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Tokyo, Tōkyō, Japan | INDIE

Tokyo, Tōkyō, Japan | INDIE
Band Alternative Rock




"KEIKAKU.NET(U.S) Interview"

Q: Hello, Metro-Ongen! Please introduce yourselves.

We're a four-piece band based in Tokyo. We are MGT (also known as Magata Minami, or just Tsuchy to his friends) on vocals and guitar, Yuta Ryuzaki (Ryu) on guitar, Fumie on drums and second vocals, and Wakae Moran-Douglas on bass.

Q: The band's been together for over 8 years now. Have there been any line-up or member changes over the years?

MGT and our original bassist, Shingo Sato, made Eat in the Planet just for fun together, then Yuta and Fumie came on board soon after. Shingo left after completing the album Flyer 8. Since then we've been through a few more bassists; Wakae joined us this year to replace Satoshi Arai (who played on our new album, Eden).

Q: How did you originally meet and eventually form the band?

We all met through the music society at college, and were drinking-buddies all through college. Then after graduating, MGT wanted to make a demo, and asked the other members to join him.

Q: Is there any specific meaning behind Metro-Ongen? It's certainly a unique name and I quite like it, but I'm curious to know how the name came about. [note: "ongen" translates as "sound source"]

The word "metro" represents city life for us, but it's also a symbol of big cities – only large metropolises have metro systems. Big cities never sleep, there's no difference between day and night, and the subway is like that too, it's always dark. That darkness, and the bright lights in the darkness – it struck us as being very lonely, the sort of loneliness you find in Paul Auster or Haruki Murakami, and in all sorts of modern culture. We wanted to make music for that hyper-modern world.

Q: That's a great description. On your site you've described yourselves as a "vivid pop band" and said your sound has been compared to Western acts such as Television, Blondie, and Yo La Tengo. Do you feel that they are your major musical influences? What Japanese artists do you think have shaped your sound most, if any? What about influences outside of music?

Yes, those artists have definitely influenced us, as have many other Western bands, such as The Stone Roses, Nick Drake, and Belle and Sebastian. As kids we all loved the Japanese band The Blue Hearts, so they also influenced us, along with Fishmans, Cornelius, and Quruli. And of course, beyond music, there are various artists, writers and thinkers that inspire us.

Q: What inspires you when writing and creating songs? I mean both the lyrics and the song's sound. Do you find there to be any common themes in your music, in terms of lyrics and overall "feeling"?

Usually we make songs through jamming, so we find a sound or phrase first, and progress from there. Songs will spontaneously form themselves – one melody will lead to another melody, one harmony will lead to another harmony and so on. Then it reminds us of particular feelings, and that will call up lyrics. Sometimes, it works the other way, and we will build songs around the resonance of certain words or

It's hard to say what inspires us exactly, and each of us has a different concept of the records we make. If we have an over-riding theme, then it's the relationships – or lack thereof – between things, the notions of belonging and alienation, love, family etc. We are all interconnected - even if we haven't met – through history, culture and shared space. And even things or works we make have relationships with each other.

Q: Are there any songs which were written in a more unusual way, and if so how?

With Eden we were working with a producer, David Naughton, so he helped shape the harmonies and gave us a different approach to songwriting.

Q: When and where do you write lyrics for your songs?

MGT usually comes up with lyrics while walking or taking a bath, and writes them down straight away on his cell-phone.

Q: A few months ago you announced you started your own label, August Sun Records. Why did you decide to create your own label? Do you plan on signing other artists to the label as well?

We have been signed to various labels, but we found the experience restrictive, so we decided to make our own label instead. In the future we would like to sign other artists, but right now we're focusing on our own projects.

Q: I'm really looking forward to Eden! You have been consistently great with every release! ...But it's been over 3 years since your last release! Why the long wait?

Thanks! Partly the album was delayed due to changes in the band line-up, but also we were working with our producer so we wanted to try out new ideas and get things exactly right.

Q: How would you describe Eden's sound and overall theme?

Well, as the title suggests, we based the album around the concept of the Garden of Eden. We were drawn to the image of paradise, and being cast out and wandering without purpose or destiny, and also the idea of finding a space of our own to live in.

Q: How do you come up with "compiling" your albums? Like song order on the album, and do the albums have any overarching themes? Do you feel like the themes carry over from album to album or is each release treated as a new and separate entity from the rest of your discography?

