The ladies of 4TE are such a pleasure to work with, even with distance within the group.
Thank you to Jenny, Chii, Micchi and Mei for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me.
On to the interview!
~Get To Know You Questions~
What’s your favorite color?
What’s your favorite tv show right now?
Mei: Doctor Who
Chii: Parasyte: The Maxim
Micchi: The Legend of Korra!
Jenny: I’ve been watching “Dear Sister” recently!
Who are your favorite top 3 J-Pop artists?
Mei: CREAM, Mika Nakashima, Utada Hikaru
Chii: Perfume, Kyary, and Mariko Goto
Micchi: C-ute, YUI, Ikimono Gakari
Jenny: Utada Hikaru, Diana Garnett, Megumi Hayashibara
How did you get into J-Pop?
Mei: I had older cousins who listened to J-pop, played video games, and watched anime. A lot of the music I knew stemmed from the video games I played.
Chii: Like a lot of people, I was introduced to J-pop through anime openings and endings.
Micchi: I looked up AMV’s on YouTube of my favorite anime at the time, and most of them were set to different J-pop songs. I became hooked after that!
Jenny: Same as Chii yeah, it was through anime and the music that came with many of the shows.
Outside of Japanese, what other country’s pop music do you listen to?Who are your favorite musicians (Japanese or not)?
Mei: Next to Japanese, I like our very own American Pop and R&B. My favorite artists include Beyoncé, Ne-yo, Ariana Grande, Chris Brown, AJ Rafael.
Chii: I really enjoy Daft Punk and Justice! So I guess you could say I like French music too~
Micchi: I also listen to K-Pop, and my favorite artists are Girls’ Generation and IU. From America, I love Ariana Grande and Sia!
Jenny: I do like Kpop! My favorite group right now is definitely F(x). But I also like music from Bollywood, France (I love Yelle and Daft Punk), Los Iracundos from Uraguay is awesome, and of course I do have my favorite rock groups in the states including Ok Go, The Killers, and No Doubt to name a few.
Kittens or puppies?
Chii: Kitties forever.
Micchi: They’re both so cute, I can’t choose!
Okay, on to the more serious stuff.
What was your first reaction when you heard about the project for 4TE? / What made you want to audition? / How was the audition process?
Jenny: Well we’re actually an independent group, so there was no audition process or anything like that. We all came together and decided that we wanted to make J-pop music as a group.
What was it like to prepare for your debut?
Mei: It was super hectic. I was living in Osaka and working at Universal Studios all of last year, and our debut date was right around the time I move back to the states. So I had to deal with the stress of moving alongside the entire creative process. It was tough, we’re all perfectionists, and that’s both a blessing and an obstacle. It was an amazing learning process, because you get the stress, you get the excitement, you get the pressure – it was a whole mix of emotions and both a physical and emotional rollercoaster, but you learn so much.
Chii: Lots of running around! haha. It took a lot of dedication from each of us to get even one song ready for the public. Lot’s of money had to be invested too.
Micchi: A bunch of hard work and bumps in the road, but everyone powered through! I learned so much from everyone in this group, and I feel like I improved in various things overall after watching what they all do. The excitement was also hard to contain after keeping hush about our group for so long!!
Jenny: Yeah it was definitely quite the process as everyone has been saying haha! Being so far away from each other definitely did not make things easy. And I agree with Mei, we’re all perfectionists so we wanted everything to be the best quality possible. It was difficult but I believe it was also very rewarding.
How would you describe being in a girl group?
Mei: A lot of estrogen, HAHAHA! In all seriousness though, I haven’t exactly seen it as a “girl group” when working with the ladies and man. It really just feels like a group of friends with a common goal collaborating to do what we love. They’re my extended family.
Chii: Slightly competitive in a healthy way and yet really comforting because we can all depend on each other.
Micchi: Working with such amazing and talented people is inspiring!
