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Music Natalie - SCANDAL's Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto Interview

The future of the quartet that won't stop even after becoming the best in the world

Music Natalie - SCANDAL's "Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto" Interview Scandal16-pc-header

SCANDAL released their new single Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto on October 4.

The title track, "Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto," written and composed by MAMI, is a song that pours out a new resolve and determination as a band with a strong awareness of the finite nature of life. For SCANDAL, who this year is celebrating their 17th anniversary of formation; their 15th anniversary of their debut; and had set the Guinness World Record for "Longest running rock band with the same musicians (female)" in August, this work is sure to become the most important tune that will illuminate their future more brightly and powerfully. Also included on the release is the B-side song "CANDY" written by TOMOMI as "a cheering song for those who aren't good at coping with life's problems." With two different types of songs, this single vividly conveys the multifaceted nature of SCANDAL.

We asked the four members of SCANDAL, who were awarded the title of "best in the world," about the Guinness World Records and stories related to this work.

Set free from the Guinness World Records - Now freer and lighter

──On August 21 of this year, SCANDAL set the Guinness World Record for "Longest running rock band with the same musicians (female)." What you talked about in our previous interview has now become a reality.

HARUNA: I'm so relieved that we managed to make it to that day in one piece. We applied for the certification after gathering a bunch of documents and records that we had kept for 17 years, but we couldn't say anything until it was actually certified.

TOMOMI: The four of us have simply continued to stay together for the past 17 years, but I think it's very on brand for us that we were able to become the best in the world, and I'm very happy about it. However, just because you're recognized as the best in the world, it doesn't mean that things will change drastically from the next day (laughs). We'll keep continuing on from here on out.

MAMI: Two days after we were certified, we went back to work like normal (laughs). It really does feel like we just carry on without stopping. This event could have been a major turning point for us, but it was never one of our goals. That's also very on brand for us.

RINA: In fact, for several years now, we've been working with the Guinness World Records certification in mind as one of SCANDAL's achievement points. So, by successfully being certified, you could say that we've been emotionally freed from that. That's why it feels like we can work more freely and lightly, in a good sense, without thinking too much about things like, "We need to head that way," "We have to go this far," or "We have to take a rest."

──This record will not be broken by anyone else as long as SCANDAL continues to be active, and your certified period of activity will continue to grow.

RINA: That's right.

MAMI: We're still breaking the record as of this moment (laughs). For example, if we apply again on our 20th or 25th anniversary, the new record would become official.

──That fact must give the band a lot of confidence.

HARUNA: I think so. Thinking back on these past 17 years, so many things have happened, and we've achieved so many dreams in the process, but I feel like we almost never had enough moments to give ourselves a pat on the back. I felt a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction at each moment, but there weren't many moments when I thought from the bottom of my heart, "We are amazing!" But this time we set a world record. Even we feel like we want to give ourselves a proper pat on the back.

Music Natalie - SCANDAL's "Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto" Interview Scandal16-haruna

Definitely wanting to release it as a single

──The new song "Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto" from SCANDAL presents a renewed determination and resolve as the band enters its 18th year. Coupled with the Guinness World Records, you can strongly feel the significance of this song being released to the world at this time. What kind of thoughts did MAMI, who wrote and composed the song, put into it?

MAMI: Originally, I hadn't really decided what kind of content I wanted to write, and only the melody had been around since last year. That was when we had contracted COVID during our North American tour and had to cancel it halfway through. Unable to return to Japan, we spent around 10 days in a hotel, and it really dawned on me that people never know when they might die, and that the day might come when we won't be able to continue as a band.

──Unexpected events can happen in many aspects of life. You must have felt a sense of crisis.

MAMI: Yes. What I thought was that I needed to write down my current thoughts about the band SCANDAL in the form of a song. At that point we were conscious of trying to get a Guinness World Record, so I included those thoughts in my writing. In this work, I feel like I was able to express my true feelings, which I haven't really talked about before.

TOMOMI: When I received the demo of this song, I had an idea of when it was written because I felt exactly the same way when we canceled our North American tour. What's more, the songs that other members made around that time were filled with those same emotions. I was very relieved by that. I had no idea how I would live my life after winning something as big as a Guinness World Record, but with this song I felt like I could see the road ahead. We strongly felt that this song would be an important point of reference for us.

HARUNA: I heard the demo at the beginning of the year, and I knew that 2023 was going to be an important year, including the Guinness World Records, so I felt that this song was perfect for that. It's a song that looks ahead, but I really like how instead of just filling it with positive things, it also weaves in the human side of us, last-minute situations we've been through, and stories of how it's not all smooth sailing. I definitely wanted to release this as a single because I thought it could convey the message that this is the kind of band that SCANDAL is.

