Interview: FLOWby Jennifer Sherman,
Chances are, most anime fans today know a few theme songs from the five-member rock band FLOW. Kohshi, Take, Keigo, Got's, and Iwasaki have performed theme songs for more than 20 anime together. The group's songs for Code Geass, Eureka Seven, and the updated version of “Cha-La Head-Cha-La” for Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods are modern classics in the world of anime music. There is no question the band earned its place at Otakon's Anisong World Matsuri music festival.
The high-energy band made waves with the crowd both literally and figuratively during its performance on Saturday afternoon. FLOW started its 11-song set with the Naruto Shippūden opening “Sign.” The audience's excitement grew with each song, and the member introduction break in the middle of the show was a needed opportunity for everyone to rest.
Several of the members did straightforward introductions, but Iwasaki turned heads by performing his solo with neon glowing drumsticks. However, everyone felt the weight of the crowd's attention when guitarist and vocalist Take took center stage. An equally confused and amused atmosphere floated through the hall as a man wearing what appeared to be an elaborate luchador mask appeared after Keigo called Take's name. Without saying a word for several minutes, he performed a glowing baton twirling act that no one expected to see at a rock concert. Perhaps the performance was a nod to FLOW's popularity in Mexico and South America. Whatever the case, the spectacle made sure all eyes were fixed facing front.
After confirming that Take was indeed beneath the mask, the concert continued. Fans listened to the moving Code Geass opening “World End” and an energizing rendition of the popular “Cha-La Head-Cha-La” song featuring JAM Project's Hironobu Kageyama.
The peak of the show was the performance of the Naruto theme song “GO!!!” Even the most stubbornly still members of the audience moved to the catchy melody. Convention attendees in the levels below reported hearing the floor shake and shouts of “We are fighting dreamers!” during the song's chorus.
The encore performance of “Colors” with the Yousei Teikoku band's vocalist and fairy empress Yui concluded the show and all of Anisong World Matsuri. The audience reluctantly dispersed back into the convention center, readjusting to the light and relative quiet outside.
A day before the floor shaking and wave making, we sat down with FLOW to discuss the band's 15th anniversary, thoughts on anime performances, and the group's future.
ANN: First of all, congratulations on your 15th anniversary. Is there anything that stands out to you that's changed about your band over the years?
TAKE: If there's anything that's changed, the most recent mini album would be a very good example of that because each of us made a song. So that's a very iconic one.
You all have very cool hair!
TAKE: Thank you so much. When we originally started, we would have never thought that we would be able to do things here in Washington D.C. and overseas in general, so we're very grateful for everyone overseas.
And you've also performed around the world. What are some things that are different about audiences around the world compared to Japan?
KEIGO: The volume of the crowd's voices is different. Everybody overseas kind of uses their entire bodies to express themselves, and I think that's a pretty big difference.
<outside cheering followed by laughter>
KEIGO: And you hear an example there. Everyone expressing themselves very loudly.
KOHSHI: How did you feel in Japan because you came to our concert, right?
I feel like in Japan you have kind of—
KOHSHI: Different compared to--
The audience has kind of set things they do in Japan at concerts, and everyone knows to do the same thing. But here everyone's just kind of crazy and all over the place.
TAKE: Why would a local say everyone's crazy here?
Well… We're a little bit crazy…
KEIGO: Crazy is cool.
Yeah, it can be. I also wanted to talk about your mini album Fighting Dreamers. That's for your anniversary, of course. You had 11 voice actors help you with the chorus for “GO!!!” Did any of their performances in the song leave a special impression on you?
TAKE: So, “GO!!!,” being our first anime song that we did for Naruto, it is a very important song to us. And the fact that we got four of the voice actors for the main characters (Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, Shikamaru) there is a very interesting feeling. It puts some different thoughts in my mind now that I think about it. And personally I'd say that Mr. Kishō Taniyama is a very funny person.
For the new mini album you all wrote your own songs. What were some of your inspirations for those songs?
TAKE: First, since it is the 15th anniversary album, we wanted to let people know that we are still “fighting dreamers,” now and more so than ever. So what we thought was we'd like to bring in our likes and what we feel passionate about—our identity—into the mini album. What I've recently been really into is mountain climbing, so I made a song about that.
IWASAKI: What I found as a motif was the heavy metal that I used to listen to when I wanted to become a musician. And the lyrics that I put in there were exactly how I felt back then.
KEIGO: It's actually my first time writing the music for a song, so I had a very interesting time figuring out the melody, kind of figuring it out bit-by-bit. And what I really focused on is the fact that we are still “fighting dreamers.” It's the 15th anniversary, but that 15th anniversary is only a passing-by point, and we're still going to continue going.
GOT'S: As a bass player, I wanted to make a song focused on the bass, obviously. It features the bass, and you might be able to figure that out. And the image for the chorus was—I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say this—but, Mickey Mouse. Make what you will of that.
KEIGO: Hey, you went and said it!
IWASAKI: It should be okay…
KOHSHI: What I wanted to make was a party tune—something that would be fun to sing at a live performance. So as someone who likes sake and alcohol—and I love tequila—I wanted to make a 15th anniversary party song.
You said you're all still fighting dreamers. Could you tell me about your dreams for the future? What's your vision for the band's next 15 years?
KOHSHI: Next 15 years!
KEIGO: We've been doing this 15 years with the five of us, and what we would want to wish is that with the same five of us we'll be able to keep on doing what we're doing right now and go over not just Japan, not just America, but the entire world for the next 15 years.
Luck to you in doing that!
You have a lot of anime songs, and you're very popular with everyone here. Do you have any favorite anime?
TAKE: That would be Naruto.
KEIGO: For me, it's Code Geass.
Oh, me too! I love your songs for Code Geass.
KEIGO: Thank you.
TAKE: There's going to be a three-part movie starting this year.
It's very exciting.
GOT'S: I like Tales of Zestiria the X.
KOHSHI: Dragon Ball.
IWASAKI: Detective Conan.
TAKE: Crayon Shin-chan.
KOHSHI: Sazae-san. You know it?
TAKE: Chibi Maruko-chan, too.
I taught elementary school kids in Japan, and they like those characters.
TAKE: Yeah, that's right.
Did you have any special preparations for performing at Otakon?
TAKE: Yes, of course. But it's top-secret.
You have the “FLOW THE CARNIVAL ~anime-only~” concert coming up this year in December. What made you want to do an anime-only concert? What's your goal for that concert?
KEIGO: It's one of the things that we planned for our 15th anniversary event, but we actually noticed when we were doing this that we never did an anime song-only performance before. So we counted and surprisingly 15 years, 21 anime songs, that's quite the feat! And since this is enough to do an anime-only performance—they might be all anime songs, but to us, they are all live stage songs that we've been singing. But it's also something we want people that have never been to our live performances to see, so we thought we'd do that.
Finally, I wanted to ask you if you've heard of the English phrase “go with the flow.” It means to take things easy, let things come as they are, and to go along with things.
TAKE: I know it, yes.
Do you think that FLOW “goes with the flow” or not?
TAKE: For our 20th anniversary, we might go with that theme.
KOHSHI: Maybe at that age, we might be able to allow in lots more stuff, and we'd be even more mature. It's a good saying, though, right?
Yeah, I think it's a good saying. Well, that's all the questions for today. Thank you very much.
ALL: Thank you!
Thanks to FLOW, Anisong World Matsuri, and Otakon for the opportunity.
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