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J!-ENT INTERVIEWS PUFFY AMIYUMI (2017) by Dennis A. Amith and Michelle Tymon (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

March 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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!

For more information, please visit their official website or their Facebook Page.

Photos courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment Japan


Read our complete J!-ENT Puffy AmiYumi interviews and articles from 1996-2010 (Click on image)


PUFFY – JET CD (a J!-ENT World Groove Album Review)

April 11, 1998 by · Leave a Comment 

“PUFFY’s ‘JET CD’ is a solid album featuring collaborations with Tortoise Matsumoto, Spitz, Masamune Kusano, Kaori Oku, Yosui Inoue and more.  A lot of their popular hits from 1996-1998 such as ‘Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru Michi’,’Nagista ni Matsuwaru Etcetora’, ‘Ai no Shirushi’, ‘Circuit no Musume’ and ‘MOTHER’ can be found on this album!  Definitely recommended!”

Purchase this album:

JET CD / Puffy
Puffy

GROUP: PUFFY

ALBUM: JET CD

LABEL: Epic/Sony Records

CATALOG #: ESCB-1871

DURATION: 51:04

RELEASE DATE: April 1, 1998

  1. ジェット警察
  2. これが私の生きる道
  3. CAKE IS LOVE
  4. 愛のしるし
  5. 春の朝
  6. レモンキッド
  7. 小美人
  8. ネホリーナハホリーナ
  9. 哲学
  10. DE RIO
  11. サーキットの娘
  12. 渚にまつわるエトセトラ
  13. MOTHER

PUFFY has been one of the more interesting musical duos in Japan.  Known for their bad choreography but catchy tunes, these women don’t fit the mold of the typical mainstream Japanese female artist.  These women sport sneakers, blue jeans, t-shirts but yet managed to create their own style and have fun doing it.
With their first album released back in 1996, fans have wondered when their album containing some of their singles from 1996 and 1997 would be released on an album and sure enough, we get “JET CD”.  Definitely one my favorite albums so far of 1998.
Produced by UNICORN’s Tamio Okuda, “JET CD” is definitely an entertaining CD that PUFFY fans will be hooked on.
The album kicks off with “JET Keisatsu” (which translates to JET police), a rock driven track with hints of that Okuda style and a pretty cool track.
The second track “Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru Michi” is the group’s first #1 CD single from 1996 and features a Beatle-esque, late 50’s-early 60’s style of sound.  The song means “this is my way of life” and definitely a song that many people gravitated to back in ’96.
The third track is one of those weird PUFFY tracks that you tend to get and it’s called “CAKE IS LOVE” which features a synth-based track with a deep groove.
The fourth track “Ai no Shirushi” (which translates to Sign of Love) is written by Kusano Masamune of Spitz.  The track  is the group’s sixth CD single and a fun, catchy track.
The fifth track “Haru no Asa” (Morning Spring) features a slow ballad in which is piano and bass-driven that I have seen the girls performing in their concert and a song that showcases the duo’s vocals.
The sixth track “Lemon Kid” features a jazzy song written by both Ami and Yumi sporting the bass, little percussion and guitar.
The seventh track “Shoubijin” (beautiful woman) features a song written by Dr. Strangelove and Tamio Okuda.  Very dark rock track and possibly the most different track of the whole album.  Starts of dark but a very cool song.
The eighth track “Nehori-na Hahori-na” is written by Tortoise Matsumoto of THE ULFULS and was a double A-sided single along with “Mother” from 1997.  A pretty cool, catchy rock track.
The ninth track “Tetsugaku” which means philosophy features an acoustic guitar track and is sung by Ami.
The tenth track “DE RIO” is a rock track with a 70’s rock influence sung by Yumi.
The eleventh track “Circuit no Musume” is the duo’s third single and second consecutive #1 track.  I just remembered when this track came out, it was another track that seemed so out of place of what was coming out from Japan and thus, it was one of those tracks that I feel people gravitated to because it was so odd but fun to listen to.  The song features a rock track with race car’s revving in the background.
The twelfth track “Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Etcetora” is the duo’s fourth CD single and third consecutive #1 track.   The duo’s Summer release and a fun, catchy track.
The thirteenth track “MOTHER” is the duo’s fifth CD single.  A song that was electric guitar driven and some could say, has a country twang but overall a track that I enjoyed for its simplicity and chorus and definitely had that Okuda Tamio/UNICORN style.
As for the insert booklet, the booklet featured pictures of both Ami and Yumi and lyrics to all songs.