Jenny: I have a lot of fun and yeah sure at times it can be hard, but ultimately this has been the most rewarding experience in my life thus far.
What has been the hardest thing for you so far since your group’s inception?
Mei: Equipment, time zones, distance, and time management.
Chii: In my opinion, differences in cameras, lighting and recording equipment is our biggest obstacle. There is always some adjusting that needs to be made to help it come together better but I guess that falls into the distance category too.
Micchi: Yes, distance is very hard. For me, it’s kind of hard balancing school and 4TE but I do my best!
Jenny: I think the distance is the most difficult part for sure, for MVs we’re constantly brainstorming ways of trying to keep everything coherent and it’s definitely not easy.
Could you describe working on this project/being in a girl group? How much goes into being a girl group member? What’s it like to be in your shoes for a day as a musician?
Mei: Everyone here turns into something like another family member. Working in a group means working with people from all walks of life. In our group, we have a lot of strong characters, so that means coming to understand what works and what doesn’t work for each person. Because we’re a super small indie group, we’re more than just musicians. We’re storyboard directors, we’re our own GRIP, we’re stylists, choreographers, and event coordinators. The work just never stops, it’s a lot, and a lot more fast-paced than you think it is, but I enjoy what I do.
Chii: It feels like your family away from home~ My day hasn’t been made unless I’ve spoken to the members/management at least once. That being said, it’s a lot of hard work and strain on everyone. It takes a tremendous amount of time and commitment to collaborate from such a great distance. It never gets unenjoyable though because we all possess tremendous strengths and the end result is always extremely satisfying. A day in my shoes as a musician is, shuffling around trying to get everything just perfect. Friends will call you to hang out but you can’t because you still need to finish the next single!
Micchi: It takes a lot of dedication, especially because of the living distance between us. But we’re all good friends and we can always count on one another to help out when we need it! It’s very comforting to be part of this group. I’m a full time university student, so like I mentioned before, I always try to find a balance with school and 4TE (which is hard because I love working on things for our group so much!!)
Jenny: We don’t belong to any agency or label, so everything that we do is as a team. Music, styling, planning MV’s, choreography, and a lot of behind the scene work is done in cooperation with our friends and managers. I think that as members of 4TE we’re required to do more than just rehearsing singing and dancing. Everyday there is always work to be done. So 4TE, for me atleast, has become a lifestyle and I am very proud that.
How did you feel when you finally made your debut?
Mei: It was exciting and slightly nerve wracking. Everyone of us watched the net like hawks. We didn’t know how people would react. We didn’t expect so many people to react so positively so quick. It was such an emotional rush – we worked so hard, and it felt good to see all that hard work come to fruition.
Chii: I was both excited and super scared at the same time ha. It was very rewarding to be ready enough to just sit back and watch our work play out in front of people.
Micchi: My heart was racing for the whole week! I was so excited and proud to finally show people what we’ve been working on. I was so grateful for the overwhelming support!!
Jenny: Oh my gosh… it’s EXACTLY like how Mei described it! Haha, It was very nerve-wracking and I could barely get any sleep in the days leading up to our Music Video release. We had been working and nurturing on 4TE for so long prior that I wanted more then anything to be received well by the public. I was very satisfied once our video hit youtube.
For those of you in the music video, how was it working with each other for the first time?
Chii: In retrospect, it was very fun! But at the time, it was chaos. Jenny’s returning flight was within a few days so it was done on a huge time constraint but that didn’t stop us from laughing and being silly between takes.
Micchi: It felt like we’ve been working together forever, and while it was challenging to film, we had a lot of fun! It was amazing seeing everything come together. I wish we had more time to just relax and hang out, though!
Jenny: I felt as if it came naturally to us. We got along well and always worked as a team.
Mei: Dear lord it felt devastating to be on the other side of the world during the recording of the music video. I didn’t get to physically work with them, but I had to use what I had in Japan to match the quality and color of the clips – and that was definitely a challenge.