RINA: I think this song was born out of our 17 years of history together. I could relate to every word, and I was happy that we were able to create a song that only we could have created at this time. Personally, I really like how the lyrics are filled with a good kind of angry energy. We still have high expectations for ourselves, and we have the power to believe that we can do more. It made me feel that we must keep our hearts burning from here on out so as not to be left behind by the power of this song.

──The sound that rides on the strong and powerful lyrics is also a great finish that gives a strong sense of the band's identity as SCANDAL. The arrangement was done by Ryo Eguchi.

MAMI: At first, I felt strongly about creating a J-Pop sound with a wide-ranging chorus. I wanted to make a flashy song with a lot of instruments other than our ours. But as we discussed it together, we came up with the idea that this song should really make the band stand out. Keeping that in mind, we asked Eguchi, with whom we had good communication for "Take Me Out," to do the arrangement.

Music Natalie - SCANDAL's "Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto" Interview Scandal16-mami

──Additional instruments such as strings are included as originally envisioned, but the core of the song is definitely the four members' performances and singing.

RINA: That's right. I was able to play this song with a lot of emotion, so the recording process was very pleasant. There aren't many complicated phrases, and the arrangement is simple overall, so I can enjoy playing without feeling like I'm putting an unnecessary burden on myself. The song is not only positive but is filled with our various emotions. It creates a bright and happy scene sonically, so I think it will be useful in live performances other than solo concerts.

TOMOMI: The bass was completely changed from MAMI's demo arrangement. Originally, it was a little more rock-oriented and gruff, but in the end it became more open and rhythmic. It's a lot of fun to perform. I feel like I want to put on a determined face, but I always end up playing with a smile (laughs).

"Why not all of you sing?"

──HARUNA, how was the vocal recording process?

HARUNA: From the moment I received the first demo, I was able to really get a sense of the vocal image that MAMI had in mind.

MAMI: Yeah. In particular, HARUNA put everything she has into the atmosphere of the beginning of the first verse, which she sings while playing the guitar. Even though I don't sing it myself (laughs). I told her in detail during the recording session, "I want you to sing as if you can hear your breath before you sing," and I was happy that she faithfully reproduced it.

HARUNA: This goes for the way I sing it, but I was given the image of "singing in the dark with a spotlight on me," so I sang while imagining that kind of scene. Overall, the lyrics are strong and the song is really cool, so I tend to sing it in a rather strong way. I didn't want to forget the cheerfulness, though, so I sang the chorus with a lot of smiles on my face.

──You can also hear MAMI's and TOMOMI's singing in the second chorus.

MAMI: That was Eguchi's idea. He jokingly said, "All of you can sing, so why not do so?"

TOMOMI: He said, "Why don't all of you sing just like you used to?" (laughs).

MAMI: As a result, for the second verse I sang the main melody and TOMOMI sang the chorus an octave higher. This is very difficult to sing while playing! When we play it live, I close my eyes and do it in a state of nothingness (laughs).

TOMOMI: The rhythm of the song and the rhythm of the performance are different. I never thought I would be singing there (laughs).

MAMI: But I think it was a good hook for the song. By the way, when we shot the music video, we shot only the second verse for about 5 or 6 hours (laughs). We took many patterns of shots with different scenes.

TOMOMI: The director probably thought, "This is the key point of the song."

MAMI: Yeah. It was really interesting because we were able to shoot scenes using a variety of items in compositions that we had never done before.

──In this vein, I'll ask about the music video. The flow of the song, which begins in darkness and suddenly brightens during the chorus, conveys the message of the song more realistically. The main focus is on the band's performance, but the very elaborate video inserts are also impressive.

MAMI: I was happy that the positive message that good times and bad times are both highlights in life was clearly expressed in the video. We do all kinds of things in it, like getting wet, being blindfolded, and struggling while wrapped in cloth (laughs).

RINA: We had a lot of discussions with the director to finalize the content. They understood our desire to make a simple and strong music video, but also captured the strength of determination, the feeling of loneliness, and the feeling of fighting on the edge. I think the video made people feel very positive emotions.

──There are also scenes where withered flowers appear here and there, and beautiful butterflies dance around. I also watched them while superimposing the presence of SCANDAL, who continue to dance brilliantly no matter how harsh the situation, onto them.

RINA: Maybe that was the director's intention as well. For those scenes, we used a hair dryer to wither the fresh flowers that were bought. We had butterflies flying in the air added later using CG.

Music Natalie - SCANDAL's "Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto" Interview Scandal16-rina

──How was it shooting the water scenes?

