Real Sound “WEATHER STATION” interviews with inabakumori

A translation of a two-part Real Sound interview (first part released March 13, 2022, second part released March 20, 2022) with music artist inabakumori regarding the album WEATHER STATION.



inabakumori discusses changes in style after making a big break with “Lost Umbrella”, the reason for choosing Vocaloid Kaai Yuki, and personal musical roots


稲葉曇「ロストアンブレラ」を経た変化

After starting activity as a Vocaloid producer in 2016, inabakumori has been gaining popularity with songs using Kaai Yuki, with breakout hit “Lost Umbrella” becoming popular overseas through TikTok. Following ANTICYCLONE from 2019, inabakumori’s second album WEATHER STATION is set for release on March 23.

inabakumori 2nd album WEATHER STATION crossfade

We at Real Sound have held an interview with inabakumori about the album’s release. Production background behind the songs in it will be discussed later in the second part, so in this first part, we discussed the background behind inabakumori’s start as a Vocaloid producer, big break of “Lost Umbrella”, and priorities in making music. (Jin Sugiyama)

If Kaai Yuki is my mother, wowaka-san is my father

–What made you start producing music?
inabakumori: When I was in middle school, I was in the brass band club, and I was a percussionist.

–Oh, really?
inabakumori: I was playing drums at the time. So at first I couldn’t compose music at all, but once I entered high school, I got addicted to Vocaloid music and indie coverist videos and started composing. I knew someone around my age who was also making Vocaloid songs, and they were also in a brass band, so I thought “I bet I can do it too,” and so I started writing music.

–Vocaloid culture has historically gotten many people to think “I bet I can do it too” and start trying things, so it seems you were one of those people.
inabakumori: Right. Even if you can’t sing yourself, as long as you can compose, you can make something. I listened to a lot of Vocaloid songs and started thinking “I want to make a song like this” and “I wish I could hear songs like this,” so I started making songs myself. At the time, I only had experience with percussion, so I didn’t even know what chords were (laughs).

–You mainly use Vocaloid Kaai Yuki, but how did you initially come across her?
inabakumori: I learned about Kaai Yuki from Sohta-san’s Vocaloid work, but when I first started writing songs, I initially used Kagamine Rin and Len. But as I was making songs, I figured out what kind of song I wanted to make, so after looking around and thinking “shouldn’t there be a voice that fits my kind of song better?”, I decided on Kaai Yuki. She isn’t very commonly used by many people, but I thought her voice had an incredible amount of charm to it. I started thinking, I want to hear more Kaai Yuki songs, and that became my initial motivation to make songs with her.

–Kaai Yuki’s voice is based off an elementary school student, but she has a mysteriously mature voice quality to her.
inabakumori: The voice itself should sound young because it’s based off of that of an elementary school student, but when you actually listen to it, it’s very calm, and I feel it has the perfect balance between all the good parts of a Vocaloid and all the good parts of a human voice mixed together. I don’t think her elucidation is very good, in fact it’s rather bad, but that’s exactly what gives it flavor and individuality. Also, I really love wowaka-san’s music and took a lot of influence from it, so I wanted to push that kind of style further. I picked Kaai Yuki at the time because I wanted to do something new that no one else had ever done before.

–You wanted to find a voice that suited your own music best.
inabakumori: Right. In my case, wowaka-san had a huge influence on my own musical roots.

–wowaka-san once said “my mother is Hatsune Miku and my father is NUMBER GIRL,” but I feel like there’s something about your music’s atmosphere that’s rather similar.
inabakumori: That makes me happy to hear. In my case, if my mother is Kaai Yuki, my father is wowaka-san. I listened to his music so much that I got fully absorbed and drenched in it. I think my ideas are unconsciously influenced by his work, so while I value everything that influenced me like that, I’m also thinking about how to make my own kind of music.

