Anime Expo 2007 - ORESKABAND Interview

by Jonathan Mays,

Six high schoolers from Sakai City started their own ska band in 2003. Four years later, they've signed with music giant Sony, released two CDs, and lined up a film with High School Musical producer Barry Rosenbush. On their first free day of Anime Expo, the girls of ORESKABAND shared their story over lunch:

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I know it's Monday morning and you want to leave, but I'm happy you're willing to do this.
All: Thank you! You're welcome, thank you!

Would you mind quickly going around the table and introducing yourselves?
Leader: I'm Leader. I play trombone. Hi!
Tae-san: I'm Tae-san. I play the drums.
Tomi: I'm Tomi. I play the bass and I'm vocals.
Ikasu: I'm Ikasu. I play the guitar and vocals.
Saki: I'm Saki. I play the trumpet.
Moriko: I'm Moriko:, I play the tenor sax.

Thanks. Okay, what was your favorite thing about the convention so far?
All: Cosplay!!!

Have you been to Long Beach before, or was this your first time?
Ikasu: Yes, this was the first time.

What was your first impression?
Leader: We haven't been anywhere else. We've only been at the convention, but we really like it.

Now I'm going to put you on the spot here. We read that one of the Anime Expo guests had had some troubles. She said that she didn't have a very good time and that the convention wasn't treating her very well. Have you had any problems, or is everything going well?
Ikasu: It's been very fun.
Saki: Very good.
Leader: Everything has been running as scheduled, lots of fans showed up, the concert was a lot of fun.

You seem very proud of your hometown. Could you tell us a little bit about Sakai City and Osaka?
Saki: Sakai is a very warm city… there's a kind of "Sakai Spirit" among the people there. As if people are thinking "we aren't going to lose to Osaka!" There's a special bond of friendship between people from Sakai.
Ikasu: There's a lot of pride. People are proud to say "we were born in Sakai!"
Saki: It's not just us… most people from Sakai act the same way.

So if someone visits Sakai, what's the first thing that they should see?
Ikasu: Tempura Restaurants!
Saki: The Tempura Market Area.
Ikasu: It's right near the studio where we are always practicing.
Near Sakai Harbor, right?
Ikasu: Yeah.
Ikasu: It's a place where lots of Tempura shops are lined up on one street.
Tae-san: We'd go over there around 11PM, and they close at 5AM.

When you started the band with Leader and Saki, did you have big plans, or did you just go with the flow?
Saki: It wasn't Leader and Saki at first. Ikasu first said "let's start a band" to Tae-san, and that's when we got the band together.

Leader: At first, Ikasu really wanted to start a band. We joined after she contacted Tae-san, and as we were playing together and having such a good time, we decided to join up for good. Since some of us were practicing wind instruments, we decided to play Ska. Then we decided on members of the band based on the instruments we play, like having Tomi play the bass and so on. At first, we just wanted to have fun as a band.

Ikasu: Even before we signed a contract, even when we were just a band playing in our hometown, we thought that it would be nice if we could keep doing music and play as a band even when we become adults. We love playing live, and we decided that we wanted to keep doing that. We didn't have any big ambitions or anything.

Leader: We didn't feel like we wanted to debut on a major label or sell lots of CDs.

Ikasu: Although we didn't feel that way before, we've reached a point where we want a lot of people to hear our music. We're always thinking that. So if there's a chance for us to tell people about our music, we go for it! We want those opportunities to increase, and use that as a chance to share our music with others.

So what inspired you to start burning your own CDs at first?
Ikasu: Lots of bands in our area passed out their own CDs at live shows. We like having people come to our shows, but we also want people to remember our music. To listen to it in their homes.
Tae-san: I think it's a natural step to take. It's not like it's required - other bands do it, so we just felt like we should do it as well.
Leader: We were thinking about making CDs before, so one day we decided to print them.

Did you run into any problems along the way selling your own CDs? What did your friends and family think?
Saki: For making money, we had to do part-time jobs. We each saved up 20,000 yen. To advertise the CDs, we got a black board at "100yen ($1) shop" and listed the price and details about the CDs. People walked up and bought them, so that wasn't that difficult.
Ikasu: Selling them wasn't that difficult. Printing the CDs was tough. Pressing the CDs at home.
Tae-san: Yeah, that was the hardest part.
Ikasu: We'd work all night before the day of a show and made everything from scratch including lyrics sheets.
Tae-san: We weren't very organized and forgot about making lyrics sheet until a day before the show.
Saki: We cut lyrics sheet a day before and…
Ikasu: We split tasks --some of us burnt discs and some cut lyrics sheet
Tomi: Thanks to the CD, people (who bought it) were able to memorize the songs and they came back to our show.
Ikasu: Even the people at Sony bought our CD. That was how the company learned about our band, so we were all glad that we made the CDs.

Could you take us back to that day Sony found you? What was it like?
Ikasu: At first we were really surprised.
Saki: We thought it was a trick.
Ikasu: We thought, "Wow, you want us?"

Do you have any tips for other high school students that want to follow your path?
Ikasu: I don't think I'm in a position to give people an advice, so I'd jusy say, "Let's have fun together."
Leader: Your parents or others might say it's impossible, that it's easy to lose confidence and think the world of entertainment is too rough. That it's a world that you can't be a part of. The important thing is that you decide to make it and not lose when people talk like that to you. To focus on doing what you love.

