Dennis A. Amith interviews Puffy AmiYumi (First Interview) (2000) - Page 1

Note: The Japanese name of the group is PUFFY but in the US, the girls are now known as Puffy AmiYumi.

     For many years, fans in the US have wondered if PUFFY would follow other Japanese artists and perform in America.

     Music Japan's "An Evening with JAPAN'S NOT FOR SALE All-stars" showcase was a huge success during the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, March 18. The event featured Sony Japan's brightest music stars and up-and-coming artists. This included the only US appearance of the popular duo, PUFFY and performances from Tomovsky, FEED, Polysics, and Love Love Straw.

     Why all the noise? For several years, the popularity of Japanese pop culture has slowly permeated other countries. In the United States, that popularity has been shared through Japanese animation, video games, fashion, movies and technology. With the popularity of the Internet, people now have the opportunity to sample music from different cultures around the world and among the many cultures sampled, mainstream Japanese music (also known as JPOP) is at the top of the list.

         In Japan, fashion accompanying the style of music is important. In Tokyo you can find many fans following the trends of their favorite music artist or music group. One such group popular for starting a fashion trend is the female duo known as PUFFY.

     The duo consisting of Yumi Yoshimura and Ami Onuki, two women who are now in their mid-20's, came out of nowhere in May of 1996 with their debut single titled "Asia no Junshin" (True Asia) and they have dominated the charts ever since. Of course, it helps when you have a veteran musician and composer such as Tamio Okuda (lead vocalist of the Japanese rock group, Unicorn) producing your album. However, what made PUFFY so popular is their non-conforming style. In many songs you can hear a little of the Beatles, the Who, Velvet Crush, Stray Cats, Electric Light Orchestra, Unicorn and other groups in their music. With each song you get something new, from "Circuit no Musume" (Race Circuit Girls) which sounds like a song from a racing video game, "Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera" (About Nagisa, Etc.) which uses a disco theme and "PUFFY de Rumba" which uses a rumba theme.

     As for the lyrics, the girls sing a lot about outdoor activities and love but their lyrics are not told in a story-type way. In fact, it's more about the random type of feelings and emotions that may go through a person's head and that's what PUFFY likes to sing about. In the song "Honey" by Ami (from their SoloSolo album) she sings about going to a park and eating donuts and although she is full, she still is able to give a kiss to the person she loves. In the song "V.A.C.A.T.I.O.N", Yumi sings about going on a vacation but she also sings about her preparation for the vacation such as packing a swimsuit, a t-shirt and remembering to bring her passport and video camera. These are examples of their lyrics and although it doesn't make sense most of the time, the lyrics are not written for a person to ponder on. The music of PUFFY is made for a person's enjoyment. The lyrics are so simple that anyone can sing along even if they may not understand the language. It is one of the main reasons why PUFFY's music has attracted so many fans worldwide.

     When PUFFY released "Asia no Junshin", the super-producer Tetsuya Komuro and his family of chart-topping artists such as Namie Amuro, Tomomi Kahala, globe and TRF were dominating the Japanese music scene. These individuals whose music were more dance and techno-oriented brought on many copycat singers and groups and many listeners were complaining about how many of the songs sounded too similar. At the same time, artists such as Namie Amuro were responsible for creating fashions trends among Japanese girls such as dyed-brown hair, mini skirts and knee-high boots. A trend which came to be known as the "Amura".

     It appeared Japan was ready for a change and Sony and Okuda had a plan. That plan was to bring back folk pop music that was popular in Japan decades before and add a hip-twist of the 90s. When "Asia no Junshin" was released, people were treated with a style of music that was not common in mainstream Japanese music at that time. What Japanese fans loved even more were the two girls behind the song and their unique style that catapulted the duo to the forefront of Japanese music.

     When PUFFY appeared on the music television shows, the audience was amazed at how different these girls were from the typical artists at the time. Aside from the musical differences, the beautiful duo would come on stage sporting long puffy hair, t-shirts they purchased from used clothing stores, blue jeans or overalls and sneakers. Immediately, the PUFFY fashion style became popular among Japanese females.








Adding to the mix of their popularity is the girls' keen sense of humor thatcan be seen in their television interviews and their on-stage performances. Nevertheless, if there was one main factor that caught the attention of the viewer, it was their style of dancing. It was a style that has been described as "dance as if you were inebriated". During a time when almost every group seen on television was dancing, PUFFY was a group that could not dance. While this would be a negative for most Japanese pop stars, their lack (or simplicity) of dance skills is a big part of the PUFFY formula that makes them so popular. What's most important though is that these girls can rock. Their song "Kore ga watashi no ikiru michi" (This is the way I live), which is reminiscent of early Beatles tunes, helped catapult the girls into stardom.

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