REPORTING FROM TOKYO, JAPAN
flumpool, an up-and-coming four-man pop-rock band from Japan, has Singapore squarely in its sights.
The five-year-old band, which is under the management of Japan's largest entertainment agency, Amuse Inc. will debut here on 15 September in a small showcase as part of a daring plan to bring J-pop back to popularity here.
Having conquered the Japan scene with three albums, numerous successful sold-out concert tours and even two books on their journey thus far, the band from Osaka feels it's ready now to venture abroad, with Asia as its first stop.
"Our aim is simple: we just want to connect and communicate with Singapore fans, just like how we connect with people here," its lead vocalist Ryuta Yamamura told Yahoo! Singapore during a recent visit to Tokyo to watch the band in action.
"That's the most important thing -- we don't know (Singaporeans) very well yet, but through our music, we hope to be able to connect with Singapore, learn about its culture and be inspired by them to do new things (with our music)."
At the same time, the band is learning Mandarin (and very slowly, English) in preparation to break into the massive Chinese market.
Who are flumpool?
The group, which burst onto the Japanese music scene in 2007, consists of Yamamura, who also plays rhythm guitar, and lead guitarist Kazuki Sakai (both 27), as well as bassist Genki Amakawa, and drummer Seiji Ogura (both 28).
Childhood friends who started playing the guitar when they were 14, Yamamura, Sakai, and Amakawa all knew they wanted to be musicians.
"We started with street performances -- from there we started gaining listeners, and we felt like our music really touched them," says Yamamura of the band's easy-listening pop-rock melodies.
"We felt from there that this is what we should do; it was what we were destined to do."
On their unique name, Yamamura said they initially called themselves "cube" because there were three of them, but in early 2007, the trio roped in Ogura, their dynamic, high-powered drummer, and refashioned themselves with the letter "f" from "four", combining the words "lump" and "pool" -- which mean mass -- into their resulting unique name.
flumpool's rise to fame in Japan was aided by helpful breaks -- one of their singles, Over the Rain, was used as the theme song of local drama series Bloody Monday.
Another, Hana ni Nare, was used in a television commercial, and after their first mini album, Unreal, hit number 2 in the Japanese Oricon album charts in the week of its release, they emerged as one of the top new bands in 2008.
Like their local pop-rock predecessors Happy End in the 1970s, flumpool says they're greatly inspired by legendary British band The Beatles.
"The Beatles get us through our troubles in life, and that's what we feel we want to achieve for other people -- we want our music to help people gain confidence in whatever they do," shares Yamamura.
One wouldn't quite associate their music with the bouncy, catchy tunes of Love Me Do or From Me To You, but Yamamura says they aspire to the effect that The Beatles had on their millions upon millions of fans.
And there are similarities between the four 20-somethings and the Fab Four of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr: the relationship between Yamamura and Sakai is somewhat reminiscent of that shared between Lennon and McCartney, with the duo sharing much of the writing responsibilities.
Amakawa puts up a quiet but passionate front, the way Harrison always did -- except that Harrison played the guitar -- and while Starr and Ogura aren't too similar personality-wise, the four make up a strong and dynamic team, just like the Beatles did.
'A special connection'
Asked how they differentiate themselves from a significantly-saturated local market, Yamamura explains that the band has a special connection with its audience.
"We don't think we're particularly unique, but we feel like we perform for an audience that feels the same way we do," he says. "It's a communication process that we have with our audience that we feel is different from certain bands."
And connect they do -- during a recent near three-hour concert in Tokyo, the band's showmanship shone through as individual band members took turns to delight the 5,000-capacity crowd at the Tokyo International Forum hall.
Most importantly, their music spoke for itself.
Consummate musicians in their element, Yamamura's soaring vocals complemented the band's classic pop-rock style perfectly, Sakai and Amakawa mesmerised with their mastery of the guitar and bass, while Ogura held it all together with epic, rock-steady drumming.
Their energy and passion kept the venue buzzing throughout their 20-song setlist and a stage that wowed with pyrotechnics and dynamic lighting, packing even more punch into their performance.
So will Singapore fall in love with the foursome from Japan?
It seems the love affair has already started.
"Singapore's a great country, with great people, and that's why we want to go," says Yamamura.
"We've heard very good things about it, and have never been there, so we want to learn more about it".
flumpool will be performing in an exclusive showcase in Singapore on 15 September at *SCAPE. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
For more on the band, visit their website here.
Watch one of their music videos here: