Wednesday, October 17, 2012

heidi. – Anime Weekend Atlanta 2012


Thinking of heidi., the first thought is always of the quality of their music, the excellence of their live performances, but in addition to that, the personalities of the band members. “Genuine” seems to be a word that’s often used to describe them, and we believe it truly fits. Please enjoy this article covering heidi’s activities at Anime Weekend Atlanta 18.

[tab:Friday, September 28th]

heidi. was welcomed into the room with an enthusiastic round of applause at the start of their first panel during Anime Weekend Atlanta. Accompanied by translators YAZ and Jeff, after a brief introduction of the band members, “An Hour with Heidi.” was underway.

Beginning with a Q&A session, one fan chose a very befitting first question to start things off. How did they come up with the band name ‘heidi.’? to which Nao answered that it was a name that they all came up with. They weren’t sure how the name Heidi is perceived in the States, but in Japan they felt it was a name that’s easy to remember and has impact; aside from that, the decision didn’t hold any deep meaning.

That question was followed by another concerning how it felt to be “such a strong angura kei band.” Yoshihiko’s response; they’ve played with many bands in the past six years, playing everywhere, even overseas. They played everywhere they could and they felt that that experience is what allowed them to become strong and what they are today.

At this point, YAZ asks how many of us, the audience, were visual kei fans and asked what some of our favorite bands are. Names that popped up throughout the room were bands such as the GazettE, LM.C, D, Deluhi, Girugamesh, and lynch among several others. YAZ then asked how many of us knew heidi. prior to the convention and how we came to know of the band. The response varied from Youtube, anime, livedoor and more.

From there YAZ expressed her trouble in pronouncing the band’s name, questioning if it was pronounced “Heidi” or “Haiji.” Once confirmed as the latter, she and audience took a moment to practice, the echoes of failed attempts resulting in giggles. A very funny moment was when she shared a problem that heidi. fans are all too familiar with; “I don’t know how many of you guys have googled heidi. and it comes out Heidi Klum. Once the laughter subsided, we returned to the Q&A.

Why do they put the period at the end of the band’s name?” It seemed a difficult question to answer, as it was very deep in meaning. They felt that the period would complete it and end the statement. While on the subject they also answered why the band’s name is written in lowercase letters. That too was difficult to answer, but it was the inspiration and feeling they had at the time and what they wanted to go with… Kohsuke then added “It could have been the beer.

Who are your favorite bands to tour with?” the next fan asked. Kohsuke answered Girugamesh. Kiri’s answer was lynch. and Sadie. Yoshihiko commented on how they’ve toured with a lot of bands, yet he has problems making friends, (This comment initiated a symphony of “Awww’s”) and expressed how he wanted to be friends with all of us in the audience. Nao agreed with all of the aforementioned and added that he personally got along great with Vidoll, who have now disbanded.

Is this your first time performing in the US and what is your first impression of being here?” another fan questioned. Kiri’s response was that this is their second time in the US, the first being in Anaheim (in 2011 during year one of AM2) and expressed that the feeling they got while performing in the US was different than in Japan, stating that the reaction that he got back from the fans was completely different, and phenomenal.

Next followed a question about what their favorite food was.  Nao answered with ramen, while Yoshihiko answered steak. Kohsuke said he liked fried chicken, and asked the audience if fried chicken was popular here; the resulting applause and whooping cheers confirmed his curiosity; here in the South, fried chicken is king. Kiri was the last to answer, stating that he enjoys curry rice.

Then came a question that’s commonly heard during these panels, as it’s always of great interest to the fans, and naturally very appropriate given the location. “What are your favorite animes?” Kiri watches a lot of anime and said that he’s a fan of K-ON! and he was excited because he ran into people cosplaying some of the characters. Kohsuke is a fan of the animes spawning from Shonen Jump manga such and Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece, similarly to Kiri, he said that characters from each of those shows could be found right outside of the panel room. Yoshihiko is a fan of Another (And Mirai Nikki as well, when a member of the audience asked.) Nao followed up with yet another fan favorite, Dragon Ball.

