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Sooners Vital Stats
Sun and Wave (featuring Steph Pockets song sample

One-Man Live Show "Push"


heavenly all day (2006)
PLUG IN (2005)
SOONERS LIVE AT PLANET K 2005.7.24 (2005)
PAINTER (2002)

Quote from The Merrymakers:
"I remember the Sooners asking us for a band name because they were big fans of the Merrymakers and we had met briefly when Anders and I were in Tokyo towards the end of the last century(!). I remember feeling a bit honored having in mind the story Andy Sturmer had told us about giving the name "Puffy" to Puffy.

Anyway I was experimenting with silly names and wanted something as weird as "The Who". I came up with the "The Soon" which didn't make sense at all. Just like I wanted. Then it became "The Sooners". Possibly because that was on my list too... anyway they are a bunch of really nice guys (not least for their good taste in music)!" - David Myhr

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Interview Comments

Sooners Interview

Sooners - click for full size While basketball may not exactly be the sport that comes to mind when thinking of Japan, it has a special meaning to the five-man rock group "Sooners." Years of playing together formed a bond that would take them from shooting hoops to a life dedicated to music.

Their early songs were inspired by groups like Jellyfish and The Merrymakers (who coined their name) and has since developed into a more mature rock sound, featuring the duel lead vocals of Keiichi Suzuki (Kei) and Naoyuki Shimura (Nao), guitarist Tsutomu Inomata (Matio), Mitsumasa Kuroda (Mitch) on bass and Takeshi Suzuki (Gaja-G) on drums.

On June 22, 2008 the members of Sooners were kind enough to give an interview to Andrew from J-Pop World.

On March 9th you performed at the Asian band festival "Asian Beat 2008" in Taiwan. Tell us about it.

Sooners - click for full size It was a great experience. We've always believed that music brings people together, but at this event we actually experienced many moments when we felt that our music crossed borders and brought people of different culture and races together. There were bands from many different Asian countries, and they were all very unique in a good way. We had lots of fun. The band, the staff, the audience... everyone was just so very cool.

What songs did you play?

We played two songs on our stage. "Music" and the song that won us the grand prize in Japan, "Sun and Wave".

Who were some of the other bands you saw?

The bands were mostly rock bands...a very high and energetic young group of people. Not saying that we are old, but the competing bands were mostly much younger than us. One or two bands from different countries such as Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Mexico, the Phillipines, and Mongolia.

Prior to forming Sooners you all played basketball together in high school in Kawasaki. Do you think those years helped to form your group's team spirit?

Sooners - click for full size Definitely! Very much so. We wouldn't have been together for 10 years if we didn't have that bond and team spirit! (lol) We often hear of bands splitting up and members changing but we've never come across that thought, so far. It's always been us five, as one. We were a group of very dedicated basketball players back then, and I think we still have that same dedication toward music and the band.

What were some of the first songs your group played together?

100% original songs from the start. I don't remember ever doing a cover song as Sooners, or at least until recently. Our leader Kei (guitar, vocals) writes most of our songs, and everything starts from there. When we first started we were very influenced by bands like The Merrymakers, so we were more POP oriented back then.

What was the first original Sooners song you performed live?

Like I mentioned above, the first songs we played were very Pop and "psychedelic" as you might call it. We've eventually become more of an alternative rock, pop-rock color so we don't perform most of those songs anymore.

You've listed The Beatles, Jellyfish, Fool's Garden and The Merrymakers as some of your early musical influences. Andy Sturmer from Jellyfish and The Merrymakers have written many songs for Puffy over the years. Are you fans of theirs as well?

Sure, I actually met and talked with Andy when he visited Japan recently. He was curious to know if we hear the songs he wrote for Puffy because he had no way of knowing. I said sure, we hear them on TV commercials all the time. To tell you the truth we are not crazy about Puffy but we love Andy and that is that.

You've said that The Merrymakers coined your band's name. Tell us how that happened?

Sooners - click for full size Eight or nine years ago, we visited The Merrymakers at a hotel they were staying at in Shibuya. They were on tour in Japan. That was like a dream come true, because we were their biggest fan. We had been e-mailing them about how much we loved their music, and I guess that is how we got to meet them personally. We were very happy, they even gave us the band name "Sooners".

You've said that your music began to change as you became more influenced by groups like Stroke9, Third Eye Blind and Vertical Horizon. Was this a decision on your part, or just something that happened?

