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Music Natalie - SCANDAL's "LUMINOUS" Interview
Posted Thu Mar 21, 2024 8:00 pm



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Music Natalie - SCANDAL's LUMINOUS Interview

No matter what happens, we'll be okay - Expressing reality and light through multicolored music

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SCANDAL released their new album LUMINOUS on March 20.

This is their first album in 2 years and 2 months since their previous work MIRROR. In addition to the previously released songs "Line of sight"; "Vision"; "Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto"; and "CANDY" is "Fanfare," the ending song for the original anime HIGHSPEED Étoile; as well as songs provided by EOW's vocalist Laco, an old friend of SCANDAL's; and Rhythmic Toy World. The diverse musicality is strongly emphasized throughout the 11 songs. We spoke with the band about LUMINOUS, which is filled with light and was created with an eye toward the future of the band, accepting the various difficulties they face in life and becoming their own source of light.

SCANDAL is radiating light

──I hear that SCANDAL took a relaxing vacation at the beginning of the year.

RINA: We took an entire month off. So grateful for that (laughs).

TOMOMI: Yeah. We were able to refresh ourselves quite a bit.

HARUNA: It was the first time we'd ever taken such a long break. Maybe the past us would have felt a little hesistant to take it, but this time we rested as much as we wanted (laughs).

──Did you see each other during the break?

RINA: We basically did not.

MAMI: I went to eat parfaits with TOMOMI, though.

TOMOMI: Ehehehe. We did meet up occasionally, but we never really met up as a group to discuss future activities.

HARUNA: It might have been the first time we went so long without seeing each other.

TOMOMI: We unintentionally did so during the pandemic, but it was the first time we consciously decided to take a breather. It was very refreshing and relieving.

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──It seems you took a break after completing the album.

RINA: That's right. Good on us (laughs).

TOMOMI: We really worked on it until the last minute at the end of last year.

HARUNA: We worked hard in order to take a break (laughs).

──You've completed a truly wonderful album. It make sense that you were able to take a long break without any worries. I think the title LUMINOUS symbolizes the content of the album, but how did this word come about?

RINA: We had a meeting after all the songs were finished and discussed what we should title it. When we looked back on the emotional journey of the past 2 years since the previous album, we talked about how we're trying to move towards a new and brighter world now. Since we felt this album was comprised of those kinds of songs, we arrived at the word LUMINOUS, which means "to emit light," to symbolize it.

──SCANDAL now radiates light themselves.

RINA: There was also the aspect of choosing it with hope for our future selves. No matter what path we choose, even if we make a new choice like taking a month-long break, we strongly believe that we'll be okay. We were able to give it that title because this idea became clear to us a band: No matter what happens, the future is bright because we are emitting light.

──It does seem like a natural progression for SCANDAL to amass songs with a mood that makes you feel that kind of light.

MAMI: That's right. Even though we were finally able to start moving again during the pandemic and create our previous album MIRROR, there were times when we felt we hadn't reached the light quite yet. But as time passed, we were able to play proper concerts again, and our hearts have become more solidly focused on moving foward. We all had a desire to create a bright future. So when we listened to newly created songs, we got the impression that they all had something in common in what they were saying and what they were aiming for. It really felt like the songs naturally came together in that way for LUMINOUS.

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HARUNA: At the same time, a major topic for us in 2023 was being certified by the Guinness World Records as the "Longest running female rock band with the same musicians (female)," so we were naturally thinking a lot about ourselves as we worked on the album. That's why I feel like this album has so many songs about ourselves compared to the previous ones.

RINA: It also feels like we're able to express a gradient of emotions. Although it's titled LUMINOUS, it's not just filled with bright songs, nor is it entirely dark. I think we were able to create an album that imagines a bright future while still embracing the realistic aspects of life.

TOMOMI: The fact that the overall impression of the album is that it's bright, even though you'll realize that not all of the songs are cheerful when you listen to them one at a time, is proof that our current mentality is pointing towards a bright direction. It really feels like we've created a great album. I feel like going, "Good job, SCANDAL! You're doing great!" (laughs).

──Looking back, MIRROR was also an album that was filled with honest feelings. It seems that SCANDAL's creative style has turned out to be this way.

TOMOMI: That's right. I think we're getting to the point in our lives where we can't help but to let it all out (laughs).

There are a lot of lyrics that make us think "It's okay to put these out now"

──The album opens with "Gunjou pleats," featuring lyrics and music by MAMI. It's really touching to see such a refreshing and positive song created by you, especially considering your recent admission of a creative slump.

