J!-ENT INTERVIEWS PUFFY AMIYUMI (2017) by Dennis A. Amith and Michelle Tymon (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)
March 20, 2017 by J!-ENT
When I first discovered Puffy AmiYumi (known as “Puffy” in Japan), they took Japan by their storm with their simple style of t-shirts, blue jeans and sneakers. Bucking the fashion trend and dance choreography of other Japanese female music artists during the 1990’s, Puffy AmiYumi impressed audiences with their style of music and presentation.
The duo consisting of Yumi Yoshimura and Ami Onuki burst into the Japanese music scene back in 1996 dominating the charts. And while Puffy AmiYumi would release their debut album in America and perform in the U.S., it wasn’t until their music was featured in the Cartoon Network animated series “Teen Titans” that the duo would receive recognition internationally.
In 2004, the duo would have their own animated TV series titled “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi”, would be featured on a GAP fashion ad and performing at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
And as I have interviewed Puffy AmiYumi for the next few years, our last interview with the ladies, was back in 2010 to celebrate the duo’s 15th Anniversary (view our 15th Anniversary Puffy AmiYumi special).
And here we are in 2017, celebrating the duo’s 21-year anniversary and knowing that there are not many female Japanese music artists that have had the same level of success of Puffy AmiYumi and continue to perform for audiences worldwide.
Starting on March 31st, the group will be performing at Anime Boston 2017 and on April 4th, the group will be performing at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, followed by a performance on April 6th at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco and on April 9th at Trees in Dallas, Texas as part of their Puffy AmiYumi US Tour 2017 “#NotLazyTour”.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Puffy AmiYumi about their upcoming U.S. performance:
I interviewed both of you when you made your debut in the United States and I have listened to your music when you first made your single debut “Asia no Junshin” in Japan. What is the biggest difference in your approach to music today versus when you first started out.
Ami: When we debuted, we really didn’t know anything. We were always surprised by how our producer, Tamio Okuda, and other musicians made music and the various things they concentrated on. But now, we really understand how that feels.
Very few Japanese acts were able to penetrate the American music scene, yet Puffy AmiYumi was able to create an audience thanks to the theme song for “Teen Titans” and you eventually had your own animated show in the United States. You had a GAP ad and performed on the Macy’s Parade on national TV. Looking back at your success and knowing that you accomplished something that many Japanese have not done, was there a lot of pressure on for the both of you to continue that success?
Yumi: There wasn’t really any pressure. We always make sure to have fun with anything we do as a part of Puffy’s style, so when we did all of those things, I believe we did while having fun. And those were all experiences that most Japanese people aren’t able to experience much, so we are very honored.
Last year, Puffy AmiYumi celebrated their 20th Anniversary and the music scene has changed a lot in the past two decades. One difference is the popularity of social media such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Do you feel that social media has changed the way for the both of you to communicate with your fans?
Ami: I believe that the spread of social media over the last 20 year is definitely huge. I personally have my own Instagram, and because of that, I’m able to directly receive messages of support from fans. And since we can see how our fans our reacting with so little time lag, it’s very helpful to us.
You are about to embark on another tour which includes performances in the United States (for Puffy AmiYumi US Tour 2017 “NOT LAZY”). It’s been awhile since you performed in the U.S., how does it feel to be coming back?
Yumi: Even though we hadn’t traveled to America for a while, we had been constantly doing concerts in Japan, so I think we’ve powered up even more since our last visit. So right now, we’re very excited!
As you celebrate your 21st year, after all these years…Ami, what are your top three songs that you love performing in front of a live audience?
Ami: “Asia no Junshin,” “Akai Buranko,” and “Circuit no Musume.”
I’m curious to see how your musical tastes have changed. In our very first interview, Yumi you said you were listening to Nirvana, Eels, Hole and U2 and Ami said Red Hot Chili Peppers. But what about now?
Yumi: Of course, I still love all of those groups. When I listen to the albums that I love, I remember things from when I first heard the albums, or feel very nostalgic.
Back in 2002, for our second interview, I asked each of you to describe each other in one word. Yumi, you said of Ami, “Serious” and Ami, you said of Yumi “Young”. In 2010, Yumi said of Ami “Relax” and Ami said of Yumi, “Older Sister”. Ami, if you had to describe Yumi, what would you say today?
Ami: For Yumi…“Hanashi ga Tomoranai” (She doesn’t stop talking)
Yumi, you told me you were playing the video game “Ryu ga Gotoku” (known as “Yakuza” in the U.S.) a lot back then. Ami you were playing “Dragon Quest Monsters Joker II”. Any certain games that you are playing now?
Yumi: I still love “Dragon Quest” even now and continue to play. Right now, I’m trying to figure out if I want to buy a Nintendo Switch or not.
Both of you told me you love tea! But I didn’t get to ask what kind of tea that both of you enjoy? So, I have to ask…what is your favorite tea? And if there is an area in Tokyo that serves the best tea, which area would you recommend?
Ami: We like tea… Did we actually say that? Either way, I do like tea. I like chai. I think I’d recommend the café next to Saigoyama Park.
It’s funny because in our 2010 interview, both of you said that you wished Taco Bell would open a store in Japan and now you can find a Taco Bell in Japan. And now there are more Mexican restaurants in Tokyo. But with you returning back to America, is there a certain food that you have wanted to try but never yet had the chance?
Yumi: While we weren’t in America, I can now eat some foods that I couldn’t before. For example, cilantro and lamb. Because of that, I’d like to try out some places that I never got to try before.
What final words do you have for your fans worldwide?
Ami: This year, Puffy is now in our 21st year. The reason that we’ve been able to continue for so long is the countless support we’ve received from people from various countries!! We’ll continue to work even harder so we can someday hold concerts in countries we haven’t been to yet!
Yumi: Last year, we celebrated our 20th anniversary, and we are grateful to all of our fans! The upcoming concerts should be a lot of fun. Please come out and see us!
Photos courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment Japan
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