On a Thursday evening, I’m met with experimental Japanese Pop artist Haru Nemuri, her manager Minato and interpreter, Jus Takada. As the sun begins to set on the Los Angeles skyline for Jus and I, the bright sunshine seeps through the backgrounds of Haru and Minato in Japan, and we are met with an exciting interview that surpasses time and place. Haru Nemuri’s music is a refreshing taste of experimental and raw emotion, as it provides the perfect soundtrack for rocking out in your room or driving fast down the freeway.
Jumping right in, I ask Haru about her beginnings as a musician–she tells me that her journey started around 10 years ago in Yokohama, when she was still in High School. Haru had a friend who played guitar, and she always thought to herself how she wanted to be in a band. With this desire, she began to learn music software and make beats, and from there, we now have the Haru Nemuri we know today.
What initially drew me into Haru Nemuri’s music was the unconventionality within her songs. From J-pop to Noise Rock, to Hardcore to Punk, Haru’s work often blurs the lines between genres, creating a harmonious selection of experimental sounds with high energy. Specifically, on Spotify her music is described as “the Japanese pop music of the new generation”…
Throughout our conversation, this tidbit continues to swim in my mind, and I have to ask Haru what she means by this descriptor. She tells me that a lot of people used to say her music was “uneven”, “unfair”, “not J-pop”, and “not traditional.” As a listener of J-pop for her entire life, these remarks confused her, because she always thought with new generations coming in and out of the genre, this would inevitably spark an evolution in the sound. She figured that if she isn’t considered J-pop, then traditional J-pop is very narrow-minded. Through her music, Haru Nemuri works to expand the definition of J-pop, therefore describing her music as “the Japanese pop music of the new generation” to break barriers.
As someone who loves to explore the unconventional, especially artistically, I admire this philosophy a lot. Through art we should be challenging the status quo and evolving the mediums, to which I think Haru Nemuri executes very well.
Haru Nemuri’s music is incredibly versatile, and with it comes a strong sense of drive and emotion. I ask Haru what she ultimately tries to convey through her music, to which she replies “That’s hard to explain…As you’re living, there could be an ideological subset you choose or do, and extreme emotions such as anger can come into your heart, it can be hard to digest, and you can’t properly express it.” Through music, Haru Nemuri tries to collect those thoughts of anger and “throw that to you.” Ultimately, she tells the listeners how she feels through the music, to which she says that it’s up to the listeners to see how they digest that message.
With a mix of electronic, J-pop, noise rock, spoken word, and Punk Rock elements, I ask Haru what inspires her to create such diverse sounds within her discography. She explains that it could be times like listening to other artists or watching movies where she’ll take tidbits of inspiration. As she’s elaborating, her interpreter expresses “It’s a lotta women who motivate her.” From Seiko Omori, to Grimes, to Bjork in Dancer in the Dark, she loves it all. Haru Nemuri also takes inspiration from Cyberpunk artists, Punk music, and the overall “Punk mentality”. With many people today trying to work for a better future, Haru Nemuri says that she gets lots of courage seeing people striving for change, and believes “she can do something”.
Throughout our conversation, the “Punk mentality” comes up a lot and I ask her if there’s a Punk scene in Japan, and what it’s like. She tells me that unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of a Punk music scene there, and it is more present in fashion and mentality rather than a physical scene with music. She finds that it’s more of the non-Japanese audiences that consider her to be Punk, whereas in Japan she is seen more as a J-pop artist, or something of the sort.
When first discovering Haru Nemuri’s music, I came across a stunning image of Haru mid-stage diving into an ecstatic crowd, as it is featured on her Spotify page. During our interview, I show the picture to the web camera, gushing about how much I love this photo, and want to know about her experiences touring—This photo was too good, and I had to know more. Our conversation transitions into shows, and I ask her what her favorite performance has been. “I can’t really think….”She tells me she can’t pick just one, so I ask her to elaborate on some of the most memorable experiences.
Haru Nemuri has fond memories at “The Warmup Fest” in Taiwan, and her first European tour. Specifically, she reminisces about her performance at “Primavera Fest” in Spain, and tells me that’s where the stage dive photo originated. Out of the memories Haru mentions, her performance in the Netherlands really sticks out to me. At this show, Haru tells me that the venue she performed at was a houseboat, which was very small and narrow. Despite the cramped quarters, Haru includes that the crowd was extremely hyped that night. She continues to gush about the show, but can’t really pinpoint one particular thing she liked the best. Her interpreter, Jun, tells me, “She loved that show a lot for some reason,” and “she still gets excited seeing videos from that performance.” Haru’s manager, Minato, brings his phone screen towards my camera, showing me an electric crowd going crazy as Haru stage dives amongst the colorful lights in the houseboat. Haru exclaims that the venue staff were at one point nervous for her safety, but she enjoyed her experience, and it’s become a core performance memory for sure.
For upcoming shows, Haru Nemuri has a performance at The Echo in Los Angeles scheduled for November 7th, and couldn’t be more excited to perform there. She lets me know she’s been preparing diligently for this performance, which I honestly can’t wait to witness. Tickets can be found here!
With the raw emotion, high energy, and versatility Haru Nemuri brings to the table, she’s been noticed by the likes of American music journalist Anthony Fantano, as he reviewed her first full length album “Haru to Shura” in 2018. I ask her what it’s like getting positive feedback and attention from a figure like Anthony Fantano, and she tells me that when she first heard about him, people would always call him “melon” as a nickname, and she wasn’t sure who that was, to which she discovered that was Anthony Fantano. As she found out about the “Haru to Shura” review, she looked him up, and was surprised to see his name pop up amongst popular publications such as Pitchfork. Fantano describes Haru Nemuri’s music as something more than the conventional J-pop, “a J-Rock essence and very experimental,” mentioning elements of noise rock and hardcore that can be found in her music. Haru Nemuri was happy to hear this, as she tells me that Japanese writers don’t say stuff like this about her music. Ultimately, she’s happy with Fantano’s review, as he clearly picked up on the multiple genres she tries to convey through her experimental J-pop. Additionally, the review has brought a bunch of new listeners that have her experimental music identity in mind, rather than just the J-Pop label.
Closing, I ask if Haru has any words of wisdom, to which she explains that while living, there are many times in which you want to fight, and extreme emotions can build up. Life is full of troubles with these pent-up emotions, and when you don’t know how to release or apply them, remember her name and listen to the music of Haru Nemuri.
Haru Nemuri is paving an exciting future for J-pop, and I’m eagerly anticipating her next release. If you’re in need of Japanese music with an experimental edge, I highly recommend her music, specifically tracks “lostplanet”, “sekaiwotorikaeshiteokure,” “kick in the world,” and “Inori Dake Ga Aru,” to name a few. Haru Nemuri also has a brand new single and music video titled, “Seventh Heaven”. Stream the song HERE!
Interview Written By: Alexa Terry