What was your first impression of the other girls once you got together?
Chii: “I have to up my game.” haha. I thought they were super gorgeous. But seriously, It was really great to be around them although it didn’t surprise me one bit because we’ve spent nights joking around on skype and playing cards against humanity together.
Jenny: I thought “Oh wow… they’re really pretty, I’ll have to work even harder” hahaha
Micchi: I was like “Ok, I can’t hold them back!” Yes, I also thought everyone was gorgeous as well! They were so funny and awesome to talk to as always! I couldn’t stop thinking “Oh, I wish we all just lived closer together so we could see each other all the time!”
Mei: I didn’t get to meet up with the girls physically for our music video, but I have met Chii and Jenny on two other separate occasions. On both occasions, I remembered thinking to myself, “ Oh my God, they’re freaking super tall and super pretty and super tiny.”
What or who inspires you musically?
Mei: I have a mish mosh of artists that musically inspire me, a lot of my favorite artists are also my biggest inspirations. So for J-pop, that would include CREAM, Utada Hikaru, Koda Kumi, M-Flo, Mika Nakashima, May J, and Miliyah Kato to name a few.
Chii: Yasutaka Nakata! His sound design is impeccable in my opinion. I’m always striving to be as good at songwriting/mixing as him.
Micchi: The other members definitely inspire me- they’re all so talented and create amazing songs!
Jenny: My inspiration always changes with what sort of artists I’m currently into but I also become inspired by whatever my fellow members are currently listening to as well.
Who do you want to collaborate with?
Mei: I have this secret (no longer secret) desire to collaborate with CREAM.
Chii: I think it would be fun to collaborate with Kelsey Ellison sometime!
Micchi: Yes, I’d love to work with Kelsey sometime!!! I’d also like to collaborate with a group from Hello!Project. H!P got me into J-pop after all!
Jenny: I’d like to do a music video with Frolic Lassie (our manager’s dance group) soon hehe…
Have you had time to bond with each other outside of work/training, and how close are you to each other?
Mei: We’ve all gotten really close to each other, and that makes sense, especially considering how we’ve worked with each other in a previous project. We’ll talk to each other at least once a day, we really end up becoming a part of each other’s lives. We rub off on each other and occasionally when we’re meeting to work, we have to keep ourselves in check because we end up going on some real tangents.
Chii: Definitely! This is basically a full time job so you end up thinking of them in even non-related situations. I always have funny stuff I see on the internet that I want to share with them. I think we are all really close! We all stay updated on our “irl” situation too. Sometimes we have to be strict and stick to agendas at meetings because we get side tracked by talking and laughing.
Micchi: Everyone is pretty close, and I want to continue to get closer with everyone! I see things in my everyday life that immediately reminds me of everyone! It’s also funny because we’ve picked up mannerisms from each other as well. I always catch myself doing them haha!
Jenny: Overall I think I’m pretty close with everyone. Although we are far apart physically, we love to celebrate our accomplishments via “skype” parties haha
What’s it like going after a career in J-Pop, and not being Japanese yourselves? Have you had any negative backlash? If so, how have you handled it?
Mei: It honestly felt so much more unattainable before I moved to Japan – and I think, for me at least, is because Japan was so far away, I didn’t know the different outlets, venues, and niches available to us. We haven’t had too much backlash, but it’s honestly hard to dwell on any negativity. Any kind of feedback actually gives us our drive. We want to please the supporters and for those who have anything negative to say – we want to prove them wrong and show them that we can make it. It’s a win-win situation, people know of us, and any sort of feedback means we’re getting attention.
Chii: It’s always a little difficult. For the most part people are supportive but I’ve often times gotten the question “why not America?”, and it’s never simple to explain. I can’t help but feel nervous too, being that I may not entirely understand what it takes to succeed in the Japanese music market but I think if we keep working hard, others will definitely see it too.
