[Interview] ROCKIN’ON JAPAN 2021/2 Edition – Saito Soma – in bloom

Released: 2020/12/28

Alternate version of this interview: rockin’on.com – What Gives Saito Soma’s Music Its Immersion? From His Roots to “in bloom”!


This album was less concerned with entertainment value and following the rules. Instead, I wrote songs from different angles.

● Your music feels like it comes from very broad roots. What got you into music in the first place?

A big factor was the MiniDisc I received from a friend in middle school. The disc started with U2 and The Rolling Stones, then for some reason it took a progressive turn with Emerson, Lake & Palmer. After that was Marilyn Manson, and then the last half of the disc was all Kinniku Shojo-tai *laughs*. That’s how I learned about this world.

● And then you began making music?

Yes. In middle school and high school, I was in a band with that friend. I was on guitar and vocals. At first we tried to copy T. Rex’s “Get It On,” but I was the only one who could sing the high-tone chorus. It was impossible for me to be both main vocals and chorus at the same time, so we gave up on that song *laughs* and went straight to making our own original songs. We also liked THE STALIN and Totsuzen Danbooru, so we decided to express our middle school feelings of impatience and gloom through punk music. But since we didn’t have a drummer, we used step recording to make our songs. Rather than wanting to perform live, we just wanted to create good music. At the time, I wanted to have an orchestra-style band like Arcade Fire. Now, after all that’s happened, it feels like those things have become a part of myself.

● That’s very unique. You seem to have an endless amount of influences *laughs*. If you were that absorbed in music, I would’ve expected you to pursue a musical career directly. But instead, you went the path of a voice actor.

I liked to read, so I also wrote stories when I was in middle school. I wanted to either work as a writer or make a living off of music when I grew up. But in my first year of high school, some things happened that made me not want to go to school for a few months. I’d always liked watching anime and movies, but it was then that I first became aware of voice acting as a job. After that, I was able to return to school and even go to university, and it was anime that saved me from that period of time when I couldn’t go to school. I began to admire acting and decided to take that step forward.

● As you were building experience as a voice actor, what led to your return to musical expression?

I always loved music, so I continued to write songs as a hobby, even if I wasn’t going to show them to anyone. And while I was working as a voice actor, I had opportunities to sing via character songs, which led to being able to start a musical career under my own name. At first, other creators wrote wonderful songs for me, but after a while, I really wanted to sing songs I’d written myself. So I showed my producer the song “Reminiscence” and he said, “This is good. Let’s show it to the world.” That was an important event that led to my current career.

● After that you released your first album quantum stranger and your mini-album my blue vacation, showing your personal inclinations more and more strongly. Your newest album in bloom depicts an even greater range of musical style, bringing forth an even deeper artistic nature.

A lot of my previous songs revolved around the “end of the world” motif. I used pop-entertainment as the central focus while also reflecting my own world view with that decadent motif. But after all of that, I did feel that I was making the world end too much *laughs*. So this time, I think the songs are on the introspective or subjective side. For each song, some people think it’s easy to listen to as pop music, while other people think it’s a bit scary. Compared to my previous works, I’d say that this album was less concerned with entertainment value and following the rules. Instead, I wrote songs from different angles.

● Before the album’s release, “Petrichor,” “Summerholic!”, and “Palette” were released digitally.

At first, I wanted to release a single in June 2020 to coincide with the 3rd anniversary of my artist debut. One of the songs on it was going to be “Petrichor,” which I’d already written. But the rest of the production was halted due to the COVID-19 situation. Since “Petrichor” was about rain and the rainy season, I didn’t think there’d be any point if I couldn’t release it in June. Because of that, I asked the label for a big favour: to let me release one song at a time, digitally. They said, “In that case, we want a name for the series, to use for promotional purposes.” I named it “in bloom,” and that became the album name as well.

● “Petrichor” is an incredibly beautiful song that has rain sound effects playing all the way through. The rain never stops falling, making it a perfect representation of the rainy season. It also has themes like “singing in the rain” and lyrics like “amemachi” and “kazemachi” that feel like a homage to HAPPY END. This album has a lot of songs that freely express ideas like that, and it feels like an album that listeners can also enjoy freely interpreting.

Thankfully, the people who listened to my first full album and the next mini-album said that they wanted to hear even deeper songs too, so I felt like I could be free to do whatever I wanted this time, while of course not forgetting the pop aspect.

● “Summerholic!” was a complete change of pace, being a total summer tune.

The first song “Petrichor” was quite introspective, and the second song was going to be released in midsummer, so I thought it’d be more fun to make it something super cheerful. There was the COVID situation as well. The song is straightforward for once: “Since it’s so sunny, I refuse to go outside” *laughs*. I thought it’d be nice for it to be so cheerful that it’s scary.

● It is. Even though it’s a thrilling, sunny rock song, there’s a sense of fear or madness for some reason. The same goes for “Kitchen.”

It’s a crazy song, right? *laughs* “Kitchen” came about because since I was spending more time self-isolating at home, I wanted to try using motifs that I purposely hadn’t for my first album. It’s a song that could only exist because of this year.

● The shoegazing aspect of “Isana,” which was created with The Florist’s band sound, is also wonderful.

Thank you. The arrangement for “Isana” is truly splendid. It became a concluding song for this album. This album was a continuation from my previous “end of the world” theme, depicting what comes afterwards, and this song is deeply connected to that previous work.

● It’s a defining song for the album’s impression, right? It could even be called the hidden lead track.

Yes. To think that it’s over eight minutes long *laughs*. If I get to perform it live, I really want to make full use of space-type effects.

● It seems like it’d be the highlight of a concert, so I’m looking forward to it too. Speaking of which, you’ll be having a live tour next April and May, right?

Yes. As I said before, I originally wasn’t that interested in performing live. But after having my first concert with a band, I got addicted to it. It was so much fun. Those feelings were also reflected in my later songwriting. We’re currently in the midst of planning, so please wait a little longer.

[Interview] rockin’on.com – What Gives Saito Soma’s Music Its Immersion? From His Roots to “in bloom”!

Published: 2020/12/28
Original URL: https://rockinon.com/interview/detail/197172

Alternate version of this interview: ROCKIN’ON JAPAN 2021/2 – Saito Soma – in bloom


“It began with us expressing our middle school feelings of impatience and gloom through pink music.”

—I heard that a MiniDisc you received from a friend in middle school was what fully awakened you to music. It was an incredibly varied mix with U2, The Rolling Stones, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Marilyn Manson, and the last half was all Kinniku Shojo-tai songs.

Right. In elementary school I wanted to stay a model student, but when I heard that MD, I thought, “There’s a world like this out there?!” The world of rock came as a shock to me. Through music, books, and films, that friend taught me about a deep world that wasn’t just clean and upbeat. Book-wise, that was when I came to like Tsutsui Yasutaka-san and Nakajima Ramo-san, who I still like now. That was my formative experience. Middle school was my most cynical time, so I picked up a lot of different things, wanting to know about things that no one else did.

—That’s why your songs show influences from such a wide variety of music and literature, right?

I’m from Yamanashi Prefecture, and I went to a CD store in Kofu called Birdland all the time *laughs*. I made do with my allowance, buying CDs by their jackets, not knowing whether they’d be a hit or a miss until I listened to them. I think I liked learning and absorbing the unknown, not just with music. Also, I liked Thamesbeat and I loved Mystery Jets, so I biked with my friend to a 100-yen shop and we bought five small frying pans, thinking we could use them as drums. It wasn’t much, but we did try to make our own DIY music. That’s what my youth was like.

—Did you have a band when you were in school?

Yes. I had a band in middle school, and I was on guitar and vocals. My friend who taught me about music in my first year of middle school—his parents showed me THE STALIN and Totsuzen Danbooru, so at first we wanted to do punk. It began with us expressing our middle school feelings of impatience and gloom through pink music. Since we didn’t have a drummer, we wrote songs using step recording. From the beginning, rather than wanting to jam out at concerts, we wanted to make a really good album. At the time, I wanted to have an orchestra-style band like Arcade Fire. A band that wasn’t restricted to live sound. With that as my gateway, I also came to like postpunk and krautrock. So in middle school, I didn’t listen to any songs that had normal choruses. I think I was in denial *laughs* but now, after all that’s happened, it really feels like those things have become a part of myself.

“I was saved by works that gave me a sense of ‘a place that isn’t here’ and ‘someone who isn’t me,’ which influences my own works.”

—After that, you became a voice actor and then pursued musical activities as well. But starting from your third single, Date, you began composing and writing your own songs.

What I still find really interesting is that, for example, the song “Date” isn’t something I would’ve been able to write when I was a teenager. “Date” has background chatter throughout—it’s quite a ridiculous song, but in a way, it makes use of my skill as a voice actor. When I was a teenager, before I worked as a voice actor, the music I made had really straightforward, serious expressions. It was a period of “straightforward cynicism” for me. I had a lot of personal rules, like how the first and second verse weren’t allowed to be the same character length, and how I didn’t want to use the same kanji twice in one song. *laughs*

—Though you were aiming for free expression, you were putting your own restrictions on it.

Yes. But as I worked as a voice actor, my capacity increased—or rather, I came to find a wider variety of things interesting. I wanted to take what I’d accumulated inside myself and feed it into my music. When I tried to write a song, I was surprised by how freely I could write. In the case of “Date,” something like the beginning lyric “At Takadanobaba, right before the last train” wouldn’t have been possible when I was a teenager.

—Why not?

Like I was saying before, a lot of the music I made as a teenager was orchestral or fantastical in nature. I wanted my music to be detached from reality. But now my perception has become rougher and I think that can be on a case-by-case basis. So even though I spent about ten years on a different route, I think this was the best time to be given the chance to write and sing my own songs. I only gained this opportunity because of my work as a voice actor.

—It was an inevitable path, right?

That makes it sound too cool. *laughs*

—While you were releasing works as a singer-songwriter, did you reconsider what kind of musical career you wanted?

Yes, but that said, since it started because I was a voice actor, back then I thought that pop and easy-listening were important factors, and I was conscious of the idea of music as entertainment. So instead of delving deep within myself, I started off with catchy melodies, turning my expressions into things that were fun to listen to. I remember doing quite a lot of research for “Date.” I always liked city pop and funk, but at the time, there wasn’t anyone in the voice acting industry who was singing city pop. It’s become quite mainstream in the music scene now, but I remember wanting to get in on it early. Fortunately, subscription services are prospering now, so I got to re-listen to all of the things I used to like and create something interesting and entertaining.

Also, one thing that hasn’t changed ever since I started writing my own songs is that none of my songs have anything resembling “Saito Soma’s message.” I’m sure some of my own perspective seeps in, but ultimately, each song is its own story and mental picture. It’s embarrassing to say this myself, but my motto is to not write message songs or love songs.

—Where did that mindset come from?

The fiction and entertainment I consumed as a teenager would have to be a major influence. My first impressions of them were, “a place that isn’t here” and “someone who isn’t me,” and I strongly felt that I was saved by those feelings. So I do like listening to songs that nestle up to you saying “You’re not alone,” but they aren’t what I would write myself. What “saved” me as a teenager were songs that said “It’s okay to be alone,” giving attention to the loneliness. So my first thought for my music was that, rather than giving my own words, I want to deliver songs that come across as stories.

—That’s why your albums also feel like works of literature.

I’m always wanting to create music where each listener can extract different things from each song.

“I think I was the least concerned with following the rules for this album. It was more about writing songs from different angles.”