–Was there anything particularly striking that occurred between the release of your album ANTICYCLONE in 2019 and your current one, WEATHER STATION?
inabakumori: I was really surprised at how many people listened to “Lost Umbrella” on TikTok. My impression was that things like J-pop, Western music, and K-pop were more popular on TikTok, so when I saw my own songs getting popular as BGM there, I thought, “wait, did something happen?” A lot of people listened to my song and commented in different languages. I couldn’t have even imagined such a thing would happen, so I was very happy.

inabakumori “Lost Umbrella” Vo. Kaai Yuki

–Do you think you changed your songwriting approach after that experience?
inabakumori: I don’t think my songs ever used particularly difficult lyrics, but I think I’ve started trying to use simpler words. I wanted to start expressing something deeper while trying not to use overly difficult words. I think my song lyrics use words that even elementary school kids could understand, but I feel like I’ve started to aim for finding a way to have atmosphere and depth with such simple words.

–You’ve also been gaining a bigger and bigger audience even back here in Japan, and recently, you’ve also been gaining more opportunities to work alongside the same Vocaloid producers you started off listening to.
inabakumori:
I especially was struck by getting to work with Neru-san on a collaboration album named CHIMERA (released October 2021), run by Harumaki Gohan and NILFRUITS. I was actually involved in playing Neru’s songs when I was in the pop-rock club in high school, so it was like a complete dream. Recently, I’ve really started thinking “I’m glad I worked so hard” and “I’m glad I’ve kept on doing this” because I’ve been getting more and more opportunities to actually meet the Vocaloid producers I’ve been listening to for a while, and more opportunities for them to give their opinions on my work.

–You’ve had quite a lot of major experiences in the time leading up to this new album.
inabakumori:
I’ve been listening to Vocaloid music for a long time, so I have the feeling “I want to contribute to Vocaloid culture.” Nico Nico Douga was a place where I could listen to music just by browsing through the tags, and everyone uploaded videos and I was exposed to all kind of music, and it always was a huge help for me whenever I was having a hard time and couldn’t even bring myself to normally listen to music, so I feel “I want to give back.” In 2021, I had even more people listen to my music, I got to participate in a compilation album, and people even made fanwork of my songs, so I think I really have gotten to give back a bit of what I got out of Vocaloid.

The strength of the feeling “I want to give back to someone”

–Please tell us if there were any other major changes in how you made songs.
inabakumori:
Back in the old days, I think I was overly conscious of how to make a song catchy and stick in your head. Nico Nico Douga has a tag called “amazingly addictive”, and you could say I was specifically trying to make the kind of song that would end up in that tag. But because of that, they’d all come off as things that would be “easy to understand”. Nowadays, I feel like I’m thinking more about how to express a song’s inner charm. I’m focusing more on expressing the kind of sound and lyrics I want to express, so I’m putting more emphasis on inner depth. I think that’s why I’ve started putting more importance on lyrics than I used to. I used to just use whatever words and lyrics I came up with on the spot, but now I’ve been thinking harder about them than I used to, and I’m really happy that people are actually complimenting my lyrics.
Currently, my biggest emphasis is on producing the atmosphere I want to express most, meaning what kind of sound, melody, and rhythm I need to express what I like. My previous album ANTICYCLONE was almost entirely made up of Kaai Yuki songs, but after its release, I was requested to make a song for Meika Hime, and given the opportunity to make a demo song for Tsurumaki Maki. At first, I was a little worried about using a vocal that wasn’t Kaai Yuki, because Kaai Yuki, Tsurumaki Maki, and Meika Hime all have completely different kinds of voices.

–So you had the feeling that “if I don’t use Kaai Yuki, it won’t sound like my song.”
inabakumori:
But when I actually made the songs, they all sounded like they were my own. Thanks to that, it became apparent that “even if I use a different approach, I can still make songs with the atmosphere I want to hear.”

–Are there any particular habits that make up “a song with the atmosphere you want to hear”?
inabakumori:
One atmospheric thing I like comes from wowaka’s song “Palm”, where the first verse has the line “kiesatte ikimashita“. It’s got a very clear and beautiful melody, but it suddenly shifts at the “-ta“, and it feels a little dark and lonely. I really liked it when I first heard it, and I probably ended up basing a lot of my roots off of that experience. Back then, I read a comment with the nuance “it sounds off here,” and I remember getting really upset (laughs). Vocaloid producers all freely create and post songs they like without being tied to anything, so I don’t think there should be many “clean and perfect” songs among them.

