[AFASG’15] [INTERVIEW] BLESS4: “TOWARDS THE 2ND DECADE, BACK TO ZERO!”
Moving on from Nano, this week, we present to you the performers that are bless4!
Bless4 is a Japanese vocal and dance group consisting for siblings from the Kawamitsu family. Akashi, the oldest brother, is the only one to hail from Okinawa, while Kanasa, Akino and Aiki were born in the United States. They officially debuted with their first song, ‘Good Morning! Mr. Sunshine!’ in May 2003. In 2009, they released two songs for Disney’s anime Stitch – ‘Stitch is coming’ and ‘Hitori Ja Nai’, with the former being the ending theme song. In 2011, they released their 3rd album – six years after their previous – titled ‘Yumetsumugi’, which scored a respectable 3rd, on Billboard Japan.
Collaborating with bless4, Akino, who started a really successful solo career, released a theme song for Aquarion EVOL – ‘Kimi no Shinhwa – Aquarion Dai Ni Shou’ as well as an OP theme song for Amagi Brilliant Park – ‘Extra Magic Hour’ – with the singles claiming the #3 and the #20 spot on the Oricon chart, respectively.
bless4 enjoying Bak Ku Teh for dinner in Singapore. (Source)
To keep the ball rolling, as Akashi said, “Shall we start? Alright, let the games begin!”
Interview sans Aiki
Q: What are the different challenges that bless4 have faced, especially when going for overseas tours, in recent years?
Kanasa: Time difference?
Akino: Like for Singapore, not really, it’s just one hour of difference but for the flight to the United States is a seven hour flight.
Kanasa: Sometimes you worry you would get sick because of the weather or if you needed energy, you wonder if you would get a lot of energy before the performances.
Akashi: The basic challenges, not really in Singapore – because we can speak English and we can understand everybody but depending on the country, sometimes if we could really communicate very well or understand what the audience wants. The main thing that we want to do is to have the audience enjoy our performance, that’s the main point why we are here, so we just hope that our performance would be enjoyable to the audience. So, sometime that takes some thinking.
Q: So your style is quite unique – sometimes its acapella, sometimes Akino sings while the rest dance. Can you tell me where you get the inspiration for Bless4’s performance style?
Akashi: Oh, we get that from you. (Kanasa and Akino laughs) No, no, no, really, from the audience definitely but, it also depends on the song and the way that it is made for. Sometimes we are supposed to harmonise during our performance but it is difficult to harmonise and dance at the same time so we try to make sure that we kind of just dance at the back. Basically like we mentioned before, hopefully we want to do something that the audience will enjoy and that we ourselves enjoy also. Because if we don’t enjoy it, we know that the audience won’t enjoy it too.
Kanasa: Also we’ve been doing taekwondo in the States, so that might make a difference in our dances. Paki Paki dance? Kind of like a sharp dance? People say you guys have a sharp taste of dance.
Akashi: So sharp that you will have to stay away because you will get cut.
Kanasa: So that might make a difference in a way that we used to do taekwondo.
Akino: Basically, we like to have the performance really well laid out, so when it is Bless4 or Akino from Bless4 or Akino with Bless4 or Aiki from/with Bless4, we think of that person’s character traits and the song in general and what kind of performance the audience would like as a whole. That influences how we think of when we should dance or harmonise or just go all out and sing.
Kanasa: We also like entertainment, so we think that singing, dancing and the things that we do, as an entertainment. Entertainment equals putting more different things, stuff people haven’t seen so that’s why we like to do – challenge new things.
Akashi: Basically what we want to do is that we always want to mix it up, we don’t want to just sing, just dance, and we want to make sure it is entertainment. And we can only dance right now when we are young. Well, I am not that young any more but we can only dance right now. The next five years is probably the limit that I could dance and, so after five years maybe we’ll just be singing. That’s why we want to dance and sing and do all we can right now!
Q: As siblings, how do you see yourselves as a family and professionally as a performing group together?
Kanasa: As siblings, we are a family, but in a way, I don’t feel like we are family, I feel like we are best friends. We can talk about anything – love life, relationships. We did this not just with the girls but with the guys included and with our mom and dad. Well sometimes, we don’t include them. So I feel that they’re family but best friends so we can talk about anything and we are really close in ways.
Akino: As professionals, sometimes it is difficult to work as a family because you get the sibling relationship instead of the professional relationship. So sometimes your emotions can go above your professional status. We’ll have to like cooldown or for a meeting that would take just five minutes, ends up taking one hour because our emotions were raised in front of us.
Akino: So sometimes it is difficult but since we are siblings and since we spend so much time together, when we think of an idea, we kind of have the same kind of ideas. And when we are on stage, we look at each other and we both know what we’re thinking, all four of us. So since we spend so much time together, it’s kind of like telepathy, kind of like psychic powers, some kind of connection. Not that much, but we do have some kind of connection.