Micchi: I have a huge love for J-Pop, so I try my best to just go for it and not get bothered by negativity. There’s also a bunch of people that are supportive, and their kind words always help! Some people usually have low expectations for foreigners, especially net-based groups, to succeed in J-Pop, but I always believe if you really fight for it, you’ll reach your goal.
Jenny: There are people out there who might not understand us or know what to really make of us, but this was always something we knew would exist since we are ‘Gaijin’ or foreigners to Japan. For me, I do accept this reality and focus more on the positives and the people who want to support us. Honestly, negativity only makes me want to work even harder haha
Your sound is similar to Capsule and Perfume, do you think that you’ll steer away from that sound and find a different niche, or do you wish to keep going with this [sound]?
Chii: Well honestly, although I’m very flattered at the comparison to two of my favorite groups, I think that we have a big difference in sound in a lot of aspects, it’s just that we are fairly new. So, people haven’t had a chance to really pick out the differences quite yet. I believe people will come to learn that we have our own flavor but undeniably, it will always be sort of reminiscent of Nakata-san’s work being that he’s a big influence in how we’ve learned to write up to this point.
I’ve read your interview with otakudx, it seems you ladies really got into the production part of your group. Do you wish to have more involvement as your career grows?
Mei: Ooh, thank you! We’ve kind of always been super hands on with what we do so it doesn’t feel too different than what we already normally do. I know that many of us in the group are control freaks, so we like being able to have a hand in what we put out, and as our career grows, I would still like to have a say in major decisions.
Chii: Oh~ I’m flattered. ha. It feels really natural to take part in production but I believe as time progresses, we will be able to grow into a bigger team, and more of our focus will go into our artist work. (Although secretly I could go on doing it this way forever being that I’m a control freak)
Micchi: Thank you!! I love having all our ideas come together as one, so I’d really want that to continue.
Jenny: Oh thanks for reading it! In terms of image and music, I’d definitely like to always have a say in those things as we push forward.
What are your aspirations for the group?
Chii: I would love to get to a point where we can support ourselves enough to be in the same place and perform, write, and film as a full-time job. At this point, we all have to balance two lives and it makes production much slower.
Mei: I am all for what Chii said.
Micchi: I want more people to know who we are and for them to see how much of our hearts we all put into this group!
Jenny: It would be great to ultimately gain a nice fanbase in Japan. As a group, I believe this is our ultimate goal. For now, I really want to see 4TE thrive as a live performing group too.
What sort of image is your group going for?
Mei: We’re going for awesome, hahaha! Like everyone else below is saying, we’re versatile, trendy, and we have the ability to change up our style according to our music.
Chii: I suppose we are a combination of edgy but cute too. I think we are all versatile enough to change it up and keep people guessing~
Micchi: Cool and cute! Like Chii said, we’re all very versatile, so we like to showcase what we’re all capable of.
Jenny: I think while we do borrow certain characteristics of an “Idol group”, the image I believe we’re going for is more mature but still fun and at times cute.
Do you have any immediate plans for the group?
Mei: I think the ladies below can tell you.
Chii: Finish our second video and move on to our next single!
Micchi: Second music video and working on more amazing things!
Jenny: For now it would be finishing our second music video.
Do you have anything to say to your fans?
Mei: You guys are amazing! Thank you guys so much for all of the support. You guys are what keeps us going, and for that we’re super grateful. We have so much more in store for you guys, it’s only going to keep getting better!
Chii: Thank you for the overwhelming support despite us popping out of the blue! I promise we will work really hard.
Micchi: Thank you all so much for your love! I hope you continue all follow us on our journey- there’s so much more awesome things in store for you all!
Jenny: Thank you for your support thus far! Please look forward to seeing and hearing more from us.
I hope you come to love these spunky girls on their road to J-Pop and tag along with them for the ride.
Watch their debut music video here:
Don’t forget to follow their group SNS too: