Translation: Tsubaki Factory Speaks: Analyzing each member, and what is the true nature of Tsubaki?
Tsubaki Factory Speaks: Analyzing each member, and what is the true nature of Tsubaki?
Daishi "DA" Ato ｜2021/11/24 18:00
Translation by Lurkette
Requested by Nayok-Kihara
Tsubaki Factory: From left, Kasai Yuumi, Akiyama Mao, Kishimoto Yumeno, Fukuda Marine (Photo by Rika Tomomatsu)
Tsubaki Factory has released a new triple A-side single, "Namida no Heroine Kouban Geki/Garakuta DIAMOND/Yakusoku Renraku Kinenbi." The new songs are the first to feature new members Kasai Yuumi, Yagi Shiori, Fukuda Marine, and Yofuu Runo, and they are blowing in a new wind to the group with their dainty expressions.
This is Tsubaki Factory's first appearance in Rolling Stone Japan, and our interview with members Kishimoto Yumeno, Akiyama Mao, Kasai Yuumi, and Fukuda Marine seeks to discover the essence of the group. They took their time and gave considerable thought to answering our questions on the day of the interview, and as a result, I believe this article will be the entry point for many new listeners who take an interest in these girls. I hope you'll take the time to read it.
―First of all, some outrageously talented new members have joined the group, haven't they?
Kishimoto Yumeno: But really, though! When the new member audition was happening, we in the group were talking about how we wanted such impressive girls to join us.
Akiyama Mao: Yeah.
Kishimoto: I would have been most happy if the girls who joined were so good that I'd be okay we broke up our existing solo parts for the new members, or even if my singing parts went to zero for them, and that really has happened. The four of them have so much potential that I can't wait for them to show it, which is so nice.
Akiyama: When we first met them, they were all very quiet, and I wondered if they didn't have much of a voice, but then when I heard them sing in rehearsals, it was like, "You can sing like THAT?!" Three of them joined via the general audition, but I wanted to know where they learned how to sing like that so that I could learn how, too! It lit a fire under me, because I have to work harder to keep up with them.
―So then, would you say that the group has been revitalized?
Kishimoto: Tsubaki Factory hasn't had any new members since the beginning, so I think, for better or for worse, we compromised on some things, like we didn't see each other as rivals anymore. But now with these girls joining us, I think we've all gotten fired up.
―But the two new members who are here are politely shaking their heads at your praise.
Kishimoto & Akiyama: Ahaha!
Kasai Yuumi: I'm really happy that my seniors think so kindly of me, but the new members also want to grow in our singing and dancing so that we can compete with them, so I want to work hard to keep up with everyone.
Fukuda Marine: I'm also very glad that they see us new members that way, and I'm going to strive to be someone with enough ability to elevate the whole group.
―Being good at singing naturally means you have a pleasant voice, yes?
Kishimoto: All four of them have amazing voices. It's kind of hard to put into words, but they sound trendy? Modern? Each of them could be a professional singer in their own right, and that alone raises the level of the music. In terms of the current single, "Namida no Heroine Kouban Geki" has a Western kind of melody, and they have voices that can keep up with that for a nice approach to the song. I don't think we've had any song like it before in Tsubaki Factory, and normally I don't think most groups sing such a mature song when they get new members, do they? I think it's incredible.
―Certainly. How do you feel, Akiyama?
Akiyama: When I heard the finished version of the song with the 4 new members, my first thought was, "Huh!? Whose voice is this?" I don't think I've ever been quite as surprised as I was with how they express themselves.
Daring born from the delicate
―To the new members, what did you pay particular attention to when recording this single?
Kasai: "Namida no Heroine Kouban Geki" is a very stylish song, so I paid attention to the rhythm to sing it just as stylishly. I also struggled at first to get the pitch right, so I tried my best to get it right.
Fukuda: I feel like each of the three songs is about three different women, so I practiced singing in slightly different ways to match my image of who those women were.
―Who were those women, to explain it simply?
