An Interview With Japanese Hip-Hop Trio CIRRRCLE

In the large music scene in Japan, it’s very hard to stick out. With thousands of artists across the country all offering something different, it’s very easy to go under the radar. For a rising group like CIRRRCLE, their increasing success could be pointed to the group’s eclectic sound. CIRRRCLE is a hip-hop trio consisting of Amiide, Jyodan, and A.G.O.

The group has songs like “Talk Too Much” and “Fast Car,” which have seen success on Spotify and Youtube, where music videos for both have been made. Along with six music videos prior, the group has put out a recent visual for the successful song “Mental Health,” which we’ll talk about more later on as it’s different than what they’ve made before.

Their lyrics are mostly English with some Japanese peppered in, and their sound on their tracks seems very inspired by indie or electronic genres. It’s safe to say, CIRRRCLE sticks out. Even their name sticks out on a page, as Microsoft Word won’t stop telling you that you’re spelling “Circle” wrong.

An Interview With CIRRRCLE

Question: Can you explain the name CIRRRCLE? Did one person come up with it, or was it collective?

Amiide: When we were discussing what we were, Jyodan said, “we are not a group nor band… but we are always in the same circle.” And I was like “That’s it!” So I picked the name circle, but I knew that it’s too simple and it’s going to be hard to find the name online, so I decided to add two extra ”Rs”. There is this band called YMO in Japan, and they are one of the first bands that were successful worldwide. The pianist of the band, Ryuichi Sakamoto founded a label called “commons,” so three Rs is coming from that. I wanted to make CIRRRCLE worldwide like YMO.

Q: When did you three meet each other?

Amiide: I met Jyodan in 2015 through the music community in Tokyo. We started working on music together, so we were homies before CIRRRCLE. But we were in different groups back then. I met A.G.O through Mari, our Artist Producer who literally created CIRRRCLE!  We four were all at Anderson.Paak’s show in 2016. Everything happened since then!

The group describes themselves as “Tokyo via LA” online, working in both areas before. 

Q: Can you explain the group’s history with both areas? Are all three of you from either LA or Tokyo, or somewhere else?

Amiide: I’m originally from Kobe, but moved to LA after high school. I studied films there, so I direct and edit our own MVs.

Jyodan: I was born in the states, raised as a military brat in Tokyo and Okinawa then relocated to LA as my new home. 

A.G.O: I was born and raised in Niigata, and came to Tokyo about 10 years ago.  I’ve never lived outside of Japan.

Q: What are some of the differences between the music scene in Los Angeles and Tokyo?

Jyodan: It’s tough to explain but In LA you could be in a studio with six maybe seven different artists all talking, laughing and vibing while working on new material. It lowkey feels like a kickback. But in Tokyo, we record in tiny apartments so the process is the same but the vibe is different. 

Amiide: I feel like in LA, music is in their daily life. Events and clubbing are not so special and so many events are happening every day there. But for people in Japan, I think it is harder to get access to those events. I love events in Tokyo though. There are so many underground artsy events if you know those people in the scene.

Not only is the group very unique sound-wise, but also background wise. Japan is known as one of the most homogenous countries in the world. 

Q: I recently watched a video about the 88rising Red Bull Music Festival. I don’t speak Japanese, but I picked up on the word “diversity” in your interview. Could you touch on the importance of diversity in the group, and how this possibly influences the music?

Amiide: I am gay, Jyodan is black, and A.G.O is a typical Japanese businessman. And we are all in Tokyo, where we have less diversity than the States or anywhere else. If we didn’t have music, we probably wouldn’t choose to be friends. Every time I come out, people say, “I never met lesbian!” Jyodan gets stopped every time he goes out in Shibuya or Roppongi just because he is black. A.G.O never had friends like us, and he is the most so-called “normal” Japanese man. But we all consider ourselves “normal.” I want all people in Japan to feel comfortable for being who they are when they look at us and listen to us.

CIRRRCLE’s songs are usually upbeat and about playful subjects, but in the song “Mental Health” they get a little more serious. In the recently released music video for the song, a stat is shown during an interlude that says “In 2018, youth suicide rate in Japan was the highest in 30 years.” The song was released in March, with the video for it coming out in August.

Q: Could you open up about what inspired the creation of the song “Mental Health?”

Jyodan: A bad breakup and moving to LA caused me to breakdown. Mental Health was the result of that.

Amiide: Although mental health in Japan is a huge issue, people neglect the importance of it. People keep working till really late because they think work matters more than our own happiness. I thought having the title, “Mental Health” can start the conversation.

While the group only came together a few years ago, each member has had their separate journey in music already.

Q: Before coming together as a trio, how long have each of you been involved in making music?

Amiide: My mom is an opera singer, so music has been around since I was a kid. But in terms of making music, I just started making music 5 years ago. I was a filmmaker before music.

Jyodan: I started playing drums and freestyle rapping when I was 10. Been a band geek ever since. Now I mostly focus on writing and melodies. 

A.G.O: I played guitar and learned the basic of music when I was a kid. But I have been away from music and instruments for a while because I started street dance when I was in university. After that, about 4 years ago, I started making music using my laptop.

Q: You run a Spotify playlist called “Omakase Saturday” which sees weekly updates with many new songs from different genres. How does discovering music help you improve as an artist?

A.G.O: It updates our sense of music, sound design and groove every week.  We want to keep learning to make feel-good music for us and listeners. And the most important thing is that It’s simply fun to discover and share new music with friends.

As of this week, the Omakase Saturday playlist has 1,109 songs. 

Q: What experience do you want people to get from listening to your music?

Jyodan: I want people to experience the brighter side of our struggle as an artist from Tokyo who wants to be recognized throughout the world. 

A.G.O: I want to make people get to chill, and happy feelings with moving their body.

Q: With growth continuing with every release, what do you feel is next for the group? 

Amiide: World Tour.

Jyodan: World Tour for sure.

A.G.O: An album that represents what CIRRRCLE is.

While opinions were different on what the next move is for the group, it’s obvious that the trio wants the next move to be a big one. Whether it’s an album or a world tour, CIRRRCLE doesn’t have plans on slowing down soon.

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