivated right now. Honestly, my motivation to write around the time of Tokyo Utopia Shuushin was really quite low. Now it’s like it’s come back in full force.

— Do you know what made you get active in songwriting again?

Nagai: I really think it’s just the fact that I finally made it so that I can work on music even at home. Someya is really good at working with people in the studio environment, that’s his way of doing things, but for me there’s a limit to what I can do in that situation. I start feeling trapped. But now I’ve gradually become able to do more at home since getting Pro Tools and all that set up, which is something Someya really helped me with. All that started happening as we were going into producing this album. It helped me start getting my songs together just the way I wanted them, and this in turn led to me feeling more proactive about it all. So right now I feel really inspired to write again.

— Finally, let’s talk about the last song on the album. “Sachiko,” composed and arranged by Someya and written by Sakakibara.

Someya: Up until now, I’d for the most part always used the guitar to write songs. But even as I was doing so, my method of writing has always been one where I’m not conscious at all about the guitar as an instrument. I think it was only with “Hiyayaka na Joukei” on our last album where I properly sort of became aware of the sound you can achieve when you really put emphasis on the guitar, with open strings and all that. Brazilian music has lots of songs like that, ones that employ open strings a lot in a skillful way, and I felt like writing a song like that, too. This song was the result of that experiment. The way “Sachiko” came about is, I just really felt a strong urge that I had to write just one really, really good song for the album. That kind of strong urge, that tenacity is what ultimately led to this song. At this point, I can’t even recall the exact circumstances under which I came up with like the chorus or the B-melody and so on.

Sakakibara: I’ve forgotten the original reason as to why it was me who ended up writing the lyrics, but I thought the song was just so good, I knew it’d be great regardless of what I wrote. But in the end, I think the lyrics, too, came out really well.

Someya: Shinkawa, too, praised them.

Sakakibara: Yeah. After I came up with the idea of naming it after a person, it was all pretty easy. Sure, I had to do a bit of revising, but even so this song was finished in pretty much record time. The recording for it took the shortest time, too. The whole process went really smoothly.

Someya: For the most part, this song didn’t need any arranging either. Up until now, no matter what kind of a song I’d written I always felt like I had to arrange it further, but this song just felt like it was perfectly fine even without all that. It already sounded as good as it was going to get, as-is, and that was the first time I ever felt this way about any of my songs. In hindsight it feels like something like “Kimi to Boku to no Sayonara ni” might’ve been a bit over-arranged. I think that one could’ve been arranged better.

Sakakibara: We always felt that a good song needs real, live strings on it and all kinds of stuff like that. But with this song, we just used synth strings and I actually think it really fits, too, sound-wise.

Someya: Stuff like Toninho Horta’s second album, a lot of the unmoving, higher register bits were played with synth strings. But I like that kind of thing.

Nagai: Even just hearing that very first chord when I heard the demo, I just went to myself “ahh, this is good.” It’s just that good, and it’s another one of those songs that I can with some conviction say is a song only Lamp could do. Kaori’s lyrics are great, too. It really came out sounding so good, it almost makes me tear up. And the first thought I had was that it might be neat to have this as the final track on the album, and after that I wrote “Symphony” while picturing that song as the opener. I was convinced that if these were the two songs that opened and closed it, there’s no way that wouldn’t make for a great album. And that’s how it really did turn out in the end, so I’m very happy about that. Kind of like how The Beatles suddenly released the double A-side single “Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane” in ’67 — both songs were just so different compared to their earlier singles. Okay, it’s presumptuous to even compare ourselves to The Beatles, but it’s almost to that extent that I felt this was something very new for Lamp, and yet, they sound consistent. I think with these two songs we were able to give the listeners something that has a good balance of something that is both new and good.

— Speaking of the lyrics… especially with this song, it really feels like you nailed the combination of the music that develops almost like in a Brazilian music way, and the lyrics about yearning for a time spent between lovers. The lyrics are really so heartrending, the song just makes me cry.

Someya: While this isn’t really about the lyrics, I personally just really like Brazilian music, and not just like samba or whatever, but the kind that just really makes your heart ache, you know? How do I put it… that kind of music, the stuff that makes my heart ache, for me that’s the ultimate form of pop music.

Sakakibara: I, too, really feel like with this song especially the music and lyrics just go together exceedingly well.

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— Next, let’s talk a bit about the album as a whole. For the cover art this time you used a piece by Seiichi Hayashi. Hayashi’s artwork, too, has echoes of the song titles and bits of lyrics from songs like “A Toshi no Aki,” “6goushitsu” and “Sachiko.”

Sakakibara: That was actually completely by accident. When we’d already finished recording the entire album, we got together at Taiyo’s house to think about what we wanted to do about the cover art. I own books of Sei’ichi Hayashi’s artwork that the other two like, too, so we looked at some together and all three of us came to the conclusion that this was what we wanted. At first we thought there was no way it’d work out though, considering how influential he is. And strangely enough, like you said, this cover art includes lots of allusions to the lyrics, like the “smoke from a cigarette,” the “listening to records” bit, the bit about “your face in profile” from “Tameiki no Yukue“… all kinds of little things like that.

— Ah, that’s true! So it was just completely by coincidence that the cover art has these connections to the lyrics on the album.

Someya: Well, yeah. But on the other hand, the things we like and write about fit into a really narrow box, so there’s that, too.

— What are you feelings on the album as a whole at this point?

Someya: Like I mentioned at the beginning of this interview, I said how, speaking for myself, I just feel like moving onto the next album already. But, you know, if I try to answer that question in a less self-centered way… I do wonder what everyone is going to think about this album. I can’t say I don’t feel at all anxious about it, and I guess this sort of contradicts what I said earlier, but I feel like I don’t want this to be our last album. Me, I just want to let go of it at this point.

— So you now want to entrust it to the listeners.

Someya: Right. That’s how I feel about it.

Nagai: If I’m going to try hard and be really objective about it, I think Yume definitely has lots of imperfections. It doesn’t feel like a “perfect” album, but I think that might be something that also makes it good. I just feel like it’s a departure from all of Lamp’s previous albums. Lamp Gensou, Hachigatsu no Shijou, Tokyo Utopia Tsuushin… they all had their own merits. But I think this album is most definitely something different, and so in that sense I feel satisfied.

Sakakibara: I really feel that way, too. All of our past albums so far, some of them feel like you needed to really sit down and devote your attention to them entirely, like they just had such weight and such darkness to them, you know. But it feels like this album has lots of songs that even the average young person might like listening to more casually, I think.

— Please do tell us what the future holds for Lamp; do you have live shows or any other events planned?

Someya: There are no plans currently, and right now I personally just feel like already talking about the next album. But I think we’re going to take some time first to concentrate on trying to properly promote Yume for a while, while also continuing to write new songs.

— It’s been 14 years since your formation in 2000, and 11 years since the release of your debut album. How do you feel now, looking back on your history as a band?

Someya: We originally started this band with the intention of it being a long-term thing, and so far, so good. So that’s something I’m glad about, but I think we aren’t quite as well known yet as I originally would’ve liked or hoped, so I definitely hope to have the music of Lamp continue to spread further. Looking back, I do sort of wonder like, since when did we become so secluded from everyone, you know? (laughs) For us it feels like we’re just going about this band in a very normal way and it’s everyone else that feels weird to us, but at the same time, I recognize that society probably thinks it’s us who are being the weird ones. It’d be nice if we did gain some more recognition.

Sakakibara: It’s just so easy being by the three of us, and I really don’t know anyone who I can get along with as well. It’s like I can always tell what the other two are thinking, and maybe we just grew to be close like that, and that’s what’s enabled us to stay together for all this time. For me, it’s like I couldn’t separate from these two — I mean, there’s nothing I could do by myself, and with the three of us, I just think we have really great chemistry together.

Nagai: We were acquaintances even before becoming adults, and at this point I can see how lucky I was to have met these two. Not only do we believe in each others’ musical talent, but we’re also just really good friends, and every now and then I think that really is a miracle. The band has come this far probably because we all feel happy to be in it. I don’t know just how long we’re going to continue, but I feel like I want to keep doing what we can, one thing at a time.

7 thoughts on “Lamp “Yume” interview (2014)

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