This year, SID celebrated their 20th anniversary.
The four-piece band, made up of Mao (vocals), Shinji (guitar), Aki (bass) and Yuuya (drums), released their first album, Renai, in 2004. In 2008, they made their major-label debut on Sony Music with the opening theme song to the TV anime Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler). Since then, they have regularly released albums and performed solo dome and stadium shows, establishing a solid career. However, due to health issues affecting Mao, the band stopped performing live in January 2022. A year later, this January, the band returned to the stage with an exclusive live show for members of their official fan club, a momentous start to their milestone 20th year.
“It was a really moving show. I think I’ll remember it for the rest of my life, because it allowed me to see our fans again after the pandemic and after struggling with my own health problems,” said Mao. “It felt like I’d faced two tremendous challenges at the same time. That’s why I didn’t want to look back, but instead to make sure that 10 or 20 years from now, if I looked back, I’d feel that I’d made the best use of those experiences. I hope that our fans also understood that during that time when we were apart, we’d been working hard and looking to the future.” Shinji added, “Despite how much time had passed, the groove we got into as a band was really fun. The way the drums and bass intertwined was better than ever, and then the guitar, which played over the top, had tremendous freedom, so playing was a blast. In songs like ‘Toge To Neko,’ the rhythm section really gets into a groove, so the guitar can do whatever it wants. It felt like I really went into my own world.”
Some of the members of the band have also been actively pursuing solo projects at the same time. Aki, SID’s songwriter and bassist, also performs vocals and writes the lyrics for his solo project. “During the time when SID wasn’t performing live, each of us was going in our own individual directions, but we were all continuing our music activities, and we all came back to where we belonged. I can’t pull the wool over our fans’ eyes, or their ears, so even during that gap, I polished my own skills because I knew that when I came back to SID, I’d need to perform better than ever. Otherwise I’d be putting the cart before the horse. I hope our fans were able to see the fruits of those efforts in SID’s January solo show.”
In April, SID will begin touring in support of their latest album, the long-awaited Umibe. Yuuya talked about his hopes for the tour. “We released Umibe a year ago. It’s unusual to go on tour for an album that fans have had so much time to really listen to. That’s why at our shows, we’ll need to go above and beyond simply playing the music. What’s more, it’s looking like the audience won’t be required to stay quiet during the show, so it’ll be a true return to form. Maybe starting the Umibe tour in April of this year was the best possible outcome all along. What we once took for granted has become a rarity, so that newfound freedom will make the show even more moving and powerful.”
In commemoration of SID’s 20th anniversary, the band has released the SID 20th Anniversary BOX, a 15 CD complete boxed compilation set that covers the band’s entire history. In addition to all of SID’s albums, from Renai to Umibe, it also includes the Side A complete collection CD of title track singles that don’t appear on any of their albums and the Side B complete collection CD of B-sides they have released since their major label debut. The boxed set also contains a Blu-ray disc with 40 music videos, a booklet with the lyrics to all of their songs, and more. The SID 20th Anniversary BOX lives up to its name, commemorating the band’s efforts through the years.
Mao talked about how the box set came to be. “What led to the decision is that we and the staff were talking about how it would be great if there were a box set that would let our fans look back and remember all of the different things we’ve released. CDs no longer sell well, so our team thought really hard about what kind of value we could add to CDs. I think we’ve come up with something pretty wonderful.”
So, looking back on SID’s 20 year history, what do the members see as having been the band’s turning points? “One of the things that immediately leaps to mind is our first album, Renai,” said Shinji. “We had so little time, we were rethinking melodies while on the train. Thinking back on it, I’m impressed by what we were able to achieve. It had a really homemade feel to it, but that’s what made it so priceless. You can really feel the blood, sweat, and tears we poured into it. Every time we make an album, we pack it with what we want to do as a band, but that comes across particularly strongly with our first album.”
Yuuya looked back on the band’s 15th anniversary, five years ago. “On our [My Favorite Place] tour, which we began right before our major label debut, we visited music clubs around the country, which is where we began as a band. We created a mini-album named My Favorite Place to share the message that these music clubs would always be special to us. We took a hiatus in 2016, too, but that just brought us even closer together when we released our fifth album, NOMAD, in 2017. The year after that was our 15th anniversary, and we really wanted to express our gratitude to our fans.”
Aki called SID’s newest album, Umibe, a turning point for the band. “We’ve been making music for 20 years, and I feel like we’ve gone beyond just brushing up our sound to also reflecting a certain humanity in our songs. We’re not so much striving to make the ‘perfect’ song, but instead to make songs that convey who we are. We don’t play along with a click track, but instead with each other, creating a live sound that could only come from us. It’s a more human, warmer sound.” It’s as if SID itself has become a living, breathing thing. “For example, in songwriting, sound arrangement is, to some extent, affected by modern trends. That’s not bad in and of itself. However, we’re now able to create sound arrangements that reflect who we are — that share the essence of SID. I’m looking forward to seeing what our future albums will be like.”
When SID first started, it was praised for its sound style, which infused rock with the essence of Japanese kayokyoku, the progenitor to modern J-pop. However, the band eventually stopped using this approach and began exploring a greater diversity of sounds. I asked them if they ever felt worried about sealing off their own individuality or strengths. “Not really. From the start, SID’s been a band in which each member brings their own musical tastes to the table, so we’ve created what came naturally based on how we felt at the time.” However, Mao also points out that they weren’t afraid of stagnating, either. “For example, up until about our second album, Hoshi No Miyako, we were really trying to become popular as a four-piece band, playing in clubs, but after we released our third album, play, we began a tour of larger performance halls. Our staff created sets and staging appropriate for large venues, and we realized just how much support our staff was providing. Them, and our audience. A good live performance isn’t something that you can create through your own efforts alone. It’s something that happens when you’ve also got great staff and great fans. I feel like this is something we were able to experience because of how we changed as a band, so I’m glad we’ve kept evolving.”
Having celebrated its 20th anniversary, SID is now beginning the next stage of its history. “I think we’ll continue to keep up with trends while at the same time pursuing our own originality,” said Yuuya. “It’s hard to put into simple words, but we’re in an age where we get direct feedback from our fans through social media, so I hope we can align the ‘SID-like’ elements our fans want with our own sense of what SID is all about to create a single, unified whole.” Mao continued, “The songs we wrote when we were young have a certain quality that can only come from youth, but on the flip side, I’ve been singing for twenty years, so there are songs that can only be performed by the me of today, songs that my younger self wouldn’t have been able to pull off. The same is true for lyrics. I want to be able to write deeper, more profound lyrics. Until now, I’ve drawn on my own stockpile of ideas to write lyrics that are packed with a sense of curiosity, but in the future I want to become a lyricist who can write more naturally, crafting lyrics that share my way of thinking and living. That’s why I’m always exposing myself to different types of music, film, and books, travelling, and enriching myself as a human being.” However, he continued, “I hope we’ll keep playing together for years to come, so I hope all four of us continue to enjoy good health and keep on having fun.”
This interview by Takuto Ueda first appeared on Billboard Japan.
By: Billboard Japan / Photo: Courtesy Photo