Fans cluck over Bump of Chicken’s soundsUntil very recently, the Japanese band Bump of Chicken hadn’t released an album or held a concert in Korea, so the four members were surprised to find out that not only was its concert near Hongik University on Friday sold out, many of the 400 Korean fans who showed up were singing along in Japanese. Four girls even passed out from excitement.
Thanks to the Internet and imports, Korean youths have been following the rock band for several years. Bump of Chicken had its first overseas concert in Seoul to coincide with the Korean release of its debut album “Flame Vein,” which is now out of production in Japan. The 90-minute show was Korean fans’ first chance to meet the band.
A day later, the four band members, Yoshifumi Naoi on bass, Moto Fujiwara on vocals, Hiroaki Masukawa on guitar and Hideo Masu on drums, spoke with the JoongAng Daily.
Long-time best friends, the four band members were all born in 1979 and attended the same preschool. In their early teens, with their school’s talent show fast approaching, the four pals were eager to whoop it up together.
Mr. Masu, the drummer, originated the idea of forming a band ―”I wanted to have fun with friends,” he says ― and Bump of Chicken was born, in 1994.
But why a rock band? “It makes you look cool,” Mr. Fujiwara, the vocalist, says with a smile.
“And we thought girls would like it,” adds Mr. Naoi, the bassist, with a contagious laugh.
Don’t let them fool you: The band is far more serious about pursuing music than picking up chicks or having a good time.
The band orchestrates a sturdy and standard rock sound, respecting each other’s roles. What makes Bump of Chicken special is a kind of innocence and sincerity that emerges from the blending of each member’s performance. Mr. Fujiwara’s strong, husky, yet somewhat plaintive vocals adds spice to the show, with lyrics about the gloom of youth, but with hope.
“By now, we’ve become more like partners than mere friends,” Mr. Fujiwara says, this time with a serious look, drawing nods from other members.
The glib musicians fall silent for a moment when asked what “Bump of Chicken” means. Mr. Fujiwara breaks the silence by saying, “We just liked the sound of each word, and the feeling you get when you pronounce the words all together. We didn’t think too much about the meaning.”
Do they like to eat chicken? Well, not really. “I hate chicken,” Mr. Naoi says, to which Mr. Fujiwara adds, “But if you think we love chicken, that doesn’t matter much.” It turns out the members heard the words during an English class, and they just loved how they sounded, not necessarily what they meant.
After the guys graduated from high school, Bump of Chicken kept making music. Starting from scratch as a small-time underground rock band, Bump of Chicken slowly but steadily made it big by building a reputation for strong stage performances.
Their big break came when some of their songs were tapped for Japanese TV dramas and movies, and today’s Bump of Chicken is one of the most sought-after bands at home, their albums debuting at the top of the charts and their concerts selling out small venues within days. But these fellows remain carefree, like when they played anonymously as an indie band.
The band only recall the fun parts of their early days. Mr. Naoi remembers the taste of beef rice after their first concert. Mr. Masukawa, the guitarist, breaks into a smile. “Yeah, the one we had at the budget 24-hour Yoshinoya chain,” he says.
“Those days as an independent band weren’t that bad, actually,” Mr. Fujiwara adds. “We realize that we had some hard times only when others tell us so.”
As for the future, Mr. Moto says, “Each song is like a baby to us, with the character of all four of us, that we have to take very good care of. We, as a band, hope that our babies grow up nicely and happily.”
The members returned home to Tokyo on Monday to gear up for their nationwide concert tour, which will run from early September to late November. They took a bottle of Jinro soju with them, along with the wish to return to Korea soon to perform again.
by Chun Su-jin