Perfume might just be the biggest band you’re only just hearing about. Although they’re still introducing themselves to the U.S.—catch them at this year’s Coachella—in their native Japan, they’re hometown heroes complete with seven number one albums and a string of sold-out stadium dates. The group’s popularity hinges in no small part on its comfort with forging new territory, an idea accurately summed up with the title of its 2018 release, Future Pop. It’s not a reach. And as the trio (known only as a-chan, Kashiyuka, and Nocchi) describe it, they might just be the future of pop music.
“People are listening to music, not just for the sound but also because they connect with the character and personality of the artist,” a-chan muses to CR. “We admire not just the music, but how [the artists] live, and their entire presence affects you and inspires you.”
The band makes no mystery of its ambitions to inspire, another element that the three see crucial to their pop appeal. Sitting just outside the kawaii culture—the name for a uniquely Japanese arms race of cute, cuter, cutest—Future Pop is a spikey combination of genres, incorporating electronic beats, heavy rock guitars, and multi-lingual lyrics, obliterating lazy shorthand that would have critics comparing them to any of their J-pop peers.
“We owe it to our producer, [Yasutaka] Nakata,” Nocchi says. “He writes songs that match our age, so the songs have matured with us. We put our performance together around those songs so I think Nakata plays a big role in separating us with the kawaii scene.”
While the EDM drops of “Future Pop” or Grimes-like pixy bop of “Tiny Baby” suggest that the artists are too unconcerned with genre to bother reinventing it, Perfume does adhere to one pop standard—coordinated dance moves. Kashiyuka calls on a strong admiration for Bruno Mars’ on-stage moves. (“I love how he dances with his band!” she says.) But inspiration for their moves comes from their choreographer Mikiko Mizuno, whose magical internal logical the members don’t always completely understand.
“Since we started taking dance lesson when we were young, Mikko has always been our teacher and choreographer,” Kashiyuka says. “Her imagination develops our dance moves. With the songs, she puts together dance moves that compliments the song and lyrics. She expands the boundaries of the songs. Her dance moves don’t belong to a particular genre. Original dance moves make us Perfume.”
Understandably, Perfume is looking forward to its Coachella performance, particularly since the its the first Japanese band invited to play at the popular festival. (“People who were really interested in Japan and Japanese culture had to dig deep to find us,” Nocchi remembers of the time before their reach included YouTube, Spotify, and star-making festival slots.) The appearance will likely require their visual production, created by the experimental art collective Rhizomatiks, to be stripped down, but still the band is hoping to show off as many on-stage tricks as possible for an audience that might not know exactly what to expect. From their clothing choices, to the stage set-up (generally featuring 3-D visuals and stark projections against large screens), every element plays into the Perfume experience.
“Fashion reflects our characters and it is part of our production,” Kashiyuka says. “Since we started performing with technology, materials and shapes of our outfits became more crucial. For example, when we did projection mapping on our dresses, instead of us taking position to be projected, by using special materials and design, projection followed us everywhere we went. We also carried a small motor on our backs so that the wings will spread out. For our live performance of ‘Fusion,’ the silhouettes look like they’re coming from where the lights are shining from—it’s a mixture of reality and technological production. We try to go and be at that border, which is very interesting.”
Although Perfume is crafting the future of music with every surprising refrain—none of the band members particularly want to know what’s in store for them immediately next. Their personal futures will unfold in time. When asked to predict what their lives might hold, all three say that whatever happens, they’re happy to tackle it together.
“Maybe the form of our relationship may change, but Perfume will continue on and our relationship will always be strong,” a-chan says. “Even after we start our own families, we will always be together. As for me, I hope to be someone who people will miss when I die. I hope a lot of people will come to my funeral.”END
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