Official Hige Dandism gets creative in new album

The Yomiuri Shimbun
From left: Makoto Narazaki, Daisuke Ozasa, Satoshi Fujihara and Masaki Matsuura

Pop-rock quartet Official Hige Dandism’s latest album, “Editorial,” was released last month.

Affectionately known as HigeDan, the group has garnered a tremendous following from fans of all ages. “Editorial” is their first album in almost two years and their second album under the Pony Canyon label.

“Each member’s unique personality comes across stronger than ever. I think the combination of those personalities has become pretty vivid,” drummer Masaki Matsuura said.

Although vocalist and pianist Satoshi Fujihara primarily serves as the band’s composer and lyricist, for this new album, each member tried his hand at songwriting. While the album includes recent hits, such as “I Love …” and “Laughter,” it also features songs that candidly reflect what the members have experienced and felt during the coronavirus crisis.

“Our personal thoughts are laid bare with each member expressing their most genuine feelings,” guitarist Daisuke Ozasa said about the songs. “[The songs] contain our genuine opinions.”

Makoto Narazaki, who plays the group’s bass and saxophone, said, “[Songwriting] took quite a bit of effort, but [through the process] I realized that the act of expressing oneself is something that we as humans do to put our minds at ease.”

The album starts with the eponymous track, “Editorial,” a slightly rigid word that carries a certain weight.

“I personally think editorials [in newspapers and magazines] are a hybrid of the writer’s feelings and opinions and what they’re reporting on. The songs on this album sympathetically resonate with this idea,” Fujihara said.

Their worries, their feelings, and the conclusions that can or can’t be drawn from them — they’ve created music using themselves as the foundation, believing that through this album they are able to show just what kind of band they want to be.

It can also be said that the album is the result of collective desire to turn the idea of getting close to listeners in the truest sense into something tangible.

“Will telling the listeners things like, ‘Oh, yes. I know how you feel; It’s all right!’ when you have no idea just what is weighing on their minds, or what sort of things make them happy, bring you any closer to them? If giving shape to our personal thoughts as ‘comrades’ who share their journey in the same era eventually brings us closer to them, then that would be wonderful, I think,” Fujihara said.

Drawing from within

Cowriting the song, “Filament,” with Fujihara was Matsuura’s first foray into the world of music and lyric composition. Its impressive lyrics give the impression of someone offering a supportive push forward. Once he’d completed a demo version of the song, Matsuura sought Fujihara’s advice, and the two collaborated from there.

“Drawing out emotion from deep down in your heart is difficult,” Matsuura said. “But [Fujihara] helped me open that heavy door. There’s also some pain involved whenever you’re creating something, but now I have a strong sense of accomplishment,” he added with a smile.

Narazaki penned the music and lyrics for “Midori no Amayoke” (The green rain cover), which features pleasantly light sounds and just a hint of loneliness. As a lover of sake, he was known to frequent standing bars, which is currently difficult to do. While out on a walk, he came across a bar with its shutters closed and became overwhelmed with emotion.

“I wrote the song as though I was cutting out a piece of the memory by taking a photo. I also reflected on the days spent with everyone who has helped HigeDan because I wanted the song to be a reminder of our time with them,” Narazaki said.

Ozasa wrote “Bedroom Talk.” Because it’s only the second song he’s written, he said he still feels a little embarrassed it. “[But] I felt that it would have been just fine to rely on my fellow members,” he said.

While producing the album, the members took a trip outside central Tokyo and sat around an open fire, exchanging thoughts and opinions, which Ozasa found to be a great help.

“It really was a great time,” he said. “We talked about lowering the bar for pitching ideas for songs.”

Pursuit of ideals

Also featured on the album is “Cry Baby,” which serves as the opening theme of the popular anime series “Tokyo Revengers.”

As soon as the song was released online in May, the dynamic and cool track with its somewhat strange, idiosyncratic melody created quite a buzz. There’s a key change in the song’s chorus that was the result of Fujihara mistakenly hitting the wrong key on the piano.

“Well, I did sort of have an idea of how challenging it would be,” Fujihara said with a chuckle, as the other three laughed.

“[When I first heard it,] I thought, ‘Wow! What’s this?’ But you get used to it. Now I can’t do without the key change,” Matsuura said.

When Fujihara played the song on the piano for the first time, the other three members were apparently surprised. But then each member slept on the song overnight, and the four agreed that the melody meshes with the band’s sound.

“Perhaps some of our listeners were also surprised when they first listened to it. But it’ll grow on them. We didn’t feel that anything was amiss by the time we released it,” Ozasa said. Indeed, it has become quite popular on various streaming services.

Next year, the band will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its formation.

“Rock bands are like tuna; they can’t thrive unless they keep moving forward,” Fujihara said. “We want to go on pursuing our ideals by doing things that only we can do.”

Everyone smiled in agreement.