MAMI: This song was actually pulled from a voice memo I recorded years ago. When I listened to this song again, I realized that I'm the type of person who can be uplifted by little things and can laugh at silly things for a lifetime. I still feel like I'm in a slump where I can't write songs, but this song has made me feel like I can approach my activities with the mindset of, "Yeah, there are times like that," and keep going.

RINA: I thought this song was really great the moment I listened to it. It's natural for everyone to experience waves of emotion throughout life. I can really relate to the fact that the protagonist is a strong, independent woman who properly depicts that vulnerability while embracing it as she lives her life. SCANDAL rarely digs up backstock to record, but I also thought this approach was good.

TOMOMI: I think the song may be more suited to MAMI now than when the seeds of the song were created. It feels like we were able to release it at the right time, even if it wasn't intentional.

HARUNA: That's definitely true. There are quite a few lyrics that we thought we wouldn't be able to release to the world a few years ago, but now it seems like it'd be okay.

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──I think that sound-wise and message-wise, "Gunjou pleats" is song befitting of the first track.

RINA: We also discussed putting "Fanfare," which has the charm of our classic sound, as the first track, but we decided to start it off with "Gunjou pleats," which has a slightly novel sound. It's also our first album in two years, so we wanted to prioritize novelty when arranging the tracklist.

──The intro does make you surprised and go "Oh!"

HARUNA: Right. We talked about how the first track should be one that makes people think "Oh!" when listening to the album on streaming services.

TOMOMI: It's also one of the songs that best represents SCANDAL's current mode.

Writing lyrics while crying, thinking about the members

──The second track is "Fanfare," the album's lead song. It was written specifically as the ending song for the original anime series HIGHSPEED Étoile, but it can also be called SCANDAL's theme song. The lyrics were written by TOMOMI.

TOMOMI: I heard that the protagonist of the anime is a strong, independent woman, so I wrote lyrics that directly conveyed that. Not too long ago, I would have felt embarrassed and a little shy to express my feelings openly, but now I think it's cooler to just write about things honestly. At the same time, as you had mentioned, there were many parts of the anime's content that overlapped with ours, so I also incorporated that into the lyrics. When writing the lyrics, I found myself thinking things like "How are we going to live our lives from here on out?" and "How will we continue to operate as a band?" I even started crying a bit (laughs). If, like in a race, there comes a time when we reach the finish line, I want us to cross it in the best condition we've ever been in... I found myself thinking things like that as I worked on the lyrics.

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──The phrase "I head towards a world where no one can catch up to me" is so persuasive, especially since the band holds a Guinness World Record. The line "Let's head to the place closest to eternity" is also a very SCANDAL-like expression.

RINA: I really like those lyrics. I kept thinking to myself, "That really is true." Running to the place closest to "eternity" as possible is our motivation right now.

TOMOMI: I wrote that part while thinking about the members and crying a lot (laughs).

RINA: "Eyes swollen from crying"?

MAMI: Exactly what the first line of the lyrics are (laughs).

TOMOMI: Ahahaha. I had a hard time writing the lyrics to this song. I skipped the pre-production process a few times, but I really wanted to write until I was satisfied with it. I really took my time to craft it.

──The music and arrangement were done by MAMI.

MAMI: This is one of the songs we tried out when we talked about wanting to do a band song with just the four of us. Ever since we started writing our own songs, TOMOMI hadn't written lyrics for this type of song, which is why it felt fresh. I sensed that TOMOMI was struggling a bit with the lyrics, but she was so determined to write them (laughs) that I was totally okay with waiting until she was satisfied with them. I'm really glad it turned out in a way that I was satisfied with.

──The vocals are also great, conveying the feelings expressed in the lyrics in the tone of voice used.

HARUNA: I really felt that this song was written with not only ourselves in mind, but also our fans, so I sang it wanting to deliver it to everyone with great care. Recently, I've come to feel this more strongly than ever before, because our fans are like partners who are growing up and spending their lives with SCANDAL.

MAMI: I hope everyone enjoys the song along with the anime, which will start airing soon.

A melody sharing the "same blood"

──The following track, "Watashi-tachi," is a love song that features lyrics by RINA and music by MAMI.

RINA: The lyrics were made first. These lyrics were actually among my backstock. I thought it was lacking something at the time I wrote it and put it on hold, but when I revisited it after a few years, it felt like it was properly finished. Perhaps, as I've grown older, I've come to see incomplete relationships as one form of relationships. When shaping the song, the only part I added to was the bridge. MAMI then added the melody to it.

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MAMI: RINA had a clear vision of the sound, so I added a bright melody based on that. I think I was able to bring out an interesting duality with the sad lyrics. I wanted this song to have a pop vibe overall, so I asked Ryo Eguchi to arrange it, and he added a variety of impressive keyboard sounds. It turned to be a very cute song.