Fukuda: Well, um... first, in "Yakusoku Renraku Kinenbi," I could see someone who is a little serious, as she takes seriously promises and communication and anniversaries, as the title references. The protagonist of "Garukata DIAMOND" is perhaps a bit more fragile, so I tried to sing more gently. In "Namida no Heroine Kouban Geki," I see a woman who is trying to move forward, so I was conscientious of singing cheerfully so that people listening could feel more positive.
―How do the rest of you feel about her interpretation?
Kishimoto: It's perfect. I didn't mull over the songs to that extent when I did my first recording, so I honestly think it's amazing. I respect it.
―When I heard this single, I felt like the most important part was the delicate presentation.
Akiyama: When I heard the new members sing, I thought they did great with their breathing at the end of phrases and expressing how heartrending the song is. Personally, I pay too much attention to pitch and such, so it's awesome that they could catch onto the emotion of the song like they did.
Kishimoto: I think, compared to before, I didn't hold anything back from the cameramen or other staff when we filmed the music videos. I gave it everything I had.
―Were you embarrassed of anything before?
Kishimoto: I think it was more that I would think, "I should do this make this kind of face," or, "Maybe I should move my hand like this here," rather than throwing myself into the song. Maybe more, "I hope if I move this way they'll use this footage?" (laughs) But I realized that it's better to express what the song is saying instead of thinking that way.
Kishimoto: I think the protagonist of "Yakusoku Renraku Kinenbi" is the furthest away from who I am, personally, but I completely became her in the music video shoot, to the extent that I almost started crying. I would have been too embarrassed to do that before, but now I can give 100% to my facial expressions.
―I watched all three music videos, and all of you had wonderful looks. They give a deeper meaning to the songs.
Akiyama: We also got comments from the fans about it, like, "You've gotten better with your eyes," and, "It's the first time I've seen you look this way." I've been the youngest in the group up until now, so when I was told that I changed my expressions in becoming a senior member, I was happy even though I didn't realize it myself.
Results born from line distribution
―Going back to the songs, I believe each of you sing the entire song during the recording. As new members, were either of you surprised at being assigned such important lines?
Kasai: I did the recording for "Garukata DIAMOND" first, and I did my best while asking for lots of advice, so while I was surprised I got the opening part, I was also really happy. But because it's such an important part, I have to get even better to be able to sing it live.
Fukuda: I got parts in each song that I really like, personally. Though, they ended up using different takes than I thought were the best ones, so I had a different understanding of the feel of the song. I hope I can try different singing styles in the future.
―There are very short line distributions this time, which seems like they'd be difficult to perform live. Is singing such small lines actually quite hard?
Kishimoto: There are 10 solos in the A melody of "Yakusoku Renraku Kinenbi," almost like a song relay, a feeling relay, and so the members all have be on the same wavelength. My part comes after Marine's very charming voice, so I'll be very tense listening for her on stand-by.
Akiyama: And then there's the last part.
Kishimoto: Right, at that point each of the new members sing one phrase, and then the seven senior members sing one word each.
Akiyama: Getting the intervals right is so hard.
Kishimoto: For sure.
Akiyama: I don't really get single word solo parts, but my line is 'doremo,' which comes in like bam! It's really hard to time it right.
―A thorough rehearsal will be important.
Kishimoto: We practiced the rhythm a ton before Budokan, together with a director and a metronome.
―Doesn't that make the hurdle even higher for the new members?
Kasai: I was so nervous before the Budokan concert, because I wasn't getting the timing right, and I didn't know how to appeal to the audience with such a short phrase or how to express the song right.
Kishimoto & Akiyama: Wow~.
Fukuda: The new members sing one after another in the first A melody of "Garukata Diamond," and I'm not good at singing, and compared to the other three I don't have much power of expression, either...
―I'm sorry, but what are you talking about!?
Fukuda: No, sorry! Honestly, really... That's how I feel, so I practiced my expressions a lot to be able to be charming during such a short part, and that's what I was most nervous about. I also have a solo part in the chorus of the other two songs, but I have the same part in the intro to the first chorus and I worried that I would make the song boring if I didn't mix up my expressions, so it was difficult.