What’s your favorite song?” was next up. Kiri was the first to answer, saying that while he has many favorites, he had to choose Yokan. He said that this song, the ending theme for the Kaichou wa Maid-sama! Anime, gave them the opportunity to come overseas and meet their fans, which is something that he really appreciates and is very important to him. Kohsuke also felt that it was hard to decide, but expressed that he really likes Landscape, a song from their new album Alpha. Yoshihiko chose Gekkou Show Time, saying that it feels great performing the song live; he loves the way it makes him feel and the response it gets from the crowd. Nao chose Orange Drama as his current favorite, stating that he feels it truly fits the season perfectly.

At this point there was a brief intermission where YAZ played heidi.’s promotional video for Landscape for fans who were new to the band and their music.

The Q&A panel then continued with a curious fan enquiring as to why they were a four member band, rather than five, as is very common among visual kei bands. Nao answered this question, stating as the only guitarist of the band, for him, sometimes having another guy playing the guitar ‘kind of gets in the way.’ He also mentioned that he likes the way they look on stage, explaining how the Japanese kanji for “Four” has a square-like shape and that they can line themselves up in that way and it looks and feels really nice. Despite all of those reasons, he humorously admitted that sometimes when he’s playing guitar he kind of wishes there was another guy there.

The next question was about who some of their favorite foreign bands are. Kiri answered first with Linkin Park, to which Kohsuke also agreed. Yoshihiko wasn’t so sure, so instead he asked for the audience to recommend some bands that he should listen to. Some of the responses from the crowd included Mindless Self Indulgence, Marilyn Manson, and KISS. Nao’s response, I regrettably didn’t catch. (If any of you readers happened to be at the panel and know his answer, please leave a comment!)

From there, a fan asked who is primarily the song-writer of the band and asked to know a bit about their song-writing process. Yoshihiko answered that each of them will contribute, all of them going home to write songs on their computers. When they get back together they listen to everything, talk about it and get each other’s input to really collaborate on which songs that they want to develop further into something that the band will pursue.

The next question was about if the members of the band hang out together outside of work. Kohsuke answered that they get along great and usually run off together after work to have fun.

Again YAZ asked the crowd a question, asking how the fans viewed heidi. among other visual kei bands. Some of the responded ranged from “down to earth”, “underground” and “in touch with the scene.” After translating this, YAZ shared her own story, saying that heidi. is under the same management as hide of X-Japan, explaining that this was how she came to know the band. When she saw their live show for the first time during a festival she was blown away by their energy. She said that she hoped we’d all have that same experience on Saturday. As she put it, they are THE live band; their music being melodic and easy to sing along to.

The mention of hide seemed to spur the next question in which a fan asked if Nao plays in a similar style to hide. Nao explained that while of course he really looks up to hide as an artist and has been very inspired by his work throughout his career, when it comes down to actual style in which they play, its different.

Taking a step back in history, a member of the audience asked what brought heidi. together. Yoshiko answered, saying that originally it was Nao, Kohsuke and Kiri who were together, looking for a vocalist. After spending almost a year or more searching, Yoshihiko joined and they formed as heidi. He said that during that time while the three of them were searching they wrote songs and used their time wisely so that when they finally did find their vocalist they could move forward immediately.

Jumping forward into the future, a fan asked what song they were most looking forward to performing on Saturday. Kohsuke answered with Utakata was what they were most looking forward to, they really enjoy playing it because of the feeling that it provokes for them.

And with that “An Hour with Heidi” drew to a close with a final announcement from YAZ informing everyone of heidi.’s schedule for the next two days. With a final round of applause and a “see you” from Kohsuke, heidi. exited the room leaving the audience to chatter among themselves about what was yet to come.

[tab:Saturday, September 29th]

On the heels of an exhilarating performances of Eyeshine and heidi. fans slowly staggered and disbursed from the concert hall, some exhausted, some still hyped on adrenaline, but all of them undoubtedly satisfied with the performance. Hands down, both bands impressed. You can read Visual KEIOS’ reports of heidi.'s live concert over HERE.

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[tab:Sunday, September 30th]

You could plainly see that heidi. had gained a stronger following after their performance, their panel was filling up with fans eager to learn more about the four enigmatic musicians. Sunday’s panel carried a similar atmosphere, fun yet relaxed, but I think on this, the last day of the convention, there was a heightened level of enthusiasm from the attendees. They were very eager to ask questions and take in the bands every word, they were eager to express themselves to the heidi. knowing that this would be their last opportunity to do so. The slightly timid tension and tentative curiosity of Friday was gone. I think that can also be accredited to heidi.’s warm personalities; throughout the weekend they showed fans that they were gracious, approachable individuals without pretense who were every bit as eager to interact with everyone. The attentive fans gave a symphony of applause in return to the bands every response throughout this hour-long panel full of laughter and high spirits.

