Friday, November 1, 2013

Interview with bless4 at Anime Weekend Atlanta

bless4_AWA__by_ARThomas (6)

Sunday, September 29th at Anime Weekend Atlanta. Still in great spirits from their live on Saturday, my mom and I had the joy of sitting down with bless4. With their bright smiles and earnest personalities, they gave me an in-depth look at what bless4 is all about.


VKEIOS: First off can we begin with an introduction?

KANASA: We’re a sibling chorus dance group called bless4!

AKASHI: My name is AKASHI, I'm the oldest.

KANASA: I come second, I’m KANASA.

AKINO: And I come third, I’m AKINO.

AIKI: And I’m the youngest, I’m AIKI. Nice to meet you!

VKEIOS: Nice to meet you!So this is your 10th year anniversary since your major debut, could you tell us the kind of feelings that come with celebrating such an important hallmark?

KANASA: I’m sure you can imagine, but when we started we were all ten years younger than we are right now. AIKI was eleven right?

AIKI: I was eleven when we first started, yeah.

KANASA: We were all basically teenagers, and now we’re all in our twenties.

AKASHI: *makes a low humming sound*

KANASA: One person is in their thirties! (laughter) Just the joy of being able to do music for this long and to be able to celebrate it with the people who have been supporting us from day one was just such a wonderful joy for us. Also to be able to come back to the states, being able to perform here and have a party with the audience here at AWA was really fun for us as well.

AKASHI: Ten years has been a long time and there’s a lot of things that have happened but we believe that the start is actually from now. These ten years are sort of like our childhood years. (laughter) We’re trying to mature and become adults, or teenagers, so hopefully people will see us growing up; we’re the same group, but different.

KANASA: Yeah, we’re in our preteen years now, but we don’t plan on getting rebellious! (laughter) 2:00 I think we’re good. We’re adults but just as a group we’re still young.

VKEIOS: Where would you like to go in the next ten years?

AKASHI: We like to perform more all over the world; to be able to share our music with everybody and have fun. If, let’s say, “Let’s Have A PARTY” or any other song that we create in the future, if everybody just dances and sings with us and forgets all their stress to have fun with us - that’s our biggest goal.

AKINO: So to answer your question; anywhere and everywhere! (laughter)

AKASHI: As a group, as bless4 that’s what we want to do. But we also own our own company as a family. In the future of course, when we get married and have kids, we’ll have more bless4′s; (laughter) future generation entertainers and artists. But not just in the family, we want to find people that have talent, to be able to train them and actually produce them. So we’re not just working on ourselves, we’re working on future projects as well.

VKEIOS: Sharing the blessing.

AKASHI: Exactly!

AIKI: We’ve been listening to music our whole lives. Even when we’re old; grandpas and grandmas we’ll still be doing music….  maybe dancing, I’m not sure of that. (laughter)

AKASHI: Maybe we can do folk dancing? (laughter)

AKINO: Oh that seems fun!

AKASHI: Basically we’ll never stop.

Music & Lives

VKEIOS: I really had fun at Saturday’s concert, my mom did too! How do you feel about the level of interaction, I noticed you brought a lot of people on stage, do you do that in Japan as well?

AKASHI: That’s one of the things we always try to do; interact with the audience, it’s a lot of fun.

AKINO: We really had fun yesterday, we didn’t know how the audience would react since it was our first time coming to Atlanta, Georgia. To our surprise they were much more energetic, there were people that knew the dance, singing and doing “Around and Around” together. It really touched our hearts. Like AKASHI we really like Dragon Ball and were doing the Kamehameha contest.

AKASHI: AIKI did a good job. (laughter) I didn’t know, I was just teasing but he says “We should do it”

AIKI: Of course it’s because we had them (the members of the audience) to do it first that I was able to do it. I’m usually a shy guy, if they hadn’t done it first I probably wouldn’t have done it.

KANASA: We usually don’t do Kamehameha contests (laughs) we usually get the audience to interact with us; use their towels, dance with us, but the day before at the opening ceremonies we saw the Kamehameha competition.

AKASHI: So I just do things all of the sudden sometimes, and they don’t know about it.

KANASA: Pretty spontaneous on stage. But that was really nice.

AKASHI: But our concept recently is that through dance, and through singing, we try to create simple dances and melodies that people can remember right away. Through our dancing, singing and speaking we can interact and become one with everybody, so that we’re performing all together. That’s our new concept right now.

VKEIOS: To talk about creating songs for anime, could you explain the process you went through? Were you approached with a concept or were you asked for an existing song?