—Even with your new album in bloom, each time I listen to it, I discover something new. It has a lot of songs that can be interpreted in multiple ways. And compared to your previous works, the musical styles are more varied. It’s developed into very diverse pop music.

Before, a lot of my songs kept entertainment as the central focus while also reflecting my own world view with decadent motifs like “the end of the world.” But after two years of that, I did feel that I’d made the world end too much *laughs*. So then I wondered what it’d be like after the end of the world. Does something continue afterwards, or does it become nothing? I decided that for my next work, I’d sing about the story that comes after the world’s end. So this album is more like a collection of short stories, rather than one big theme. I think it’s more introspective than my first album. When I’m writing my own lyrics, it feels like sometimes the pop-ness can also turn into madness. So for each song, some people think it’s easy to listen to as pop music, while others think it’s a bit scary.

—It’s true. The lead track “carpool” sounds like a refreshing pop song, but when you thoroughly examine the lyrics, it feels unsettling too. Even “Summerholic!” is supposed to be an extremely happy summer tune, but once you fully understand the situation, it becomes scary like dark fantasy.

That’s exactly it *laughs*. The protagonist of “Summerholic!” seems to be happy and having a lot of fun, but from an outsider’s point of view, it’s like you can’t see it objectively. That was my aim when writing this song. There are other songs where the developments don’t make much sense, but it’s like, that’s how the protagonist is, so there’s nothing you can do about it. Rather than writing the songs in a calculated way, even I don’t know how they ended up the way they are. It’s like, if that’s what the song says, then so be it. So I think I was the least concerned with entertainment value and following the rules for this album. It was more about writing songs from different angles.

—You didn’t even follow your personal rules?

Well *laughs*… I consider myself overly theoretical, but I think this is going to be an era where senses are more important, so I started production with the intent of not sticking to the rules anymore. However, the thought of “not sticking to the rules” was a rule in itself *laughs*. But generally, I consider writing songs as entertainment in itself, so I had fun doing it. Before this album was released, three of the songs were released digitally. Because of that, there was a period of production time between the single and the album, so for this whole year, I’ve been able to enjoy thinking about music on a separate axis from my voice acting work. But compared to last time, this album is really dark. *laughs*

“I wanted to make music that wasn’t the so-called J-pop formula; to not hesitate to open the valve in my brain.”

—Dark, you say. It is a rather introspective album, though. Even “Petrichor” with its constant rain effects could be perceived as insanity.

This time, one of my distinct goals was to make songs that were a little deeper. I originally played the sax riff in “Petrichor” on guitar, and I asked the arranger, Saku-san, to turn it into a sax riff. Tone-wise it becomes dissonant, but that’s because I used more of a jazz-like perspective rather than rock. In the latter half it becomes hard to tell whether it’s a major or minor key. I wanted to make music that wasn’t the so-called J-pop formula; to not hesitate to open the valve in my brain. “Petrichor” isn’t a flashy song; it grows on you over time. But in the end, I think I made a good song.

—”Kitchen” is another song where calmness and eeriness exist in tandem. It starts with an everyday scene but then suddenly leaps to world-scale thoughts. It feels dangerous, as if there’s no going back.

It’s a crazy song, right? *laughs* “Kitchen” came about because since I was spending more time self-isolating at home, I wanted to try using motifs that I purposely hadn’t for my first album. It’s a song that could only exist because of this year.

—Among those crazy songs is “BOOKMARK,” which had an unexpected feeling of adolescence. It features rapping by someone credited as “J.”

Yes, Mysterious Friend J *laughs*. I wrote the lyrics while recalling my student days, which is rare. Staying up until 4 a.m. when the sun rises; those uneventful, lazy days as a student are part of adolescence, but they’re also bittersweet. The song itself has an 80’s feel to it, but I hope that whoever listens to it will recall their past youth—or envision their future adolescence. The lyrics are quite honest, so it’s frankly a bit embarrassing, but that’s what adolescence is all about, so. *laughs*

—The shoegazing aspect of “Isana,” which was created with The Florist’s band sound, is also wonderful. In an introspective sense, it seems like it could even be called a second lead track that defines the feeling of the album.

Thank you. The arrangement for “Isana” is truly splendid. It became a concluding song for this album. This album was a continuation from my previous “end of the world” theme, depicting what comes afterwards, and this song is deeply connected to that previous work. It’s essentially the last track of the album. To think that it’s over eight minutes long *laughs*. If I get to perform it live, I really want to make full use of space-type effects.

—It seems like it’d be the highlight of a concert. You’ll be having a live tour next April and May, right?

Yes. As I said before, I originally wasn’t that interested in performing live. But after having my first concert with a band, I really enjoyed it and thought, “I could get addicted to this.” *laughs* Those feelings were also reflected in my later songwriting. We’re currently in the midst of planning, so please wait a little longer.

[Interview] Natalie – Saito Soma “in bloom” Interview

斉藤壮馬|アーティスト活動第2章で描く世界の終わりのその先

Published: 2020/12/23
Original URL: https://natalie.mu/music/pp/saitosoma

He learned about a deep world in his first year of middle school

—Since this is your first interview with Natalie, please tell us about the music that influenced you.

Up until elementary school, I listened to the music my parents liked and the artists that were popular at the time, like the Beatles, Yuming-san, Spitz, and PornoGraffiti. After that, in my first year of middle school, I made a friend who was a fan of all things subculture. He taught me about the deep world of music and literature, and I started looking for new music and artists myself too. It was the rock ‘n’ roll revival era at the time. For Western music I listened to the Libertines, the Strokes, and Bloc Party, and for Japanese music I listened to artists with a slight downer aesthetic like ART-SCHOOL and GRAPEVINE. I think the music I listened to in middle school became my musical roots.

—I heard that at the time, you frequented a CD/record shop called Birdland in your local area of Yamanashi.

My family didn’t have a record player at the time, so I bought CDs. Unfortunately, Birdland no longer exists… I miss it. In elementary school I listened to cassettes, and in middle school it was MiniDiscs and CDs. Thinking about it now, it feels like I was gaining listening experience during a time when music formats were changing. Speaking of which, the other day I finally bought a record player—although it was a cheap one, under ¥10,000. It feels like once you step into the world of records and audio equipment, you end up in the rabbit hole *laughs*. Recently I’ve been asking a knowledgeable friend about them.

—Your artist debut with SACRA MUSIC was in 2017. Was an artist debut something you originally wanted?

I had opportunities to sing character songs, but I didn’t really have a desire to sing under my own name. But when the topic of an artist debut was brought to me, I had a premonition that if I leapt at this chance, I’d be able to do new interesting things. So, I went for it.

—Your second album in bloom is the first time you composed and wrote lyrics for all of the tracks on a full album. Did you ever think you’d be writing so many songs?

In middle school, I was in a hobby band and wrote songs there. Even after becoming a voice actor, I still wrote music, even though I didn’t plan on showing it to anyone in particular. When it was time to make my third single, I told the producer, “I’ve actually been writing songs on my own,” and had him listen to the track that “Reminiscence” was based on. Then he said, “Let’s use this!”

I was really happy to be able to sing my own creations as part of my artist career. After that, I suggested more of my songs. The team I work with generally responds positively to my suggestions, and before I knew it, I was the composer and lyricist for every track on in bloom *laughs*. It’s fun to create each song with the team, like we’re a band. I’m glad I took the leap when I was first offered an artist debut.

斉藤壮馬

He wants to create introspective music, that isn’t pop style

—Do you use your voice acting experience in your music?

I do. My various experiences as a voice actor are heavily reflected in my music creation. I think these are all songs and lyrics that I couldn’t have come up with when I was in a band as a teenager. Even if I had the chance to release a song that I wrote as a teenager, the scope of it would probably end up being very small. These are songs that I’m only able to present because of my accumulated experiences as a voice actor—songs that I can only create now. It’s like everything has a reciprocal effect. Thinking about it that way, the opportunity truly came at a good time for me.

—You mentioned character songs earlier. How do your vocals differ between singing as a character and singing as a solo artist, in regards to approach and mentality?

When I’m singing as a character, I think the most important aspect is “How would this character sing?” Rather than my own singing style, I consider how the character’s personality would reflect in the song. Singing as myself is something I didn’t have the chance to do much since starting this job, so when I began as a solo artist, I thought, “Have I been spoiled by my characters all this time?” When it came time to sing, I thought, “Is this right?” and started out fumbling around with every song. It felt like I was reexamining what “my music” was.

—When I watched concerts from series like IDOLiSH7 or Hypnosis Mic, I got the impression that you prioritized characterization, putting on a performance that gave the fans exactly what they wanted.

That might be because my inspiration for becoming a voice actor was my admiration for their craft; the way they add appeal to their characters who take center stage. To be honest, I’m still not great at public appearances. I’m sure that when you were in school, there was always someone in your class that would pass on having his photo taken. That was me *laughs*. But when it comes to performing in-character at a concert or event, even though I’m still nowhere near perfect, I still want to perform in a way that won’t bring shame to the character or the fans. For example, at an IDOLiSH7 concert, standing on stage as Kujo Tenn is a difficult task, but as long as the audience goes home thinking, “I saw something amazing,” “That was fun,” “That felt great,” then I feel blessed to be an actor. I think that’s exactly what entertainment means.

—When it comes to your solo music, which do you prioritize: the desire to provide the fans with the performances and music they want, or the desire to bring out what you yourself want to do?

The focus is around what I want to do, but I also prioritize pop appeal and entertainment value. But since I’m doing this under my own name, I want to take the music I’ve listened to and the books I’ve read, and express them through my own songs. I think this album is a particularly good example of what I want to do. My previous works had quite a large focus on entertainment value and ease of listening. I kept that for this album too, but I was a bit more self-indulgent with my technique.

—It feels like you can do this because you trust that the fans will accept your music no matter what form it takes on.

That’s true. I’m fortunate to have fans who write to me, “I want to hear deeper songs too” *laughs*. After releasing quantum stranger and my blue vacation, my desire to write more introspective songs that weren’t easy listening grew stronger. I think that atmosphere is in this album. However, my original intent hasn’t changed: when releasing songs under my own name, each song has its own story, and doesn’t contain any of Saito Soma’s own feelings or messages.

The journey that began with “Fish Story”

—The three “in bloom” singles that released between June and August were created as the second chapter of your artist career. What changes were there between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2?

It might seem pretentious calling it “Chapter 2!” myself, but I feel that my solo artist career is a journey that began when Oishi Masayoshi-san wrote “Fish Story” for me. “Journey” is a common motif in the lyrics I write, and when I created quantum stranger and my blue vacation, I felt that I’d reached a major milestone in the journey that began with “Fish Story”. My first journey had reached a conclusion for the time being. Then, as I said earlier, I wanted to try writing deeper songs, or rather, songs that weren’t too held up by pop conventions. Since I’d been singing about “the end of the world,” I wondered what expressions would be born if I thought of Chapter 2 as “what comes after the end of the world.” How do I put this… It was like, “Can I be a bit more self-indulgent?” *laughs*

At the time of this interview (late November), I still don’t know what the fans’ reception is, but I think each song in my second album has interesting elements that I hope they’ll notice. Rather than a major change in direction, I want to widen my scope, taking off the shackles to express myself the way I want. That’s what Chapter 2 is about.

—In Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu, you wrote that when you were composing songs as a student, the themes were “extreme sentimentalism” and “the end of the world.” You kept “the end of the world” as a theme for quite a long time, but now the theme of in bloom is “what comes after the end of the world.” Is that because there was a major change in your mentality?

