Now an iconic J-pop group with fans around the world, the electro-pop trio The fragrance first caught the attention of listeners outside of their home country when one of their songs was featured in the Disney/Pixar-produced animated film. Cars 2 released in 2011. Already a popular girl group in Japan, the “Polyrhythm” trio expanded their musical activities overseas and toured other Asian countries for the first time the following year.
In June 2013, the group became the first Japanese group to be invited to perform at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France. The trio wowed the crowd with their highly synchronized choreography, transformative costumes, and staging by avant-garde media art collective Rhizomatiks using state-of-the-art technology. Perfume won the Silver Lion in the Cyber category at the event and kicked off its second international tour, stopping in three cities in Germany, England and France.
The J-pop stars collaborated with alternative rock band OK Go in 2014 and embarked on their third world tour with shows in Los Angeles and New York, then headlined a show at SXSW in 2015. Their sixth studio album, COSMIC EXPLORER, arrived in April 2016 and debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes Electronic Albums chart in the US and No. 16 on BillboardList of Top Dance/Electronic Albums by . The band toured North America for five shows in four cities that year.
Their seventh studio album, Pop of the futurereleased in May 2018, debuted at #4 on BillboardWorld Albums Chart of . The following year, the three women again toured successfully in North America and became the first J-pop artists to perform at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Their performance was highly praised, including being named one of Coachella’s 2019 Top 16 Acts by rolling stone magazine.
Then, 16 years after their debut, 21 years after their formation, and just when the band was set to take another career leap forward, the world came to a standstill due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Fragrances were in the middle of their national dome tour in Japan and were forced to cancel, but member KASHIYUKA shares that the period allowed them “to take time to think about what we want to do and to give all our attention to what we consider most important.”
NOCCHi adds, “We have always offered content that can be enjoyed online long before virtual broadcasts became the norm. Live performances collaborating with technology, things that are more interesting to watch on a screen than in person. So we’ve often been asked to do virtual shows during the pandemic, but we felt that ultimately the fun of Perfume’s live shows is creating a space directly with everyone. We realized that we like to play live and everything we do, we do for our shows.
In March 2021, the film version of Perfume’s 2019 Reframe concert reenacting the trio’s 20-year history, titled Reframe the THEATER EXPERIENCE with you, was released exclusively on Netflix. In August, the group held their first in-person headlining live performance in a year and a half in Japan, titled Perfume LIVE 2021. [polygon wave]. Parfum performed a new song titled “Mawarukagami” (“Rotating Mirror”) for the first time at the concert, a track that reflects how the women feel about performing live. The track is included in their eighth album PLASMA released on July 27, their first original album in four years since Pop of the future.
“During that show, it was like something inside of us was awakened by the sound of every kick,” a-chan recalled. “The sound of applause echoing through the hall was overflowing with soul, and that soul rebuilt us. It was like, ‘Oh, we’ve been regenerated.’ Our purpose in life is to play live and we realized again that the space we create with everyone is central to what we do.
NOCCHi adds, “I was surprised that our producer Yasutaka Nakata understood how we felt about performing live. Especially the last part of the song which says “We will stand on stage”. It was like he was encouraging us to sing this song when we came back on stage, and it was exciting to see that it was playing live.
“We want to perform on stage, but it’s not something we can do alone. The feeling that “I’m just a rotating mirror and can only shine with everyone’s support” and that due to the times we live in, the words “everything will be fine” are really noticeable “, says KASHIYUKA. “It was as if we were encouraged by these voices and we understand the lyrics with painful clarity. There were things that I felt while performing live, personal feelings that were mine, but (Nakata) managed to put them into a song that I could share with the audience. That’s why I was so happy when I got to play it live.
Perfume’s sound can generally be categorized into club/dance music as techno-pop, synth-pop, French electro and EDM, but their new album PLASMA adds more color to the band’s style, as evidenced by tracks such as the boogie-funk debut single “Spinning World”.
Additionally, “Drive’n The Rain” can be seen as Nakata’s response to the recent global “city pop” movement that sheds new light on the sophisticated urban J-pop music of the 70s. a feeling of temperature and wind, like night and rain. It has an organic feel,” says KASHIYUKA.
Organic is an important keyword to describe PLASMA. Although the band are known for their performances featuring electronic sounds and the latest technologies, such as projection mapping and AR, their latest album gives a sense of what is real rather than virtual, analog rather than digital and the warmth of people.
The three women share their impression of the new studio set. NOCCHi notes, “When I listened to the finished album, I thought it captured today’s world and it was a Mr. Nakata proposal, like, ‘These songs wouldn’t be- aren’t they ideal for Perfume to sing these days? ‘ The vibe he suggested was laid back and relaxed, with messages of hope and kindness. I felt like he was with us.
“I thought it was an album that encourages you to relax and be yourself,” says KASHIYUKA. “The kind of music that blends into your everyday life and helps you remember the sweet time of day.”
a-chan adds, “I think it’s very typical of us to release an album like this when the world has changed due to the new coronavirus. It’s really normal that it’s not an album that compels people to cheer themselves up.
PLASMA was released worldwide in various formats including CD, downloads and streaming at the end of July. Regarding the possibility of a world tour to support the album, NOCCHi said: “As a Perfume, we are not able to go abroad yet, but if there are people waiting for us, so we’d love to go see them. ”
“With the development of the Internet, information and communication technologies, people are becoming ‘individuals’, whether they live in Japan or elsewhere,” KASHIYUKA adds. “No matter where we live, we each have our own problems and difficulties. And if there are people who support us in such circumstances, we are ready to go anywhere to see them.
a-chan jokes, “We will be touring Japan from August 20 to November 6 on our arena tour, Perfume 9th Tour 2022 ‘PLASMA’, so everyone is always welcome to come and visit us here!” [Laughs]
–This interview with Atsuo Nagahori first appeared on Billboard Japan.