──EOW participated in the composition and arrangement for "Plum." EOW vocalist Laco attended the same music school as SCANDAL, correct?

TOMOMI: Yes. She's been my good friend since elementary school. It's so touching to be able to work together this time!

HARUNA: Ahahaha.

TOMOMI: I'm very happy to be able to work with Laco, but even before that, I'm such a big fan of EOW's music that I'm so thrilled. I thought it would be great to try making a bright yet emotional song, which is also EOW's theme, as SCANDAL this time. I polished some backstock lyrics I had and asked EOW to add the melody. It's a sensuous breakup song that was born from collaborating with EOW.

RINA: EOW came to the recording as well. We recorded it while talking together. It was very refreshing and made for a happy atmosphere to hear all kinds of opinions and positive comments about my playing.

TOMOMI: Yutaro gives out so many compliments (laughs).

HARUNA: That kind of thing is important (laughs).

TOMOMI: Also, sound-wise, they gave us ideas that we would never come up with on our own.

MAMI: We learned so much! It's very pleasant to play, and it fits HARUNA's voice really well.

HARUNA: Yeah. It does feel fresh to sing songs that people outside of the band made, and the melody written by Laco, who hails from the same school as us, is very easy to sing. It's like we share the same blood somewhere (laughs). It made me feel a bit nostalgic and emotional.

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Packing thoughts into a big explosion

──"LOOP," the seventh track, has lyrics and music by RINA. It's a thrilling rock number that sings "I can't let it end in a world like this" and "I can't laugh in a world like this" over a rough sound.

RINA: I really like that raw, gritty sound of rock and grunge music. I wanted to create a really simple song that we could rock out to in small venues. When I write a song using computer music, I paste the chords on a loop since I'm not that skilled at guitar. I wanted to make the most of that approach, so I incorporated it into the theme of the lyrics and the title, "LOOP."

──They do depict feelings similar to an anger of repeating the same thing over and over again.

RINA: Those feelings were really strong when I wrote this song. I often wondered if it was okay to live such a repetitive life with the same schedule, and when I watched the news, I'd often find myself thinking, "It's the same old failures and mistakes again!" I tried to pack all those emotions into one big explosion (laughs).

HARUNA: Sound-wise, there's also a fresh kind of listening experience to it. As for the vocals, I understand that it's better to sing in a languid manner that matches the tone of the song, but since I'm quiet serious at heart (laughs), I tend to sing properly without realizing it. It may have been quite difficult to find the right balance.

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──How did recording instruments go?

RINA: We pretty much finished them in one take.

HARUNA: It was really fast. I even recorded vocals in just one day.

TOMOMI: I really only played it once (laughs). With songs like this, it's better to not have too many corrections. It's been a long time since we played something just once and released it as is (laughs).

MAMI: It's nice because you can do whatever you want with songs like this (laughs). You can try out ideas that come up on the spot, like, "That sounds good. Let's give it a try." Also, those "impulses" really help to elevate the song, making it enjoyable to listen to. I really thought it would be nice to do this kind of song once in a while.

This is "our song"

──Following EOW, this album also includes the song "Anata e" that Rhythmic Toy World participated in. The music was composed by Naotaka Uchida and arranged by Akira Kishi, with lyrics by MAMI.

MAMI: Just like TOMOMI said earlier, I also feel like I'm just a fan when it comes to Rhythmic (laughs). At the same time, I feel like their mentality as a band is similar to SCANDAL, so I've always felt a sense of kinship with them. I also felt that our fans would like Rhythmic's music, which is why I asked them to collaborate with us this time. I was very happy that we were able to communicate with each other down to the smallest details while finishing this song.

──Specifically, how did you proceed with the production?

MAMI: First, I conveyed the fragments of what I wanted to express with this song, and then they added the melody to it. Then, I wrote the lyrics based on that, and we continued to refine it in that manner. In the process, we also discussed the possibility of having me sing it.

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──What you're singing about is your feelings towards the members and fans.

MAMI: Yes. I wrote them so openly, more so than I might have in the past. I'm also very grateful to the members for allowing me to write these lyrics. I was really happy when they said, "This is truly our own song."

RINA: I thought the lyrics were wonderful. The four of us have been working together for a long time, and there are things like shared views and emotions that only we could understand. It's not just about the good times; pain and suffering have also left their marks in the same way. So when I listen to this song, every phrase makes me feel like, "Ah, this is what's being sung about here." In that sense, I really felt like this is "our song."