Kishimoto: It's a wonderful part. At the start of the chorus of "Namida no Heroine Kouban Geki" the first part is Yagi Shiori and then it's Marine, but the fans seem to have picked up more on Shiori. That's maybe because Shiori comes in with a lot of energy, and I think that's powerful in getting the fans into the song, but Marine sings it like she's keeping a secret, so it's like light and shadow, the sun and the moon, which I think is an awesome way of presenting it.
Self-evaluation of the two new members
―That's a great explanation! Now, I'm going to ask you some questions that you've been asked to prepare a response for ahead of time. First, Tsubaki Factory is comprised of three things: song, dance, and what else? Then, weigh each of those factors by what percentage of importance they hold, out of 10 points. I think between the four of you, we will arrive at an answer for what Tsubaki Factory is. Are you ready?
Kishimoto: I wonder if anyone stole someone else's answers?
Akiyama: I think they might have.
―We'll start with Kasai.
Kasai: Okay. Song=3, dance=3, food=4.
Kishimoto & Akiyama: Food=4! (laughs)
Kishimoto: She's not wrong! (laughs)
Akiyama: It's still surprising! (laughs)
―(laughs) So, why did you give food 4 points?
Kasai: Right, I love eating meals with my Tsubaki Factory seniors and generation mates, and we even have bento contests. I take my time preparing them and then bring them in and there's practically nothing left afterward.
Kishimoto: I think there was only one item that had any leftovers (laughs).
Kasai: That's how much we like to eat, and the snacks in the dressing room are first come, first serve, so there are a lot of times when the ones I wanted were already gone.
―I understand, but you ranked it higher than singing and dancing.
Kasai: That's because the members, including my seniors, are all at their cutest when taking big bites from a bento, so it gets an extra point.
―Akiyama is pointing at Kishimoto while you say that.
Akiyama: Kishimoto is the top level of annoying eating in the group. At first, she was much gentler, but now she does not care about the new members at all and takes whatever she wants, and she's the first person to claim which bento she wants, so I end up with fried chicken every single time.
Kishimoto: I wait in the hallway for the bento. And I do let the other members know which one I want to eat.
Kishimoto: Like, "Lunch is here~." If I think about it, though, 90% of the time the members are talking about food.
―I see (laughs). Why did you give song and dance 3 points each?
Kasai: A lot of the new members don't have much dance experience, but the senior members came in even on their day off to help us rehearse for Budokan. I made them equal because we have senior members both who are good at dancing and who are good at singing.
―Do you think that they're at the same level for you, personally?
Kasai: I did cheerleading before, so personally it's dance at 4, singing at 2.
―Understood. Next, Fukuda.
Fukuda: Yes, song=3, dance=4, docility=4.
Akiyama: That's the first time I've heard that word (laughs).
―(laughs) So above song and dance is meekness.
Fukuda: Yes. From the first time I met my seniors in Tsubaki Factory, I felt that the group had a vibe of gentle and peace, but the group also has many different kinds of songs and they sing the songs to match the different women in each one, so I thought they were all very flexible in terms of the music. That's how I came to docility.
―They do seem docile.
Kishimoto: She's so smart.
Akiyama: So smart!
Kishimoto: I don't think we've ever used the word 'docility' before. We've been using 'chameleon' to describe ourselves.
Akiyama: For sure. I want her to speak for all of us from now on (laughs).
―Fukuda, you also put song and dance at 3.
Fukuda: Yes. I have similar reasons to (Kasai) Yuumi, but I think the group has a lot of balance between seniors who are good at dance and seniors who are good at singing, so they both got 3.
To aim higher than expressive dance
―Both of you have assigned more value to things outside of performance or what you can see on the surface, so is that more important for the group as a whole?
Kasai: There was a show for BS Sukapa! called "Ikuze! Tsubaki Factory," but the senior members are the exact same people in the dressing room that you see on the show, and everyone gets along. It is a group with powerful expressions, so that did appeal to me at first, but beyond that, I understood how people are drawn to everyone's individual personalities. We do also put effort into things you can't see, which I think is cool.