With a wild round of applause heidi. was welcomed into the room for their second and last panel of the weekend. “Happy, happy, I am happy.” were Kohsuke’s words as the band sat down to a much larger crowd buzzing with energy.

To begin, Yaz asked what everyone thought of last night’s concert. This was met with a round whooping cheers before YAZ welcomed members of the audience to raise their hand if this was their first time to see heidi. live; almost everyone in the room raised their hand. She asked if their performance met our expectations and in response the room overflowed with tremendously loud cheers, shrill cries, clapping and excited foot stomping, spurring Kohsuke to repeat himself, “Happy, happy, I am happy.”

From there fans were again welcomed to raise their hand, this time to express their feelings more in depth, one by one. One woman quickly raised her and confessed that during last night’s concert she fell in love with Kiri “he was so into it and had so much energy. I was very glad” to which Kiri sweetly replied “Thank you, I love you” – naturally such a sweet response resulted squeals and cheers.

The next person “I feel like they really managed to convey what they wanted to say through their music to us and you guys really just – we really didn’t have to understand you or your language to know what you were trying to sing to us and that’s exactly what we wanted to feel at a concert. It was perfect.” The cheers that followed proved just how much everyone agreed.

I was really happy when I heard – I think it was from the anime Kaichou wa Maid-sama!; when I heard you guys sing the first ending theme to it, I sang every single word.” Following this another fan who enjoyed the show wanted to know where to get their CD. By this point in the convention, it was already sold out, but YAZ recommended Amazon, CDJapan, or itunes Japan… but she warned “Don’t go to Heidi Klum.” When the laughter subsided, YAZ recommended her favorite album by heidi., Panorama, which they released in 2009.  She expressed their hope that they could release it in the US, but said that they needed our support to make it happen.

The next fan to speak stated that even though they didn’t play her favorite song, she still loved the concert. While unfortunately I didn’t catch the title of what her favorite song was, but Kohsuke said that it was Kiri really likes that song too.

From there an unexpected but very funny intermission occurred as Kohsuke did a quick sound check with a temperamental microphone, but when the panel resumed there were more glowing words for heidi. “Yesterday, I love how into the music they were and Yoshihiko really seemed like he was taken in – possessed by the music.” to which Yoshihiko thanked her, stating that it made him really happy to hear this. Because it was a long trip to get here, so it was really rewarding to hear her say that, making it all worthwhile. He said it meant a lot to him; encouraging him to work harder and come back. The mention of ‘coming back’ spurred on a lengthy round of applause.

Next from a fan who had never seen heidi. live before, but being familiar with a lot of JRock bands she held high expectations, knowing the quality of music that comes out of Japan “They were so amazing because every time we gave energy to them they gave it back.” This two was met with applause of agreement as she continued on describe how everyone was chanting ‘Encore, Encore!’ “There was this one moment where I knew my throat was giving out but I was like ‘Just please come back on stage, just one more song.’ And they gave it to us and that was the greatest feeling.” Again the crown expressed how much they agreed.

Once those feelings had been translated to the band, YAZ told us how much heidi. had a great time, an amazing live and how much they want to do another live show again soon. YAZ could barely complete her sentence before the vivaciously loud of applause drowned out any and all words, there was no question that everyone was excited by the thought of seeing them again.

From here the Q&A portion truly began as a fan asked the band to recommend their favorite songs from their new album. Nao recommended their ballad Kanata, because he felt it truly captured the essence of the album itself. Yoshihiko’s recommendation was Ao no Sekai, stating that it was a song he really struggled with, with his style of singing, as result it really pushed him and he enjoyed that. He hoped that when you listen to it that you can catch his feelings. For Kohsuke it was Landscape, when they make it he thought it sounded really, really cool. He thinks the reason for that is because it embodies the energy of their band and portrays them best. Kiri’s recommendation was Aware Haijin because he likes the speed of it and the energy that it has. Fast, but a little bit dark, he felt that this was a song that people would really like to hear in the States.

From there a fan was eager to know when they would return to the US, and if there was chance of them coming to Anime Weekend Atlanta next year. Of course this was met with applause and hope to which YAZ answered that it was up to us, the fans, to make it happen by letting it be known just how we feel and just how much we want them back.