Overall, if you are a PUFFY fan, this album contains plenty of duo’s hit singles from 1996-1998 and gives you a little bit of everything from the group but for the most part, catchy, addictive tracks that I found myself listening to many times over and over again.
I suppose that one of the reasons why I enjoy PUFFY so much is because they seem so anti-J-pop.  They are of course, Japanese but their music is not the typical Japanese style that you would hear from the mainstream.  But they are mainstream, the duo is seen everywhere on magazines and TV and are very much commercial but it’s a different style that people are not familiar with and thus, it caught Japan by surprise.
Evidently, their musical style has captivated Asia since the duo has made a Chinese version of their song “Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru Michi” and also have a good-sized fandom in Taiwan as well.
Overall, an awesome and long awaited album by PUFFY and an album that is worth owning!  Definitely recommended!

Purchase this album:

JET CD / Puffy
Puffy

PUFFY – Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru michi (a J!-ENT World Groove CD Single Review)

October 29, 1996 by · Leave a Comment 

“PUFFY’s second single ‘Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru Michi’ is an awesome hit that incorporates that Beatles style and late 50’s-early 60’s rock sound.  Definitely a solid release for the duo!”

GROUP: PUFFY

CD SINGLE: Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru Michi

LABEL: Epic/Sony Records

CATALOG #: ESDB-3722

DURATION: 16:44

RELEASE DATE:  October 7, 1996

  1. これが私の生きる道 (Monaural)
  2. 雪が降る町
  3. これが私の生きる道 (Stereo Karaoke)
  4. 雪が降る町 (Original Karaoke)

With the success of Puffy’s debut CD single “Asian no Junshin” earlier in the year (May 1996), many awaited the second CD single from the female duo who is produced by Tamio Okuda (of UNICORN fame).

Featuring a new CD single with artwork by Rodney A. Greenblat, “Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru Michi” was an instant hit when it was released and earned the duo their first #1 single.

The song had a hint of Beatles and a late 50’s to early 60’s rock sound and had a catchy melody plus a lively music video featuring the duo in Japan and the United States filmed for their first video “Run! Puffy! Run!”.

The coupling track “Yuki Ga Furu Machi” is a cover of the UNICORN hit but at a slower pace and features a synth/experimental background with the electronic drumbeats.

The final remaining tracks are the karoke instrumentals withthe  “Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru Michi” receiving a stereo version of the music.

As for inside the CD insert, all that is included are the lyrics and production credits and the CD singles are the Japanese mini-CD singles.

Overall, the CD single is quite solid and easily one of my favorite tracks to listen to on my CD player at the moment.

PUFFY – amiyumi (a J!-ENT World Groove Album Review)

August 19, 1996 by · Leave a Comment 

“The debut album of the female duo PUFFY produced by Unicorn’s Tamio Okuda.  Overall, a decent mini-album featuring their big hit ‘Asia no Junshin’.”

Purchase this album:

amiyumi / Puffy
Puffy

GROUP: PUFFY

ALBUM: amiyumi

LABEL: Epic/Sony Records

CATALOG #: ESCB-1722

DURATION: 30:57

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 1996

  1. とくするからだ
  2. ウサギチャンネル
  3. サクラサク
  4. Simple
  5. アジアの純真
  6. パフィーのHey!Mountain

I can remember when I first saw Puffy members Yumi Yoshimura and Ami Onuki performing on a Japanese music show and what caught my attention was that they were not of the norm in terms of female Japanese performers.

These girls sported sneakers, t-shirts and jeans and also puffy hair. Needless to say, they easily distinguished themselves from other Japanese music groups.

So, I had to make a call to a friend in Japan and get the lowdown on Puffy and their music and several days later, I have the duo’s first (mini) album in my hands.  “amiyumi” contains seven songs and one of those songs is their big hit and debut single “Asia no Junshin”.

The album kicks off with the Okuda-esque track “Tokusurukarada”.  A song that translates into “advantage body” which is a fun, enjoyable rock track.

The second track is titled “Usagi Channel” and features a song written and sung by Ami.  A slow-tempo, acoustic and electric guitar driven track.  Pretty cool song.

The third track “Sakurasaku” which means “Blossom Blue” and a song with a country music kind of sound.  While the fourth track “Simple” is a rock-driven track along the same lines as “Tokusurkarada”.

The fifth track “Naga iki Shite ne” is a song written and sung by Yumi.  A slower tempo track which is bass guitar driven.

The sixth track “Asia no Junshin” is the duo’s first CD single and literally a very popular, catchy song.  Some may call it Okuda genius but for the most part, the song is pretty cool and really doesn’t make any sense if you are listening into the lyrics.

The final track “Puffy no Hey! Mountain!” has a classic 80’s rock flavor.  Slower tempo but a pretty cool track.

The CD booklet features photos of Puffy and contains the lyrics to the songs on the album.

For the most part, I would imagine that “amiyumi” was an album created in order to showcase the various musical styles that we can expect from Puffy.  Rock, country, pop…

Overall, the album is OK, not the greatest if you are expecting tracks to be similar to “Asia no Junshin”.  But I do think that perhaps that these women have more to give musically but with only one single in their belt for now, I definitely look forward to their second single and hearing more from this group.

Purchase this album:

amiyumi / Puffy
Puffy

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