Thank you for reading my essays. That might be part of it, but even right now, I still think that that decadent feeling is an important characteristic of my works. When I’m writing prose, it’s never 100% bright—there’s a dark, fuzzy side to it. So even though this is Chapter 2, I don’t think there’s been a major change in my intrinsic nature.

Basso continuo throughout the album

—It feels like you have a lot of conceptual works. When you’re producing a release, do you decide the overarching theme in advance?

I used to love coming up with things like plots of short story collections, but I don’t think that’s quite the case for my music. My first album’s title, “quantum stranger,” wasn’t decided until the very end. I was stuck between “étranger” and “quantum stranger”… I don’t want to admit it, but I named the album after the fact *laughs*. I really love creating things conceptually, but I don’t plan my albums out from the very beginning. I think it’s interesting to find common themes between the songs once they’re done. My belief is that when you’re in that unconscious creative zone, it’ll definitely show through in what you produce. In that sense, in bloom got its title because among all of the songs and stories in the album, there are a lot of people who seem to be enjoying themselves. I sensed this while doing various interviews and promotions—there’s something like a basso continuo throughout the album.

—A variety of musicians were involved with this release. How did this come about?

The music is released under the name Saito Soma, but I think what’s fun about creating music as a team is the unexpected chemical reactions that occur, so I’m not too specific with my orders—I let the label decide who to send offers to. As a result, I’m able to perform with incredible people, and I’m truly grateful for that.

—It feels like you’ve polished your band sound. When did the album production begin?

The original plan was to release a 3-song single in June to coincide with my third anniversary since my debut. Since it was going to be June, the rainy season, I wanted to write three songs about rain, and that’s when “Petrichor” was born. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we changed the plan to a series of digital singles released in time with the seasons. After creating those three songs we continued straight into the album production, so I’ve been spending essentially the entire year up to now working on music. It was a lot of fun.

—That’s amazing, considering how busy you are with your voice acting work too.

Music isn’t something that can be finished in an instant, but creating music has always been a hobby and a form of relaxation for me. So even though there were some really busy times, I still had a lot of fun doing it.

—How do you create your demos?

Since my blue vacation, I started using a DAW to create my demos. My main arranger, Saku-san, was overjoyed, saying “Now I don’t have to align the BPM anymore!” *laughs* Before, I always felt bad for submitting my demos as simple recordings of me playing my guitar and singing along. I’m glad that I brought a DAW into my workflow, because it has greatly improved the density and level of detail of the arrangements. I still have a long way to go before mastering it, but I’ve acquired a lot of equipment during the stay-home period. That said, while a DAW is extremely advantageous when creating as a team, I also think songs like “Canary” and “C” are better off sounding less polished; I like the distorted aesthetic that comes from imperfect pitch. I want to keep being able to do that, so understanding the DAW is a way of expanding my range.

—I see. Are you attracted to imperfections?

Yes, I’d say so. Perhaps ever since I was a child, I’ve been attracted to things that feel somehow strange, awkward, or warped, including lyrics. But on the other hand, part of me is also attracted to things that feel complete. It depends on my mood at the moment, and I’d like to express that through music and melodies.

“This will definitely become a masterpiece”

—It’s brilliant how each and every instrument and vocal in the leading track “carpool” stands out on its own. How did you create this song?

“carpool” came about quite late in the process. The release timing for the album was confirmed, and we calculated backwards in the schedule to determine the deadline for the music video filming. Before “carpool” was made, the plan was to film an MV for either “Schrödinger Girl” or another song. I personally like both of them very much, but neither of them felt right as a leading track with an MV, and in the end, we chose not to include the other song on in bloom. At that time, I decided, “I’ll reset my thinking and just play my favourite chords however feels right, and figure it out from there.” I sang up to the chorus in a flash, coming up with the chorus’ lyrics at about the same time. I sent it to the label and they told me, “This is really good!” Saku-san said, “This will definitely become a masterpiece, so please let me do the arrangement,” which made me happy to hear, although I replied doubtfully, “Are you sure? I still have no idea.” *laughs*

From there, the rest of the song came along smoothly, and I thought, “This is going to be the leading track.” It’s strange—the songs that I don’t put too much thought into, letting the melody and lyrics come to mind naturally, are really easy to listen to. The same thing happened with “Date,” and it was the first time in a while that I felt that sensation. The team members said things like, “This is the kind of song we love!” and “This is the kind of band we want to be!” *laughs* Also, since the album was going to release in winter, I wanted the leading track to have both a good melody and an ominous air to it. Fortunately I was able to create this at the last minute.

—Do you think that because it was created at the last minute, it represents your current style the most?

Perhaps.

—Next, I’d like to hear about “BOOKMARK” and its rapping parts. It’s credited to both you and J-san, and it’s also the only song on this album where you’re credited for arrangement as well. Who is the guest vocalist for this song, by the way?

The guest vocalist is J-san as well. He’s an old friend of mine. The base song that became “BOOKMARK” was originally a candidate for the 3-track single I mentioned earlier. But since the plan was changed to digital singles, this song was set aside. I happened to show it to J-san, and he did a really cool arrangement of it and added the rapping. When I showed it to my producer, he gave it the greenlight.

J-san and I did the arrangement together. It’s unique, right? The song is about a student who stays up all night, looks around at 4 a.m., realizes that the sky’s already blue, thinks “I’ve wasted this time”—but definitely doesn’t feel bad about it. It might be the most straightforward “adolescent” song on this album. Also, J-san has a nice voice, right? He’s so good at rapping *laughs*. It’s interesting how this kind of song becomes an accent of the album.

—So J-san is your friend. What kind of discussions with him led to “BOOKMARK”?

I’d created the full-size of the base song, and I asked him for advice on how much rap to add. Also, we made it almost completely remotely, although I’d attribute that to the pandemic. I only met with J-san in person for the recording. Being able to create a song while restricted by distance and time was fun in its own way.

—”BOOKMARK” is a straightforward number, but the lyrics of the songs you write always have room for interpretation.

Yes, that might be true. I think that using complicated words to say complicated things is actually simple. My writing style changed quite a bit for this album. My current mood is that linking two simple words to create something new is the wonder of language. I’m still probing around, but personally, I think I was able to write lyrics that were interesting in a new way.

Creating a “space” with fans

—Tell us about your future activities. Your official fan club “space” opened on December 11, right? How do you plan on using it to connect with your fans?

As I continue with my releases and concerts, I want to create a peaceful place for the people who support me by buying my CDs and attending my concerts. That’s why I named it “space”—it’s a space that we all build together. It also has other meanings, like “Saito’s pace,” outer space, and so on. It also represents my original wish of wanting to produce music at a gentle pace for a long time. I don’t know how “space” will evolve yet, but I hope it becomes a good place for my supporters.

—And then there’s your live tour “We are in bloom!” which will be held from April to May next year.

We’ll have to deal with practical issues and we don’t know how the pandemic situation will change by then, but I’m looking forward to it. I had my first concert after releasing my first album, and I’ve gained quite a lot of songs since then, so I don’t plan on limiting the setlist to this album. I hope you’ll look forward to it too.

Also, as I thought during my first concert as well, since I was a band kid to begin with, I truly feel blessed to be able to sing with a live band. To be honest, I wasn’t that thrilled about performing live at first, but once I did a concert, I realized that there was something I could only relish there. I’m excited about what kind of performance I’ll be able to put on next, so please wait patiently until then.

[Blog Post] 2nd Full Album “in bloom” On Sale!

Original URL: https://ameblo.jp/somasaito/entry-12645179817.html
Published: 2020/12/22

It’s become really wintry now. How are you all spending today—the day after the earth era shifted to the air era?*
I filled my bathtub but got out quickly because it was hot. Around 40°C is the most comfortable. Saito Soma here.

Now then, my second full album “in bloom” is finally out!
Information about it was revealed bit by bit leading up to the release, but it really feels like, “Finally!” I pray that it safely reaches your hands.

Up until now I’ve mainly been singing about the end of the world, but these eleven stories are my imaginings—or perhaps delusions—of life beyond that. I hope you’ll savour them thoroughly and repeatedly.
I think I was able to create a wider variety of songs this time. I know I had fun, but I wonder, what do all of you think? How is it?
I’m looking forward to your impressions!

We still don’t know how the situation will play out, but my tour was scheduled for next year.
That young, teenage Saito who shut himself in his room, longing for “someone who wasn’t him, in a place that wasn’t here,” is now turning thirty next year. I’m still inexperienced in many areas, but now that I’ve realized my place in the larger flow, instead of only being on the receiving end, I’ve started making a conscious effort to bridge to the next step. I wonder if that means I’ve made a bit of progress.
This album is overall more introspective and decadent than the previous one, but despite that, I created it with a pleasure-seeking mood in mind. I wonder if you can sense in it my will to bridge to the next “something.”

I hope everyone who listens to it will spin their own tale of what happens next.
Once again, thank you for all of your support!
Please continue to support me in both my music and my voice acting work!

Well then, that’s all for today!
Take care!

Saito Soma


*TL note: This is referencing the winter solstice and astrology. This year, Jupiter and Saturn are meeting in an air sign for the first time in 200 years (previously they met in earth signs). If you’re interested in the implications, look up “great conjunction.”

[Radio] Kaito Aiko no Mado café (2020/12/20)

Broadcast: 2020/12/20 on TOKYO FM
Original Name: YKK AP presents 皆藤愛子の窓café ~窓辺でcafé time~

Part 2 of 2.

Part 1: https://saitosoma.kouhi.me/2020/12/13/radio-kaito-aiko-no-mado-cafe-2020-12-13/


Highlights:

  • Voice actors tend to be busy right up to and right after New Year’s, but Soma feels grateful for it because it means there’s that much demand for them, and he wants to do as much voice acting as he can.
  • Soma’s favourite movie is Stand By Me. He still rewatches it from time to time.
  • The protagonist of the movie dreams of becoming an author, but his father doesn’t support him. It’s a story of a group of boys spending a summer together, and a character named Chris tells the protagonist, “You have talent at writing, but if no one nurtures that talent, it’ll disappear. And if your parents won’t do it, then I will.”
  • Soma always cries at that part, no matter how many times he watches it. When he first watched the movie in his early teens, he wished he had a friend like that.
  • He does have a lot of close friends, but recently when he rewatched it again, he thought about how he’s turning 30 next year, and it made him want to become a person who can say that kind of line to someone.
  • Now that he’s been a voice actor for ten years and has juniors, he wants to pass on to them what he’s received from others.
  • The heart-throbbing song that Soma requested was “Snow Smile” by BUMP OF CHICKEN.
  • He struggled with the decision since he didn’t think he’d heard one before, but went with a song that made him feel that way in middle school.
  • The part of the lyrics that he likes is: “Etching parallel lines into a spotless blanket of snow with our footprints / A smile escapes from my lips, knowing that that dream will never come true / On this snowless road”
  • Soma likes BUMP OF CHICKEN a lot and thinks that this song has deep, heartrending lyrics. He praises Fujiwara-san’s singing voice and calls it an instrument in itself.
  • in bloom has an omnibus-like format, depicting various different stories taking place after the end of the world.
  • Since he’s a voice actor, he doesn’t have to restrict the songs’ atmosphere, arrangement, singing style, or lyrics. He can approach them as an actor. Instead of singing the songs as “Saito Soma,” he sings them as each song’s protagonist.
  • Since Soma is turning 30 in 2021, his goal for the year is “to become an adult.” Instead of solely receiving from the people around him, he wants to pass things on himself, recognizing his place in the grand flow of things.
  • He also wants to retain his sense of childish wonder at mysterious things that catch his attention. He wants to be “an adult with the heart of a child.”
  • As the lead track of in bloom, “carpool” is supposed to give the sense of a new story/journey beginning.