We don't really compile our songs in any particular way! We just aim for a smooth flow of sound. We don't especially have an overarching theme either - we just go with the ideas or themes that interest us at the time. As for an overarching theme, each of our albums marks a step in our growth as a band. On our next album we want to explore the contradictory nature of being yourself, and how we're trapped in a sort of double-bind - we feel like we have to be individuals, but "being an individual" is something everybody has to do. We feel this pressure to be somebody, but in the end nobody really knows who they are, and we end up being nobody. Accepting being nobody - that's what we want to talk about next!

Q: So what's next after Eden? It seems you're already thinking quite a bit about the next release!

We have a working concept for the next record, but we are not seriously making an album yet. But we hope it won't be long before we record a new record!

Q: What has been your greatest challenge as a band so far?

Probably all the changes in line-up. Each time we found it hard to find "our" bassist. Right now we have a great bassist, so we're very happy!

Q: What do you feel has been the biggest accomplishment of the band so far?

We think our greatest accomplishment is that we have managed to continue as a band for so long.

Q: What new and upcoming musical artists from Japan have you been listening to lately, if any?

We have been listening to Rokujouhitoma, Margaret Drawers, Hinomari, Sorrys!, and Stan.

Q: Can you share some of your favorite books and movies?

MGT: I like the manga Akira, and the works of Yoshiharu Tsuge.
Fumie: I like movies directed by Juzo Itami and Wilhelm Wenders.
Ryu: Anything by Jorge Luis Borges. I also love Glenn Gould (although that's not a book or movie).
Wakae: Original comic book of Kaze no Tani no Naushica, and all the films / TV series of Simon Pegg.

Q: What are your thoughts on an overseas tour?

Of course we'd love to do one! We hope we can organise one in the near future.

Q: Is there anything you'd like to say specifically to your overseas fans?

We are so happy that you are listening to our music even though you are so far away. We hope we can meet you one day. Thank you so much for supporting us.

Q: I hope you all have continued success and happiness. Thanks for taking part in this interview!

Thank you too!

Interview from December 2010. Shawn and the rest of the staff would like to thank Ryu and his bandmates for participating in the interview.

- Shawn Grover - KEIKAKU.NET

"Rays of Light Through the Clouds (G.B.E.V. May 2011)"

This is a four-piece which has created a buzz by having David Naughton, who has worked with Belle and Sebastian and Teenage Fan Club, as their producer (and because he, in fact, approached them himself). Not only does the band’s melancholy-wrapped alternative sound close in on you, but the fantastic melodies and the profusely expressive guitars in particular also display a wistfulness that goes beyond the vocals. Their sorrowful phrases hit you right ‘there’ over and over again. (Ayumi Tsubouchi) - Sony Magazines G.B.E.V.

"Words from David Naughton(Metro-Ongen Producer)"

Metro-Ongen have depth, hunger, heart, melody, performance & questions…EDEN will withstand the test of time with ease & grace. - David Naughton(Metro-Ongen Producer)

"Words from Callum Grant(Blue Man Actor)"

I saw them once and was hooked, now I am a repeat offender.
- Callum Grant(Blue Man Actor) - Callum Grant(Blue Man Actor)

"Words from Yuki Matsuzaki (Actor in 'Pirates of the Carribean 4' and 'The Pink Panther 2')"

Magical songs which make the mist in your heart clear, and a blue sky spread out on the back of your eyelids.
- Yuki Matsuzaki (Actor in 'Pirates of the Carribean 4' and 'The Pink Panther 2') - Yuki Matsuzaki (Actor in 'Pirates of the Carribean 4' and 'The Pink Panther 2')

"Words from Asako Toki (Singer, formerly of 'Cymbals')"

This is truly youthful melancholy. You want to listen to it on those afternoons when you feel like softly and fluently sinking into your own wistfulness. - Asako Toki (Singer, formerly of 'Cymbals')

"JUICE Apr 2011"

I love that Metro-Ongen are such ‘neat freaks’; you can feel a strength at the core of their sound which is like someone refusing to let anyone mess up their tiny but perfectly ordered miniature garden.
They have released this album on their own label, and it has ten tracks produced by David Naughton who has previously worked with Belle & Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub. Soft and clear audio, whipping beats, and literary lyrics have been brilliantly put together here. Every time you hear the title track, ‘Eden’, and track 9, ‘Night Phlox’, you feel like you could be on a trip! (Yoichi Tashiro) - GLOBAL VISION MEDIA