AKASHI: It depends on the project. We’ve done a song for “Sousei no Aquarion” and also Stitch; those are the two anime themes that we’ve done so far. About Stitch, basically they talked with us saying “would you make a song for Stitch” and we thought of a melody and lyrics which they liked a lot and used for the ending theme. That’s how that went, but for Sousei no Aquarion…

AKINO: For Sousei no Aquarion, Kanno Yoko-san makes it, someone else writes the lyrics, and we sing it. That’s how it basically goes, but Genesis of Aquarion, Sousei no Aquarion’s English version Kanno Yoko-san asked AKASHI to rearrange the harmony.

AKASHI: Rearrange it into kind of a slow version.

AKINO: And she asked KANASA to translate the lyrics into English. Basically that was the song that we were able to have freedom on. But the other songs that I’ve been doing are the songs that she makes for us.

VKEIOS: In Japan verses in the US what songs do you think draw the best reactions from your audiences?

AKASHI: It depends on the place and the audience. If it’s an anime convention of course Sousei no Aquarion.

All: Tops!

AKASHI: Recently since we’ve made “Let’s Have A PARTY” it doesn’t really matter what audience is watching it, almost everybody – well, it’s kind of hard to say yourself (laughter) - but I believe by watching it from the stage that almost everybody enjoys it.

AIKI: Everywhere we go performing that song it becomes a party.

VKEIOS: Actually in line for autographs the man in front of me was just enthusiastically doing the dance for a good 10 minutes. He was having a great time.

All: Oh wow!

AIKI: That’s great to hear!

AKASHI: Of course we love anime and want to spread the love of anime to world, but at the same time ur goal and our dream is to make sure that we’re also known outside of anime as bless4. They’re both the same, but they’re both different and we want to show that through our music and performances, so Sousei no Aquarion is the anime and “Let’s Have A PARTY” is more us, we want to show the difference between that. We’re not doing it perfectly but I think it’s going pretty well right now.

AIKI: The interactive part of bless4; our name is bless4 and our concept is that if we can give blessing through our music and our dancing and also to receive blessings from the audience. I think by songs like “Let’s Have A PARTY”, having them dance along and that we make this atmosphere where we become one I think that we’re really doing the same as our name; giving blessings, recieving lots of blessings, making this atmosphere, having a fun time; having a party. It’s really amazing how everywhere we go, Japan or here in Atlanta everybody – well, they remember, they got it fast (laughter)

AKINO: Oh they did!

AIKI: So it was really amazing, we had a great time.

AKINO: A lot of people after lives will say “Thank you for coming, thanks for the performance, it was really great” but actually what we feel is “Thank YOU for watching our show, thank you for participating, thank you for your smiles, thank you for dancing with us.” Because of both; because of them, because of us I guess it’s like a catchball. We can feel their energy, that’s when we can receive it and we can carry on to other countries and we’re really grateful for that.

VKEIOS: How much time goes into, say, the production of an album. At Friday’s panel you said that AKINO makes costumes, AIKI does choreography – how much time generally goes into it?

AKASHI: Just to give not the worst case scenario (laughter) we made a second album, on our own record label, it’s called “Yume Tsumugi”, it has songs like “Around and Around” on it. We made that about two or three years ago. It has thirteen song, we wrote all of the music, made the karaokes, we did everything. We also made the promotional video for Yume Tsumugi and that took almost about a year to make that, actually. It took almost all of our time, just to make one album. So we really can’t release an album once a year. We definitely want to make lots more music and the reason that we made "Let’s Have A PARTY" is because we had our 10th year anniversary live. We called the live “Let’s Have A PARTY” and we decided 'we need a song for this' so that’s how "Let’s Have A PARTY" was actually made.

The main thing is the message, usually when you hear let's have a party it’s like stop your work, throw your worries away, let’s have a party. The main message that we want to say is that even if you’re doing something you don’t like, anything that you’re doing, if you enjoy what you’re doing, have a party with what you do then life in general will become a lot more fun. Your job, your family your friends, everything will become a lot more fun. So it’s not throwing everything away, it’s more enjoying what you have and being thankful of what you have.

VKEIOS: That’s a good message, I like that! You made your own label, but what inspired you to do that?

KANASA: First we made our major debut with a regular record label and management company and I guess we just had so many differences and barriers that we faced during the couple of years that we worked with them. So we changed management companies and decided to better our talents. To do what we envisioned best would be to become independent.