[Radio] Kaito Aiko no Mado café (2020/12/13)

Broadcast: 2020/12/13 on TOKYO FM
Original Name: YKK AP presents 皆藤愛子の窓café ~窓辺でcafé time~

Part 1 of 2.

Part 2: https://saitosoma.kouhi.me/2020/12/20/radio-kaito-aiko-no-mado-cafe-2020-12-20/


Highlights:

  • Soma likes to make snacks to go along with drinks, like deep-fried eggplant in broth.
  • On Sundays when he has the day off, he’ll simmer things for 2 hours instead of using the pressure cooker. He feels oddly at ease when he’s absorbed in chopping ingredients and simmering them.
  • Simmering takes time, but in this busy society, he thinks it’s a luxury to be able to relax like that on his days off.
  • Soma likes learning new things, so he’s always curious about a lot of things.
  • Since “in bloom” was being released in winter, he wanted to write wintery lyrics. While he was thinking, he realized he hadn’t seen any fireworks that year at all. He likes seasonal things and wondered if there was such a thing as fireworks in winter, and found out that there was a company that makes fireworks designed for the winter air, with a very Japanese-style aesthetic.
  • He actually bought the fireworks, and he hasn’t used them yet, but he thought the idea of winter fireworks was very emotional, so he wrote the song “Saigo no Hanabi” (Last Fireworks) for his album.
  • He wonders if there are a lot of other things that can be nice in seasons other than what you associate them with.
  • The brunchtime song that Soma requested was “Scarlet” by Spitz.
  • When he writes lyrics, he’s inspired by Spitz’s Kusano Masamune’s respectful, cherishing use of the Japanese language.
  • A lot of Soma’s songs have a decadent or “end of the world” motif, and after 2 years of that, he thought he might’ve overdone it.
  • He happened to be reading Dazai Osamu’s story Roman Dourou which is about a group of siblings writing a relay story, and one of them says, “Stories always end with the prince and princess getting together and living happily ever after, but what I really want to know is what happens after that.”
  • Soma completely agreed, and started imagining what kind of life would come after the end of the world.
  • The “in bloom” title evokes the imagery of plants sprouting after the end of the world.
  • People are divided on “Petrichor”—some think it’s upbeat and cute, while others think it’s really scary, which is exactly what Soma hoped for.
  • (He talks some more about it but it’s all stuff he’s said in interviews)

[Interview] Ani-PASS #10 – Saito Soma – in bloom

Released: 2020/12/9

Soma was on the back cover and had a stunning 21-page feature. There is also a laminated artist card inside, as well a postcard that came with purchases from Animate.

※Since this is still a recent release, I will not be providing scans. The magazine is in stock on Amazon Japan.


I decided to stop following physical restrictions and personal rules

Q: Two years from quantum stranger, your long-awaited second full album in bloom is finally being released. Last year in December, you released the mini-album my blue vacation. Every December, Santa Soma delivers a present in the form of an album. *laughs*

Ahaha, you’re right *laughs*. My releases often end up being in June and December. After my blue vacation, I was vaguely planning a full album next, but while I was preparing a single for my third anniversary in June, the world fell into a pandemic, making it so that I couldn’t release a physical CD. In the end, I was able to release the tracks “Petrichor,” “Summerholic!”, and “Palette” (which are also on in bloom) as a series of digital singles starting in June. And then my album would be released in December. The releases have gone mostly as planned, which is a relief.

Q: It’s true that this year has been irregular in every way for the entertainment industry.

It really has been. But for me, there was a positive outcome in that I realized the advantage of digital singles. Normally, my albums always end up being released in December. That makes it really hard to include new songs that are based in the middle of summer. But through digital singles, I was able to link the songs to the seasons and release “Summerholic!” in summer. It’s really good that I was able to do that, since the digital single series was themed around seasons. For us creators, it’s more constructive to think about what we can do based on the current circumstances. Especially in this troubling time, I was able to proactively work on my music.

Q: You were proactive during the stay-home period too, right?

Yes. I bought a new computer for making music, as well as various tools.

Q: You composed and wrote lyrics for all of the songs on in bloom. Come to think of it, during the release interview for my blue vacation, you said that your demos evolved from singing to your own accompaniment to programmed tracks with an iPad and GarageBand.

Yes. And now they’ve evolved even further, to a computer and “Logic Pro”! *laughs*

Q: Finally, the addition of a true DAW (digital audio workstation)!

Indeed. Now I can express my ideas more clearly at the demo stage…and way more of my songs get scrapped now *strained laugh*. I have the production team listen to my idea sketches more often now, which means that there are more fragments that get rejected. But in that sense, it means that we’re working more like a band this time.

Q: Is there anything else that changed about your creation process?

One thing would be that I decided to stop following physical restrictions and personal rules. Before when writing lyrics, I had a personal restriction on myself to not use vocabulary that I already used in another song. But I decided to remove that restriction and not be afraid to use what I felt was most appropriate for each situation. But on the other hand, this resulted in “a restriction of not setting restrictions,” or “a rule to not follow rules,” which made things much more difficult up until halfway through production, especially when it came to writing lyrics. *strained laugh*

I was glad that I was able to write a standard guitar band song

Q: Which was the most difficult?

“Schrödinger Girl,” perhaps. I’m releasing eight new songs this time, and in April, I posted a video of a work-in-progress on Twitter and said, “I’m working on this new song right now!” Since the chord progression was based on Swedish pop, I gave it the tentative title of “Hokuou” (Scandinavia)… but I really could not come up with any lyrics for it *strained laugh* so I put it off for quite a while. The melody ended up having the dry feel of a band in winter, so I think it matches the season. This song was actually a candidate for the lead song until “carpool” was made.

Q: Really?

This time, I mulled over what to use as the lead song up until the very end. At first it was between “Schrödinger Girl” and a song that wasn’t included on this album, but neither of them felt quite right. I wanted the lead song to be a bit dark, something like Spitz or ART-SCHOOL, with a composition you’d see from a traditional Japanese band. I spent about a week thinking of new songs every night, when the melody of “carpool’s” chorus popped into my head. It’s an orthodox chord progression that I like. I quickly sent it over to the producer Kuroda-san and the arranger Saku-san. Saku-san replied with, “I can feel that this is going to be a masterpiece,” and we went through with it… The next day, I finished the song in a flash, lyrics included. It’s a really good song, if I do say so myself *laughs*. A lot of the songs that Saito Soma writes are niche. I intentionally hadn’t written songs that immediately grow on you like this one does, so I was glad that I was able to write a standard guitar band song.

Q: As with your other songs, “carpool” really feels like it tells a story.

I’m always happy that my listeners each visualize their own scenery, but personally, the keyword “carpool” makes me think of adolescence. Like The Notebook by Ágota Kristóf.

To the boy, his “bad friend” was like another version of himself. But that bad friend died in the sea, and after that, the boy felt like he was living out of sheer habit. Then, after growing up into a young man, he drove to the sea where his bad friend passed away. The driver’s seat used to be “your exclusive seat,” but now it’s “my exclusive seat.” And it ends with “I’ll catch up soon, so wait for me there.”

Q: The line that goes “You’re calling out to me from between the waves” is both nostalgic and profound.

Indeed *strained laugh*. That said, this is ultimately only my interpretation, so please don’t restrict yourself to it when you listen to the song.

Q: The song really is like a short film. Do you have a favourite line?

“I never wanted to know what lies beyond the sea’s horizon.” I think I wrote a really good lyric there. Kuroda-san was with us when the song was being mixed down, and when I tried to talk to him, he was so moved by that phrase that he shed tears. *laughs*

Q: It must’ve resonated with him. The MV takes place on a coast too.

Yes. It was filmed at the coast near Helena International Hotel in Fukushima Prefecture, where King Gnu-san’s “Hakujitsu” was filmed. I wanted to have a cut where I walked along the shore, just like in the lyrics, but it was right after a typhoon, so the sea was too stormy. It resulted in good footage though, so that was nice *laughs*. I feel bad singing my own praises, but it’s the first time in a while that I wrote a song that I’m completely satisfied with.

Q: In terms of being like a film, “Kitchen” feels more like a cut from everyday life than a story.

I struggled the least with that song’s lyrics *laughs*. Also, it wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for the stay-home period. I’ve cooked for myself before, but I took this opportunity to get back into it and I bought a lot of appliances. I like casually drinking alcohol in my kitchen while making snacks to go along with it. One of the themes of this album is “delusions,” and this song is a fleshed out “kitchen drinker” delusion from my own experience.

Q: The chic bossa nova arrangement feels fresh too.

The song itself is from the hobby band I was in when I was a student, although the lyrics were written anew. The guitar chords are also my unique chords—they’re strange ones that take a long time to explain how to play. Also worthy of mention is that the rhythm section is made up of kitchen utensil sounds. I created sounds during the stay-home period and Saku-san sampled sounds from things like ladles. The snipping sound is from scissors, and there’s also the sound of a coffee grinder. It’s a playful toy pop song, and when you listen closely to the lyrics, it makes you think there must be something wrong with the protagonist’s head, which is fun too. *laughs*

Q: The unique vocal work that feels like it’s wafting in the air is lovely too. It’s perfect for the bossa nova atmosphere.

I often used to ask the engineers and technicians I met through work, “How does live singing differ from recorded singing?” I was told that I tend to be too loud in front of the mic. I was also taught that singing more softly would make the low harmonics resound more richly. So, I tried to sing softly for “Kitchen.” All of the vocals are double-tracked and I sung in an extremely relaxed way to get that floaty feeling.

Q: You didn’t establish rules for singing style either.

Right. So it was done quickly, probably in about five takes. We recorded “Canary” on the same day, but that one only took around two takes.

Q: That’s fast! “Canary” has a simple accompaniment centered around the acoustic guitar, and the swaying vocals are quite impressive.

I wanted to make the song feel ambiguous, and the lyrics have that kind of setting too. Up until now, I’ve enjoyed singing over and over again to achieve higher accuracy, but for this song, if my pitch wavered, I left it like that. I wanted it to be a bit distorted. Personally, I wanted to do whispery vocals like Elliott Smith.

The chord progression goes Em7, D, C. Everyone likes this kind of progression, right? I love it! It’s a simple composition.

Uchida Kirin-san, who also played the cello for “Rutsubo,” provided a beautiful, emotional solo. It stood out a lot against the stillness in the rest of the song.

Q: The lyrics are also a bit distorted. It feels like you’re drifting through an imaginary dream world.

A lot of the songs on in bloom blur the boundary between dream and reality, or delusion and reality.

Q: As with “carpool,” “Canary” also ends with unsettling words: “poison” and “I lose my senses.”

Indeed *strained laugh*. Actually, there’s a song that didn’t make it onto this album called “Rakuen” (Paradise), which I wanted to use as the last track. “Rakuen” is also about limbo—a place where people go when they leave this world that isn’t heaven. The song says that it’s the final paradise; the garden of beginning and end. I’m sorry for talking about a song you can’t listen to yet, but I think that that “interspace” feeling is present in all of the songs.