―Are those things that aren't surface-level things that you could see on stage?
Fukuda: I felt it at the Budokan concert. During the performances, there were lots of moments when I would make eye contact with the senior members, and they'd flash a bright smile at me and it would melt away all my nerves. I felt the warmth of the group in those moments.
―How do you feel about that?
Kishimoto: It's amazing that she sees the group this way. Maybe I'm being modest, but I think as a group, Tsubaki Factory would evaluate itself very poorly. I think it could be higher individually, like Tsubaki's Yuumi, Tsubaki's Marine. They've spoken a lot about the "senior members," but I view both highly, about even. They're business partners in our performances, like they can do the job without a hierarchy.
Kasai & Fukuda: (shrinking back) Thank you...
Kishimoto & Akiyama: Ahahahaha!
―Moving on, Akiyama's answers.
Akiyama: Okay, song=3, dance=3, expressions=4.
Akiyama: Expressions are something I've been thinking about lately. Of course, precision in dance or pitch and rhythm in singing are important, but I think expressing a feeling with your body has much more impact. I think even if you lost the rhythm, you don't have just the song, you can still see people showing their emotions and it entices people, so that seems like the most important thing. Like, I start to cry every time I hear Kishimoto Yumeno sing. I want to be able to show emotion like that, too, so I put it at 4.
―I'm surprised you put dance at 3 since you are so good at it.
Akiyama: Before, I felt like no one loved dance more than me, that I was happy where I was with dancing, but this is a job where you need both singing and dancing skill, and we do have several members who are really good at singing, which makes me more competitive with it. I really want people to like my singing, too, to the extent that lately I haven't been dancing very much (laughs).
―Is that so?
Akiyama: If I'm bad at something I tend to dislike it, so I'm trying now to think of it as fun, instead.
―Do you mean that because you're in Tsubaki Factory, you've realized that dance isn't as important as you thought?
Akiyama: No, dance is what made me get better at expressions, or made expressing myself easier. I could always do it, so to go even further, I want to be someone who can be charming with every single move I make.
Akiyama Mao (Photo by Rika Tomomatsu)
―That's why expression=4.
Akiyama: Yes, that's right.
―I can see how you're looking to take your next steps, hearing that.
Akiyama: I feel like I'm looking ahead more than I used to.
―Did that happen naturally?
Akiyama: The other members might have had the biggest influence on me. They've encouraged my singing more than dancing, because I'll get chills in rehearsal, or get goosebumps when Kishimoto ad-libs during performances, and I want to be that way, too. That's why I want to work harder at singing.
"It's because we are individuals that we can express so many kinds of songs" (Kishimoto)
―What do you think about that?
Kishimoto: For someone like Akiyama Mao, who grew up dancing and was seen as the face of dance for Tsubaki, to split her values like that makes me realize how grown up she is, she's really thinking about the group. It's not about her personal best area, she's one member of a group that chooses to learn everything to be expressive, which I think is so cool.
Akiyama: ...I'm so happy.
Akiyama: I'll do my best!
―You're wearing a mask so I can only see your eyes, but I can tell you're grinning.
Akiyama: I'm smiling so hard! My cheek muscles really hurt (laughs).
―Ahaha! Last up, Kishimoto, your answers, please.
Kishimoto: I actually thought of two different rankings, one for my ideal, how I want things to be, and one for how we are currently.
―Okay, let's start with your current evaluation.
Kishimoto: Currently, it's song=2, dance=1, personality=7.
Kishimoto: Yes. Fans have started to praise our singing more, but I still don't think we're good enough at it. Also, dance has so much focus in our current generation so there are many groups and artists who emphasize it in their performances, and if I think about it in that context of the overall level of dance going up, our level seems kind of low. I'm not particularly good at dance and I feel bad because I wonder if Maopin (Akiyama) isn't fully expressing her own dance skills in Tsubaki Factory, so I need to try to catch up to everyone else.
Akiyama: No way.