–Vocaloid certainly does have appeal in how it has such a personal element to it.
inabakumori:
I agree. That’s the sentiment I’ve had for a long time, and that might have made its way into my own songs. Also, as far as lyrics go, I like it when it feels like there’s no concrete answer that you can be absolutely sure about. It’s like how the sound was a little off, you often can’t have a perfectly clean answer, and it feels ambiguous.

–For your songs in particular, I personally get the impression you have a lot of “things that can’t easily be categorized into black and white” and “because of that, it can have a stronger sense of realism and sincerity.”
inabakumori:
Now that you mention it, that really is how it is. Once I entered high school, I quickly ended up skipping school for many days, but that was also when I started getting immersed in Nico Nico Douga and Vocaloid. I really feel that I want to give back to someone, because Vocaloid helped me when I was alone and deep in my own troubles. In that sense, I think that might be the reason I want to keep making music.


inabakumori’s discusses the sense of self-assertion obtained through WEATHER STATION, and all of the songs included on it


稲葉曇『ウェザーステーション』インタビュー

After starting activity as a Vocaloid producer in 2016, inabakumori has been gaining popularity with songs using Kaai Yuki, with breakout hit “Lost Umbrella” becoming popular overseas through TikTok. Following ANTICYCLONE from 2019, inabakumori’s second album WEATHER STATION is set for release on March 23.

inabakumori 2nd album WEATHER STATION crossfade

In the first part of this interview, we discussed everything that happened between inabakumori’s first album and the upcoming one, and other topics including Vocaloid culture. In the second part, we discussed production background behind the songs in WEATHER STATION, and asked about how the album became “full of everything inabakumori has consisted of up until this point”. (Jin Sugiyama)

Most of my songs have geographical elements like weather or nature in them

–For this interview’s second part, please tell us more about the songs on your album WEATHER STATION. How did you conceive of “Secret Elementary School Student”?

inabakumori “Secret Elementary School Student” Vo. Kaai Yuki

inabakumori: I made this song for Kaai Yuki’s 10th anniversary, and I think some people have already noticed it, but in the lyrics, I had all of the kanji1 that kids Kaai Yuki’s age would know be written in kanji, and the ones they wouldn’t know would be in hiragana. As far as the sound goes, I listened to a lot of Vocaloid rock in 2012-2013 and took most of my base influence from it, so I started off thinking about what would work if I tried using this chord progression and setting Kaai Yuki to this tempo…I took special consideration to make this song specifically for Kaai Yuki, so the tempo keeps getting faster after the second chorus, and the atmosphere changes and the melody lines keep increasing. The next song, “Hello Marina”, uses both Kaai Yuki and Hatsune Miku. When I came up with the chorus, I had Kaai Yuki sing it, but when I came up with the next verse, I felt Miku was more fitting for it than Yuki, so while I was debating between which to use, I eventually decided to have both of them take turns.

–It sounds a lot like the kind of standout atmosphere songs you’d hear in 80s electropop.
inabakumori:
It was sometime before I made “Rainy Boots”, but I was thinking “I want to make a song that doesn’t have drums or guitar at the forefront,” so “Hello Marina” was the song I was ultimately able to put out. Incidentally, the song is partially themed around a “fjord”. A fjord is a deeply eroded inlet, the lyrics also have the keyword “deeply, deeply,” and the song also has sentiments that can be associated with a port city, like “unloading the burden”. In short, it’s a story of one person and another person, but if you think of both of them as inorganic beings, it’s the story of a ship and a port.

–I see. How did you come up with that?
inabakumori:
I’ve always liked geography, and most of my songs have those kinds of elements, like weather and nature. So I think this song just naturally ended up with that kind of atmosphere.

