By : Gannopy Urena
5 min read
I can honestly say I’ve never heard anything like Sukikirai before. It’s an E.P. dropped by Mei Semones on May 6th. Mei is an J-pop artist who sings in both English and Japanese, partially thanks to her mom, who made her practice Japanese 15 minutes a day when she was growing up. She recently graduated from the Berklee School of Music. Her music has an innovative bedroom pop sound with a strong jazz influence.
The E.P. has three songs: Ippo, Sukikirai, and Kemono. All of the songs combine Semones’s melodic voice with a mid tempo guitar and skillfully played string instruments that express emotion so profoundly you don’t need to know what the lyrics of the songs are. Since Semones sings in Japanese, most of her listeners don’t know what they are about. Kemono is my favorite track off of the E.P.. There’s a sense of simultaneous sadness and childlike nostalgia in the song that just makes me want to reminisce in a cleansing way. I haven’t heard string instruments and guitar sound so collaborative outside of the country music genre.
I got to talk to Semones about the inspiration behind the E.P. and the process behind its creation. She was signed to Green Line Records, a record label run by Northeastern students, last fall. I was most enchanted by her explanation about the song “Kemono”. Kemono means beast in Japanese. The song is a narrative about being chased by said beast, in a metaphorical sense.
“I had an experience where I just wanted to hide from everything after I came back to Boston. After Covid I was super anxious and nervous about seeing people again, and I wanted to just hide. But no one’s even looking for me. So that’s the story of the song I guess.”
One of the lyrics in the song is “playing a solitary game of hide and seek”.
In order to write her songs, she usually starts with the chords (the harmony), then adds the melody, and then adds the lyrics.
“Writing lyrics is the hardest part for me. A lot of the time I don’t have a plan for what the song is gonna be about really. I start writing, and then it just ends up being about something. Sometimes I look back at songs and think ‘I have no idea what I was saying’”.
After she’s done writing the songs, she passes it along to her band, who write their parts for their instruments and help her arrange the music. She said that her band knows exactly what she wants in her music.
“I wouldn’t be able to make the music that I make if I wasn't playing with the people that I'm playing with, ya know?” said Semones.
Semones gave huge credit to Kai Tsao the former Head Engineer at Green Line Records (now graduated), for making her E.P. what it was.
“His engineering and music and mastering have had a big impact on how my music sounds. It sounds more put together than my last E.P.”
She described how much attention to detail he gives to producing. How he thinks about things like the placement of the mics, and generally makes recording and mixing the songs an easy process.
Semones is currently working on new music inspired on some new techniques that she learned, including arpeggio fingerings and new voicings that plans to record this summer. In a few months, she will be moving to New York City to continue to work on her music, tour, and teach.
Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #147 June 2022
Check out all the art and columns of June's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass