At NärCon Summer this year, Northern Europe’s largest anime convention, we had the privilege of sitting down with SARI, the versatile Japanese artist who recently made Sweden her new temporary home. Delving into her multifaceted world, we explore SARI’s artistic journey and gain insights into her diverse talents and individuality.
You’re not only a singer but dancer, model, and painter too. Can you tell us about how that is ingrained into SARI as an artist?
I believe that my whole lifestyle and everything I engage in is a manifestation of my aura. This means that activities beyond singing, like drawing, painting, and other forms of art, naturally become a part of my artistic expression. As such, I want to proactively pursue other forms of art in addition to singing.
What initially drew you to pursue a career in music, and how has your artistic journey evolved over the past decade?
I initially started out as an idol 10 years ago, but now I want to do something that cannot be commoditized. Young women in Japan are typically commoditized as idols. To me, that was something I couldn’t comprehend and didn’t want to be a part of. Presently, as a solo artist for the last three or four years, I believe I can present my own art and express myself as an individual.
Is that why you parted from NECRONOMIDOL, in order to pursue your own path?
When I graduated from the group, it was because I wanted to establish myself as an independent artist, an individual human, and pursue my own artistic endeavors.
During your time in NECRONOMIDOL, while wearing the iconic white horror makeup, were you not an individual human back then? Were you limited by its concept?
During my time as a member of NECRONOMIDOL, wearing the makeup was very much my own idea, so I was satisfied with that aspect. However, being part of a group meant that everything I did also reflects to the group as a whole. So eventually, I wanted to do something for myself, by myself.
Do you mean that pursuing a solo career provided you with a stronger sense of purpose?
I don’t like having things decided for me, so I want to be able to decide everything for myself.
Your performance at NärCon yesterday was quite an immersive experience! Can you share insights into how you intentionally create such atmosphere?”
I concentrate primarily on my own mindset. Rather than creating something for the sake of the audience, my focus lies more on what’s going on in my head, my inner dialogue, and delivering everything I have to offer at that moment.
So what the audience saw was an internal battle, and that happens to also speak to the audience and immerse them into your world?
That’s right. What I aim to express [through my performance] is not necessarily joy or happiness, but rather the underlying issues that I want to address within my songs. By having this internal dialogue and focusing on it, the end product is the output that reaches the audience.
That’s an interesting way of engage with your fans. If you are able to connect with fans who grasp the concept of your music, does that imply they share a similar mindset as you?
I can’t say for certain, but what I do know is that what I express are my personal issues. It’s possible that those who are listening or watching will have their own interpretation of the music, or find ways to relate to it.
I am truly thankful that there are so many people who will listen to what I have to say.
Throughout your career, what would you say are some of the most memorable moments for you thus far?
In my solo career, the performance I held in Shinjuku, Tokyo during the pandemic stands out as the most memorable. That was during a time when most people had stopped attending live concerts in person. However, the desire to perform and express oneself remained unstoppable in those who shared this passion, those who continued to gather.
During that time, it was a period where I was busy working as a yoga instructor. Although, I decided that I wanted to continue performing just as I always had. That’s why I decided to hold that concert in Shinjuku, which ended up the most memorable moment for me.
When you create music, how do you strike a balance between being experimental and maintaining a consistent sound or artistic vision?
I believe this is a challenge that every artist can relate to [laughs]. Personally, I’ve stopped trying to appease others and instead affirmatively absorb new music that resonates with me into my style.
With your new album Ending, which is called Daidan’en (大団円) in Japanese, can you tell us about the concept and how you decided on the name?
Ending is the album I created to commemorate my decision to move here to Sweden.
The word “ending” can hold multiple meanings. In Japanese, the ending or “grand finale” is called Daidan’en, which conveys a harmonious conclusion. For example, the ending to a show in Kabuki theater.
Therefore, [I named the album “Ending”, because] I wanted to create this album as a heartfelt farewell to the chapter of my life in Japan so far.
What does the songs in the album express, and what kind of singing have you intentionally incorporated into the album?
There seem to be a lot of dance music. Unlike my previous album, A’u’se, which has a more subtle approach and utilized a lot of electronica, this time around, it’s much more pop. The intention behind this is to create a happy ending, so it’s very danceable and won’t be too saddening at all.
Even with the artwork, I thought a lot about what kind of colors, imagery, and costumes to use that would really unify my worldview. I have also taken a lot of inspiration from ukiyo-e [a traditional Japanese woodblock print art form], such as from [the renowned ukiyo-e artist] Yoko’o Tadayori.
You’ve done international tours before, how did you find the experience of connecting with fans from other countries who have different cultures? What is the experience for you when talking with people?
It seems to me that fans overseas in general are very receptive of artists from Japan. In contrast, the music scene in Japan is relatively smaller and tightly connected; everyone knows everyone. That in itself is a very good thing, but since I want to reach out further, I would like to be able to connect with a broader global audience.