MAMI: Yeah. At the same time, I wanted to make sure that I'd be able to properly remember my gratitude to our fans every time I sing this song, because I think that's something we should never forget. Because there are people who listen to us, we can remain strong and feel like we'll be okay no matter what happens. In that sense, I think this song inspires us as we sing it.

──Did the members of Rhythmic attend the recordings?

MAMI: Yes. Ucchi (Uchida) and Akira came to them. Whenever we finished playing, they would jump up and down (laughs). They were having a lot of fun.

RINA: We had a lot of fun, too.

TOMOMI: Both EOW and Rhythmic added essences that we don't have, which in turn has allowed us to reaffirm our own identity. There was a time once when we were constantly searching for what defined our "SCANDAL-ness," but realizing that we had somehow found it without even noticing was also incredibly refreshing.

HARUNA: Another good song with MAMI on lead vocals.

MAMI: That makes me happy. But it's tough to sing this one (laughs). Before I knew it, it had become a song with no breathing room. But I'll do my best to sing it!

Fired up!

──The album also includes another song, "1:47," with lyrics and music by HARUNA.

HARUNA: It's read as "Ichi Yon Nana" (One Four Seven). During the album production, as the songs gradually came together, I realized that there were many songs about ourselves, so I decided to make a song that wasn't about us. And the result was a song about a woman gaining independence through love. I chose this title because it was 1:47 when I saved fragments of the lyrics on my phone. I think it turned out to be a very playful song.

──There are parts where words are used rhythmically, and have a bit of a rap-like flow.

HARUNA: I worked with the arranger Satori Shiraishi on this, and we discussed how the melody and chord progression in the chorus were rather standard, so if we made the song in a normal way, it might become monotonous. For the sound, we built it up from scratch together. As for the recording... That went smoothly too, didn't it?

MAMI: It was so fast!

RINA: The song is simple to play, so it's fun being able to perform it with ease. But the arrangement turned out to be really satisfying to listen to. I'm happy that we were able to record with good sound, and it was a satisfying recording.

TOMOMI: The backing vocals are all HARUNA, right?

HARUNA: That's right. Even including that, recording concluded very quickly.

TOMOMI: It's also important to note that HARUNA's voice is the only voice on the song.

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──And the album concludes with "Highlight no Naka de Bokura Zutto." I think it's the perfect culmination.

HARUNA: We felt that the album had to close with this song.

RINA: We're fired up! What an awesome band (Laughs).

Discovering SCANDAL's mature stage presence

──You will be starting your nationwide tour on April 2 in support of the album. After that, it seems that you're also planning to perform overseas.

MAMI: We're also fired up for the tour!

RINA: There are even some pretty small-capacity music clubs this time. I'm really excited because we get to have fun up close with the audiences.

TOMOMI: The songs on the album have quite a wide range of sounds, so I'm not sure how well they can be reproduced at these small venues. On the other hand, I think there are ways of expressing them that can only be done live. I think people will be able to enjoy sounds that are completely different from the recordings, so I hope they can fully enjoy that aspect as well.

HARUNA: I hope people can discover new ways to enjoy SCANDAL's concerts at small music clubs. We want to discover the stage presence of SCANDAL that is not only intense as before, but also mature.

MAMI: Yeah. We hope to build on that momentum and make our overseas tour a success too!

RINA: In the midst of all this, we're also starting to talk about our 20th anniversary (laughs). We'll continue to bring you a ton of fun thingsー.

MAMI: Don't you dare take your eyes off usー! (laughs)

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2011.7.3 AM2 2012.3.28 SCANDAL vs BUDOKAN 11.3+4 QAT Tour @名古屋 11.10 Happy MUSIC Live 2012 2013.3.3 SCANDAL OSAKA-JO HALL 2013 2014.6.1 HNL Ekiden & Music 2014 6.2 Fan Meeting 2015 HELLO WORLD @ Paris - London - Essen - Chicago - MEX - LA - Anaheim 2016.1.12+13 PERFECT WORLD 5.21 Welcome Fan Meeting 5.22 HNL Ekiden & Music 2016 5.23 Farewell Fan Meeting 8.21 SCAFes 2017.7.14 47 Prefecture Tour @茨城 7.15 水戸 7.17 東京 2018 Special Thanks @NY - SF - Anaheim - MTY - MEX - Dallas 2022 MIRROR @Toronto - NY - Boston - Atlanta 2023 UU @ Fukuoka - Tokyo 2023.08.21 Sekai Ichi
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Gosh, these Natalie interviews are just so good...I'm especially excited about the part where they mention some songs may get a different arrangement when played live.

Friendship. Effort. Victory.
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