U.S.-Bound Perfume is Enjoying the Sweet Smell of Success

Courtesy Photo
Perfume

Ten years after their major debut, Perfume continues to evolve without ever stopping. They are currently in the midst of a tour in support of their latest effort Cosmic Explorer, an album which tackles the epic theme of “traveling the universe.” Two years since their last world tour and their dream of performing at the world-renowned, Madison Square Garden, the trio will soon embark on a U.S. tour. A pair of dates are scheduled at the MSG on Sept. 3 and 4. What are their thoughts on the upcoming tour? We spoke to them before they begin their new journey.  

Your US tour starts at the end of August. How was the first half of the Cosmic Explorer tour in Japan? 

Kashiyuka: The more we tour, the more fun it gets. We were able to go to venues in Japan where we’ve never been and explore many things. It was a fun first chapter of the tour.

Nocchi: We changed the setlist every show, which kept it fresh and enjoyable for us.

a-chan: We feel more mature. In the past, we felt like we’d been torturing ourselves with fixed notions about touring. We’ve grown out of it now and can ease up on ourselves and say, “we don’t need to be that hard on ourselves.” In that way, we're more mature.

Have your impressions toward the songs from Cosmic Explorer changed over the course of the tour?

Kashiyuka: We didn’t include the song “Miracle Worker” in the beginning when we were putting together the setlist for the tour. The song was quite different from the other songs and didn’t fit in, so we automatically excluded it from our setlist. When we had our fans write the liner notes for the new album, which was part of a campaign we were doing with our fans, we realized how popular “Miracle Worker” was. Our crew also loved the song so we decided to play it live. The audience went loud and crazy when we performed it. We’ve never experienced anything like it.  

a-chan: The song “Cosmic Explorer” has an immensely strong power to it which led to it becoming the album title. So, the first thing on everyone’s minds was, “Where should we put 'Cosmic Explorer' in our setlist?” or “What kind of performance should it be?” But, we eventually came to the conclusion that instead of putting emphasis on the song and making it central to the set, we should keep the performance simple and stripped down. That quietness is what draws excitement from the audience. In every show, the song brings an intense vibe and gives us chills. 

 
How will the upcoming U.S. tour be different from the other world tours you’ve done in the past, since it is specifically an “album tour”?

Kashiyuka: On our previous world tours, we were able to pick any song we wanted to perform, so we made setlists prioritizing songs that are popular among international fans and what we wanted our international fans to hear. For the upcoming U.S. tour, we are mostly performing the songs from Cosmic Explorer to demonstrate the concept of the album. We’ve always wanted to tour overseas the same way we tour domestically, so we’re really delighted to be touring the States as part of the Cosmic Explorer tour, but we’re concerned whether our international fans are familiar with the songs on our new album…

On this tour, you will be performing in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. It seems like you’ll be visiting cities you’ve never been to before.   

Kashiyuka: Yes, it’s our first time performing in San Francisco and Chicago. 

Nocchi: On our previous U.S. tour, we performed in New York and L.A., but a lot of people came to see us from different cities. There was an American person who came to our show in New York and said something like, “it’s my first time coming to New York!” It just reminded me of how big America is.    

Kashiyuka: I was shocked when someone asked me, “It’s my first time in New York, where should I go?” [Laughs]

Nocchi: Really? [Laughs] We’re so happy to be meeting our fans in the States who have been waiting to see us play live.

Kashiyuka: I’m curious to see how audiences in San Francisco and Chicago are different from the audiences in other cities. It’s just my personal opinion but I think people in L.A. and New York are used to going to concerts and know how to party like, “WHOA!” On the other hand, I’m expecting the shows in San Francisco and Chicago to be more chill and intimate… you know. 

It seems like America holds a special place in your heart. You decided to make your international debut in L.A. on your last U.S. tour and made it a goal of yours to perform at Madison Square Garden. How do you feel about the U.S. tour that’s about to start?  

a-chan: We sort of regret setting a goal that can't be achieved so easily. Though, I'm sure there are more fans supporting us now than three years ago, which makes us even more eager to make it come true. There are Japanese artists who have played shows at Madison Square Garden, but none of them have performed at an arena-sized venue for two consecutive days. We want to keep challenging ourselves to accomplish things no one has ever done before. How cool would it be, if us achieving that goal could inspire and make people proud to be Japanese? It’s a positive cycle; our dreams becoming their dreams and us becoming stronger because of it. I’m pumped and I really hope that we can make it come true. 
 

The U.S. tour dates were announced when you initially made the announcement for this album tour. You were probably thinking about the U.S. tour while you were touring Japan. Is there anything you did in preparation for the U.S. tour?