We started listening to alternative rock genre in the late 90's because it was becoming popular and it was being played a lot on the radio. We thought it was very cool. It was really something that just happened. It came very naturally to us.

How would you describe your musical style today?

Pop-rock. Alternative pop-rock. I think our Sooners style sound is pretty new to Japanese music scene.

Kei, can you describe how you write music? What type of things inspire you?

Kei: Sometimes it just comes to me, really. When I hear songs that are interesting, it inspires me to write songs. Also seeing news on the TV or watching movies, when I fall in love or read an inspirational book. There are many things that inspire me.

In 2002 you produced your first album called "Painter." Tell us about that year and how you created the music.

Painter is our first self-produced album. The title is called "Painter" (it's also one of the songs on the album) because we had a concept that being a dreamer is like "painting on the white canvas" and that is what we do as artists.

Also in 2005 you performed at the Yamaha Tokyo Band Summit 2005 and won awards for both "Best Vocalist" and "Best Audience." How happy were you at that moment?

We really only had one prize in mind... which was the Grand Prize, so it was mixed feelings of a little disappointment and happy.

In 2006 you released "Heavenly All Day." Tell us a little about the music.

All of the songs in "Heavenly All Day" are acoustic versions of songs from Plug-In and Painter. Sometimes we have acoustic live shows in cafe's and restaurants, usually in Odaiba Tokyo.

What songs from it are you must happy with?

From Heavenly all Day, we are most happy with the song "Globe." It's very different from the band version of the song. We think it's very stylish. We use Cajon and other percussions instead of drums and we included violin as well.

Sooners - click for full size What's your favorite song to play live?

That is a very very hard question... We have more than a hundred songs. We try to choose and order the songs so that our show flows from the beginning to the end. We try to do a different stage every time so our audience can enjoy our show every single time they see us.

Tell us about the song "Sun and Wave."

"Sun and Wave" is a positive message song. We want to tell everyone that even though there are bad times, we have to keep moving on.

Tell us about "Push," the Sooners One-Man Live Show.

Last summer (2007) we had a One-Man live show with a 300 member audience. We had our engineer do a live recording for us that night and we made that into a live DVD. It was a great show, the band and the audience really came together and enjoyed the night. We like to think of ourselves as the ultimate entertaining band.

What do you think of the current state of the Japanese music industry?

I feel that it's very hard for Indie bands to make it big here. There are so many great bands out there. Everything has become so commercialized. I think that the music industry is getting numb, as well as the consumers (listeners).

Let's learn a little about each band member. Is anyone married? Does anyone have kids?

Our leader Kei is the only one that is married in the band. No kids yet.

What are everyone's favorite food and drink?

Gaja-G: Favorite foods... I love curry especially Indian curry. Matio is a coffee-mania. He knows how to make his coffee right. We always eat Udon before live performances because it's easy on our stomach and for the vocalists it's good for their voices (throat).

What are some of your fondest memories growing up?

Gaja-G: Until I graduated from high school my life revolved around basketball.

What types of other jobs has everyone in the band done?

Now we all have part time jobs and we work early hours so that we could have band rehearsals at night, any day of the week!

Does anyone have a driver's license? Did you have any trouble getting it?

Sure we all have drivers licenses. We can't go anywhere without our band wagon!

Who is the quietest member of the group? Who is the most outgoing?

Gaja-G: Kei is the most talkative, for sure. He never stops talking and is very funny. (I think he should be a comedian.) Nao is also a funny guy. I may be the most outgoing. Well we're all pretty outgoing I guess. My older brother Kei and I are the leadership type.

Ok it has to be asked. Who is the best looking?!

Hmmm... I think our two front man vocalists Kei and Nao are most popular amongst girls (lol).

What are some of the nicknames for each other you all use?

My nickname (I'm the drummer) is Gaja-G. Our vocalist, Nao, thought of the name. I think it just came to him. Our guitarist is called Matio. The bassist is Kuro-P. The lead guitar vocalist and my older brother is Kei.

How have your parents and families felt about your rock careers?

Our parents are very supportive. We wouldn't be able to do this without their support.

What do you see for the future of Sooners?

We want to tour the US and one day be invited to the Grammy Awards.

Do you have a final message to your fans?

Thank you so much for always supporting us. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you guys. We love you. Please come check us out live! We put our souls and all of our energy into every single show that we do. We guarantee that you will have a great time! Let there always be love and music in our hearts!

For more info checkout Sooners official site and MySpace page. Leave your comments about this interview and read what others had to say at the following link: Interview Comments