You performed at the SXSW convention in Texas, right? What was your first impression of that huge place?
Ikasu: We were surprised by the city where South by South West was happening.
Tae-san: The environment was completely different from Japan. There was music coming from everywhere.
Ikasu: If they tried something like that in Japan, someone would complain about the noise. We worry about noise complaints about live venues and people asking us to keep it down. But at SXSW, everyone was into it.
Tae-san: Everyone's involved.

Did you see anybody else there? Any other performers?
All: Only the other Japanese bands.
Leader: We couldn't get into the other clubs since we were too young.

The Fuji Rock Festival is completely different, right? What's the best thing about that show?
Leader: That was the first show that ORESKABAND played outdoors. Although it was in Japan, there were people from other countries there too.
Tomi: It was our first experience with a rock festival.
Ikasu: We'd never been to one ourselves.
Tomi: Even people far from the stage were listening to the music and dancing. Everyone looked so carefree.
Leader: There's a difference between what stands out at Fuji Rock and at South by South West. At Fuji Rock, you're outdoors and you feel closer to nature. SXSW was our first live concert in America, so we felt like playing and taking it in. Everyone was so focused on just music. That was amazing.

Can you talk about your favorite performance so far?
Ikasu: This is just my opinion, but the one that left the biggest impression on me… the one that made me think "That was a great show!" was our Hokkaido show on our Japan Tour. To me, the concert before that didn't go so well. Everyone felt that way, and we talked about it the day before the concert. We asked, "Why weren't we satisfied with the show?" and talked about what we needed to fix. The next day, we performed and the feeling was completely different. We realized how important those meetings are - we felt like we did great. We felt like we fixed what wasn't going well. So that was a great experience for us.
Leader: We felt really good about it.

Now what about yesterday's? Were you satisfied with that one?
Tae-san: To me, our show yesterday was the best one. In the past, we had problems with forgetting things and missing beats. Including yesterday's concert, we have a goal of making each show better than the last one.

Where do you get your ideas for what you do on stage? Your dances, performance style and so on.
Leader: The choreography… well, when we started learning about Ska music, we went to lots of Ska events. That influenced us a lot. Lately, we haven't been adding choreography as much… it just all comes naturally. Stuff like having people raise their hands and wave them around. It's not really planned choreography though.

What's your favorite thing to do on stage?
Saki: Playing music!
Leader: Having all of us on stage, playing together, that's the coolest. I love that.
Ikasu: Having everyone move their body with the music. For example, we play a note on the guitar and people move with that sound. We all move with the rhythm at the same time. When Tae-san is playing the drums, it's sounds as if someone is talking. That's always fun.
Tae-san: Oh yeah, when Ikasu says "Saa Hai-Odore" ("Everybody Dance") and Tomi starts dancing… that's really fun. Ikasu dances too. It's like a group thing we do without thinking. Saki will make a weird face or something... that's fun and it's probably fun for the people watching as well. Ikasu: Leader: stumbled on the stage yesterday, that was funny.
Ikasu: It was just an accident.

Could you tell me about this movie you are working on now?
Leader: ORESKABAND is appearing in a film as ORESKABAND, but it's not like a documentary… it's a film with a story. We'll have characters that match with the story - we'll play ourselves of course, but we'll have lines we read and memorize. We're making songs for it now - we picture scenes from the movie and create music to match it. This is the first time we've made songs that way. It's our first time working with a movie, our first time acting, but it will probably... how do I say this... we think it'll be a good introduction to the band. As a film, we don't want it to be just music or just the plot... we want both parts to be done well. It should be a good film.

So if someone is a fan of High School Musical, do you think they'll like it?
All: Yes!
Ikasu: It's interesting. We're fans of it. Moriko is watching it everyday, doing the dances and songs.

Saki, could you explain this One Piece obsession?
Saki: One Piece...when I was going to my grandma's house, I had a lot of free time, so my dad bought me the first volume of One Piece. He bought me the first volume... no, he got me the eighth volume. I had seen the anime version of the eighth volume on TV. After reading volume eight, dad began to wonder about how the story started in volume one. So he got me all the volumes from one through eleven. I read them all the way through - I read them again and again, laughing and crying... I thought, "There can't be a manga out there as good as this one!"Ever since then, I think "hurry up and release the next one!" and buy them as soon as they go on sale I love the drawings, the story, the characters... the "friendship" theme - sticking with your friends no matter what... it feels like a story I could be a part of. As I read along and make more friends in my own life, we're also a group of six people... so it feels like we're identical! Thinking about that makes reading it more interesting, so I keep reading. I buy books like "The secret of One Piece" and "What is One Piece" - I know more about the series than anyone!

Last Question: When you go back to Japan, will you keep up your blog, and what will we be able to see on it?
Saki: It's going to be about America. I can't wait to tell people in Japan all about our experiences here!

Is there anything else you would like to say?
Tae-san: When we come back to America, please come to our live shows!
Ikasu: Our CD will be released in August, so it'll finally be easy to get. Please check it out!
Moriko: The ORESKABAND webpage also has an English version, so please visit that, our blog, and please send us mail!
Ikasu: We want mail!
Moriko: We want to hear what people thought of our concert, so please visit our webpage!

ORESKABAND official website | on MySpace | CD and tour details
Front page photo by Mayumi Nashida.

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