Nocchi: Definitely. [Laughs] All three of us started taking English lessons. We were thinking about the U.S. tour the entire time. We had done so many concerts on the first half of the tour, and normally we would be satisfied playing all these shows. But it feels different this time, it feels like we're still at the very beginning of the tour. 

a-chan: We are taking English lessons individually from the same teacher. Our teacher is getting more nervous, as the days get closer to the U.S. tour dates.
 
Nocchi: Our teacher keeps saying "We're running out of time!" [Laughs]

a-chan: Our teacher is so stressed and tells us, “There’s not much time left but I’ll do my best. In the meantime, you three should speak English to one another!” We do know that we’d be able to communicate more with our international fans if we spoke better English, but we’re so lazy. This whole process before the U.S. tour has been the same as the last time. However, I think Yuka-chan's (Kashiyuka) English has improved a lot. So I’m counting on her for our shows abroad. [Laughs]

Kashiyuka: a-chan pressures me like that. I’m studying hard, but I’m having trouble pronouncing words clearly. So, no one understands my English anyway.
 
a-chan: But that’s what I like about you. You sound cute that way.

Last time when you were in the U.S., you had In-N-Out burgers. Is there anything you are excited to do in the States this time, aside from the shows?

Kashiyuka: I heard pizza is famous in Chicago. Is it called “Deep-dish pizza?” It’s this thing that looks like a tart.

a-chan: Is that the one with a lot of cheese in it?

Kashiyuka: Yeah, that’s it. I heard it’s covered with cheese and sauce. I’ve never had it before, so I want to taste and compare the different types of pizza. Whenever we are abroad, I always look forward to the food. I want us to go to a bagel store, pick out a yummy bagel and top it myself.

Nocchi: I’m just excited to travel to all these different places, the three of us together. I hope we have a bit of time for sightseeing. 

a-chan: In Japan, our fans recognize us when the three of us are together, which is a good thing, but individually, no one notices us. I guess when we are together, we subconsciously position ourselves the way we do on stage or walk diagonally like in our choreography, which makes us stand out in public. [Laughs]

It’s like you guys are a herd or pack of animals.  

Nocchi: We’re like "Swimmy". (Swimmy is a character from the popular children’s book by Leo Lionni).

a-chan: I agree, we’re "Swimmy." [Laughs] When we’re abroad, no one would notice us even if we walk together. We can go to a fancy café for a coffee and shout, “TO GO!” and start dancing with excitement and no one would recognize us… I want us to be able to take a stroll together.  

I believe this U.S. tour will be another building block in the story of Perfume. How do you envision the group in 10 – 20 years? 

a-chan: This is an interesting question. We enjoy ourselves now more than ever. We’ve known each other since elementary school, and we have a lot in common. More than that, we’ve been together for over 10 years, and we’ve seen and experienced the same things, so we understand one another very well. 

We’re not quite sure about Perfume’s future, or how long it’s going to last, but we hope this relationship lasts forever. No matter what, we’d always be linked in some way…. Not many Japanese girls have close friendships as we do.

Nocchi: We have this kind of conversation when our families get together at the dinner table. I can totally imagine the three of us staying the same, and laughing at the same things when we are all grandmas.

a-chan: Us being grandmas. You’re envisioning too far ahead. [Laughs] 

Kashiyuka: You’ve skipped a lot of things along the way. [Laughs] We’ve spent more than half of our lives together, experienced and overcame things people wouldn’t normally experience. We understand one another more than anyone else. I just hope we can keep smiling and stay happy forever, no matter what.  

This summer, Perfume’s exhibition is going to be held in London and New York. We heard they are showcasing your costumes and stage pieces.  

Kashiyuka: We’re really excited that this is actually going to happen. There are plenty of opportunities for people to find out about or see our costumes and stage pieces in Japan, but it’s not as easy for our international fans. I’d love for them witness what we are doing now. People tend to think that Perfume is just about the three of us, but there’s a whole team behind Perfume, and I think people would be able to see that at this exhibition. I want as many people as possible to visit the exhibition. 

To wrap things up, we would like you to give a shout out to the fans coming to the upcoming shows in the U.S. 

Nocchi: I’m sure there will be a lot of people coming to see Perfume for their first time, and I’m truly excited to be meeting all of them. Please put our album on repeat and look forward to the shows. 

Kashiyuka: The tour will be of our new album, Cosmic Explorer, so please listen to the album as much as possible. Also, it’d be great if you could enjoy the beauty of the Japanese language. Japanese expressions could be indirect and ambiguous, or the sound of the Japanese language could be playful to people’s ears. You will be able to hear a lot of that in our songs. Even if you don’t understand Japanese, you will be able to enjoy our live performances visually, through our choreography and more. So I really hope you make it to our show. 

a-chan: Firstly, it’s another dream come true for us that this [U.S. tour] is actually going to happen and if we can have a blast, it will make it truly memorable. We hope you have high expectations of the show, and we are also looking forward to your reaction!

Visit Perfume's Website for its U.S. tour dates.

Translated by Ai Kaneda