"QUIP MAGAZINE vol.64, May 2011"

David Naughton: a producer who has recorded bands like Belle & Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub. Metro-Ongen: the band he approached to work with. This album, the result of their meeting, is filled with phenomenal helpings of vitality, meticulously layered backing vocals with a lead voice that cuts straight through, and richly expressive songs that cover a wide range of scales. This is one of those albums where there is something new to find every time you listen to it. (Chika Komine) - MEDICOMTOY

"skream! Apr 2011"

Whether the ‘Eden’ they’ve created is imaginary, a parallel world, or even a real place, maybe only Metro-Ongen can truly say. While their music is easy on the ear, it brings out an overflow of imagination, and they leave amusing, subtle surprises for the listener. I’d like to be swallowed up in their music. (Oki Sayako) - skream!

"indies issue 5th Apr 2011"

Rather than this being J-pop which takes its cues from western music, it’s more music that has been made with a western philosophy. However, it’s not just a rip off of American or British music. You can really feel in their work that this group wants to make Japanese music richer and more varied than it is now. (Iwasaki Kazuhiro) - indies issue

"JUNGLE LIFE Apr 2011"

As their music flows into your ears, images appear in your head. Just as you’re listening to the second and third tracks (‘King of Zero’ and ‘Voyager’) and imagining being in a near-futuristic world, the fourth, ‘Lemonade’ suddenly brings with it bittersweet thoughts, and sepia scenes spread out before you. Whether they revive old memories or stimulate your imagination, these songs make you feel somewhat melancholic. Vocalist MGT’s soft, contoured voice and the gorgeous layers of backing vocals woven together by the whole group are truly alluring. (Fumio Ito, JUNGLE LIFE) - JUNGLE LIFE

"CD Journal Apr 2011"

This is a beautiful, melancholy-filled masterpiece. (Yuji Tayama) - Ongaku-shuppannsha

"ototoy 7thApr 2011"

In track 8, ‘The Road’, there’s a line that says, “People are made through gathering, connecting, intermingling, separating, and breaking up,” and in each of the tracks they succeed in depicting that moment when, as people hit adolescence, they discover something new and go their own separate ways to find something different. (Jiro Takizawa) - boundee

"diggin’ the music (TOWER RECORDS ×JUNGLE LIFE)"

I believe that there is an endless range of possibilities here. Their songs speak to the listener gently, and track by track they steal your heart. This is a record that you’ll want take out and listen to in the spring wind. (Yuuko Komatsu, Tower Records Nagoya) - TOWER RECORDS


Single works of Metro-Ongen:

M1. Under a zelkova was played on MRT RADIO STATION, FM Setagaya and Katsushika FM. It also got heavy rotation on Satsuma FM.
M2. Sick's PV was played on THE STREET VIEW OF SHIBUYA CROSSING, AKIHABARA station and Shinbashi station.
With this PV, Metro-Ongen won the stage of Japanese major festival SUMMER SONIC 2011.

Album works of Metro-Ongen:

M3.Voyager, M5. Eden, M6. Lisbon were played on Japanese Major Radio Station (e.g. J-wave, Tokyo FM, MTV Japan) and those songs also got heavy rotation on a lots local radio stations.

"In the whale" 14th Nov 2007 OWL WORKS:
M7.Pablo was played on Miyazaki FM and MRT RADIO.
A poster of this album won a gold of 2010 New York design award.

"Flyer 8"
4th. Nov 2005 Dead Rock Records:
M2. Scaler was played on TVK TV sataton, MXTV station, MTV Japan, Osaka FM and a lots local radio stations



Metro-Ongen were formed in Tokyo in 2002. Combining lullaby melodies and lush harmonies with a new-wave sound that has been compared to Blondie and Television, Metro-Ongen have steady gained a devoted fanbase across Japan.
They played at SUMMER SONIC 2011, TOKYO BOOT UP 2011 and one show at Osaka's Minami Wheel Festival (the Japanese answer to SXSW) was so over-crowded fans had to be turned away.
Moreover a poster design that won a 2010 New York design award, the band are evolving into an art collective under the banner Team M-O.
Aug 2010, Metro-Ongen set up their own label "AUGUST SUN RECORDS", and New Album "EDEN" was released 6th Apr 2011.