Kenshi Yonezu/Hachi - Every Day

modelpress, June 1st, 2024 (Original Article)

New Song "Every Day" Questions How to Love Daily Life, "Watching As Things Change"

Artist Kenshi Yonezu released his new song Every Day on May 27th. From his revelation that it was born out of the dreariness of his day-to-day, one can see the ways in which Yonezu-san confronts life. We bring you this long interview, which even touches upon the story behind the music video for the show-stealing "Bye Now, See You Someday!"

— Congratulations on the release of Every Day! Following up LADY (released in March '23), it's another song for a Georgia commercial; what was your mindset when you received the offer?

Yonezu: Again, I was grateful to be given the task, but at the same time, the tagline of "The everyday can be quite dramatic," and even the commercial's concept, were basically the same as last year, so I was unsure what to do. Naturally, I couldn't just make "LADY 2," so I kept repeatedly writing and scrapping songs.

— You said LADY "depicted scenes from everyday life and a kind of malaise," and I felt things along those lines from this work as well.

Yonezu: The time when I was working on this song was also packed with other work. I was just sitting at a desk making songs day after day, with the curtains shut in a room with no sunlight. Even if it was something I'd chosen myself, faced with this work that wasn't progressing at all, the feeling of "what am I even doing?" got stronger and stronger. Feeling the mounting of a gloomy anger, a dreary helplessness, I thought "can't I just make this into a song?", and writing the line "every day, every day, I've just been doing the best I can, and yet," put my feelings at that moment right into the lyrics.

— Then I suppose for Every Day, you wrote the lyrics first?

Yonezu: I feel like the lyrics "every day, every day..." and the melody for it were simultaneous. From there, all I can say is that I continued to drag out my feelings, and this is how it ended up. The chords are a single loop, and the rhythm is bouncy, so I basically just ran through on momentum. I don't remember much, to the point that I can only describe it in abstract terms like that.

— The song itself fits with the Georgia tagline of "The everyday can be quite dramatic."

Yonezu: Actually, while making the song, I had basically forgotten about the tagline, and only noticed the connection later. For having made it so freely, I find it curious how there ended up being a natural coincidence there. And also, I find it's really a song of "desperate fake bravado." Even fake cheer is still undoubtedly cheerful on the surface, so I figured it suited a bright morning-afternoon mood.

— Listening to it, I could feel there were almost two choruses. The "every day, every day..." part, and the "At least don't you disappear on me, darling" part. Did it take this shape because you made it so freely?

Yonezu: Yes, that may be the case. I didn't make the chorus with much consciousness of it being a "hook," either. I remember talking with the staff about which part would be the one to use in the commercial.

— There are some strikingly strong words used, too. Were some of these just giving form to the emotions that were inside you currently?

Yonezu: Yes, indeed. I've entered my thirties, and have had the sense of it being a cut-off point. I felt like I was forced to look back on my life thus far whether I liked it or not. I imagine it's a sensation common to everyone the moment they turn 30, 40, 50, any multiple of 10.

Looking back, I was like "ultimately, I'm just me." There's a sort of helplessness to that, isn't there?

This song is absolutely filled with a feeling of "continuing to confront that blunt reality," so I think the things I've been feeling daily probably just decided this was their time to come out all at once.

— What makes you say, rather than you "looking back" in your life, that you were "forced to look back"?

Yonezu: To use an analogy, it's like The Game of Life. It's divided into periods like childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and each time a period ends, this chairman guy shows up. "Your academic ability at this stage is this much, your physical ability is this much, you have this much money" - he shows you all these stats, simply tells you "This has been is your life thus far. Well, please carry on," and leaves. It was like the things I'd built up, yet also the things I didn't build up and couldn't do anything about now, were laid out plainly in front of me. It felt like being informed matter-of-factly that ultimately, this is the kind of person I am.

— You had a concrete picture.

Yonezu: I feel like lately, more people are becoming aware of the things in life you can't do anything about. Like the term "parental lottery" catching on, people realizing how much of your life is ultimately set by who your parents are. Genetics might also be part of that, but your environment as a child, your community, what people you have around you, these things define the direction of your life to an extent. A little while ago, you might have had the illusion that you could make something happen with effort, but in reality, those in fortunate environments have greater capacity to do their best, don't they? A person with nothing at all can't even step foot on that soil. Doing your best is itself a talent.

— It's true, I think more people are feeling the ever-present inequality in life.

Yonezu: Of course, I feel some of that helplessness myself, and I imagine anyone does. But I'm like, how should I be confronting this? Even if trying my best won't help, how can I digest, how can I grapple with that uselessness? Ultimately, I just have to try. Though it's a bit of a tautology. Doing my best won't do anything, yet I have to do my best. Working hard might itself be a talent, but "just do it anyway."

— "Just do it anyway."

Yonezu: Since turning 30, I'm getting the sensation that "time sure has passed" all the time. Since the times and my environment keep changing. The people around me are themselves changing, too. The feeling of "I want to go back to those days" gets more and more frequent as you age, right? The more I focus on things like that, I expect that my own senses might change to match. In what way can I love these things that are changing, my daily life or otherwise? If you turn that around, I believe it becomes a matter of how, watching as things change, you can love yourself. That might be the sort of thing Every Day is about.

— Even if the times and your environment change, do you have an unshakable feeling of "I am myself"?

Yonezu: I don't think a person's nature or recognition of themselves is a fixed, unchanging thing at all. I think people are a series of states. I might be living like this today, but there's no guarantee it'll be the same tomorrow. In that sense, you could even be a totally different person in the future. That said, it's not something you can blow off with wishful thinking; there's no doing anything about the years that have piled up. You may be changing, but that's also you. As long as you're living in your single body, that's the way you have to think.