When the applause again subsided the next person raised their hand. A former singer shared her story. “I stopped singing because my voice when out. Is there any trick that you do to keep your voice strong?” Yoshihiko shared his own story saying that in the beginning he was super careful about what he did, taking a lot of lozenges or medicine for his throat and doing a lot of things he thought he should do to care for his voice better. For some particular reason, he wasn’t really sure what it was; possibly the stress of keeping of that kind of routine, but he started realizing that his singing sounded better when he didn’t worry about it so much. Without the stress of “what should I do, should I do this?” So now he doesn’t do much of anything as far as exercises or routine, but the one thing he does do before a concert is to make sure that he gets a lot of rest, so he said that if he were to give one piece of advice, that would be it.

The next question was for Kohsuke, asking how long he has been play the bass and what made him choose the bass instead of a different instrument. He answered that he’s been playing the bass for over ten years now, but admitted that in the beginning he didn’t know the difference between a bass guitar and a regular guitar. He mentioned that he and Nao have known each other since elementary school (this spurred on a collective “Awww” from the audience) and in middle school Nao was playing guitar. One day Kohsuke went up to him and said “What can I play?” and the bass was there, so that was one of the reasons why he first got interested in the bass. But not only that, he also said that he saw J of Luna Sea and said to himself, “I don’t know what that is, but I’m playing it.”

Very soon a hand was raised by the next fan and he asked about the process of making a song for an anime; wanting to know how it differed from making songs for themselves and if doing a theme for an anime actually involved the creation of a new song, or if they used an existing song. Nao answered that the producers of the anime series approached them to make a song that was heidi.-like; something that they would make, for this particular anime. This was around the time of their major record debut and it was something they worked hard at to marry the concept of the anime with the sound that represented the band. They created their song hoping that it would make the anime more popular and raise the level of energy for people wanted to watch it.

The next question, though not at all related to anime, certainly raised the level of energy in the room. What’s your favorite type of girl? Nao, the first to answer, displaying smooth charisma, looked right at her and simply said. “You.” Yoshihiko said that he liked the really girlish, cute type but added that it’s kind of hard to top what Nao said. Kohsuke answered that he’s kind of on the hopeless side (queue Awww’s) so he likes somebody that wouldn’t get mad at him. (more Awww’s) Last up was Kiri, and despite Yoshihiko saying that it would be hard to top Nao’s answer, I do believe that Kiri managed. He caused quite a stir stating that because he’s kind of a quiet guy, he’s really attracted to girls who are strong-willed. There was a moment of silence in which you could have heard a pin drop, and then suddenly the room was filled with sound of giggling and escalating applause.

When the flustered bouts of laughter eased, there was an echo of Friday’s panel as a fan asked to know what their favorite anime was. Kiri answered K-on!, Mahou Shojo Madoka and Keroro Gunso. Kohsuke then pointed out that interestingly enough, while Kiri loves Keroro Gunso, in real life he doesn’t like frogs so much… at all. From there he said again that he enjoys One piece, Bleach, and Naruto, also adding that he liked Beelzebub and though he didn’t know if it was very popular here (or what it was called here) he still saw someone at the convention cosplaying as one of the characters, which make him happy. Yoshihiko answered that two animes that really likes are Another and Blue Exorcist. Nao said that he probably speaks for everyone in the band (and maybe everyone in the room) by choosing Dragonball; and naturally that received loud cheers.

The next question was for Nao, asking if it was stressful being the leader of the band. Nao answered that it’s actually really easy and that it’s very simple for them; either you like the band or you don’t, stating that everything falls into place after that, and because of that it’s easy for them.

What you love about being in a band” was then asked by the next fan. Kiri’s answer was concerts; performing is the best part of being in a band. Kohsuke said of course for all of them having the opportunity to play in front of their fans is the most important thing, but he also likes being able to meet different people through the course of being in a band. Those experiences; the things they all encounter as a group, the enrichment of being in a band, and the things he’s exposed to really brings joy to his life - but really to be able to play for a crowd and the exchange of energy is what he loves most. Yoshihiko answered that they are a band, it’s what they are and as such the essence of what they do is to play concerts, so no matter what happens from here on out all he wants to do is continue playing in front of people. Nao said that they’re in a band to put on concerts, it’s what they love to do. They spend all their time getting ready for it, that one moment, something that they won’t be able to do again, so they really try to but on the best show they can for that day. It’s those experiences that he really enjoys.