TOMOMI: We put a plastic pool underneath, climbed into it, and had them shower water on us from above. It was really difficult.

RINA: The water was so cold that we could barely breathe. We were saying things like, "Hold on a moment, please" (laughs).

MAMI: I guess you could call it a shower, but the amount of water was so great that it was like being sprayed with a hose.

HARUNA: We took turns shooting one by one, and everyone came back soaking wet, saying, "Brrrr, I'm so coldddd" (laughs).

──I like the cool expressions you show during those scenes.

TOMOMI: The water made our eyes narrow on their own, though (laughs). We weren't sure if we were getting good shots, but it was a fun shoot.

RINA: We also talked about how we regularly get wet in our music videos (laughs).

──It was also moving to end the video with the scene with the four of you sitting in the chairs and then standing up one by one and walking away.

RINA: Thank you very much. The ending represents us moving on to the next stage together after going through all kinds of things. It turned out really nice, so I'd like everyone to watch it.

A tune from TOMOMI that'll resonate with those who aren't good at coping with life's problems

──Additionally, the single's B-side song is "CANDY," written and composed by TOMOMI.

TOMOMI: This one has a completely different sound from "Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto." I think we've created something interesting as a single. The lyrical fragments of this song have been around for quite some time, but I think it was around the same time as "Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto" that I put them into proper form. I'm surrounded by people who aren't good at coping with life's problems. I think there are many reasons for this, such as being clumsy, being too kind, or being overly emotional, but I think I can understand all of them. That's why I wrote this song in the hope of giving a push to people who are living like they're all alone. It's a cheering song for those who suffer from overthinking and self-sacrificing themselves.

──What meaning did you put into the title "CANDY"?

TOMOMI: The first word that came to mind was "CANDY," and from there I expanded the lyrics. It means...don't just look at the bitter side, but don't forget the sweet side too (laughs).

──The arrangement is done by your old standby Satori Shiraishi.

TOMOMI: Based on my acoustic demo, I went over the details with Satori while giving references to various songs. He's worked with the band since our early days, so he was able to take in all of my miscellaneous nuanced requests, such as, "I want the volume to suddenly go up from a very low note count" (laughs). He did a very wonderful job.

Music Natalie - SCANDAL's "Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto" Interview Scandal16-tomomi

──It's a warm and gentle song, but just like what you just said, the volume of the sound is amazing. It almost feels like you're drowning in the sound.

TOMOMI: Ehehehe. I wanted the sound to be crude (laughs).

MAMI: Including that part, the song feels very much like a TOMOMI song. I think TOMOMI's personality is reflected in the lyrics as well.

RINA: I'm the type of person who often feels like I'm not good at coping with life's problems, so this really hit home for me. When you're facing all kinds of difficult moments, music like this and words like these will definitely help you out; make you feel all warm and fuzzy; and make you realize that even though you're by yourself, you're not alone. I'm really happy that my band was able to create such a gentle song.

HARUNA: Actually, I think I also fall under the category of people who are not good at coping with life's problems (laughs). So, like RINA, I was very moved when I heard this song, and I was very relieved at the same time. I also really like that it doesn't just say it in a kind way. I felt like I was singing to myself when I recorded it. I thought it would be boring if the song was only gentle, but I also thought it would be wrong to sing it strongly and force the feelings that TOMOMI had put into it. I explored various nuances of the song to find the right balance, and the song took its current form.

──What was it like recording the instruments?

RINA: We started with the drums and layered the rest in order, and I finished after only two or three takes. I'm glad it was clean too. I guess I put my heart into it and focused on simply recording good sounds. I like it. But going first is pretty nerve-racking (laughs).

TOMOMI: Yeah. It's so silent that it makes you feel uneasy (laughs).

MAMI: That's why it was surprisingly difficult for everyone to match the rhythm until we got to the chorus. There was a band-like tension, as if everyone was examining each other.

TOMOMI: For the recording, we all listened to a click track while playing, but there'll be no click track when we play it live. I look forward to seeing what happens. We'll have to really concentrate (laughs).

MAMI: It'll be cool if it all comes together.

──At the moment, only the Tokyo performance of your 15th anniversary tour "SCANDAL TOUR 2023 『Kanshasai vol.2』」" is left. Your annual "BEST★Xmas" concert is coming up on December 24. With that in mind, are you starting to consider next year's activities?

HARUNA: Of course! We have a lot of ideas.

TOMOMI: SCANDAL never stops.

RINA: So hardworking. Recently, the members have been spending time complimenting each other (laughs).

HARUNA: Today, after this interview, we'll have a meeting about next year.

MAMI: We really are hardworking (laughs).

Music Natalie - SCANDAL's "Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto" Interview Scandal16-ph01

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