— While there are aspects that you can't change no matter what, many people still desire to change.

Yonezu: Of course, I think there are people who can work hard and change. If I might say, I think I'm probably a leading example. Growing up in the middle of nowhere, it's not like I received special education, so I've managed to get this far just by learning from watching others. On one hand, I think I was lucky, but I also see it as something I picked up through sheer enthusiasm. So I don't think it's impossible, but there are indeed things you can't do anything about. If you can't do it, you can't do it; a horse that can't run can't run. And I also think, "well then, who has the right to blame you for your inability to run?"

To confront your own hell, I feel there are a variety of options, whether it's charging it head-on or distancing yourself. Still, whichever you choose, you have to work hard. If you keep doing nothing, you won't be able to bear being here. It's truly a ghastly thing. So you just have to repeat the same thing every day to put on muscle. To start any kind of personal revolution, tedious preparations akin to weight-lifting are absolutely necessary. Only at the end of such neurotic days can you change yourself. I believe how you go about confronting that is incredibly important.

— In a past interview, you said that doing anything is "mostly preparation."

Yonezu: That's true. That's not just for showy productions like concerts - even just to talk to someone, to do anything at all, you need to prepare. Whether it's intentional or unconscious. But in truth, I'm really bad at consistent, unflagging effort. I'm more of a last-minute crammer, wanting to pack it all into a brief moment. So in that sense, I'm a person who hates preparation.

— Have you come to enjoy preparation slightly more lately?

Yonezu: More like I have to make myself enjoy it. Even for work, I have to do things that are way off in the future right now, so I need to prepare. Like it or not, I have to love preparation, basically. But lately, I have found it fun in its own way. It feels kind of pleasant.

— You're certainly active, Yonezu-san. In your music video that came out in April, "Bye Now, See You Someday!", your braided hair and the world depicted therein have been hot topics. Working with Director Tomokazu Yamada, what sort of concept or theme did you have?

Yonezu: To start with, I explained to Yamada-san the story behind making the song. And during that, I mentioned how it might be interesting to try a new gimmick based on an old technique. Michel Gondry, who directed music videos for the likes of Bjork and The Chemical Brothers, did this thing where everything played in reverse but the lips were still in sync, which was innovative at the time - I remember saying it'd be fun to do an update on that.

— Indeed, it's quite a complex video, not a simple reversing of the footage. How exactly did you go about filming it?

Yonezu: I had it explained to me with diagrams and everything, but while I thought it was interesting, I didn't understand it very well. I just did as I was directed, and it ended up like that. When recording sped-up scenes, I sang to the song at 1.5x speed so my lips would match, and that would then be stretched out and shown in slow motion. After repeatedly listening to the song at 1.5x speed for practice, going back to the normal speed had me thinking "I made a song with such a slow tempo..." My perception of BPM differs from day to day, and the speed can even feel different between day and night, so it was easy to feel like "what should I even believe?" So I remember the intense despair when the BPM went back to normal after having listened to it so much at 1.5x speed.

— You've already put the song out in the world, so there's nothing you can do.

Yonezu: That's true. Thinking "I can't just rerecord it now" nearly made my heart break. Since then, I've started making songs putting myself in the mindset of a future person, like "I noticed a gigantic mistake after it was already delivered, so I'm going back with a time machine to fix the mistake."

— There are a lot of playful bits, like throwing a peace sign and the wink at the end. Were those incorporated from the start?

Yonezu: The wink was at Yamada-san's request. I'd also done that peace sign for the song Shock at a concert before, so I brought it back thinking it'd be perfect as a finishing pose for the camera.

— That it is. I think that really made my impression of the song feel lighter.

Yonezu: It's a song about flying off the handle with a smile, and breezily plunging forward, so I felt it'd be good to have elements like that. I'm glad I went with it.

— In recent interviews, you've stated that a second chapter lies ahead of you. What do you feel your future activity as an artist is going to be like?

Yonezu: With more to think about and shoulder, it gets harder to move. But I at least want my mind to be light. Not taking things heavily, enjoying myself in a pure way like I've gone back to kindergarten or grade school. I think it'd be good to acquire that state of mind. I don't think it'll hugely affect my daily lifestyle, so it's entirely about mood.

— Sort of like going back to the start in terms of feelings alone?

Yonezu: That's right. Innocently enjoying what I used to like back then, like I'm taking back those feelings of "I liked this kind of thing."

— Speaking of things you like, you were tasked with the theme song for Final Fantasy XVI last year. How did you feel about that?

Yonezu: I thought it was an incredible honor, and felt my life could hardly get much better than accomplishing that. Still, the one unfortunate thing was that I wasn't able to play it as a fan. Though now I think that as you repeat such things, they start to wear down. That you should just enjoy life, and not try to forcibly control things you can't control. I think consciously separating things like "that is that, this is this" may be very important.

— Now then, if you were to assign a theme to your Chapter 2, what would it be?

Yonezu: A theme... I've never assigned a theme to myself. If I had to say, maybe something like "what will be will be." I'll probably be going some direction I'd never imagined before I know it, so I'm not too keen on limiting myself.

— Thank you for your time.

Yonezu-san is a deeply thoughtful and kind person. He heard our questions diligently, and conveyed his thoughts thoroughly with his words. And listening in, we were drawn into his philosophical worldview in the blink of an eye. That gravity, which comes through in his music as well, may be the reason he's charmed so many.

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