Carrying on along the subject of live concerts and ebb and flow of energy the next member of the audience asking if this was something they practiced or had some kind of routine, also asking if was a common thing at their lives. Yoshihiko said that it’s not something that they plan or choreograph, as heidi.’s not really about that kind of thing. But they love to create than kind of atmosphere where they get that kind of response from the audience; something really free and not forced. He added that when you think about it, there are only three things that usually happen at a concert; you yell, you raise your fist, and maybe jump around – so he really wants the audience to enjoy that moment, and he thinks that’s the appeal of heidi.

Following this was an interesting question from an aspiring manga artist who hoped to see his creation soon become an anime. Sharing his story he asked if heidi. would play music for his anime. Their response is that they’re waiting for him to become big and welcome them, they were already looking forward to the collaboration.

Out of all the songs that they’ve made, a fan asked them to choose their favorite. For Nao it was a difficult decision to make, but he mentioned a song that they had performed at last night’s concert; Omaesan, saying that it’s a song that they usually play at their concerts, and a lot of their fans have come to expect it because it’s a song that really captures the essence of what their band is. Yoshihiko said that for him it was Gekkou Show Time, another song that they performed the previous night, as it’s one he loves to sing. He said that as they were playing it yesterday he thought about how much he loved the song, its melody and how much everyone was enjoying it. Kohsuke too chose a song that they played during their concert on Saturday, Utakata, saying that he loves playing this song, no matter how many times they play it he still loves it, always enjoying the exchange that the band has with the fans during this song; they experienced that exchange here in Atlanta as well. For those who weren't familiar with it, he encouraged people to watch it on their YouTube channel, saying that the video for this Utakata was made five years ago, and watching it you’ll see that they look "ridiculously young." In response to this one fan said “You still look young!” and this was met with applause of approval. Lastly, Kiri too chose a song they played last night, Charles. It's a little slow and little dark, he said, and the intro to the song is led by the drums and he felt that it really draws you into the world of the song. He shared that he feels very pure and happy when he’s playing it. Another reason he enjoys Charles is because it was the first song that they played at their first concert, so every time they play it he gets the same feeling from that day. Because of this the song is important to him.

In the next question a curious fan asked to know how the crowd in Atlanta compared to Anaheim’s. To this Kohsuke answered “Atlanta – Number one!” igniting a frenzy of cheers and applause. “You guys are crazy for them.” YAZ said, referring to the crowds obvious love of the band.

For the last question they were asked if they planned to be in any dramas or TV show as actors. Nao answered that they were actually in a movie already; Maebashi Visual Kei, but rather than acting, they performed in the movie.

To bring the panel to a close, the members all took a moment to share a parting comment and say their goodbyes. Kiri began by thanking the audience saying that honestly Atlanta had been the best; it had been the best concert and he really wanted to come back again soon. Kohsuke followed, thanking the audience and saying that they came to the States once before, but the crowd here in Atlanta was a lot more powerful. He said that if we call them, they’ll come back and he really wanted to thank everyone for attending their concert and creating an atmosphere for them that made them want to play more. Yoshihiko then expressed his thanks, reiterating that this was their second time in the US and that their second time was much better than the first, making him really want to come back again and explore more; to travel the US. He added that they’re a band from Japan, singing in Japanese but we understood them and passionately reciprocated to them through our faces and our actions - all of which he felt during the concert. He was looking forward to coming back and showing us all how much they develop from now until then. Nao finished things off thanking the crowd and Atlanta for having them. He said it was like a dream that went by so fast; before he realized it the time was gone. He thanked the audience for allowing them to play for us and ensured us that they were going to work really hard when they returned to Japan to make sure that they’re able to come back to the US. He asked for us to please come out and see them when they do. He added; "I’m so happy, thank you."

With a last round of applause, heidi.'s second and last panel came to an end. Having the opportunity to see the men behind the music firsthand at Anime Weekend Atlanta was a pleasure; it’s made my appreciation of the music, and respect for the band increase ten-fold. I hope they’ll return to America again in the near future.


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This is a companion article to C.Thomas' Anime Weekend Atlanta “Five Attractions” report, which you can read - HERE. This article was written by C.Thomas (Friday's Panel) and Alicia R. Thomas (Saturday's summary and Sunday's panel)


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