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You know those people who get so into music that they say they can see it as well as hear it? Well, how about feeling, smelling and tasting it as well?

J-pop act Da-iCE has come to its senses — literally — by assigning each of its five members one of the perceptual senses for a project that will kick off with the release of the single “Dreamin’ On” on Aug. 26. Each member is set to write one song, but six releases are planned in total.

This isn’t the first time the group has played with numbers, it gets its name from the idea that each member represents one side of a die, with the fans representing the sixth. That concept may hold a clue as to what the final song will look like — maybe it will contain an allusion to the elusive sixth sense — but for now the group is keeping quiet.

Da-iCE is led by Taiki Kudo, who is also the eldest member, with vocalists Sota Hanamura and Yudai Ohno and dancers Toru Iwaoka and Hayate Wada rounding out the group. Hanamura, 30, who boasts a four-octave vocal range, spoke to The Japan Times about the project and stresses that it’s not about “interpreting (the senses) literally.”

“For example, if we were to express ‘smell,’ it could be portrayed through lyrics like ‘the smell of …’ or phrases that remind people of certain smells,” he explains. “For taste, we could express it in a way in which people can enjoy different sides and flavors of Da-iCE. For touch, we could come up with a song that will make our listeners feel like they are actually being held by someone. … We just really hope to create something that we can proudly say successfully expresses all of the five senses through music.”

The project’s first single, “Dreamin’ On,” is especially meaningful to Hanamura as he wrote the lyrics. It was also chosen to be the opening theme song for the long-running anime TV series, “One Piece,” and has played at the start of every show since Aug. 2. For Hanamura, being asked to write a song for the series’ theme was a dream come true, as he’s been a fan since the first episode of “One Piece” aired in 1999.

“I was extremely happy that I was asked to write the opening theme song, it’s something I’ll brag about for the rest of my life,” he says. “The other Da-iCE members were very happy, too. As a group, we also did a cover of ‘We Are!’ (the series’ original theme tune), and I remember dancing to it in fourth grade at a sports festival at my school. Back then, I would’ve never imagined that ‘future me’ would be professionally covering the song.”

Hanamura says “Dreamin’ On” has an upbeat tempo that complements the energy of the anime series, and the lyrics he chose for the song wound up diverging from what he usually does.

“Most of my lyrics juxtapose negative expressions with positive phrases,” he says. “For this particular song, though, I rewrote it multiple times to make sure that everything sounded positive. I also tried to use words that I think are easily understood among different age groups.”

Living the dream: Sota Hanamura says writing the new opening theme song for the long-running anime series 'One Piece' was a dream come true.
Living the dream: Sota Hanamura says writing the new opening theme song for the long-running anime series ‘One Piece’ was a dream come true.

Hanamura says that the lyrics focus on the bonds of friendship, a theme that both “One Piece” and Da-iCE have in common. And, for those who haven’t guessed it, the sense he is representing here is sight.

“The theme of vision is expressed by tying the song to a visual form of entertainment — the anime itself,” he explains, adding that “Dreamin’ On” has an accompanying bonus track titled “Found It,” which was written and composed by his bandmate Kudo and includes lyrics that more literally express the theme of vision.

Hanamura wrote his first song at 20, four years into his singing career after winning first place at a talent competition hosted by his current agency, Avex.

“I had never written lyrics until I joined my agency,” he says, “I usually compose songs based on how I want to sing them, so I always tend to stretch the high and low pitch ranges to the extreme. I do feel that I’ve been able to make songs I truly enjoy; songs that I wish there were more of in the industry.”

Returning to the theme of friendship, which was brought up when speaking about the song’s “One Piece” connection, Hanamura says that being a part of a group since 2011 has provided him with a lot of good experiences as well as close friendships.

“I always thought I was going to be a solo artist because people told me I had too strong of a character to be part of a group, but I’ve always wanted to be in one anyway,” he says. “Luckily, I made my debut as part of a fantastic group. I am always grateful to be with these guys, we’ve supported each other through thick and thin for the past 10 years. They have my back on stage and I know they’ll always stand by my side in a world that is full of slander and scrutiny.”

Like many other musicians around the world, the members of Da-iCE have found operating during a global pandemic to be extremely challenging. They’ve had to cancel concerts and promotional events at a time when they were looking to ramp up their activities due to a label change from Universal Sigma to Avex Trax in June.

“We still have so many things we want to do. For instance, we want to organize a concert with a live band (instead of prerecorded music) and create more songs where all of our members get to sing and perform,” Hanamura says. “Living in a world where a lot of things are limited, I hope Da-iCE can provide more positivity. By doing so, I believe we can expand the possibilities of entertainment, and ultimately help us evolve collectively as a group.”

It’s true that so much downtime can lead to a lot of introspection and the identification of new goals to strive for. One thing’s for sure, Da-iCE is starting with a sonic feast for our senses.

“Dreamin’ On” will be available from Aug. 26. For more information about Da-iCE, visit da-ice.jp/en.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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