We decided to do that in 2006, so we started that and it was really tough at first but as we progressed I guess you could say we got better at what we did and it has brought us to where we are today. Because of the record label/management company that we worked with first we were able to become the people that we are and we’re so grateful for them and the opportunity that they gave us, but we’re also grateful that we were able to become independent and make our own record label.

AKASHI: We wanted to work with family from the very beginning. Basically to create what we want to create it’s kind of hard to work with another company because there are limitations, like she said, so we wanted the freedom to do what we wanted to do. I think it was a good choice because our parents protect us quite a lot. Our mom is always with us wherever we go and dad is doing contracting. Of course, there’s times when it’s tough (laughter) but it’s more blessings than anything.

AKINO: So from the moment that we wake up, to the moment we sleep we’re always together.

All: Basically!

AKASHI: So if she goes on a date, I’m behind her! (laughter)

AKINO: I look backwards and Whooa!! (laughter)

AIKI: Not that bad! Other than that we’re usually together.

AKINO: That would freak me out!

VKEIOS: Speaking of family if it’s okay, I’d like to ask your mom a question?

AKASHI: No problem, yes!

VKEIOS: I wanted to know, over the ten years since their major debut what have been some of the proudest moments for you as you’ve witnessed them growing up? 

Mom: I’m very proud of them because of this business they stick together always. If a problem comes up we all talk together and consult and that’s why we become a stronger family. And also, without us they are really close to each other. That’s our purpose; our main purpose. It doesn’t matter money-wise or anything else. If we’re gone then they can help each other. That makes me really proud.

VKEIOS: That's beautiful, thank you so much! Out of all of your songs, if you had to pick one that represented each of you individually, which would you choose?

AKINO: Hmm, well for me, when I think about that Sousei no Aquarion is really a big… I don’t know, it changed me, because I met with this song when I was 14 and I was really a shy person then. I couldn’t really speak up, I just felt so self-conscious and uncomfortable, but because of this opportunity it really helped me to change.

I was able to meet a lot of good people, Kanno Yoko-san too, she really helped me to believe in myself and believe in the voice I have and I’m so grateful for that opportunity. Because of this a lot of people love our song, they really sing along and whenever I think about it it gives me hope and gives me dreams to really work on and keep going.

AKASHI: KANASA is cheating and looking at the song list on her phone. (laughter) Of course we love all our songs and we spend a lot of time to create and practice them, but usually we kind of love the song that we make the most recently. So in my case I’d have to say "Let’s Have A PARTY" is one of my favorites because it’s kind of like a changing point for us as bless4. It was our 10th year anniversary and we wanted to do something a little bit different.

We usually do more of a strong message song like ‘go for your dreams’ or ‘chase your goals’, it was always positive. "Let’s Have A PARTY" is positive too, it has a message behind it but it’s more of a party tune that you don’t even have to think about. You don’t need to think about the lyrics, you just have fun. Our concept from this time on has changed to more simple dance and melody and when I try to make the music I try to make everybody’s part kind of match each individual voice. Maybe the melody might be a little bit different but I think it came out pretty natural when we made this song, so I feel it was actually meant to be for us at this time. I like it a lot.

(eyes turn to KANASA) (laughter)

AKASHI: Still having a hard time?

KANASA: I don’t know. I guess my never-ending theme will be, we have a song in our album called “I Don’t Know” and I have so many things that I envision and that I want to do, as a group and as well as me personally; just so many dreams and so many things that I take part in that my never-ending theme is “I Don’t Know” It’s a really nice song; it’s a dance song, and it portrays how you feel within yourself at the difficult times in your life. And so… yeah, “I don’t know.” (laughter)

AKINO: It’s a very convenient title!

AIKI: Hmm, I’ve got to say that …

AKINO: Wait, AIKI, aren’t you missing a song? Gekkou Symphonia~!

AIKI: Uh-uh!! (laughter)

AKINO: It’s memorable for him.

AIKI: Well it is memorable in a way. But the songs that I always listen to of our original songs are probably “Let’s Have A PARTY” and “Around and Around”. Of course I like “Let’s Have A PARTY” because it’s our newest song and the beat and the melody; well I just like it, it’s my favorite. And also Around and Around is kind of a sad song, the lyrics are about a couple that’s going to be separated. Just the melody, the sound to it and the lyrics; the way it’s combined is my favorite and… I kinda like sad songs. (laughter) You know when there’s day when you want to just look out the window (laughter) and it’s a cloudy day, you know? I don’t know if it really represents me but I like it a lot.