Q: The threshold between life and death, fantasy and reality… in bloom’s songs do have those themes. When I listened to this album, I thought, “Saito Soma’s gone all out!” *laughs* How does Saito Soma arrive at these songs?

Hmm… I think it has to be because I’m twisted in some way *laughs*. I find myself drawn to things with a sense of loneliness, though this doesn’t apply to everything, of course. So even though my stance of “not including personal messages in my music” hasn’t changed, I think the number of introspective songs has increased.

Q: You’ve always liked shoegazing music, which is characterized as introspective and floating, right? Since your heart and mind are free from restrictions now, it feels like you’ve dug deep into your true nature.

I really wanted to make “Isana” a shoegazing song. “Isana” is an ancient word for “whale,” and I included a guitar choke in the intro of the demo that sounded just like a foghorn or a whale’s cry. That’s where the whale motif came from, and I decided to sing about a Spaceship Earth-esque world view. So, I think the scope of the song is wider than my previous albums. It’s also spiritual.

Q: Whales are mystical creatures, right?

Indeed. I don’t know why, but they seem very sci-fi. And to me, they feel nostalgic. My mother is from a place that’s famous for whales, so I was very familiar with the word “isana.” And when my grandfather was driving, he’d talk about what happens to whales that stray into the harbour. Whales bring back fond memories for me. The “you” I sing about in this song could be a whale, or it could be something more cosmic… The song is also about the people in each of the in bloom songs. I think this song can be experienced in many ways.

Q: Since the album title is written in hiragana in “Isana’s” lyrics, it did feel like it was depicting a vaster world. And sound-wise, the arrangement was done by The Florist, a well-known artist in the Japanese shoegazing world.

Yes, it was Kuroda-san who introduced me to The Florist-san. My song “Kesshou Sekai” also had strong shoegazing elements, but it was still closer to guitar rock. For “Isana,” rather than going for a thundering sound, the arrangement used a thick reverb to create a wall of sound. There are also elaborate details in the sound. They also slowed the BPM quite a bit from the demo I first created, and said, “We might as well take it past 8 minutes!” *laughs* It’s long as far as pop music goes, but well, the Beatles’s “Hey Jude” is over 7 minutes too *laughs*. I hope that those who don’t usually listen to shoegazing music will find it a pleasant song and see what I was aiming for.

Rain fell upon the world that once ended, leading to the sprouting of new life in “in bloom”

Q: in bloom has a lot of reverb-heavy songs in general, right?

Yes. Saku-san said so too: “There’s reverb on basically everything this time!” *laughs* There’s also frequent use of chorus for spatial effect. “Schrödinger Girl” has chorus all the way through.

Q: It gives off an organic feel, though.

I think it’s because instead of trying to match the BPM exactly, I aimed to give it “fluctuation.” It also used a lot of live, unedited instruments. The only tracks that were fully digital were “Vampire Weekend” and “BOOKMARK.” Oh, but we had live guitar for both of those as well.

Q: “Vampire Weekend” is a light funk song. It gives off an urban scent.

I boldly used an existing band’s name for the title *laughs*. This song implements a strange structure in a different way from “Kitchen.” I made the demo on my iPad with GarageBand, trying the feature that lets you create a song by looping a resource. It’s a Western-style idea of repeating the same chords while changing the melody and creating a groove.

Q: Where did the vampire motif come from?

I was reading a book and it said something along the lines of “living like a vampire.” Vampires’ true nature may deviate from the norm, but instead of denying that they’re deviants, they pose as humans while possessing their own traits. It’s a form of life hack. I was inspired by that and made the protagonist a “vampire” who has an abnormal mentality of not being satisfied with their normal self. In accordance to that, the song’s structure is abnormal too *laughs*. I asked ESME MORI-san, who I worked with in Hypnosis Mic, to handle the arrangement. The guitar is by Morishii-san from Awesome City Club, which ESME MORI-san also provides music for.

Q: The vocals are sexy, too.

I made the lyrics more mature to match the arrangement. My favourite word in them is “damashiai saretai.” It takes “damashiai” (which means to deceive each other) and replaces the “ai” (each other) with “ai” (love). These five syllables “da-ma-shi-a-i” are layered with a whispering voice, and I hope you enjoy the “o-mo-te-na-shi” feeling it gives off *laughs*. I think it’s a danceable song, so the beat feels really nice when you turn up the volume.

(TL note: “o-mo-te-na-shi” refers to a presentation given by Takigawa Christel to the IOC when Japan was bidding for the Olympics. She used “omotenashi” (hospitality) as a key word and stressed each syllable individually, which left a big impression on Japanese people—who proceeded to do the same thing on social media with other five-syllable words.)

Q: The other digital track is “BOOKMARK.” What can you tell us about “J-san” who performed the rapping?

J-san is my friend. He’s not a professional musician, but he’s always been good at rapping and he writes music too. He wanted to try writing a song based on a guitar loop, so we made the track together. I already had the basis for the song itself from back when I wrote “Petrichor,” and when I passed it to J-san to do the arrangement, it came back to me with programming and rapping included *laughs*. It sounded really cool, so I asked the record label to include it on this album.

If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of pages flipping in a book, which relates to the “BOOKMARK” title.

Q: So that’s why there’s the sound of turning pages. It’s a stylish presentation. Are the lyrics about a protagonist who’s drinking alcohol?

Yes. It’s rare for me to be so direct, right? *laughs* This song is about a student who stayed up until 4 a.m. and is reminiscing about his youth. It’s about a once-real dream that is now a memory of the past.

Q: This song brings back authors’ names with the line “Kafka, Pelevin, Dick, Vonnegut.” The choices seem a bit student-like too. *laughs*

(Victor) Pelevin is the only one of these that’s still alive, though *laughs*. (Philip K.) Dick and (Kurt) Vonnegut were named because I remembered when J-san asked me for sci-fi novel recommendations, I said he should start with Dick and Vonnegut. That was what led to us becoming good friends.

These lyrics feel like a pair of drunk students having a pointless, immature debate. Like, “Was Dazai writing his stories seriously or abstractly?” *laughs* J-san and I wrote the lyrics together, and I think mine were a bit more nonsensical. I figured that since it’s students singing, I should tone down the rap part because they’d be too embarrassed to go all-out. It’s an early-morning song about someone around 20 years old, who says “I’ve woken up from my dream!” but is actually thinking that he really doesn’t want to wake up. *laughs*

Q: Perhaps that’s why he wants to put a bookmark there—he never wants to forget that memory. Finally, the last track of in bloom is the new song “Saigo no Hanabi” (Last Fireworks).

This is sort of a song about birth. I was allowed to do whatever I wanted for in bloom, and that had its advantages, but I didn’t really think any of the songs were catchy and easy to familiarize with on the first listen. This kind of contradicts what I was talking about earlier, but I wrote a j-pop style song with “happy end” imagery.

…That said, it takes some sharp turns, so you’ll be thinking it’s pop music when suddenly it shifts to rock. That non-straightforwardness is fitting for the end of this album, and I think I was able to write an interesting song.

Q: The lyrics are about fireworks even though it’s winter.

Yes. It seems impossible at first, but there actually are sparklers designed for use in winter. That’s really lyrical in itself. The person in this song is mostly likely setting off winter fireworks by themselves. So, they’re probably pretty eccentric. *strained laugh*

Q: A lot of the in bloom protagonists are people you can’t lower your guard around. *strained laugh*

The line “If a meteorite were to come down today” is conspiratorial…or rather, it’s an absurd thought, right? But that doesn’t mean there’s a zero percent chance of it actually happening. The line “The last fireworks fall in the winter sky” is made up of everyday words, and yet it feels out of place. The things that this person is saying and thinking could all be delusions, but there’s also the possibility that today really is the end of the world. Nothing is happening on a global level, but his personal world could be ending—it’s the scope of his thoughts. But since the ending goes, “Look, they’re lighting up again,” I hope that’ll ease your concerns *laughs*. It’s rare for me to include a message—and this isn’t really to the point of being a “message”—but I hope my feelings of, “Thank you for letting me release this album; I promise there’s more to come” will get across.

Q: Saito Soma’s world of music is unending.

Yes *laughs*. The title in bloom also has a strong nuance of “this is a good period of time” rather than flowers blooming. Up until my blue vacation, the world view was faded and decadent. In “Epilogue,” rain fell, and the rain continued at the start of this year’s “Petrichor.” Rain fell upon the world that once ended, leading to the sprouting of new life in “in bloom”. I hope you thoroughly enjoy this album.


Keyword Q&A

Q1. carpool – Where would you go on a drive? Tell us your recommended drive destination.

I’d like to see the autumn foliage, if there’s a place where you can still do that in December. If not, then… I never thought this at all before, but recently I’ve been wanting to visit the remote islands of Okinawa. I want to drive in a quiet, deserted place with sprawling fields… but I don’t have a driver’s license, so if a big-wig listens to “carpool” or reads this article and starts a TV or YouTube program where I get my license, you might see “Saito Soma is taking action!” *laughs*

(TL note: This is a reference to a phrase “(name) is taking action” which was popularized online by an entertainer.)

Q2. Schrödinger Girl – Schrödinger is associated with cats. Which animal would you compare yourself to?

There are a lot of animal horoscopes on the internet, right? When I did one, it said I was a black panther. Is it a dog or a cat? It’s called both, but I think it’s more often designated as a cat. Personally, I’d like to be a jellyfish, just floating around. That’s how I feel sometimes.

Q3. Kitchen – What’s your favourite part of cooking?

Huh?! It’s…obviously the eating part, right?! *laughs* If I have to pick a part of the actual cooking process, I think it’d be seasoning. When I get the seasoning just right, I think, “Yes!”

Also, while it’s not strictly part of cooking, I used to hate washing the dishes—but since I cooked more often during the stay-home period, I started to enjoy optimizing cooking and washing at the same time, thinking of it as a game. I like it the most when the food’s ready and everything’s clean at the same time.

Q4. Canary “This poison is a bit lukewarm” – Do you eat piping hot things as they are, or do you let them cool first?

I really have a cat’s tongue. I guess that’s why I’m a black panther? *laughs* The skin on my fingers seems to be thin too, so I’m sensitive to hot things. I love piping hot foods like ramen, though… Maybe I’m the type that doesn’t mind getting burnt. I want to eat delicious things in their best state.

Q5. Vampire Weekend – What kind of fantastical person would you want to become?

I would like to try being a vampire, but if I was going to become something… It’s not really a fantastical person, but something like a silicon-based lifeform? Or a data lifeform that can’t be confined to 3-D. Something that only exists on the net. I’m a sci-fi fan, after all.

Q6. BOOKMARK – What are your favourite types of alcohol or cocktails, and how do you like to drink them?

I often drink highballs at home. During the stay-home period, I bought a carbonated water maker because I wanted to make delicious highballs…but when it runs out of gas, you have to send it to the manufacturer for an exchange, and it’s annoying so I haven’t done it. Now I’m buying carbonated water from the store like a normal person *laughs*. If I’m not home, I like bottled beer in the winter. I like drinking it at diners and hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants. If they have Sapporo’s “Red Star” beer (Sapporo Lager Beer), that’s the best. It’s good to choose the right alcohol to go with your food.

Q7. Isana “Like a long film” – What’s your favourite feature-length film?

Stanley Kubrick’s works, perhaps. A cliche pick would be 2001: A Space Odyssey. The one I want to watch right now is Eyes Wide Shut. The film itself is great, and there are also a lot of fascinating stories revolving around it. I haven’t been able to watch many films lately, so I’d like to properly settle down and focus on watching some.