You’ve been doing quite a few performances in Sweden as well?
That’s right. It’s wonderful to be able to hold performances in the country that I now live in.
I had a performance at “Patricia”, a club-like venue in Stockholm, and this time I performed at an anime convention [NärCon]. Being able to perform in diverse settings is a real privilege.
I’m grateful to be able to connect with a range of audiences, and I would like to continue to get to know the different facets of Swedish culture.
How and why did you decide on moving to Sweden, of all places in the world?
I have always traveled in a group setting for short stays, but never truly been able to experience the cultures of those visited countries. I’ve also always had the idea of living somewhere other than Japan.
As for why I chose Sweden; two years ago, I was invited to perform in Sweden as a solo artist.
During that concert, I was touched by the charm of Swedish towns, the overall atmosphere, and the kindness of the people. It was an incredibly moving experience for me.
Going into this year, with the pandemic easing, I began to consider the idea of using a working holiday visa as a way to live and travel to another country. It came down to either the UK or Sweden, and remembering my time in Sweden and how much I liked it, I decided to come here.
Living in another country can be a very transformative experience. What do you hope to achieve within your year in Sweden?
I would love to experience more of Sweden’s club music and underground music scenes. I know an artist here who is active in a small club music scene. Judging by the pictures and stories uploaded to his social media, it kind of reminded me of the underground scene in Japan. It looks fun.
Right now, I am busy and haven’t been able to go to their shows. I just want to get to know what kind of music people here are into and how they enjoy and consume their music regularly.
With the experience you will eventually gather from Sweden, how do you plan to use those in future works?
I’ve felt like there’s been a lack of artistic freedom for me, so now I feel like I would really like to expand my horizons. I’m a very strong-willed person, so of course, I would want to pursue more artistic freedom for myself, my music, and my art!
Are there any specific artists from Sweden that you have been interested in before moving here?
Of course, there are famous artists such as ABBA. But then, there are also underground artists that I mentioned before, such as buffalobang, who is active on an individual level, who pursue their own crafts.
I also like a lot of movies from Sweden, such as “Boku no Eri 200sai no Shoujo” [also known as “Let the Right One In”]. I just really like Northern Europe in general, and especially Norwegian and Scandinavian movies, such as [the Norwegian movie] “The Worst Person in the World”. I really like that one, and it has had quite an impact on me.
How did you discover these movies? We assume it might not be the easiest thing to come by in Japan?
For me, “Boku no Eri 200sai no Shoujo” is very common to come by in Japan, in my circle at least. The movie “The Worst Person in the World” had a limited screening in some theaters, but also, it was trending for a bit on social media, like Twitter. It has a strong focus on issues that women go through that resonates with the mature female audiences [laughs].
For you, as an individual, is there anything that you would like to do or accomplish in Sweden before you leave?
The one thing I really want to achieve is just to live an everyday life here.
I would want to try to work a regular job, but I’ve been very busy just with upcoming performances. Maybe like [the restaurant] “Sushi Yama” [laughs]? Please give me recommendations on places to work [laughs].
Looking ahead in the future, beyond your time in Sweden and a few years down the road, what do you hope “SARI” will have become?
I would want to become more unique, and someone who strong, who doesn’t feel the need to flatter or cater to others, while being self-reliant.
I want my art to be more organically expressive. To me, my lifestyle and my art are one. They are intertwined—one exists because of the other. By tending to my surrounding, living conditions in Sweden, and prioritizing my own well-being and health, I believe that the quality of my artistic output will improve as well.
Apart from music, what other hobbies do you have?
I have lots of hobbies; I’ve always liked reading novels and manga, watching movies, and just taking in art in general. I love the outdoors and seeing the mountains, rivers, and fishing. All of my hobbies feed inspiration for my art as well.
Additionally, I also love yoga. It’s been a special thing in my life where I can completely focus on myself. Yoga can be done in a way that clears the mind and that’s fine, but for me, it helps me to become more attuned to my mind and body. I become aware of any problems within, plus, it also helps me relax.
I’m also enjoying taking baths; this is really important to me because it provides a mean for inspiration, such as new melodies and lyrics. Unfortunately, where I live in Sweden now, there isn’t a bath, so I end up taking really long showers instead while thinking of various things [laughs].
Is there a message you’d like to share with your fans, particularly those overseas?
This journey of moving to Sweden and starting a new chapter in my life is incredibly significant to me. I’m excited about the prospect of meeting more of you throughout this year, and I sincerely hope you’ll continue to find joy in my music.
Please look forward to my upcoming releases. I have new songs coming and they will be very cool! Thank you for your patience, and see you again soon!
With a commitment to authenticity and a passion for artistic freedom, we hope SARI will be able to enjoy a fulfilling time in Sweden and find that special tune.
A special thanks to SJPA for providing us the opportunity to connect with SARI!