I had the chance to interview my friend Sawa by email about her band Sawa. She’s a really fun person to be around and sometimes maybe we are too crazy together. Their live shows in Tokyo blew me away with their great rock mixes. Some of you might have heard Sawa’s voice and lyrics if you played the square-enix game The World Ends With You which was also composed by Hizmi. If you enjoy reading this interview and are interested in listening to their music or saying ‘Hi’, head on to myspace.com/sawaofficial
Can you introduce us to the band ‘Sawa’?
SAWA is a band, trying to dig out something “unique” but still very “catchy”. We are a Japanese indie band formed in Tokyo (Japan). We strongly believe that reaching out and opening up to each other and the world is the 1st step to move forward as a band. My father runs a traditional Japanese public bath (sento) in his own way. Usually, Japanese public baths won’t welcome people with Tattoos, Yakuza (Japanese Mafia), elderly people who can’t take a bath without help. But my father accepts almost everyone, including those people. Only if they can keep the ethos to share the sento space together with each other. SAWA would love to share the space, and to have space where anybody can come and enjoy, share their thoughts, time and smiles together.
Tell us! How did SAWA come to be what it is today?
SAWA started taking action in ’07 when the vocalist Sawa had decided to sing. (That’s me! lol)
At the beginning I was a solo singer/song writer, but when I met Hizmi through making the soundtrack to the well known Nintendo DS game The World Ends With You, we decided to create something original together; that was the beginning of Sawa. After writing several songs, we decided to form a Band pushed by our eagerness and supports from our fans and that’s how we are today.
What are the instruments used in your band?
For the gigs, we use the usual guitars, electric, acoustic and bass, drum, and…. microphone!! lol)
My main instrument is my voice, but I also play the tambourine and blues harp depending on the situation.
Sometimes we share the stage with our friends who play keyboard, violin and/or flute.
In future gigs, we might add or subtract instruments to have more experimental sounds on stage!!
How do you describe your music to people?
Something experimental and alternative based on rock sounds.
Who writes the lyrics?
Most of Sawa’s songs lyrics are in English, Why is that?
Because, we are eager to go over the boundaries and borders created by stereotypes. We don’t want to have you hear us with the first impression, “Oh! It’s a band from Japan!!”. It’d rather you be surprised after listening to our songs and say, “Oh! They were Japanese band?” lol.
We love to surprise people! That’s one of the biggest reasons why most of our songs are written in English.
Although, it doesn’t mean I don’t like writing songs in Japanese. To tell the truth, we are working on some Japanese songs right now!
What are your favorite songs and why?
My favorite songs … it’s hard to pick a few… I love all of my songs! lol
hm…. if I need to pick some, I’d start to say with…
“One Thing“. It was the song that I sent to Hizmi as my self-introduction before our first meeting. From this song, we decided to create songs together, and without this song the current Sawa wouldn’t even exist! “Stay Away“, this was the first song I created together with Hizmi and that was the beginning of this Sawa project. We felt some sort of chemistry between us while listening its demo. From our current EP, I adore “Fly High” and “Figure and Shadow“. “Fly High” is filled with messages and words from my past. I wanted to collect those heartfelt empowerment words in one song, and share it with my fans and friends!! “Figure and Shadow” is one of our newest sounds, and while creating this song I felt that our new experiments on sounds are going to start from here!!
Who are your musical influences?
I used to listen lots of Canzone and Chanson music, influenced by my father in my childhood. I still love those passionate voices and emotional essence of the singers such as, Milva and Edith Piaf. The 1st CD I ever bought was The Beatles, when I was around 10 years old. I listen to Punk, Heavy Rock, and some other sorts of music too, but when I met Nirvana around 16, I was totally soaked into the grunge world. Later on, Mixture, Core, Metal sounds were also fun to listen but my interest was suddenly caught by some old sounds, such as Chet Baker and Tom Waits. From the current artist, I’m a big fan of Muse.
If you could cover any song in the world, which one would you choose?
It’s hard to pick one
Okay, I’d say…
“In Un Fiore“, “Que sera“, “Milord” from Canzone.
“But Not For Me” from Chet Baker (I wish I could play trumpet like him)
I’m sure there are some more … but can’t remember now … sorry.
Do you remember your first show? How did you feel?
Yes! Of course I do.
It was at a cultural festival during High School in Virginia as an exchange student.
I was very nervous back stage, but once I started to sing, it was a great fun. I sang 2 songs, and that was the moment I strongly felt that cultural difference didn’t matter, while we spoke through the language of music.
Can you explain how a band rehearsal goes for you?
The groove won’t come out on stage, when our hearts are looking at different directions. So, rehearsal becomes a genuine communication between the band members, I think.
What is the best moment you have experienced so far?
As a band Sawa, our communication between fans and friends are based on MySpace. So, when we have a moment to see our fans and/or friends face to face and have a tight hug with each other, that’s the best moment ever. In ’09, many of our friends came to see us in Tokyo from everywhere, overseas and in many different areas around Japan. We really want to tour the world in the year ’10 (Of course! including Australia).
How do you see SAWA in the future?
Well… I have no idea!
Maybe I’m trying not to have a detailed image of the future of Sawa, trying not to bind myself by my image.
My ambition is huge. I want to become friends with people all around the world, and enjoy our future together.
I hope Sawa will be an inspiration for the positive power of your life. That’s the only thing I have always wished and I strongly believe this is the most important element when I think about the future Sawa.
Would you come play for us in Australia?
We’ll definitely come whenever we could get the chance to come.
If you came to Australia, what would you want to see and do first?
First, I’d like to thank you for letting us step on to the land of your country, and then breath in the fresh Australian air and fill up my lungs. One of my first Australian fans have sent me a photo a few months ago, writing Sawa (+ BIG heart message on the beach) … and that’ll be the place I personally want to visit the most! Is it legal to sing one or two songs by the sea shore in Australia?
We hope to perform more than 1 gig at an Australian showcase in our near future.
Have you ever heard of Vegemite or tried it?
Yes! I tried it when my little sister came back from 3 month home stay in Australia. That was a great souvenir!
Nice experience, but I just had it once! My sister loves it but I heard it’s not easy to find it in Japan.
and, Any last words to say or advice?
As long as we won’t throw out our hope, we’ll never get lost. I’ll declare here today, that Sawa won’t give up until our dream comes true. I hope you can tell us the same
Thank you very much. Domo Arigato