Exploring xiexie’s Surreal Soundscape: An Interview 

The last five years in music have traversed geographical boundaries and language barriers, uniting listeners globally. Genres like Afrobeats, Amapiano, and K-pop have produced artists and music that have broken records and opened them up to bigger and more diverse audiences. This global phenomenon has really encouraged listeners to seek out sounds that are different from their commercial Western music that has been dominant in the soundwave for years. At the root of this emerging universal rhythm is just the listeners’ instinct to love what they connect with whether they can understand the lyrics or not. Moreover, borderless music has allowed fans who are not into commercial sounds like pop, to explore and later appreciate the smaller and lesser-known indie and alternative music scenes of these countries. 

xiexie was in this pocket for me. The four-person Tokyo-based band ‘xiexie’ produces a distinct range of tempos, blends different tempos and percussions, and soft and gentle vocals that make for an infectious sound. Their collective music flows together seamlessly but you can still hear the individual elements that make the music harmonious. Even though the music is for the most part mellow, even the slightest crescendos fit into the lighthearted feel of their sound. xiexie’s sound has so much texture and the way the instrumentation provided by guitarists Yamato Koda and Teruyuki Hiraki and drummer Koichi Hida complements the wispy and calming voice of their lead vocalist Meari is a perfect balance of sound. 

The quartet formed in 2020 making psychedelic and indie pop and has since emerged as a dazzling band to look out for. Their self-titled 2021 EP XIEXIE was particularly addicting to me because it was so refreshing and groovy that it always filled me with abundant joy. xiexie has this profound ability to create happiness with just their soundscape. Their wellwell continues and builds on this but with more experimentation with their arrangement, vocals (with Koda singing as a main vocalist on “Nile”), and production.  

Photo by @uemura_mado

I had a conversation with xiexie ahead of the release of their debut album, their collaboration as a band, and their favorite parts about performing.

 Meari (Vocal, guitar)

Yamato Koda (Guitar and vocal– main song writer)

Teruyuki Hiraki (Bass guitar)

Koichi Hida (Drums – engineer)

Nthatile: You are set to release your debut album in June. What is your creative process and meaning behind your songs? With your project, can you give more information about the production and creativity behind it?

Koda: I am constantly inspired by Science Fiction (SF) films and I build the structure of a song and compose lyrics while watching movies, after that we do a session to compose those songs in the studio. Films are a part of my creative process because I usually feel curious yet also grateful about the unknown of the SF world. We also think the theme is a new style, but it is also quite human. On the creative side, We were mainly influenced by US indie sounds, especially artists that have a folk music essence like Real Estate and Fleet Foxes. We are also careful that we don’t put too many sounds on one song. I think the current music has too many sounds.

On the 22nd of May you released three singles off of your album, ‘my time’, ‘Nile’, and ‘please me’. Can you tell us more about these songs? The choice of vocals, instruments, and overall production process?

Meari: I recorded the chorus harmony for “please me” as the last part of recording, so I could relax when we were putting it together. I had many ideas for that chorus and sent everything to Hida and did his magic to make it the best. I like “Nile” because the song is Koda’s first main vocal song and his vocals make the song so appealing. I also felt that I could immediately see the vision I had for this song but not as the lead singer. I could not stop dancing when we were recording this song. I sang the lowest key on xiexie’s discography for my time. In this song, I wanted to convey someone standing in the middle of the ocean and the universe.

Koda: As I mentioned in the last answer, the theme is SF. It’s written in Japanese but the lyrics are also inspired by SF. “please me” is a conversation with listeners. The song has a part where we make the sound “bang” I wanted to show that we should remember our inner child and enjoy our lives. For “Nile” I felt like it’s okay if we have a song that has a male vocal as to change the mood on the album. My time’ s image is in the middle of the ocean, forest, and space. They have never mixed in the real world, but it can be mixed with a human touch, so I wanted to do it. It was also the first time we used the piano in on of our songs.

Hiraki: For “my time” I added bass on a track that already had temporary vocals, guitar,and rhythm. The first impression of the song is a folk sound, so I wanted to use an uprightbase, and I think it went very well.

Hida: ”please me” contains a synthesiser and pad. We used a Latin rhythm for “my time” which was our first time trying it.

How has your sound changed from your first EP XIEXIE? 

Meari: It has the same atmosphere but it’s more colourful.

Koda: The 2nd EP “33” was made in a more experimental way in that we wanted to explore our ability to make music. But this album wellwell was created by going back to the roots of the first XIEXIE. The theme has not changed but I think the songs have become Simpler.

