Genre-bending dance unit ATARASHII GAKKO! wrapped up an explosive 2023! With an appearance at Head In The Clouds fest in LA, a world tour, and an invitation to the the widely viewed end-of-the-year program Kouhaku Uta Gassen on Japanese public television, the eccentric foursome won over new fans across across the world and became a bona fide household name in their homeland.
Fortunately for JROCK NEWS, members SUZUKA, KANON, MIZYU, and RIN caught up with us after the completion of THE SEISHUN TOUR and their first ever gig at Nippon Budokan, titled SEISHUN SHURAI, for a crowd of 12,000! They answered some of our burning questions on what it was like to go on the road and what ended up being their most treasured memories from the North American shows.
Read on below! And keep your eyes peeled for more to come: ATARASHII GAKKO! will return to the US this spring for Coachella 2024, performing on April 14 and 21 in Indio, California! Who’s ready to go?
Glad to see you back in the US! The title of last year’s tour was THE SEISHUN TOUR. What thoughts or emotions did you hope to convey to your overseas fans?
This was the first time we held a tour with so many stops! Then fans resonated with us and went totally crazy! We felt like the whole experience opened new doors for us. We’ll keep at it so that we can continue to meet more and more fans across the world!
What does the word “seishun” mean to each group member? Did the meaning of the word to each of you change throughout the tour?
SUZUKA: Sometimes, we veer off the path or lose our way. What’s important is that we’re always on the move to reach our goal, no matter what.
KANON: Seishun is a part of me every day. I think it’s what the four of us embody!
RIN: I was just delighted to be able to experience seishun together with all kinds of fans from THE SEISHUN tour.
MIZYU: Seishun is an obsession. It’s about being true to yourself, facing the facts, and to feel touched and moved! Seishun is everything!
What were some different expressions of seishun that you had hoped to learn from journeying to different countries, and how will they help ATARASHII GAKKO! grow as a unit?
In Japan, seishun tends to be perceived as a thing that only applies to adolescents. But upon meeting the audience overseas, we realized time after time that it’s wonderful for people of any age to wholeheartedly enjoy themselves. “This is truly seishun!” As ATARASHII GAKKO!, we hope to continue conveying this message, regardless of international borders or different cultures.
How did you come up with the setlist for the tour? If there were any differences compared to the shows you usually perform in Japan, what was the thought process that went into that change?
The setlist was completely different from the Japanese version! We chose songs that people can get into even without understanding Japanese, or songs with Japanese lyrics that were relatively easy to sing along to! There were also songs that were written after we joined [the record label] 88rising, with the intent to challenge ourselves with an international listener base. For Mexico, we sang the Spanish version of Free your mind!
You’re known for your innovative dance choreography. Some of the songs, like Seishun wo Kirisaku Hadou looked very intense! Which were the most technically challenging songs to dance to (or sing to) on stage?
It had to be Saisyu Jinrui! We initially choreographed this song imagining what it would look like to “break the limit of the human form”. The movements became so intense each time that our bodies are still aching!
Your poses on stage are just so fun to watch too. Which member brings these ideas to the rest of the group? Do you just have a library of poses stored in your brains?
We come up with the poses on the spot by absorbing all the energy from the audience. It can depend on the mood or the setting, the country or the vibes during a particular music fest!
It seems that all four members get along quite well backstage. How did you all pass the time on tour, as you traveled so far from city to city?
We slept (all four of us).
We also played video games, listened to music, and watched movies. We also felt a bit like tourists by taking in the view through the window while driving through different cities!
We love asking artists this one all the time: What were some must-have items that ATARASHII GAKKO! had to bring when traveling far away from Japan (besides a smartphone)?
Miso soup, dashi (Japanese soup stock), instant seaweed soup, and things like massage oil and compresses to take care of our bodies. We might not be used to the water in different cities overseas, so we take our favorite shampoos and conditioners. We also bring some art supplies to draw with.
Was there a city that you had especially looked forward to visiting? Did you do any sightseeing?
Our touring schedule gave us a bit more time to stay, so we had some fun there! Tacos! Tacos y tequila! Margaritas!
We also relaxed for a bit in Toronto. The pancakes we had with maple syrup were very yummy.
The pizza in Chicago was delicious too. We were glad to be able to try the cuisine in each city!
You were in North America multiple times in 2023. Back in August, you performed at 88rising’s Head In The Clouds festival in LA. Can you share your feelings from performing in front of such a huge international crowd?
It was totally the best. Sharing all this energy with everyone was our happy moment!
Are you interested in performing at more American music festivals in the future? Is there a US artist whose music you love or would love to collaborate with in the future?
Of course! We want to be invited to more and more festivals!
Beastie Boys! Money Mark! We want to do a collab on stage!
Note: Since the interview, ATARASHII GAKKO has been confirmed to perform at Coachella in Indio, California on April 14 and 21.
Last year’s single Maningen was so funky and jazzy, yet irresistibly catchy! Does it question the everyday status quo and how we function as humans in a mundane world?
In the minds of ATARASHII GAKKO, why is it so important to break free from being “ordinary”? What are things we can do right now to prevent being stuck in a mold?
It’s not that we think it’s “bad” to feel “ordinary”, rather we feel it’s more important to express things in a way that’s true to yourself. Be yourself, but don’t break any laws! It’s a process that we hope everyone can have fun pursuing together with ATARASHII GAKKO!
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule today! Lastly, as your full Japanese name contains the word “leaders” (ATARASHII GAKKO NO LEADERS), how will you inspire the audience with your displays of leadership?
The four of us are constantly looking for places in the world where Japanese culture of today and the “AG! Style” can feel right at home. We urge you to come and enjoy together with us!