It’s weird seeing the four members of The fin. perform in broad daylight. Not that the quartet look like vampires or anything… Rather, that their synth-heavy rock music sounds nocturnal, all shadows and lonely walks under street lights.
Yet here they were underneath the Texas sun, just half an hour after noon, playing to a just arriving crowd at the Japan Nite Preview Show at The Grackle. It’s an unexpected venue for the Kobe group, but the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin tends to demand such surprises.
The scene the following night at the Elysium nightclub for the proper Japan Nite showcase suits them far better. The fin. take the stage after 10:00pm, inside a somewhat divey venue lacking bright lighting. It’s a far better environment for their moody take on rock, which is sung entirely in English – an approach that has gotten labeled as “Western-influenced music” in their home country and hasn’t stopped them from turning into an act to watch. They self-released 2000 copies of their first album, and when those all got snapped up they found themselves on a larger label, re-releasing it, and ending up playing prestigious events such as the 2014 installment of Fuji Rock Festival.
Several hours before their Elysium gig, MTV 81 caught up with vocalist/synth player Yuto Uchino, guitarist Ryosuke Odagaki, bassist Takayasu Taguchi and drummer Kaoru Nakazawa in the lobby of their hotel to talk about SXSW, their Western tag and Pokemon.
How’s your SXSW been so far? What have you gotten up to?
Uchino: We saw Perfume play Tuesday night. It was awesome!
Odagaki: Yesterday, we played the Japan Nite Preview Show, and we thought it went really well.
Uchino: Yeah, it was great. I really liked the scenery. Like, a plane pulling an ad flew over the venue. It was a lot like Fuji Rock last year, the vibe.
Yesterday was your first American show ever. How was the experience?
Uchino: The crowds here are so great. It was like a party. Japanese people are a bit more quiet, usually just standing and listening. But Americans don’t seem to be like that – they are a bit more fun!
Odagaki: We all had a good time.
Uchino: And we were able to talk to a lot of the fans too.
Did you have to do anything special for your first American show?
Uchino: Nothing special. It was about the same.
I read you guys took a trip to France and the U.K. a while back, and that it was a pivotal moment for The fin. What are you looking to get out of SXSW, and the subsequent Japan Nite tour?
Uchino: We are definitely hoping to get something similar out of this. I really like American music, so I was really looking forward to this U.S. trip. When I was a high school student, I loved the Red Hot Chili Peppers – especially (guitarist) John Frusciante. And I liked indie-rock music, such as Washed Out and Beach Fossils. That scene was important to me.
Odagaki: For me, R.E.M.
Taguchi: The Strokes.
Uchino: Yeah! The Strokes were big for us. That was a natural thing we all shared.
Nice… Do you guys remember the first show you ever played together?
Uchino: Oh, definitely. I was extremely nervous before it, and we didn’t play very well (laughs).
Odagaki: We were 16.
Uchino: And about 20 or 30 people came out to watch us. We did a lot of cover songs at that point, and the crowd seemed to enjoy themselves.
Today, you guys are tagged as “Western-influenced music” in Japan. Are you happy with that classification?
Uchino: I don’t care, really. I just want to create music, In that sense I’m not really worried about how people react.
We want to play around the world, and play lots of festivals, especially in the U.K., so singing in English, for example, is a benefit for us in this regard.
You tried writing in Japanese, but you said it was “an awkward experience.” Has singing in English affected you?
Uchino: I find that they don’t really care.
Did you guys listen to Japanese music while growing up?
Uchino: In high school, I listened to a lot, but recently not so much. I really liked Happy End, and still respect them. A bit old school.
Next, after SXSW, you guys will be going on tour with Japan Nite. How have you guys been preparing for that?
Uchino: Nothing special (laughs). But we bring little games with us for the flight.
Pokemon (laughs). We all like Pokemon.
Which version of Pokemon, the newest one?
Uchino: Not new, it is more of a revival. We battle one another.
So who’s the best player?
Uchino: I think it’s me (laughs from all, followed by trash talk in Japanese).
Right, not moving on just yet – what is your favorite Pokemon?
Uchino: I like Mew. The small one.
Taguchi: (Laughs) Stantler.
Nakazawa: Definitely Scyther.
Great! Back to the tour… What cities are you most excited to visit?
Uchino: New York and Los Angeles. I want to go to nightclubs. No specific ones, I just want to explore and find something interesting.
What are you going to get up to when you go back to Japan?
Uchino: I’ll be writing more songs for us, for our next album. We have just started working on that. In June, we’ll do shows in Tokyo and Osaka.