Akashi: Basically, this is something we didn’t notice before but when we first debut, we believe we have different voices, but when we recorded a song, the engineer told us that our vibration waves are like the same. So that’s why the harmony mixes well. It’s kind of true when we fight, sometimes before a performance, even though the harmony might be on, it sounds funny or something sounds strange. If we don’t fight before a performance, everything kind of goes well, smoother. So if we don’t do a good job today, you know why. (Laughs)
Q: Bless4 was in Singapore in June to perform for the Funan Anime Matsuri, so due to the fans’ demand, you guys are here for AFA, so how do you feel about that and how did the June performance affect the way you guys came up with the performances tonight?
Kanasa: First of all, we are so grateful for everyone’s reaction. We love Singapore, so having everyone saying we want you to comeback like that was so cool. So thank you, everyone.
Akino: I think when we came and performed in June, people were like saying “AFA! AFA! AFA!”
Kanasa: We were like yeah! We want to come back.
Akashi: Just to be clear, we didn’t pay anybody to say that. They said it for themselves.
Kanasa: We were so happy, dreams came true and we’re able to be back. We are looking really forward to seeing them again and to be able to sing together, dance together and we are really grateful.
Akashi: About the set list this time, we tried to mix it up just a little bit and put in songs that we didn’t sing before but there are a lot of songs that we did sing before. However, we know that some of the songs they (the crowd) really enjoyed so we tried to keep those inside, tried to add in a little more but we don’t have that much time this time. But we try to put in a little bit of Aiki this time too, a video. So I hope everybody enjoys that.
Q: What can we expect from you guys in the future?
Akashi: We’ll be performing in space. (laughs) Not that far in the future, right? Basically right now, I don’t know if you know, we’re teaching classes, teaching students in Japan right now. We have students starting to perform as back dancers, back cores and they are getting really good. Very soon you will see bless4 plus a bunch of other people. We just performed at Animax last Saturday and we had 14 dancers behind us. So it’s not only just going to be the four of us. It is going to become a very big group and we hope to go all over the world. We’re kind of going to the Olympics that will be held in Tokyo. Hopefully not as bless4, but the students and us, all together try to go for big things and that’s what we are planning on right now. Space is after that! (More laughs)
Kanasa: Floating into space~
Q: What are the differences between Disney based songs and Anisong in general?
Akashi: That’s a good question; no one has ever asked us that before!
Kanasa: So we were talking about it in the bus as we were coming here, what I personally feel is Anisong tends to have a faster beats per minute (BPM) and higher melodies. As Akino said Disney songs are in English and Anisong are in Japanese. (Laughs) Disney songs also tend to be more lovey dovey, more warmth and more about love. Anisong are more passionate and they have strength, they have a lot of different kinds – from like passionate to cute, but in general they give you the power to move forward.
Akashi: Anime songs have kind of changed quite a lot recently. They used to be quite slower but now a lot of songs are around 170BPM. It’s basically the average of what they are going for right now, so they really want speed. The hype is that they want to use the main vocals at the highest BPM which is way fast and has a lot words in it. So anime songs have really changed in that aspect of it.
Akashi: Disney songs are more relaxed and laid back, easier to sing. It’s hard to compare to anime songs. Basically speed, hype and atmosphere are different. It’s whoever listens to whichever one likes whichever is better; it’s the taste of the listener.
Q: Do you mind sharing the story or motivations behind your upcoming single, ‘Golden Life’?
Kanasa: We recently recorded the song last week. We were really busy at that time and when I listened to the music, it was really good; this time, the music is an up tempo, around 170BPM. It’s really quite fast. I think this song will give a lot of people energy and happiness. We are looking forward in singing the song in the future.
Akashi: Too bad we are unable to sing the song at AFA this weekend, because we are not allowed to. It’s a secret. It’s basically a fast, energized song and so I think you will get a lot of energy from it. Hopefully everybody will like it, we liked it.
Kanasa: This songs has a lot of harmonies in it, we will be doing the photoshoot for it next week, so we are looking forward to that too.
Akashi: The song we just recorded recently is a different song, a song for something. That’s all I can say.
Q: If bless4 were to open a theme park, what will it be like – what kind of attractions, mascots, food will it feature, how will you managed it? If not, you could talk about what you liked in Amagi Brilliant Park and what kind of changes you might make to a park like that?
Akashi: First of all, about Amagi Brilliant Park, we really enjoyed the anime a lot; we were really looking forward to the next episode because in a way, we are doing the same type of thing. In a way, we are doing the same type of thing, it’s not really a theme park, but in terms of the business and meetings and everything. It’s kind of the similar to what we do, for example I say we do this and everybody is like not in agreement and then when I get mad, they get mad at me. So it’s the same thing that is happening. We hope that in the future, we will be able to open something like that in the future.
