The summer is definitely over. The fading light in Smithfield Market pays testament to that. I’m sat drinking coffee with photographer Mikael in Pure Groove. A few feet away, Japanese pop star AMWE, her manager and translator are deep in excited conversation, sorting out the visuals and soundcheck for the in-store performance. A few minutes later, red lipstick reapplied to match her scarlet high-tops, Amwe is ready for the camera. Watching her scale concrete sculptures in a nearby park to nail the perfect picture, she looks very much the consummate popstar. In fact, it’s barely even a year since she won the Japanese leg of the Diesel U Music competition. We’re not here because she looks the part though. Rather it’s her shoulder wiggling, uber catchy, debut single Birth (listen to it above) that’s drawn us out on this chilly Tuesday evening. With it’s robotic “‘ello, ‘ello” intro, digital chirps and Amwe’s soulful, clipped vocals, it’s like ROBYN remodelled by DAFT PUNK. Or as Amwe puts it through her translator: “It’s yin and yang – there’s a balance. There’s pop lightness but a raw undercurrent. Melody and abstract, light and dark side.”
Born in Nagoya, Japan, 25-year-old Amwe got into making music on her computer a couple of years ago having previously sung with a jazz covers group and an 80s band. But it’s the dancefloor where her heart really lies. “Because I love dance music I go clubbing quite a lot, so I’m probably a bit more leftfield than most,” she says. “I have a lot of male friends who DJ. They’re really good at finding out about new songs.” It was a gig with Swedish funk pop star JUVELEN – “he’s very big in Japan, you can’t get his records, they’re all sold out” – late last year that cemented her decision to go solo. “I love him!” she exclaims. “I made four songs in one month after meeting him. After the gig with Juvelen, I set up my own myspace page and started getting lots of messages from all over the world.” Those messages included an invitation to remix HEARTS REVOLUTION for Kitsune Japan and a spot on the upcoming Kitsune Maison 8 for the swirly techno-pop of Friction Between The Lovers.
Having recently played with ANNIE MAC and YUSEK in Paris and joined THE BIG PINK on the Diesel U Music tour, where does she want to go from here? “That’s a difficult question. Since I won the Diesel competition, I think I’m just really lucky that I’ve had so many opportunities with so many different artists. But all I really want is to paint everything red! It’s my favourite colour.” I explain we have a saying over here: to paint the town red. She finds this hysterical and asks me to write it down. Amwe is impossibly sweet and super professional. After the in-store performance – in which she gives it her all with super slick dance moves despite it being a little quiet (it’s 9pm on a Tuesday) – she shakes hands with and thanks everyone in the audience. “Music is a part of me now,” she explains. “When I compose music I am really serious but when I am performing it’s really exciting.”
Amwe’s double single is out now on Pure Groove. You can buy it here.
For more red-fixated electro pop, check out our interview with La Roux from earlier this year.