–The next song “Rainy Boots” has a lot of syllables in succession, making it feel much like actual rainy boots.

inabakumori “Rainy Boots” Vo. Kaai Yuki

inabakumori: I made “Loneliness of Spring” at around the same time, and that one had a more relaxed atmosphere, so I felt like I made “Rainy Boots” as somewhat of a response to it, and every time I came up with an idea that sounded good to the ear, I went ahead and put it in. I wanted to try out the idea that the chorus melody would have come from someone barely on tune. If it sounded off the entire time, it’d feel uncomfortable, but I spent a lot of time tweaking the balance so that you’d hear a calm and organized melody followed by one that felt off.

–You mentioned in the first part that you deliberately wanted to make things feel a little off, so in this case you induced that by having it come off as barely being put together. How about “Lagtrain”?

inabakumori “Lagtrain” Vo. Kaai Yuki

inabakumori: At the time, I was mostly making songs that were more on the rock side, and I realized I hadn’t made that many “four-on-the-floor mid-tempo songs” or “songs with guitar blending more into the back”, so I thought I wanted Kaai Yuki to sing something like that and started the song accordingly. I think I had a much clearer image of what I wanted to make with this song than all the ones I had previously. I thought about making it related to trains from the very beginning.
Also, I’d originally intended to make it an album-only song for my first album, and I hadn’t planned to post it publicly with a video. However, nukunukunigirimeshi (the artist for the video) heard it and said things like “this one’s definitely going to get popular” and “it’d be such a waste to make this album-only.” Back when it was in the demo stage, they insisted it needed to have a proper video and not just still images. nukunukunigirimeshi’s listened to a lot of Vocaloid songs, so perhaps their radar went off.

–The next song, “Loneliness of Spring”, is an official demo song for “Tsurumaki Maki”, a Vocaloid2 product by AH-Software (AHS), who also produced Kaai Yuki. It seemed you received the request to make this song because of your continued use of Kaai Yuki. Please tell us about how you felt when you first received the request.

inabakumori “Loneliness of Spring” Vo. Tsurumaki Maki

inabakumori: Well, before anything else, I was very happy to receive the request. I’d been using Kaai Yuki for a long time, so it was a dream to be contacted for this, and so of course I had to accept it. I started off making the song with a faster tempo, but when I heard how the AI Tsurumaki Maki sounded, I felt that this tempo would suit her better. It’s a song I created after properly visualizing what Tsurumaki Maki’s voice sounded like.

–So you made a song that made use of the natural human-like atmosphere that serves as an important feature for Tsurumaki Maki’s AI version.
inabakumori: Right. Personally, I usually prefer a more artificial Vocaloid-like voice, so at first, I was worried “this voice is too clean, is this really going to work with my music’s atmosphere?” But the AI version’s voice was charming in the sense it really was like an actual human’s voice, so I decided to go in the other direction and bring as much of that human-like charm as possible. In order to maintain that balance, I didn’t put the kind of sparkly finishing touches I normally would, and made it more of a simple, dark, and lonely atmosphere, but with a sense of gentleness. Incidentally, the song is themed around the idea of a worn-out school bag. Personally, I have younger siblings, but if you have older siblings, you’d end up using hand-me-downs at school, right? So that’s the kind of theme that’s in the song.

–I see. Is the song centered around “spring” in the sense it’s the season when school grades change?3
inabakumori: It is. The song is about being compared with something new and knowing that in the end you’ll be thrown away, but also thinking “maybe it’s okay, because I was still cherished.” It’s not in the sense of being a “person”, but more in the sense of being a “thing” like a bag.

–The song’s English version is also quite striking.

inabakumori “Loneliness of Spring” (English Cover) Vo. Tsurumaki Maki

inabakumori: The English version really came from a combination of timing and luck. This was around the time “Lost Umbrella” was getting popular abroad, and the song used Kaai Yuki, whose developer AHS used “Loneliness of Spring” as an official demo song for Tsurumaki Maki. And of top of that, Tsurumaki Maki also supported English, so I made this version. There aren’t a lot of people who make English covers with Vocaloid songs, and I personally wanted to try experiencing what it was like using the English version of the software. So I changed the way the phrases were paced, the timing, and the mixing to correspond with the English version’s vocal tone.

