July 19, 2006 10:37 AM
by Christina Fuoco
Thanks to its Cartoon Network series and candy-sweet pop music, Japan's Puffy AmiYumi has been able to do what few bands have done: reach a diverse audience.
Children love the duo for the show "Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi," which has been renewed through the end of 2006. Adults dig Puffy AmiYumi for its undeniable hooks that are especially evident on its forthcoming album, "Splurge," due in stores July 25.
But Puffy AmiYumi, which includes Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura, is hesitant about one aspect of their popularity--being role models.
"They both said they can't be role models," the duo's translator said with a laugh. "That would be too much task for us." Their popularity is so strong in their native country, however, that they were selected as ambassadors of the Japanese government for the "Visit Japan Campaign" in 2006.
The adorable twosome talked to LiveDaily through a translator about the tour, working with stellar producers on "Splurge" and "Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi."
LiveDaily: How's the tour going so far?
Yumi: It's the best tour ever.
Why is that?
Ami: This is our fifth US tour and there are new band members and new staff members. We're also playing in new cities such as Cincinnati and Cleveland. Everybody's motivation is really high and that leads to a really great tour. We are just having a blast.
Your biggest fan is my 11-year-old niece. Have you received a lot of response from children?
Ami: This album, "Splurge," hasn't even been released in America, but, when we perform songs from the new album, people reacted to the album greatly. They seem to know the songs already. We have great confidence in this new album. We can't wait until the release date to come.
For "Splurge," you worked with Jon Spencer (of Blues Explosion), Dexter Holland (of the Offspring) and Butch Walker. What was it like to work with them?
Ami: They're just great people. It was a great experience to work with them.
Yumi: They just have the best [talent]. We're convinced that's why they're loved by so many people.
Producer Andy Sturmer (formerly of Jellyfish) seems like an additional member of the band for all the work he has reportedly done for Puffy AmiYumi. Would you agree? What does he bring to the band?
Ami: Andy Sturmer is the godfather of Puffy. He gave the name Puffy to us. He's young but we feel like he's our US dad.
How did you meet him?
Ami: There's this Japanese rock singer/producer named Tamio Okuda. He produced a lot of Puffy music. Andy worked with him on the Jellyfish and the girls have always loved the music of Andy. So they asked Tamio to hook them up with Andy.
It was that simple?
Ami and Yumi: Yeah [Laughs]
How important is the Cartoon Network show? I read a story that said it takes a backseat to the music.
Yumi: The Cartoon Network show has given us a great opportunity to introduce the music to a new audience. When we toured, after the Cartoon Network show started, so many little kids came to our show. We always wanted as many people as possible to listen to the music. In that sense, the Cartoon Network show is really important to us.
For those who are already fans of Puffy Ami Yumi Splurge will fast become one of your favorites. To anyone new to Japanese pop (jpop) music this CD is an excellent gateway to a whole new world of head bobbing enjoyment.
Splurge runs the gambit from Ami and Yumi's trademark fun fare of pop rock tunes like "Tokyo I'm On Way," "Call Me What You Like" and "Beginnings" to the absolutely haunting solo song by Yumi with the unlikely title of "Cameland." Ami gets double billing for voice and words on her nicely upward driving rock ballad "Security Blanket." It's a little of everything sprinkled with that magical Japanese pixie dust that Ami and Yumi bring to their music.