Q8. Saigo no Hanabi – Did you see fireworks this summer?

Fireworks, huh… I haven’t seen them or set any off in a while. When I’m out, I might hear the sound of fireworks coming from somewhere and catch a small glimpse of them, but that’s about it. So, I really want to try out the winter sparklers. Summer fireworks have their charm too, but I want to use the sparklers in the winter, when it seems like they can go out at any moment, while saying, “It sure is cold!” Since the winter air is crisp and clear, I’m sure they’ll be beautiful. I’d also like to use fireworks in a place covered in snow, although it might not be possible in Tokyo. I wonder if we can film a “Saigo no Hanabi” MV up north. *laughs*

Q9. in bloom – What’s your favourite flower?

Delicate flowers like violets are nice, but if I had to say, rather than lovely flowers, I prefer peculiar decorative plants like staghorn ferns, or bizarre ones like cacti and carnivorous plants. I often used to use cacti as a motif in lyrics, and the word comes up in “Reminiscence” too. Isn’t that unusual appearance great? *laughs* I like looking at plants, so I might use in bloom as an opportunity to bring some into the house.


Behind the Scenes: Soma-san appeared in two styles for us, one with a long coat and one with a white jacket. The first part of the photo shoot had him holding flowers in a garden, while the second part was in a room with beautiful lighting. There were so many wonderful shots that we struggled until the last minute trying to decide which ones to use and where to put them. By the way, the flowers in the birdcage are themed around “Canary.”


Bonus: Animate-exclusive postcard

Bonus: Off-shots from Soma’s stylist, Honda Yuuki


Extra

[Interview] Seiyuu Grandprix 2020/12 Edition – The scenery changes – Saito Soma’s expanding world

Released: 2020/11/10

※Soma was on the front page cover and had a 12-page feature. There were also two shop-specific bromides.

※Scans not provided because the magazine can easily be bought digitally from sites like Bookwalker.


Throwback 2020

The situation made me realize that I’d become a captive to our ways

—This will be the second time in 2020 that you’re gracing the cover of Seiyuu Grandprix.

Thank you very much. It feels like it’s been quite a while since last time, but when I heard it was February, I thought, “It was still within this year!” *laughs* Still, it’s already been half a year…? It’s not just my situation, but the whole world’s that’s changed. To get straight to the point, even now, it still feels like the things I used to think were normal were actually things I was taking for granted. Before, it was normal to have thirty cast members sharing four mics at a sports anime recording, but now it’s too difficult. The recording environment has completely changed.

—Technique-wise, has recording become more difficult now that you can’t record in large groups?

In American cartoons, it’s standard practice for everyone to record separately, one by one. When you think about it that way, our environment up until now might’ve been a blessing. By the way, when foreigners see us switching in and out in front of the mics while voice acting, apparently many of them get surprised and go, “Ohh! They’re ninjas!” *laughs*

—That means that Japan’s voice acting technique is a culture we should be proud of! *laughs*

Now, we can’t really do recordings like that either. I’ve done recordings by myself in the past before, of course, but personally, I love the acting that comes from live dialogues. This situation made me realize that I’d become addicted to it.

—In scenes with a lot of room for movement, those dialogues can result in something more exciting than you imagined.

Exactly. I was forced to realize just how much I’d been receiving from others’ acting. By the way, in the past, I was bad at listening to other people’s lines. Rather, when you’re just starting out, it’s common to get too caught up in the idea of “I have to say my own lines right.”

—In your case, when did that weakness turn into an “addiction”?

To put it simply, when I properly received someone’s acting and returned with mine, I could sense that I’d succeeded in establishing a conversation, and that felt really good. I don’t think I would’ve noticed it if I’d always been recording alone, so I’m grateful for that. But right now, it’s hard to get the chance to notice that and change my responses accordingly. There’s nothing that can be done about that… but I think that by realizing this and reflecting on myself, I was able to make good use of this stay-home period.

—In these turbulent times, have you been talking to others about the current state of entertainment?

Yes! My personal impression is that there are a lot of people in this industry who are thinking seriously about what we can do and how we should continue going forward. If there are things we can’t do no matter what, then it’s important to proactively consider what we can do—we often talk about that.

—Many voice actors have taken this opportunity to entertain the fans with personal online streams and videos. Are you considering trying something like that?

My primary focus has always been on characters and works. I entered this industry because I wanted to add colour to them with my voice, and I don’t think that central feeling will ever change in my life. That said, today’s world is such that if you stick too closely to that principle, you won’t be able to expand your range of expressions. Ideally you want to be flexible, so I do want to take on expressing myself in various forms. Fortunately, I have my music career as an outlet for that. I think I’m very blessed to have been able to release three digital singles over the course of three months. Also, the stay-home period gave me a lot of time for input. I’m glad that I was able to prepare for my future output as well.

—You’re appearing in many anime this season, including ones that had their broadcast dates pushed back.

The recordings were all at varying times, and I can really feel that I’ve been given the opportunity to play a wide variety of roles. In EX-ARM which airs next year, I play an ordinary high school student who risks his life to save the world, while in Yuukoku no Moriarty, I play a young man who chooses the path of evil for the sake of changing the world… Since I’m playing a lot of unconventional characters, I’m spending more time thinking “What would this character do?” than I used to.

—In a previous interview, you said that you wanted to be associated with unconventional roles. Have you gotten closer to that ideal?

I hope so, but it’s rather difficult… *laughs* There are also more series that I’ve been involved with for a long time, like IDOLiSH7 which can be considered a stable franchise now. There are also works like Hypnosis Mic -Division Rap Battle- Rhyme Anima where, rather than explaining it, I’d rather you watch it first and get a feel for it yourself. In every work, the staff are trying to deliver the best entertainment they can in these circumstances, so I hope you’ll enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Soma Saito ✕ glamb

I aimed for simple clothes that I wanted to wear

—In October, you announced your collaboration with glamb, consisting of pullover knits, berets, and socks.

I like fashion, but I never would’ve expected that I could be involved with clothes in this way, so I was grateful and surprised at the same time. We had several meetings, and the end result was clothes you could wear in everyday life rather than ones that strongly looked like merchandise. A better way to explain it would be clothes that I wanted to wear. *laughs*

—Yes, when I looked at the lineup, I felt that they seemed like clothes you yourself would like. *laughs*

Right?! *laughs* When I first received the collaboration offer, they asked me to choose a brand too… so I requested glamb, a brand that I wear often for work and in my personal life, and they accepted right away.

—They’re warm items that suit the release date.

I considered a cardigan too, but ended up going with the pullover knit first. Then, they suggested an incredible number of materials and designs. They adjusted every little detail for me, such as whether or not the sleeves should be ribbed.

—The logo placement also felt like it was carefully selected.

If it weren’t for the logo, I think it’d be a simpler piece that you could wear more easily, but I had a selfish desire for something a bit unconventional *laughs*. I got to wear it myself too, and the size, material, and logo were all exquisite. I’m definitely going to wear it all the time!

—The socks make for vivid accent colours.

Socks represent an exquisite area—there are times when they aren’t visible, but then they peek out when you sit down. I think it’s nice to have a sense of playfulness for those times.

Also, the berets come in two colours: black which goes with everything, and a stylish beige.

—Berets always seem to match you perfectly.

Before I started this job, I’d never worn a beret before! The first person who put a beret on me was my stylist, Honda-san. Thank you, Honda-san! *laughs*

—Wow… I see!

I like simple clothes where the material feels good on my skin. Shape-wise, I think I’ve been wearing a lot of loose clothes lately. I generally like autumn/winter fashion, like shirts, knits, and cardigans. For photo shoots, I get to wear a lot of clothes that I normally wouldn’t choose, and that’s fun.

—What do you pay attention to when choosing clothes?

Whether clothes suit someone or not is important, but in the end, I think what matters most is what I want to wear. Basically, whether I’m committed to liking how I look when I’m wearing them. In the past, I had an extremely narrow scope for that, and I thought I could only pull off one specific look. I didn’t even think that hats or glasses suited me. But, that scope expanded bit by bit as I encountered new things.

—Did your view change because of doing photo shoots for work?

It did. Up until high school, I hated having my photo taken, but after having it become part of my job, I started thinking, “What feelings can I express when I’m wearing these clothes?” It was really fun, and it felt like it was the clothes that were providing me with that enjoyment.

So, I love encountering styling that I’d never imagined before. While I do value my own preferences, I also want to value things that aren’t to my taste. After all, if it leads to me liking it, there’s nothing more wonderful than that. This applies to acting too—I have more fun when others present me with things I hadn’t expected.

—I think that having those “realizations” enriches your life.

Sometimes the realizations come when I’m not in the right frame of mind, but I do prepare for them… Basically, I keep an open mind and put up an antenna for them. I think there are a lot of things I’ve realized this way.

This year in particular, I realized that many of the things I thought were normal were actually very special, and I should be grateful for them. For example, being able to talk to someone in person and laugh loudly with them was special. By the way, my latest revelation was that yakiniku and sushi are better eaten in restaurants *laughs*. Being able to wander into a store and eat all sorts of things is a special thing I should be grateful for. I want to be thankful for all of these “normal” things and treasure them going forward.

about Soma’s fashion

An interview with Saito Soma’s stylist, Honda Yuuki, who has gained the trust of Saito-san’s fans as well. From the way they enjoy choosing clothes together, we can guess that they have the same values. What’s his secret to maximizing Saito-san’s charm?

—How did you meet Saito Soma-san?

When I was working as a stylist’s assistant, my mentor worked with a number of voice actors, and Saito-san was one of them. I remember that when we first met, I really clicked with his opinions on clothes. Perhaps he remembered too, because when I went independent, my first job was from Saito-san, who requested me as his personal stylist.

—What do you focus on for Saito-san’s styling?

Our taste in clothes is extremely similar and our physiques are also quite close, so it’s easy to imagine outfits on him, which makes styling very easy as well. Plus, Saito-san has an androgynous aura, so he looks good in a wide variety of clothes. As a result, I end up bringing tons of clothes because I want him to try them all on. If it’s for a magazine shoot, then I prepare styles that feel more like “outfits,” but if it’s for an event, he likely has to use his voice a lot, so I focus on functionality—a loose neckline—and add in abstract elements of the role he’s playing… For his artist career, I go for a more sophisticated look. But, it feels like he picks the clothes I want him to wear, so as long as he doesn’t dismiss me, I’d like to continue having fun choosing clothes for him. *laughs*

—What were the styling considerations made this time?

Since he was going to be wearing the collaboration items, I prepared clean styles that would match them. For the one with the jacket, since it’s a magazine shoot, I included a lot of playful, fun clothes.

By the way, it wasn’t used this time, but I also brought something from a brand that Saito-san and I had clicked with before. It was back during my assistant days, and we both agreed that we liked that style. Saito-san remembered too, and he said “This brings back memories, right?” *laughs*

What are “kuumaA” and “glamb”?

kuumaA is a brand collaboration project where an artist (expresser) thinks of what they want and find interesting, and a brand supports them to turn those thoughts into special items. This time, Saito Soma requested to collaborate with glamb, a fashion brand whose concept is “grunge for luxury.” Their style is elegant rock and they’re known for their borderless ideas that aren’t restricted by conventional fashion.

“in bloom” series

Saito Soma composed and wrote lyrics for every song, shaping various worlds!