–How about the sixth song, “a flower waiting for the wind”?
inabakumori: If you haven’t listened to the crossfade yet, you’ll be spoiled, so you should probably skip this comment here, but for the album version, I had Yuki sing it, and I also added some other things in the instrumental to reflect some things I’d come up with later. The melody was originally meant entirely for Hime to sing it, so I hope you enjoy how it changes with the new vocals. Incidentally, this started off as an accident, but I forgot to remove Hime’s vocals in the chorus part. When I played it, Yuki and Hime’s voices were overlapped on each other, but it ended up as a very nice-sounding voice that had both softness and presence, so I left it as-is for the final version. I tried not to make it too obvious, but the chorus is sung by both Meika Hime and Kaai Yuki together.

–On the other hand, the next song, “Radar”, feels like it’s something very new and different in regards to your own music.
inabakumori:
It is. Like I said back during the first part of this interview, I’m not trying to make a song be “amazingly addictive” anymore, so I challenged myself to make it more of “my own kind of sound” that expresses more inner charm through its lyrics and sound balance.

–It’s a song that has the vocals and backing on the same line, with very few sounds, so it feels like minimalist techno with as many elements removed as possible.
inabakumori:
It’s definitely a complete 180 from a song like “Rainy Boots”. Normally, when I write songs, I only add more things to it as I go, but for “Radar” I took things away, gradually cutting sounds out of the phrases I came up with. It’s the song with the lowest amount of notes I could use that still allowed me to express my own phrases and rhythms. I also personally happen to like simple and calm songs and songs that don’t have a lot of sounds in them, and I wanted to have “inabakumori’s Kaai Yuki” sing all different kinds of songs, so it was a song I made as a kind of challenge.

–Please tell us about “Square Knot” (a song originally included in the 2017 compilation album Drowning in Alkaloid).
inabakumori:
After I released my first album, I realized the album (Drowning in Alkaloid) was out of stock, so I added the song to this album so people could listen to it more easily. At the time, I’d wanted to make a somewhat darker rock song with an incredibly fast tempo, but it ended up somehow even darker and sharper than I’d expected. “Lost Umbrella” was actually the song where I managed to attempt that concept again, so the development and sense of rhythm in similar, and in a sense you can think of the two songs as a pair.
The next song, “Cloudless Sky Rain”, is also a song from the 2018 compilation album Untruth Distortion, and since I knew I wasn’t going to post a video for the song, I did whatever I wanted with the direction, so I think I might have been even more forceful about expressing things the way I liked. It was also a turning point song for me, since it was when I started getting a grasp of lyric writing.

“Return Line to You” is a song completely full of myself

–How about your new song “Post Shelter”? This song uses Tsurumaki Maki, but unlike “Loneliness of Spring”, it uses her Standard version instead of her AI version.

inabakumori “Post Shelter” Vo. Tsurumaki Maki

inabakumori: I had a lot of trouble picking which Vocaloid I wanted to sing this song. Originally, I wrote it with the image of it being the final single-chorus song used for a university student’s graduation thesis piece, so since the song is meant to be sung by a person, I wrote it intending to have Kaai Yuki sing it. But when I finished the full song and had Yuki sing all of it, something felt wrong. She was a little too soft for it. So I tried having Tsurumaki Maki’s AI version sing it, but then it also felt wrong. I finally finished it with Tsurumaki Maki’s Standard version, so I’d ended up doing the vocal lines three whole times.

–It took quite a number of steps to get there.
inabakumori: I wanted a singing voice that was more Vocaloid-like and with a stronger core than Tsurumaki Maki’s AI version, and I thought, I don’t think v flower or Miku would work with this…And then I remembered, “oh, right, I also have Tsurumaki Maki’s Standard version.” Back when I’d first tried using her Standard version, I’d found it to be so nice that I’d immediately wanted to recommend it to people, so when I tried using her for this song, I immediately thought “there it is!” The Standard version is more Vocaloid-like than the AI version, and no matter how hard you try to make it sound more realistic, you’ll still sense some Vocaloid-like aura to it. I think it strikes the perfect balance between having that kind of charm and having a cleaner tone to it. This is the kind of song I don’t usually make, with a very strong piano riff, which repeats without any differences. With all that taken into account, I think it’s the kind of song I’d never done before.