Kishimoto: Tsubaki Factory was not the most in-demand group in Hello!Project for performances, not until the new members joined, at least. If anything, I'd say that a large portion of our fans are people who enjoyed our personalities and character and then happened to hear our music because of that. I want to rate singing and dancing higher, honestly, but it's because we have our quirks that we can present so many different kinds of songs. I think it's different than being good at singing; we have members who can sing in a super cute voice for songs that need that, and we've been able to express our personalities through sadness and rock and emotional songs, so I gave personality the highest number of points.
Kishimoto Yumeno (Photo by Rika Tomomatsu)
―What do you think of her explanation?
Akiyama: I absolutely agree. I do think that is our current reality.
―Then, your ideal ranking.
Kishimoto: My ideal would be song=4, dance=4, personality=2.
Kishimoto: Assuming that our personalities don't go away, it means I hope our singing and dancing can surpass that element. Dance is hot right now, but I don't want to imitate K-pop because it's popular. I think we just have to all keep raising the level of our singing and dancing.
Akiyama: I always hope that we can be a group with strong song and dance performances, as an ideal. We have so many things we can still do, and I have lots of days when I'm tired and don't feel like doing anything, but I don't want to give up and so I'm going to more seriously try to be stronger than I am in those moments.
The strength of the "chameleon"
―New members have joined, you had your first concert at Budokan, you released new music with the new lineup, which suggests that you're thinking about the future. Where do you want to go from here?
Kishimoto: Where do I want to go...
Akiyama: Let me think...
Kishimoto: I want more people to know about Tsubaki Factory, and I'm always trying to get more people to like the group, but I think we don't have to be the best singers or dancers to get people to like us. I want each of the members to show off their own personalities, whether it's speaking somewhere or writing in an article. That said, I don't want our performances to be lacking even if we have strong character, and I don't want people to get tired of hearing us talk because they'd rather see the singing or dancing. I hope Tsubaki Factory can expand in all areas.
―So, you want to perfect the basics, and then acquire the ability to show off everyone's personalities in different ways.
Kishimoto: That's right. I'm one of the older members of the group, so I think I might be one to leave with new members coming in, but I myself want to make the group one that can last a long time.
Kasai: I feel similar to Kishimoto. I want everyone to develop their own strengths, with singing and dancing at the core, and then we can work individually in different areas to become a group with lots of appeal. I also want to do another concert at Budokan, or even a stage bigger than that, now that I've performed there.
Kasai Yuumi (Photo by Rika Tomomatsu)
―In saying you want to show off your personalities more, to put it another way, you're saying that you still aren't as good at expressing those personalities yet, yes?
Kishimoto: You can see each of us trying to express ourselves a little through social media, but we're not currently spreading the word well that way, so I think we each have to explore what we like about ourselves more.
―Summing up what we've talking about today, what exactly is Tsubaki Factory?
Kishimoto: Tsubaki Factory is a group with no set color, in a good way, and people see a Tsubaki Factory-style in our music and costumes, but what defines that depends on the person. I think you can see a new Tsubaki Factory in our new songs, because they're genres we haven't done until now, but that doesn't mean we're moving on to something different, but that we're gaining more experience in our expressions. I think Tsubaki can be any color it wants because we have no set color.
Akiyama: Our members have such distinct personalities, where two girls could have completely different ways of expressing themselves, so I hope that we can show every kind of mood.
―That sounds like the 'chameleon' mentioned earlier.
Kishimoto: Right. We have 12 different colors, which means that each member is the leader of her own hue. Girls who are super cute with their entire bodies, girls who pull you in with emotion, girls who are really cool... We have a varied group.
―What do you think about what your seniors have said?
Fukuda: We all had different answers for what Tsubaki Factory is made of, which to me says that we are a group that can aim for any goal we want, and we can get there no matter what route we take.
Fukuda Marine (Photo by Rika Tomomatsu)
―What a wonderful summary.
Kishimoto: She's so good with words!
From left, Kasai Yuumi, Akiyama Mao, Kishimoto Yumeno, Fukuda Marine (Photo by Rika Tomomatsu)