—Your second album, in bloom, will finally be released on December 23.

So far, in quantum stranger and my blue vacation, I’ve been releasing songs themed around “the end of the world.” This time, I wanted to depict the story of what comes afterwards. Prior to the album, in bloom was announced as a series of digital singles, consisting of the three songs “Petrichor,” “Summerholic!”, and “Palette.” The full album will be a collection of songs related to them that expand on the world views. Rather than having a single concept for the album, it’s more like the songs exist within the same overarching theme, but each represents its own unique story and lifestyle.

The main difference from my previous full album is that this time, all of the composition and lyrics were done by me. But rather than making it about me, I think the idea of “having one person present a different world view in every song” is an interesting experiment. Among these songs are lyrics with motifs that I wouldn’t have tried to use in songs before.

—Motifs you haven’t used before?

Earlier, we talked about “realizations.” There were many realizations I had that were only possible because of the coronavirus situation. For example, the song “Kitchen” came from that.

—It’s a bossa nova style song.

But, the chorus is like guitar rock with a sense of speed. I’ve actually had the prototype for this song ever since the time when I was in a band for fun, but it’s so distinctive that it was hard to find a place to use it… Also, normally lyrics come to mind together with the melody, but this song was the only one where that didn’t happen. However, due to COVID, I started cooking for myself again after a while of not being able to, and I thought “kitchen” might make an interesting theme. But the finished lyrics feel the craziest out of these songs. *laughs*

—It’s brimming with paranoia. *laughs*

“Petrichor” and “Summerholic!” were also subjective songs, but it’s even more prominent in “Kitchen.” It’s like the protagonist is cheerful about eating something, but when you look at him from an onlooker’s perspective, his behaviour is abnormal. What I can say is that you’d better not seriously try to follow the recipe in these lyrics. *laughs*

—The abstract lyrics feel very much your style.

Yes. If I restrict lyrics to a single meaning, I don’t feel much meaning from them anymore. Feel free to read too much into this song and think, “The kitchen is a metaphor for an alchemist’s workshop…” *laughs*

—What’s your impression of the leading track, “carpool”?

It was rather difficult to decide what to do with the leading track. The three songs from the “in bloom” series depicted the changing of seasons up until fall, and this album was going to be released in winter, so I wanted to use a darker song with a good melody… but I couldn’t come up with anything. When it was almost time for the MV filming and I was like “Oh no!”, that’s when “carpool” popped out. It’s an orthodox chord progression that I like, sprinkled with my vocals, and the arranger Saku-san and the others liked it too. Writing the lyrics was a struggle at first, but once the song was finalized, it went incredibly quickly. It’s possible that I was too hung up on the idea of “writing songs that are different from what I’ve done before” and that made me too fixated on logic. In the end, the lyrics and the melody are pop with a hint of darkness… It has an aspect that I haven’t had before, so I personally like it too.

—It’s interesting how composing songs based on intuition leads to discovering new ground.

It’s incredibly difficult to decide whether to compose based on logic or feeling… This time, I decided to write songs freely without any restrictions on myself, but I realized that that thought was already restricted by logic. By the way, “carpool” doesn’t have anywhere to breathe at all, so it’s ridiculously hard to sing. *laughs*

I’m interested in how they’ll turn out when I sing them live

—What about “Schrödinger Girl”?

Since I started doing more work at home, I bought a new DAW software. I used that to make a demo of a song called “Hokuou (Kari)” (Scandinavia (Temp)), which I posted on Twitter. The temporary name was that because the melody resembled Scandinavian rock bands. Every now and then, the fans would ask “What happened to that song?”, and at last, that song has become “Schrödinger Girl” *laughs*.

Even though it makes heavy use of bubbly, swaying effects, it became one of my fastest songs. But to tell the truth, it was also the hardest one on this album to come up with lyrics for… The recording was delayed, and I’d write lyrics while commuting. Looking back now, it’s become a fond memory *laughs*. The final result tells a clear story, which is rare for me. So, please listen to it and make your own speculations.

“Canary” is a simple composition without many syllables.

I wanted to do a dark, whispery song like Elliott Smith (an American singer-songwriter). However, even though I like that kind of music, I had to consider whether or not there would be meaning in the voice actor Saito Soma singing it. But ever since around the time of my blue vacation, my desire to sing introspective songs had been growing. This time, I included one with the reasoning that it would expand my range. I hope the lyrics also make it feel like the singer’s consciousness is clouded in fog.

By the way, this song was only recorded in about two takes, and there wasn’t really any pitch correction or whatnot, so I think it really feels like it’s sung live.

—”Vampire Weekend” is another conspicuous song.

I haven’t been following set formats with my songs, but I think this one is by far the strangest structure *laughs*. It began when I found a sound loop in the DAW I started using and I wanted to see if I could make a song out of it. I played the looping sound through my tablet and sung along into a mic, in a haphazard digital-yet-analog way of making a demo. *laughs*

So, the original song sounded like a 70s “looping” song, but when I asked ESME MORI-san (who I worked with in Hypnosis Mic) to do the arrangement, he immediately turned it into the stylish song that we have now.

The lyrics give off a very different impression depending on how you interpret the meaning of the word “vampire”—I think they can also feel perversely humorous.

—At the time of this interview, some of the songs are still in production.

Yes. Please look forward to them… One of them is also an epic that’s over eight minutes long.

—Eight minutes?!

I was originally assuming it’d be around six minutes when I sent in the demo, but the arranger slowed down the tempo, so I figured I might as well make it longer *laughs*. I’ve always loved shoegazing (a type of rock music), and this song has that kind of feel. I hope you enjoy the wonderful flood of tones.

—There really is a lot of variation on this one disc! I’m sure many fans are hoping you’ll be able to sing these songs live one day.

Many of the songs have challenging aspects, like “Kitchen” which includes the sounds of kitchen utensils and “carpool” which will be difficult to sing live in one take [because of the lack of breaks]. So, I’m really curious about how they’ll turn out if I sing them at a concert. Considering my musical style, it’s also possible to use special production techniques on stage, so I’ll save the fun of figuring out the specifics for when the time comes!

This album really does have a wide variety of songs, so I hope you’ll listen to it over and over, savouring the sounds as pure “music.”

Behind the scenes of Saito Soma’s fashion

Saito Soma-san makes his second front cover appearance after the first one in the February 2020 edition! For this photo shoot, he wore the items he produced himself. The day of the shoot was the first time he put on the completed samples. They were designed for everyday use in the first place, but he seemed to very fond of the colouring and size, and said “I really am going to end up wearing these all the time” with a smile.

Also, since the interview was going to focus on Saito-san’s fashion style, we also interviewed his stylist, Honda-san. The outfit on the front cover was his freestyle styling. He always brings many different outfits with him. When he and Saito-san were choosing clothes, you could tell how close they were—they looked like they were going clothes shopping, saying things like “This one looks good too” and “I want to buy this one.” It was a harmonious start to the photo shoot.

We also interviewed him about his second album “in bloom” which comes out on December 23. It’s a must-read for fans who are impatiently waiting for the release!


Shop-specific bromides:

Off-shot from Honda Yuuki:

Extra:

The blue jacket Soma wears in one of the outfits is glamb’s GB0320 / JKT17 in Navy (¥38,500): https://www.glamb-lodge.com/c/jacket/0320jkt17

[Interview] Rolling Stone Japan vol.12 – Saito Soma Invites You to the Rabbit Hole

Released: 2020/9/25
Online Version: https://rollingstonejapan.com/articles/detail/35037/1/1/1


“What made me happy was that a lot of people said it felt natural to listen to, and music fans said things like “You’re doing something novel” and “The sax riff in the intro is dissonant, right?” I think that’s one of the interesting things about music. When I write songs, I want them to be easy to listen to when you don’t focus on the details, but once you start to really think about them, it feels like you’ve fallen into the rabbit hole.”

The thoughts behind the themes of “in bloom”

—In June, it was the third anniversary of your singer debut. I assume 2020 has been a critical year for you as an artist, but is your current situation completely different from how you imagined 2020 at the start of the year, due to COVID-19?

It actually might not be that different. My activities were always centered around releasing music, rather than performing live. The three songs I’m releasing this time had to become digital releases due to various circumstances, but if it wasn’t for COVID-19, I was going to release them as a single for my third anniversary. Since I’ve been spending more time at home, I actually have a ton of demo songs in stock now. I don’t know what form I’ll be able to present them in, but while we’re making steady preparations to release interesting music, I was able to release these three singles, which I’m thankful for.

—Rather than being affected by external events, you’re progressing on the path you’ve decided for yourself.

As someone who’s been writing songs as a hobby for a long time now, I’m just grateful to be able to release my songs to the world. So as an artist, I don’t feel frustrated about this situation. Instead, my current focus is on how I can use the ideas I’ve come up with.

—During the interview for your last EP, you said, “If I were to make a Season 2, then this would be Season 1.5” and “With this, I finished my investigation of ‘what would happen if I followed my previous work to its conclusion?'” Is it safe to say that these three singles are your Season 2?

I gave this series the name “in bloom,” but the themes are “the changing of seasons” and “what comes after the end of the world.” Instead of singing about different perspectives of the end of the world, I wanted to depict what comes afterwards. Out of the three songs, “Petrichor” was finished first, and I absolutely wanted to release it in June. From there, if I was going to release singles as a series, I’d be able to time them for the rainy season, midsummer, and the transition from summer to fall. I’ve always liked ambiguous seasons, so this gave me a creative spark—I felt like I could do something with this. I was reading Dazai Osamu at that time too, and he has a short story called Roman Tourou. A group of siblings are writing a relay story, and one of them says something like, “Stories always say the princess and the prince got married and they all lived happily ever after, but what we really want to know is what happened after that, right?” and I thought, this is it.

In that sense, I think these three songs are very personal. Not in the sense that they’re about me, but that they feel like introspective songs within a narrow scope. In the past, I used the broad “end of the world” motif quite a lot, most noticeably in “memento.” This time, “Petrichor,” “Summerholic!” and “Palette” are all subjective songs that don’t relate to how the whole world is.

—So “Petrichor” was a big factor.

I wanted to do a song that you wouldn’t really see from other voice actors with singing careers, and tried adding jazz nuances to a hiphop-style track, paying a fair amount of attention to trends. There’s dissonance in it too, but when you listen to it as a song, it sounds kind of like Japanese pop. What made me happy was that a lot of people said it felt natural to listen to, and music fans said things like “You’re doing something novel” and “The sax riff in the intro is dissonant, right?” I think that’s one of the interesting things about music. When I write songs, including these three, I want them to be easy to listen to when you don’t focus on the details, but once you start to really think about them, it feels like you’ve fallen into the rabbit hole. “Petrichor” does this particularly well.

“Petrichor” paves the way for a new frontier

—I know what you mean by “falling into the rabbit hole.” These three songs are so elaborate that it made me think, there must be an incredible number of scrapped songs behind them. “Petrichor” uses quite a modern jazz approach, with CRCK/LCKS’ Ochi Shunsuke-san on bass and TRI4TH’s Fujita Junnosuke on saxophone, right?

Yes.

—I don’t think you had this kind of style before, but you definitely made it yours.