–Please tell us about the final song on the album, “Return Line to You”.
inabakumori: I made it at a time I was making a lot of softer songs like “Spring of Loneliness”, “Hello Marina”, and “Post Shelter”, so I wanted to make something faster. I also wanted to make it a completely different kind of song from my other new song, “Radar”. And on top of that, I wanted to make the atmosphere at the core of the song be the same, even if the sound itself was different. The song has the phrase “play hooky” in the chorus, so at first I gave it the tentative title “The Playing Hooky Song” (laughs). To “play hooky” means to put something off, which creates a sense of anxiety. But, personally, I feel making those kinds of detours makes me even more connected to the present, and I think it’s thanks to that I was able to recover some things to some extent after I became an adult. So I came up with the theme of “even if you make a detour, your goal is still the same”, and then I thought of the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, which are what form the basis of the title. In Japanese, we call them the “South Return Line” and the “North Return Line”, and while the “Line” invokes the nuance of a train line, the title of the album is “WEATHER STATION“, so I felt this theme was perfect. I didn’t do that intentionally at first, but it ended up somehow becoming a song that had all of myself in it.

–Why did you decide to make this the final song for your album?
inabakumori:
I think it’s common for albums to end with a mellow song, but personally, that makes me feel sad and unpleasant. It just makes me think “this album should have kept going.” So I decided to have a song like this at the end. I want people to listen to it over and over again, so instead of cutting things off at the end, I decided to have it be a relatively energetic song. I did something similar for ANTICYCLONE, and I imagine that’ll probably be the case for any future albums.

–The album artwork feels connected to the last one for ANTICYCLONE.
inabakumori:
Right. I didn’t want it to come off as something too distinct from the last album. First of all, this album has songs I’d made at the same time as some of the ones in ANTICYCLONE, and even if I’ve changed my songwriting methods since then, I’m still aiming to accomplish the same things I did back then. Also, looking back on ANTICYCLONE, the artwork had the character facing outward in accordance with the title’s meaning of “high pressure spreading outwards”, but in a musical sense, I also think I was trying to have the songs have a stronger outward presence. This time, the album expresses more of my inner side, so I asked nukunukunigirimeshi “please have her turn inward.” I don’t tend to give very detailed instructions, but I’m really grateful to them for creating the perfect kind of illustration for my work.

–What would you say WEATHER STATION is to you?
inabakumori:
I didn’t start off intending to make a single theme for the entire thing, and it’s meant to reflect everything I’ve taken notice of and seen while writing songs, so if you listen to this album, I think the songs are the kind that will help you understand “this is what inabakumori is.” I consider it to be an album that can be seen as my business card of sorts, and it’s full of everything that can be said to be inabakumori up to this point.

–It’s full of songs that you made with the sentiment of “this is what I want to make.”
inabakumori:
Right. I wanted to express the collected atmosphere inside me, I made songs thinking about nothing but what sound I liked and which vocals I liked, and as a result, the “essence of inabakumori” ended up needing more than one album. At this point, I don’t know whether I’ll keep developing it by diving further inward or whether I’ll use a different method, but at the very least, I think I could say this is an album that’s full of everything I’ve been made up of up to this point. In making this album, I’m confident that I can express my own personality regardless of what sound I use or how I make it.


Translator's notes
  1. Kanji = The subset of Japanese written characters that come from Chinese. There are more than two thousand kanji in standard use, so young children will usually not have learned enough to be considered fully literate in it, and will default to the smaller hiragana set. []
  2. The article says Vocaloid, but the Tsurumaki Maki library used in “Loneliness of Spring” is actually for Vocaloid competitor software engine Synthesizer V. One of the distinguishing features of Synthesizer V vocals is that some vocals, including Tsurumaki Maki, come with a “Standard” version and “AI” version, with the latter using AI algorithms to produce vocals that sound more like realistic human ones. []
  3. Japanese school terms start in spring, so spring is associated with graduation and new school years. []

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