AFTER graduating from Central St. Martins….
Rié began a prodigious and exhausting songwriting process before signing a deal with Sony Japan, aged nineteen. Her new work, Business Trips, draws from real-life experience and domesticity; it takes in a range of different ideas and feeds them into a sensationally gripping and intriguing work. Rié talks about her heroine, Kate Bush, and the inspiration she has provided. Mundanity and the ordinary, on Business Trips, are transformed into alluring, gripping pieces – very much in the same vein as Kate Bush did on Ariel’s (washing machine housewife) Mrs. Bartolozzi. I ask her about working with Hikaru Ishizaki and Indie-Pop trio, Theme Park – both produced two songs from the E.P. Rié discusses London and how she finds the U.K. – compared with Japan – and its people. I ask about the future and whether she has any touring/recording plans; the way her music comes together and the advice she would offer any musicians emerging onto the scene.
Hi, Rié, how are you? How has your week been?
After the first (U.K.) single release, it’s been a happy week.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Rié (pronounced ree-ay); singer/songwriter/painter. I have to say that I am a very polite artist. Because, if you take politeness away from a Japanese (person), there’s not much else to say.
St. Martin (Theme Park Mix) is out now. What can you tell me about the track and how it came together?
It’s a love-hate relationship song with London.
I’m very much familiar with London now, though as a foreigner, it wasn’t easy to get used to, for instance, the weather; cynicism in general and the roundabout and oblique way of expression.
I guess it goes back to the whole British history and culture. I wanted to overcome these differences by showing strength in this song – at the same time praising its virtues. It’s, basically, a love song to this wonderfully chaotic city.
Business Trips is your forthcoming E.P. I am intrigued by that title and the kind of themes explored. What can you tell us about the E.P. and the inspirations behind its songs?
You won’t usually associate the term Business Trips with anything artistic, but actually, tours are business trips for musicians – just like how songwriting/recording is like office work. The process is practical: it takes time and effort, and most part, isn’t glamorous at all. I feel that, nowadays, many things online are filtered, fabricated and superficial. I wanted to show the real process, real life. All songs in the E.P. are autobiographical, true to life and sometimes a deeper insight into daily themes.
I do know Business Trips’ origins might derive from the fact your husband is away on business trips. Can you tell me how a Geko and Kate Bush’s Mrs Bartolozzi were relevant and inspirational?
When I lived in Singapore a couple years back, a baby gecko kept on appearing whenever my husband went on his business trips. It was pink and adorable. Inspired by this small creature, I wrote this song.
Being alone in the house, I felt that some of the housework could get repetitive and mundane. But then I heard to Kate Bush’s Mrs.Bartolozzi (Aerial): a song about a world of swirling ocean inside a washing machine.
That made me realise that this domesticated environment is full of inspiration; anything that’s seemingly mundane could be a hint for a new viewpoint.
So, I wrote this song to shine light on unheard voices in the daily routine; whether it’s office work, business trips or even songwriting. I feel like I’m in a cubicle in my own office, making songs – and solitude is sometimes essential.
Has Kate Bush’s celebration of the mundane been quite instrumental to you and the way you write?
Kate Bush is my hero and true inspiration. I love how she is extraordinary and genuine. I don’t think she is even intentionally celebrating the mundane: just purely depicting what she sees and she sees so much deeper into life that we see every day, what surrounds us.
Business Trips is dedicated to both London and Japan. One-half (tracks one and three) was produced by London-based Electronic three-piece, Theme Park; the other two by Japanese producer, Hikaru Ishizak. What was it like working with different producers and what did each bring to the E.P.?
As much as I am excited to collaborate with great talents in the U.K., I also want to introduce some amazing Japanese creators through my music.
In that sense, including the two versions of this song was exactly what I wanted to achieve.
Theme Park’s sound is brilliantly catchy and leaning towards the current sound while Hikaru Ishizaki’s dexterity in his production is extremely elaborate and timeless.
Calling is one of the highlights, I feel, from the E.P. What was the spark, as it were, for that song?
I wrote this song a while after moving back to the U.K. At the time, I was feeling certain strangeness about being a foreigner in a small town in Surrey.
“Opposites” was the first keyword, and started thinking about accents, customs, cold and heat, sun and moon, etc. It also made me think about crossing the borders between racial, political and religious conflicts – as those issues were becoming more prominent around the world.
“Your voice, the only clear sound” was the next key phrase; even though we speak different languages, they are all sounds after all and a voice is universal and individual.
It was an important concept to carefully deliver my own unique voice, not necessarily as a foreigner, but simply as an individual; especially as it would be the first E.P. release (in the U.K).
You were born in Japan but are a London art school graduate. What attracted you to the U.K. and how have you found the people of Britain? Are they quite welcoming and warm?
As I said (earlier) about the St. Martin track, welcoming and warm would not be enough to express my first impression of Britain! Now that I love this country and culture, what attracts me most about the U.K is, funny enough, comedy. There is nothing like British humour anywhere else in the world.
Obviously, there are differences in the music scenes of the U.K. and Japan. What are the main differences you have noticed?
I’ve been writing quite a lot about this in my own blog: ”How to Survive as a Japanese Artist in the U.K.” (http://io.riefu.com/blog/).
The biggest difference is that the Japanese music scene could be orchestrated, while in the U.K., it’s the wildlife.
Have there been many people talking you out of London and pursuing a career here? How have you reacted to that?
Although no one has directly been talking me out of it, occasionally there were comments that were not necessarily encouraging. Those comments are actually positive effects for me because it becomes a fuel for me to prove them wrong.
What does the rest of the year hold in terms of material and new songs? Are there any other tracks you have written that might find a place on an E.P.?
I have relentlessly been writing songs and now have enough demos to release three albums!
Now I can’t wait to keep on releasing, then hopefully an album by early next year.
How about touring? Any dates in the diary at the moment?
No dates yet in the U.K. at the moment but it would be great to start performing in the near-future.
I have a gig coming up in Japan in a Planetarium which will be interesting.
Are there any new/upcoming artists you advise we keep an eye out for this year at all?
No need for my introduction as she is already ahead of her game!
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
If you forget your lyrics onstage, improvise and say it’s a ‘live version’.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that)
La Japonaise by Freddie Mercury + Montserrat Caballe.
(I recently re-discovered this song. Freddy singing Japanese; pretty trippy.)