There are lots of summer festivals now. How did you end up deciding to do Summer Sonic?
Chris Chu: We’re actually not touring at all, really — we’re recording another album, so that’s where we’re focused. But we’ve been wanting to play in Japan for a really long time and were supposed to come in March, and that got canceled. We’d been trying over and over and this was finally an opportunity to do it. I’m going to stay here for a little while, just (on) vacation. I’m here for a little over a month, so I have a lot of time.
Did the Japanese audiences live up to your expectations?
They kind of were exactly how I thought they would be! They are enthusiastic, but they’re also so polite. They’re not going to be talking when you’re playing, which is very nice. In the States, there are shows all the time — especially when we were a younger band playing at bars and stuff — (where) you can’t even hear the music above the chatter, it’s so disrespectful. Summer Sonic is — this is probably another indication of Japanese people and culture — the best-run festival ever. We’ve played over 50, 60 festivals at this point, and it’s so well-organized. Even though it’s kind of hectic going between the two cities, it was so perfect, and everyone’s so helpful and really lovely. I just feel like everyone in Japan is just a good person.
The new song you played about settling down with someone, “I Want to Be Your Man,” is not very rock ‘n’ roll, in terms of the lyrics! Is it reflective of the album the band is currently working on?
Yes, very much so. In rock for the past 15 years — and also in indie rock now — I feel like there’s this attitude that I really don’t relate to that’s super apathetic, standoffish and trying to be cool. It’s very exclusive too — it’s like, we get this, we’re really hip, and other people don’t. Some people get off on that, but for me, I’m more interested in people who are happy to connect and also to admit to the fact that they’re expressing something that they care about. And that’s what people are looking for in music, I hope. So we want to make music that’s heartfelt, and also direct and simple enough that it speaks to a lot of people because that’s a big part of why we make music. The new driving force of the album is very much part of being on the road for a long time, playing festivals, and seeing the power of music in real time. It’s abstract when you’re just looking at numbers — when you say 100,000 people bought this album or 1 million bought that. It sounds like a lot, but when you see a stadium full of people all enjoying the same music and all being together, it’s truly powerful.
What was behind the decision to release the Japan Echo EP in March, which raised money for Japan after the earthquake?
I lived here when I was a baby, until I was 2 years old or something, so I don’t really have these memories of it, but I have this abstract connection to (Japan). (My parents) always talked about how they loved it, so it was something I was raised with. And then when the earthquake happened, I felt this connection to it. Not only do I love Japan and have my personal connection, but we were supposed to come here as a band and we were looking forward to it so much, we just felt like we needed to do something in place of the fact that we wouldn’t be able to play; just giving the people of Japan something and (showing) them we’re thinking of them. We raised a little bit of money, so that was good.
What’s your plan for the rest of your month in Japan?
I think after Tokyo I’m going to travel around a little, I might just take a train trip around. I went to Kyoto last time, so I might skip that. But I was thinking about going to Nikko, it sounds nice. I’d like to go to the beach somewhere, to a river, hiking in the mountains … most of the time I’m in cities, so it would be nice.