Hiraki: We learned a lot through trial and error when we created “33”, and when we made this album, we returned to our original sounds like our debut EP XIEXIE and we could update those original sounds because we tried to make different type songs for “33”. 

Music breaks the barriers of language because it is so global. You have gained a fan in me just off of the sound of your music. What do you hope your international fans take away from listening to you?

Meari: I would be happy if listeners feel that the music we make embodies xiexie!

Koda: The melody is catchy so we’re happy if listeners feel the beauty of the Japanese language in our sound. 

Hiraki: Even if you don’t understand the meaning, we’re happy that listeners can feel the beauty of Japanese lyricism.

Hida: I hope our music takes you to new heights. 

Photo by @uemura_mado

How did you come together to form your band and how has journey been as a band since 2020?

Meari: I’m very happy that our music was born in a small room during the pandemic, and we released it through the internet first. And now our music is on CDs and vinyl and is reaching many more people. I also very happy to travel to many locations to play live, and to see our audiences smile every time.

Koda: I’m so happy that more people than I could have ever imagined enjoy our music. 

Hiraki: We realised that we had made good music when we started playing various festivals and events, including our first overseas performance in Taiwan. We really appreciate that a lot of people enjoy our music anywhere, at home, on the subway, and at concert.

Hida: Time flies! Maybe it just feels like that because we started a band during the pandemic.

As a band, your work is based on collaboration, can you tell us about the process of working and coming together to make music that you can all agree on, love, and enjoy?

Meari: I don’t insist on my ideas too much. I love everyone’s individuality.

Koda: I think it’s impossible for a band to “create something that everyone a 100% agrees on but that’s why bands have the potential to create new unprecedented music. This is my opinion, but I believe that we can’t really create new stuff if we are making music with only what we love and what we understand. So we should accept what we don’t understand in in order to create something new. I also believe that this is the way for people to grow, not only musicians, but listeners as well.

Hiraki: I think it’s important that we still communicate even when we have a different opinion. It’s also huge that we respect each other.

Hida: We can make use of each member’s character and music style to create a song. I also feel we should have fun as a band for every activity, not just playing music.

You describe your music as psychedelic and dreamy how and why do you define your sound the way that you do?

Koda: I think its because the sound is the closest thing to space. 

Your music is a bridge between Asian indie music and US indie music. What music influences inspired your choice of genre and your sound?

Koda: Some of our favourite references are OASIS, The Zombie, and Fleet Foxes. I also like Inner Wave, Still Woozy, and Moon Panda these days. These influences have inspired the way we sound because we have to make a sound that can utilise our harmonising vocals.

Hida: Of course I like US indie sounds but I am also influenced by progressive rock like Pink Floyd. I feel xiexie is the band that is the progression of people who originally loved soul music, but are now moving closer and closer to the British sound. Basically, we love the music with a groove in it.

You have had some amazing performances in the last few years, what are your favorite parts about performing and what are some of your favourite performances?

Meari: No two performances are the same so the view from the stage and everything I felt during each and every one of them are embedded in my memory. The most memorable to me was our first show in Taiwan.

Koda: Performing feels like freedom. The show in Taiwan was impeccable.

Hiraki: FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL in 2022 and 台湾浪人祭 in 2023 left a strong impression on me. The best thing about live performances is that the members and the audience can all share the same atmosphere and euphoria.

Hida: The Taiwanese Festival is the one I remember the most too. Because it was first our overseas performance.

You have announced a tour on your Instagram recently and your fans are eagerly waiting to see you perform again. What can your fans expect from your live shows?

Meari: I want to enjoy the current xiexie myself.

Koda: I’d love to say xiexie (thank you) to our audiences.

Hiraki: We have some challenge on this tour because it’s first our Kyoto show, and first solo show in Nagoya. But we’re so excited to meet our audiences. I also looking forward to play with guest acts as well.

Hida: It’s our first tour so we’re excited! I think we will have so many tunes our audiences will love so please come and enjoy with us!

Lastly, where do you wish to take your band and music in future? What hopes do you have with the release of this project and what can we expect from your debut album?

Meari: We’d be so happy if more people listened to us throughout the world.

Koda: We have not set any specific goals but I hope we’d go to outside to Japan to playshows, in England, the U.S. and many other places around the world.

Hiraki: We finally released our debut album so we can show the world what our sound and ability is.

Hida: I want to bring our alternative music to the global scene.

wellwell is out on all music streaming platforms. 

Bandcamp / UMA music video / Spotify

Written by Nthatile Mavuso