Artists / Bands, Indie / Alternative, Releases, Rock — October 6, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Interview: The Universal Moment (JP/TW)


Japanese alt-rockers the Universal Moment are a rising force on the local and international scene; comprised from well-travelled, American-raised brothers Yu and Sebastian, along with drummer and keyboardist Shihori and Shigeo, the group have surrendered their surnames and enjoyed increasing success since the release of their first record, “The Reminder” in 2009. After growing through a series of transitions stemming from Sebastian and Yu’s time as a duo (evolving, over the course of several years, into the current line-up), the Universal Moment have slowly but surely become one of the most alluring musical acts on the Asia-Pacific music scene.

Do the personalities of the band members in The Universal Moment reflect the style of music you create?
Sebastian: Definitely. There are two people working together, and there are two unique personalities. Our personalities completely reflect the style of music we create. In terms of personality, Yu was more of a punk kid. Well, he didn’t necessarily dress up like one. He had died his hair red when he was in high school…but he just had the punk kid attitude. Yu was quite reserved, but he had this rebellious attitude all the time. This sounds almost like that James Dean movie, “Rebel Without a Cause”, but I say that Yu had a cause. It was just hard to grasp. I was a reserved kid who liked to listen to and compose music. Music always had two aspects in my head: the sound and the theme. In my head, music was always related to love and appreciation rather than hatred and anger, so that kind of explains what kind of person I am. Yu believed in fighting back and never giving in, and his music was always related to those themes. Two different personalities and perspectives give something special to The Universal Moment’s music, for sure.

What does each member bring to the dynamic of the band; creatively, musically and personally?
Sebastian: I always thought as a kid, because I grew up abroad, whatever I experienced through my life was something rare; not a lot of people go through what Yu and myself did as kids. I always felt this some sort of responsibility to write these things down somewhere so that the people can see them, and understand what I was going through. From falling in love as a kid to tasting the air of Toronto in the winter-time at the age of 16 right after moving out from hot and humid Houston, Texas – everything was happening so dramatically to me. I just had to write music and show the appreciation. On the other hand, Yu was somebody who didn’t write these things down; he was always suffering from the sort of experiences that he had to go through and trying to find out where he was, whom he was and what he was. I think our two completely different perspectives; ideas and attitudes are carefully combined in this band’s concepts and music. I honestly think this band has this depth of two people who have gone through so much in life, and from very early stages.

How did you all meet?
Yu: We are brothers. So, when I realized, he was already there. (Laughs)
Sebastian: Yes. Though, this is something I need to also mention. I’m Sebastian when I’m in The Universal Moment. I dress up and put make up on. And, I do that to be as neutral as possible. To stay away from me whom people always misjudge. I am not comfortable on stage, unless I am in character. But, back to the question: As for the drummer, we basically put an advertisement on an Internet site, and went from there. We never thought we’d get so many people, but we were fortunate enough to get a lot of guys coming in. Shigeo, was one of them. He is a really good drummer, and he understood the concept the fastest. He was the perfect guy. As for the keyboardist, Shihori, our manager found her at a live show. It’s kind of interesting because we totally suck at getting to know new people and get along with them. There was this great chemistry from the beginning. She has the similar background to ours, and she understood the concepts of the band. So, she was the perfect person. Having a very intelligent and artistic keyboardist like herself in the band was great; she’s classically trained, which helps!

What is one song, written by someone else, that you wish you’d written yourselves?
Yu: I think every song I like is like that. I tried to write songs so that my songs become like that for somebody else.
Sebastian: Picking one is probably impossible. Maybe Symphony No. 9 by Beethoven. It’s a masterpiece. We play what we play because we are living in a modern time. The Universal Moment is what we think is lacking in the contemporary world. I think of the same things with other artists. If I listen to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, I can only imagine how it was like back then, when things were dramatically changing, and how it was like to write a piece about it living in that time.

Best and worst performing experiences?
Sebastian: The worst experience happened in a bar in Toronto where the sound engineer was reading a book throughout the show.  It was terrible from the beginning: she asked why we needed so much space on the stage at the sound check. It was a terrible question. It’s almost asking the sound engineer why you need a sound board. We need the space because we need it to perform. It was as simple as that!
Yu: Best is yet to come. I would like to think of it that way. I always think that next one is going to be better. Always.  If I have to name one, though, then probably the first serious show we put on at The Opera House in Toronto.
Sebastian: We spent so much so much time preparing for this show. We even made like a small booklet for the sound guy and lighting guy so that they can have a better idea of what kind of music we play and what we need. It was a lot of work, but it was well worth it. They worked very hard for us, and it was an amazing show.

Where do you see yourselves in 2, 5, 10 years time…
Sebastian: In 2-5 years, I would love to be able to tour around the world. In 10 years, I would love to be able to start building a city with lots of artists and craftsmen, where I want to live. This has always been my dream and I will make it happen. A city that has a completely different governmental system, that is governed by a capitalistic, democratic government that we have now. A city for artists and craftsmen. A city runs on a complete different basis, where real art is produced, and no one will be worrying about feeding themselves or buying their instruments.

How do you feel you differ from the other acts featured in the SEA Absolute Indie Compilation?
Sebastian: This is SEA Absolute Indie compilation, but we don’t necessarily come from South-East Asia. We didn’t grow up in South-East Asia, but certainly we have the roots here. So, in terms of cultural background we share lots of similarities with other artists from the region. At the same time, because we grew up outside South-East Asia, there are a lot of different aspects and perspectives added to our music. That’s how we differ.

Catch The Universal Moment on the South-East Asia Absolute Indie Compilation, due for iTunes release on the 18th of October 2011.


By Stephanie Winkler