J-Pop Band Official HIGE DANdism Look Back on Stellar 2019 & Share Favorite Songs: Interview

Official HIGE DANdism
Courtesy of Billboard Japan

Official HIGE DANdism

Official HIGE DANdism is one of the biggest breakout acts of 2019 in J-pop. Formed in 2012, the group commonly referred to as HIGE DAN made their major-label debut in April 2018. The four-man pop-rock band released "Pretender" in May 2019, which stayed atop the streaming list for a record 29 straight weeks and became their biggest hit yet.

Their new album called Traveler, released in October, reached No. 1 on Billboard Japan's Hot Albums chart, and the band's songs have led seven different charts this past year alone.

HIGE DAN's performance on the charts shows that the band's music -- which takes elements from various genres including soul, funk, hip-hop and even heavy metal to fashion its own brand of catchy piano pop -- is reaching a wide range of listeners who keep coming back for more. Hot on the heels of their whirlwind success, the rockers have announced their first arena tour in 2020.

HIGE DAN's members -- frontman and principal songwriter Satoshi Fujihara, guitarist Daisuke Ozasa, bassist and saxophone player Makoto Narazaki, and drummer/percussionist Masaki Matsuura -- shared their thoughts with Billboard Japan via email on their recent breakthrough success, favorite songs from this year, who they'd love to collaborate with in the future and more.

Two of your songs, "Pretender" and "Shukumei," charted in the top 10 of Billboard Japan's 2019 Year-end Hot 100. How do you feel about this achievement?

Satoshi Fujihara: We're pleased about the rankings for sure, but first of all, we're sincerely happy to see that so many listeners are hearing our songs.

When we interviewed you back in April, Daisuke said that "Pretender" would "become the starting point that changes the course of the band." How has your career changed after "Pretender" became such a hit?

Daisuke Ozasa: We can operate on a simpler mindset now, in that we can believe in what we think is cool without worrying about how other people think when we write our songs.

2019 was the year many people discovered Official HIGE DANdism. With ways to discover new music being so varied now, including concerts, streaming, and YouTube, could you share some of your most memorable encounters with music?

Makoto Narazaki: Performing on the same roster as (Japanese three-piece band) Tsuru back in Shimane Prefecture was a memorable moment for all of us. I cried, it was so much fun.

You released your new studio album, Traveler, this year. Official HIGE DANdism's songs are always brimming with ideas. Is there anything you try to be aware of when you're recording?

Fujihara: We try to write songs that we think would make us happy if they existed in the world.

Tell us what songs the band was into this year.

Fujihara: Samm Henshaw's "Church" featuring EARTHGANG, Anderson Paak's "Make It Better" featuring Smokey Robinson, and Chance The Rapper's "All Day Long" featuring John Legend.

You're in the middle of a Japan tour right now. What do you take care to do when you perform live in front of an audience?

Masaki Matsuura: Regardless of the size of the venue, we always try to make sure we reach each person in the crowd. Everyone in our team, including the supporting members, brainstorms ideas regarding the arrangements and whatnot for our concerts to create a fully enjoyable space with our sound and performance.

Any artists you'd like to collaborate with, both onstage and in the studio?

Ozasa: Bruno Mars.

2019 is almost over. Looking back, how was your year?

Narazaki: Everything happened so fast this year. But looking back at each moment separately, I think we were able to give our full attention to the music in a sincere way. We're hoping we can do more of that as a band from now on as well.

What do you want next year, as well as the next decade, to be like for the band?

Matsuura: It'd be sweet if we can keep sending out good music by not being afraid to try new things outside of our musical interests and studio work, and doing what we want to do while enjoying the process.