When I made the demo for this song, it felt like Elliott Smith with the lingering feeling of the harmony in the chorus, but a bit more withered. I’d say it was a bit dark. The “hai-iro no amemachi” (gray rainy street) lyric was originally “uso wo tsuite shimatta yo” (I told a lie). But Fujita-san’s sax gave it quite a bright impression. He played exquisite tones in the second half of the song that made me think, “Yeah, I really like this kind of alluringness” *laughs*. In “Petrichor,” you can hear each player’s sentiments. Ochi-san played bass at my first concert too; his bass-playing has a really good groove to it, so I was happy that we could work together again.

—The balance between the words and the sound at “kuruizaku you na rokugatsu no flavour / itsumademo kagerou no naka” is interesting.

“Petrichor’s” lyrics are such that you can’t understand what’s going on at first glance. The listener can only guess, so it’s hard to tell if the scenery is real or not. I think the development from the second verse onwards is interesting. The atmosphere of the song suddenly changes at “kuruizaku you na,” and image-wise it resembles Inoue Yosui-san, in how I use a thicker voice for just that part. It’s humour; there are people who suddenly sing in a different tone of voice when they’re in a good mood, right? In that sense, I think “Petrichor” is quite a scary song.

Since these three songs are subjective, the characters in the lyrics are happy and having fun, but how does it look to the people around them? Maybe I wanted to keep the “unreliable narrator” aspect. It’s similar to how Spitz’s songs are really refreshing to listen to, but they also have hidden interpretations. Even though it sounds like a pop song, the lyrics aren’t. Like Spitz’s themes of sex and death. I hope you can sense that appeal.

Madness in “Summerholic!”

—It’s the same with “Summerholic!”, right? When you first listen to it, you think “Summer!”, but once you read the lyrics, you realize that it’s not that simple.

This might be the one where I was the most careful with the “seasoning” on the lyrics. Having a strong message and delivering it directly can feel good, of course, and it can be moving too. But that’s not how my music is—I don’t make it too obvious or too deep; it’s just about halfway. Some people enjoy it for what it is on the surface, while others like to theorize. I want to make it clear that both sides are allowed, so I’m careful with the lyrics in order to not clash with either approach.

A single word can change a lot. It’s like, do I say “this water” or “this forest”? It’s a trial-and-error process for every song, and I often change lyrics all over the place on recording day. Since I assume they’re going to change, lately I haven’t been printing out the lyrics beforehand. I asked if we could do the final checks at the recording instead, and that’s when they get printed for the first time. But there are still times when I go, “Oh, actually, can I make a small change?” anyway *laughs*. I’m grateful to my team for letting me make small adjustments until the very last minute.

—Is it the same for the arrangement?

The instrumental performances can’t be changed if they were recorded in advance, but they let me do whatever I want with the vocals. It’s fun when when we all make the harmony together because it feels like we’re a band. Recently we’ve been bringing our guitars and playing them while communicating our ideas, or tapping keys on the keyboard like, “Doesn’t it sound more urban and stylish if this one note is in a minor key?” “I’ll try singing that, then.” It really feels like we’re creating the songs as a team. The “hohoemi” part of “Petrichor” was also the result of us experimenting with things on the recording day. Both the engineer, Hayashi-san, and I thought that would fit the best, and in the end that’s what we went with.

Season 2 is for the things he didn’t do before

—The lyrics and vocal direction adapt on the spot. That does seem like a band, in a way.

It does. It’s kind of an old-school band style. Even when we’re doing the mixdown, we experiment with the fine balancing of effects; like for “Petrichor,” how long the rain sounds should stick around for, whether they should only be audible in the intro and the outro. For “Palette,” I asked them to make the bass really loud. My requests are quite detailed, and I’m glad that the professionals turn them into something good. Also, starting from my previous release, I started using equipment on my own, so it’s easier to convey what I’m thinking from the demo stage. There’s no more discrepancies within the team when sharing ideas.

—In the end, it feels like a band and you can also pursue your personal tastes to the fullest. It sounds like the ideal environment for an artist.

I’m extremely thankful to be in a place that allows this.

—Do you ever change your song titles?

All the time. “Palette’s” working title was “US Emo” for the longest time *laughs*, and “Petrichor’s” working titles were “Amadare” (raindrops) and “Uso wo Tsuite Shimatta yo” (I Told a Lie). At first I was going to write “Petrichor’s” lyrics without any katakana words, but I got stuck partway through, and realized that the whole point of Season 2 was to stop putting restrictions on myself. That’s when I came up with the “rokugatsu no flavour” phrase. The working title for “Summerholic!” was… “Libertine,” but even though I called it that, everyone kept saying “Libertines,” which obviously isn’t okay. *laughs*

“Summerholic!” was inspired by the Libertines, the Cribs, and Ojamajo Doremi. Parts like “ashita no junbi to sessei rinri to” are a good mix of those ideas. As for the arrangement, it’s definitely Western-style rather than Japanese. We used a lot of detailed techniques to achieve this, like how all of the vocals are double-tracked. I often decide titles quickly on the spot—which was the case for the “in bloom” series name too. I also have demos named “UK” and “Marilyn Manson” which I didn’t use this time. So when I look at my files some time later, I have no idea what’s what. *laughs*

“To me, music isn’t about using specific phrases directly, but about converting ideas—borrowing the concept’s direction to create my own expression. This includes things I saw as a child, like Ojamajo Doremi which was an important part of my upbringing. A song that’s just cool and upbeat feels a bit lacking, so I reflected that notion in ‘Summerholic!'”

When it comes to working titles

—So your working titles have Saito-san-style homages. I can understand the Libertines and the Cribs, but I’m surprised that Ojamajo Doremi would be in there.

In the past I wouldn’t have chosen Ojamajo Doremi, but for Season 2, I decided I would choose that kind of thing too. To me, music isn’t about using specific phrases directly, but about converting ideas—borrowing the concept’s direction to create my own expression. A song that’s just cool and upbeat feels a bit lacking, so I wanted to play around with it. This rapid-talking style is surprisingly common in the anime songs I listened to as a kid, like Cyborg Kuro-chan and Jungle wa Itsumo Hare nochi Guu.

—Western music might be surprisingly compatible with the exciting, upbeat feeling of anime songs.

Punk bands often do that rapid-talking style of singing too, right? It was the case for the Libertines as well. Pete Doherty and Carl Barât’s fast-talking have a worn-out sort of feeling to them. I wanted to use that drunken style in “Summerholic!” too. I think that impatient feeling, where you can’t quite tell if there’s a melody there, is a very good fit for this song. If “Petrichor’s” vocal melody sounds like Showa era pop—that is, Japanese—then I wanted “Palette” and “Summerholic!” to take their nuances from US and UK rock respectively.

I have a personal fixation on sticking to Japanese, but the “Summerholic!” lyrics are hard to say quickly. There are a lot of words that’ll trip you up, like “madamada.” Honestly I thought, “I hate this lyricist.” Even though it was me *laughs*. And since it had to be double-tracked, I needed at least two good takes. Looking back, I’m impressed that I was able to sing it at all. The “daijoubu datteba madamada ohiru de shouki mo sokosoko tamotteiru kara” part is really hard. In that sense, I’d say those were my best takes!

—The song made me grin, thinking that you must like surf garage rock and bands like the Libertines, but when I read the lyrics, I thought, “This isn’t refreshing at all! It’s just a song about staying cooped up at home!” I thought that twistedness was very like you.

When you think of UK bands, that twistedness is definitely a thing. Like XTC, although I didn’t reference them at all this time. “Summerholic!” is a song that’s twisted in an honest way. There’s a “kanpai~!” lyric in the middle, which I think will be fun to do with everyone when concerts are back to normal.

—This song is led by the guitar.

I really didn’t expect tapping to be added. Ono Takemasa-san’s excellent technique is on fire. It has a big party atmosphere, which I love.

Still many creation techniques to try

—About “Palette” which had the working title “US Emo,” one of your roots is in US emo rock, and I thought this was a solid song with that genre’s dramatism and sense of scale. It must’ve been satisfying for the participating musicians.

For “Palette,” I asked them to play it with an explosive, roaring sound. I think this is a straightforward song, strange in that it’s not twisted. For this kind of song, rather than playing the phrases, it feels more like extending a mass of sound. When everyone played the intro for me like that, I thought, “Ah, this is good…” For a song like “Palette,” there’s a lot of meaning in playing it loudly as a band. The recorded audio was amazing, and the mixing emphasized the bass even more.

—All of the participating musicians were incredibly skilled. In addition to Takemasa-san, there was Takahashi Hirotaka-san (ELLEGARDEN, PAM) and Suda Yuki-san (ex.Suck a Stew Dry, ex.THURSDAY’S YOUTH).

I couldn’t be there for the instrument recording this time, so I could only listen to the recording afterwards. For every song, I let the musicians do what they want, with the exception of key phrases that shouldn’t be changed. I only give them things like the “Summerholic!” riff and the “Petrichor” sax line in advance. It’s fun this way, because what I get are interesting expressions that I wouldn’t have come up with myself. It’s also fun to have different people participating for each song.

—They tweeted about being at your recording too. Even though you couldn’t work together in person, it still feels like you’d make a good band.

Right now I’m making the prototypes by myself, but I’d like to try having a studio session sometime. Even if we aren’t a band, I want to try creating a so-called band song. My repertoire is actually missing a song that’s centered around rock-style riffs. For a song like that, I’d want to make it in a studio. It’s not possible in the current state of the world, but I’d like to do it someday. There are still many creation techniques I want to try, so I hope I’ll be able to release more new things after the “in bloom” series.

[Blog Post] Palette / in bloom

Original URL: https://ameblo.jp/somasaito/entry-12626059673.html
Published: 2020/9/19

It’s been quite a while since the last post, but how has everyone been doing? Today felt very much like autumn.
As for me, I’ve still been enjoying books and music alongside doing my work. I wish I could have a chance to talk leisurely somewhere about the things I found interesting.
Hoping that autumn will be long this year while craving meat and saury—Saito Soma here.

⭐︎

At last, the third and final song in the digital series “in bloom” has been released! Thank you!

Also, the issue with the purchase bonuses is currently being investigated! We’re very sorry for the trouble…!
I think updates will be provided on Twitter as they become available, so please wait a little longer…! Sorry!

Now then, I missed my chance to write a blog post back when the second song “Summerholic!” came out.
I’ve talked about it in various places, but “Samahori” is an uptempo rock tune about a luxurious life of not taking a single step out of the house during the peak of summer.
Some might think it feels like surf rock.
This was a straightforward song; a complete change from the first song “Petrichor” which was quite deceptive.
Personally, I think this is a punk song. I’ve always liked this chord progression.

Now, the third song “Palette” is a heavy, heartrending song for the end of summer to the beginning of autumn. Unlike “Samahori,” this one is squarely US emo.
This song is also straightforward in a sense, but it was written so that it could be interpreted in various ways depending on how you read into it. My personal interpretation is that the lyrics tell a clear story!

As an aside, when I was recording a certain part of the song, for some reason, my mic gain (volume) kept dropping at that one part, no matter how many retakes I did. This happens to me a lot.
Anyway, this song has incredible sound pressure. Please listen to it as loudly as you can.

Also, the MV was unveiled!
Thanks to the efforts of all of the wonderful cast and staff, including Okudaira Daiken-san, it became a truly amazing MV.
I’ve always said that my songs are about stories, not myself. I think that this time, I was able to express that really well in video form. The presentation of colors was magnificent, right?!

Once again, thank you to everyone who created the “in bloom” series with me, and everyone who listened to it!
I hope to bring you more music in various ways, so please continue to give me your support!

⭐︎

Well then, that’s all for today!
Take care!

Saito Soma