Akashi: What we have plans for is that we train our students to be good performers and good at public relations also; to greet customers and they are to be very energetic, very polite. This is our motto right now; “Being polite will change the world.” To greet people, to be polite would change the world. Some people think that you know it won’t change the world. But I believe that it could change the world. That’s the main image we hope for and aim for, and hopefully, through our performances, students, and everything that we do, it makes people feel good at the same time. Of course, it’s not just about the greeting and being nice, you have to be good at what you do: skills. It doesn’t have to be the best but have to be the best that you can do.
Kanasa: I think we like (to have) action-type stuff. Performance-wise, it has to have impact, it needs to have some scene where you want to cry, so we try to put all these stuff in the performances. Action, softness, that’s what we think when we think about a live. We try to put everything inside.
Akashi: Basically the six senses. Well not the sixth sense, but the 5 senses. The sixth sense is a little scary. (Laughs)
Q: What novelties do you see yourself and other Japanese or non-Japanese or mixed Japanese heritage medium acts possess?
Akashi: I think we have a pretty good mix of Japanese and non-Japanese mix. We are full Japanese but we have kind of live abroad too – in the States. What we hope for is that we want to go for originality.
Kanasa: We like diversity as well. That’s why we like traveling to many different countries. We like to learn the culture, the language. Like living in Japan and the United States, we take the best of both worlds because we know the best of both worlds, so we try to mix the two together. Traveling to different countries, and seeing the cultures and languages and the food… (laughs) We try to mix it in with all of our performances; we like to bring it all in and to consume what we can.
Akino: I think for Americans in the States and in Japan, the way you sing is different. In Japan, you sing more high but in the States, you sing more low and comfortable. So we try to mix it in our performances, we try to make the songs a little slow when bless4 makes songs but we also use the high voice too.
Q: What are your plans now that bless4 has entered its second decade?
Akashi: Like we said before, SPACE is one of them!
Kanasa: These ten years was a lot of fun. We had the concert, Akino did the fashion show. We had twenty models walking during the song in costumes that Akino made. This one was Akino with bless4 since it was the 10th anniversary.
Akino: This is what I want to do as well. I sing but I also make clothes. In the future, I want to have a fashion brand, where we sing, and we perform, and we dance and my clothes will be in the concert – it’ll be like a new fashion show type. That’s what I want to do, make something new.
Akashi: We want to do new entertainment like Akino said, models will be walking with her clothes, and we will be singing and dancing. It will be a big performance unlike those normal fashion shows you see. Because since we are dance-based, they are not just walking, they would have this routine, formations and everything. It’s pretty fun.
Akashi: With our classes and students, we really want to grow, we want to become huge. You know through teaching, we were able to grow quite a lot. We didn’t know a lot. We realised that we don’t do exactly what we tell our students, so it makes us drive harder to do what we say and say what you do. Our younger brother, Aiki – he went to America last year to volunteer for 2 years – will only be back next year August, and since he left, it has really been a growing process for us. He is the best dancer and he would make all the dances; he is a really great singer too and taking his parts and covering it for him, it was really hard to do. We are able to grow quite a lot and not depend on him, so when he is back, the four of us will be a lot stronger than we are before. We will be a new team, so for the next decade we hope to become a lot bigger and better, we want to go back to the foundations and from there, rebuild ourselves, to become new.
Kanasa: As you know Akino with bless4 is in its 10th anniversary while as bless4 is in its 12th anniversary, as you know the horoscope goes one round every 12 years, so this year’s theme is “Back to Zero”. The theme fits perfectly with Aiki being gone and we went back to zero and we are trying to start everything from one. It’s been a really hard yet cool experience.
Akashi: In Japan, we are trying to perform in less crowded places and maybe do street lives and stuff, to really start from zero, to do what we started out doing.
Q: What kind of anime would you like to perform an anime song for?
Akino: Dragon ball! I love Dragon ball. I would like to do the Kamehameha while we are like singing. That will be great.
Akashi: That’s definitely something we would want to do. There is also something we are creating; we hope someday it will become an anime. We are thinking of the story, something original. Hopefully in the future, we can create everything from zero, from scratch. Of course we weren’t be drawing it ourselves. We really want to do a project from ourselves also.
Akino & Kanase loves their Chilli Crab! (Source)
Well, there you have it, folks! I hope you guys enjoyed the interview as much as we did! They were certainly really humorous and engaging. Let’s wish them the best of luck for their renewal and please, do continue to support bless4!
Their next single ‘Golden Life’ will be released on 27 January 2016.
- They were from taekwondo exhibition troupe, “Flying Dragons”. Both Akashi and Kanasa were Arizona State Taekwondo Champions at 14 and 12 years old, respectively.
- Yumetsumugi is a self-produced album with each member working as staff to bring their music video and album to life.
- They own their own company.