AKASHI: AIKI wrote the lyrics to it. Basically it’s about, well, we don’t want to decide a story for it, we want people to image more of what it’s like, but basically that things go around and around in a circle. Good things go around and around, but also bad things too. It could be a guy or a lady that meets somebody and would go through even the worst things just to have that one love or meet that one person one more time. That’s basically what the story of "Around and Around" is for. It’s kind of a sad story but we try to make it more bright when we perform it on stage and have everybody get involved so I think that’s fun and the difference is pretty good too.


VKEIOS: Outside of music and dance are there any other artistic avenues that you’d like to pursue?

AKASHI: Yeah, there’s a lot! (laughter)

AIKI: I like to write things and actually I published a book called Heart Prints in 2010. That one is a true story about me and my friend. He passed away when he was 15 years old by drugs; overdosing. It’s a story about him and about our friendship to tell the younger generation how dangerous drugs can be and that it really hurts your family, your friends and the people that you really love. That’s how I began writing, but that’s one part of my dream; that I want to publish things and maybe produce dramas or a TV series, that’s one thing I want to do in the future.

AKINO: Before when we were with another company we had stylists provide clothes for us, and since starting our own company I’m starting to do all the clothes; costume designing.

AKASHI: What you saw yesterday was all her design.

AKINO: It’s really fun and I think in the future I’d like to make my own fashion label. I’m studying up about it. It would be nice to do that, it’s one of my dreams.

AKASHI: If she makes something we can’t say no it. (laughter) Sometimes we’re like “Uhhh…this is embarrassing!” It’s good on-stage, but…! AKINO probably wants to make her own brand in the future and do a lot more clothes.

I like movies a lot. If you’ve seen come of the videos; like message videos or bless4 tutorials, I usually make those. I want to create movies and things like that, I like filming and making movies. With the music and with the videos I want to do both of those put together. That’s my future hobby.

KANASA: And mine is just stringing their’s together, making it all come true (laughter)

AKASHI: She might have a solo next year, so that’s something futuristic.

VKEIOS: And in the near future what are some of the things you want to achieve? Say, the next year, do you have any immediate goals?

AKASHI: Basically what we’ve been doing from last year. AKINO had her first one-man live; AKINO with bless4′s one-man live. And this year we had bless4′s 10th year anniversary live. These two lives are something that we did ourselves; we called and booked the venues, got all the staff together, we did everything together. It was a lot of hard work two years in a row, and what we want to do, just within this one year, is to be able to produce a lot more events and a lot more stages ourselves. That’s just within the year, and in the next years to come we want to produce a stage that nobody’s ever seen before, a new type of entertainment. We can’t say a lot (laughter) but we’re working on new things that people haven’t seen before. We want to try new things and challenge ourselves. If we mess up, then we mess up, but we want to try.

KANASA: And hopefully come back!

VKEIOS: Please do!! That was everything, do you have any final statements that you’d like to add for the readers?

KANASA: We have our official Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter accounts. Our homepage is and we have an English site to it as well. So if they could come and check us out and see when we’re coming back to the US! (laughter)

AKASHI: We’ll also have a newsletter that you can sign up to, and we’ll put it in a place where you can easily find it. We all want to build up a fanbase here so we can come back every year and do lives in many different places.

We definitely love it here, it’s a place to be free and it’s a place to explore new chances and opportunities. We live in Japan, and Japan’s a very good place, but also at the same time when we come back here we feel sometimes like we’re free. English was our first language… most of us actually; I was the only one, Japanese was my first language. But we really do want to come back as much as possible and be able to perform here and interact with the people here so that we can get new ideas. We’re always inspired when we come here, that’s for sure.

VKEIOS: That’s great, I hope you’ll all be back really soon! Thanks so much for your time!

All: Thank you! Arigatou Gozaimashita!!

bless4 Official Homepage

[gallery columns="4" ids="13136,13133,13142,13137,13140,13138,13134,13141"]

bless4 "Let's Have A PARTY" Giveaway


Win an autographed copy of bless4's 10th year anniversary single "Let's Have A PARTY"!

This giveaway is now CLOSED! Congratulations to our winner Christina!!


[author][author_image timthumb='off'][/author_image] [author_info]This interview with was written and conducted by Alicia R. Thomas (ARThomas) with C.Thomas. Many, many thanks to bless4, the lovely Yoshiko and everyone who made this interview possible, we're truly grateful for the opportunity.[/author_info] [/author]


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