Plant Cell: The band & the interview
Plant Cell is from Chiba prefecture in Japan. They started with Frontman Sato and the bassist li in January 2015. They have since added members to have both a full live band and new textures for their music (ie female vocals)
Plant Cell’s members are:
- Eriko: Vocals & Guitar
- Sato: Vocals & Guitar
- Makiku: Guitar
- Nao: Piccolo bass
- Kiwako: Bass
- Sino: Drums
In his very good 2015 article on Plant Cell (http://musojapan.com/blog/2015/11/2/introducing-plant-cell), Matthew Beddford from Muso Japan gave an excellent introduction to the band:
“The guitars are at the forefront of what Plant Cell does, which is fitting for a band whose members previously worked together at a guitar manufacturer. It sounds like a bit of an obvious quality when talking about shoegaze, but Plant Cell takes much more of a Western approach than many of its fellow countrymen by burying the vocals and using them to supplement the overall textural of the music - primarily the big billowy guitars. It's a nice change of pace from the pop-heavy climate of the Japanese shoegaze scene. I think fans of bands like magic love will be able to appreciate what these guys do based on the overall theme of the music.”
I could not have put it any better. Sato and Plant Cell have their own distinctive sound, which is not easy to achieve given the multitude of bands out there. You will discover more about them in the interview.
Some good videos to watch
Their music videos, as could be expected, are nature themed. Plant Cell has a YouTube channel (Plant Cell Chanel) on which all their videos can be found.
Conifer music video takes you through a mesmerizing journey in a dark snowy forest at a full moon. It goes superbly well with the song:
The landscape of green lakeside is a beautiful video with accelerated cameras showing clouds over playing with mountains, hills, valleys, fields. It is a perfect complement for the song:
Wind & Wing show beautiful pictures of Japan, birdies and Mount Fuji:
There are some other videos that are worthwhile watching. Among them is a live performance of Spirit who dwells on or in a mountain and forest
Their presence on the web
Plant Cell is very active on social medias, particularly twitter where you can follow them:
There is plenty more material for those who have the chance to understand Japanese.
Sato was very kind to give Noise Artists and interview as the band has limited English. We circumvented the issue thanks to good will … and an online translator. Sato did a great job at it.
Noise Artists (NA): Where are you from in Japan?
I am from Chiba Prefecture.
NA: What did you study?
I learned guitar craft at a vocational school
NA: What is your day job at present if any?
I am in charge of clerical work
NA: Do you dream to live from your music or is it a passion you do not want to spend your full time on?
I don't obsess or care about it that much. I just would love it if more and more people will listen to our music.
NA: Do you have families?
I have a wife.
NA: Could you tell me how the band meets in details?
The members were recruited via Facebook and Twitter. My wife was a member but is now withdrawing.
NA: Can you tell me the inspiration behind your band? You can detect the influences of shoegaze and post-rock, and the name “flowergaze” really suits you. Can you tell us more?
I knew the word Shoegaze. Two years ago, I did not know My bloody valentine too well. However, I liked coaltar of the deepers who were influenced by it, and I started to make this type of music.
I wish to establish a new genre, namely Flowergaze, a music which suggests images of flowers and landscapes coming from noisepop.
NA: Was there a vision of sorts or did you know what you wanted to do when you started up? i.e. when you started in Plant Cell was it always a project to create a post-rock/indie and shoegaze band? Or was it different from now?
The concept has always been the same. We are consistently making music aiming to suggest images of landscapes.
NA: Do you have any other musical side projects apart from Plant Cell?
Nothing in particular
NA: Could you tell me more about the band composition and their musical background?
Most of the members like shoegaze and they are doing it together. Some members were influenced by Madchester and the 80's New Wave.
The Creative process
NA: Who writes the song and the music and how do you get to the final song? Is it a community process, do you have leaders in composing or arranging music?
I am in charge of songwriting (music and words). Arrangements are left to each member.
NA: Do you listen to the advice of your band mates? What would you do if they said a song was not good but you liked it?
I try to adopt the members' ideas as much as I can. Therefore there may be future changes in the musicality as a result.
NA: You have a great way with tones and intricate melodies. Could you tell us more about how you work together on this?
There is no method. I make it all according to my inspiration. I compose watching landscape paintings, landscape photographs, or TV travel programmes.
NA: Do you have a message that you want to get across in your music? If so, what are some of the messages you want to spread?
There is no particular message. However, I think that it would be nice to feel the releiving comfort of nature, its ability to make people feel good in our daily life.
NA: Did your listening habits change since you began the band? Do you change what you listen to, and does it affect what you write?
I have not been very aware. It's the same as always.
NA: Tell me more about the following songs, how they were written, what they are about any anecdote or story you want to share:
It is an image of Northen Europe countryside in winter, at Christmas. Even at that time the landscape do not change, is still. It is the image of a landscape where you can hear the sound of the wind shaking the conifers forests.
• Landscape of green lakeside
It is the image of a daily farm scenery near the side of a lake
• Xi ling xia (by the way why in Chinese?)
It is the name of a famous Chinese valley. I have been working in China and I really like Chinese landscapes.
NA: Have you ever played or work with Shojoskip? I can find many similarities in your music.
I have seen them live several times, but we have not played together yet. It is also one of my favourite bands.
NA: Could you tell us why you decided to release each song individually, and not in the usual EP / LP format?
Because I want people to hear them as soon as possible. Above all, because I want to release them freely without creating a concept.
The path to music
NA: Is it easy to find producers and studios in Japan for indie-rock?
Business is established. However, I think that the best thing is, if possible, to find producers and sound engineers by meeting other bands. Shoegaze, in particular, is a characteristic genre, so if you do not know it you will not be able to understand it easily.
NA: Your recorded sound is very good, which is not easy. Did you engineer the sound yourself, or did you have a sound engineer with you? If yes could you tell us more about him/her?
We are starting with an engineer who was introduced to us by a band that we personally know, it's called "Free, I do"
NA: Was it a community work to try to have the best sounding music possible or mainly driven by the sound engineer or by the band?
I think communication and common reference are both important. When it comes to sound, explaning is by no means simple.
NA: Can you tell us how the recording process was?
We started off recording the drums and the bass parts, then the guitar parts and vocals, respectively
NA: Did the recording work differ between various songs?
No, there is no particular difference.
NA: Any interesting anecdotes on some recording session you would like to share?
I'm somehow nervous, for this was my very first recording
NA: Instruments: you seem to be mainly a Fender band. Could you tell me what inspire you to use fenders rather than other brands?
Originally I used to work for the Japanese guitar manufacturer ESP. The Stratocaster I made at that time has become the main guitar I'm using to this day. I really like Stratocaster, since it can produce many different sounds. It is more useful than the Jazz Master.
NA: A question for a future paper I have in mind: I have seen on videos that you use a Fender Jaguar. Could you tell me more about what makes it good to play (sound, neck, …). I find there are a lot of noise artists that are using this guitar and I am interested to know why.
I think it is due to the influence of Kevin Shields. He has had a strong effect on me too, but Strat is better able to produce the kind of sound I want.
NA: Tell us what you are looking when trying to achieve your sounds? Do you experiment a lot or have a clear idea of what you want?
The most important thing is to make a loud noise and we are constantly using a trial-and-error approach so as to try to soften the midrange and keep treble not very high
NA: How many concerts a year would you do on average and what would be the size of the venue?
We did a gig twice a month in 2016. Most of them were at KOENJI HIGH and IKEBUKURO CHOP. They are about 100-people-capacity live club houses. You can make a loud sound there, so I really like these two venues
NA: What are some places around the world that you hope to take your band?
I want to go anywhere I can go to! It is! Currently, we plan to go to is China. I also would love to do concerts in the United States, Canada, England.
NA: Is there any reason in particular that you want to go to these places? Is there something about indie-rock/post-rock in those places that makes you want to go there?
China is a place I have become really attached to, since I have been living and working there for two years. Plant cell doesn't think to stay only in Japan, I dream of traveling to various countries and do gigs.
The Japanese Scene
NA: I have read that Japan has a great music scene but I don’t know much about post-rock or indie-rock music in Japan. Could you tell me more on the Japanese music scene?
I am not familiar with it, too. I know almost nothing about it, especially because during the years when I was working as a salaryman I moved away from music.
NA: I have listened to artists like Shojoskip, My dead girlfriend, Tokyo Shoegazer and plastic girl in the closet, just to give but a few. They seem to be mainly famous in Japan. Is it easy for Japanese bands to be known internationally?
With the Internet, I think that there are opportunities for many bands overseas. I think that there are many blogs or radio shows like DKFM's MUSO ASIA introducing internationally Asian bands.
NA: Has the scene changed since you began, and if so how?
I do not think so. However, it is true that the number of shoegazer bands has increased.
NA: Apart from Tokyo, is there any other cities with a strong indie scene?
Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Chiba are famous
NA: Is there any Japanse band(s) you want to recommend in the indie/shoegaze/post-rock genres?
Every band is wonderful, so it would be a little presumptuous of me to recommend any. broken little sister is my recommendation.
NA: You do not seem to have a record label. Is it because you want to keep your creative process or because it is difficult to find one?
We are an adult band formed just one year ago, yet. Our working speed is slower compared to that of other bands. We take our time.
NA: How did the funding work for the recordings? Did you invest a lot yourself? Was your label supportive in that respect?
We don't work with any particular label. All of our works are self-financed and self-produced. Therefore, we work slowly.
NA: Where does the majority of the money go when you’re paying your own way?
Mainly it is used to cover rehersal- and gigs-related costs. We are also considering overseas performances, so we need to think carefully about the pace of our activities.
NA: Do you make a decent revenue from your music or is it still very much a hobby?
It is still at a hobby stage. However, as long as you are allowed to listen to music by lots of artists without doing anything about the funds they need by for their activities, such activities will be stagnant over the liong term. We are currently putting our efforts into this.
NA: How do you sell your recordings (shops, online, …)?
I would like to sell through a store.
NA: What is the next album due?
Currently recording are in progress. It will sound like a band live feeling.
NA: Do you plan to continue music for a long time or are you tired of it?
Of course, I would like to continue. There are still 20 unreleased songs yet.
NOISE ARTISTS wrap up
Plant Cell makes beautiful music. In their short life, they have succeeded in creating a unique sound, made almost 40 songs and caught the ear of many around the world (Muso Japan, DKFM, Primal radio, Shoegazer Sanctuary to name but a few). This is a great achievement, but not completely surprising given the originality and quality of their music
Discovering them gave me so much pleasure. diving into their work even more. And working with them have been an honour. It was also very easy, as they were both helpful and proactive. For that, and their great music, thank you.
Plant Cell are now part of the Noise Artists community, and as per our mission statement, we will continue to feature them and promote them. From what I see, they are there to stay for a little while.