Though certainly the less experienced of the two musical guests this year, LiSA certainly didn’t come to Anime Expo 2012 without a pre-established local fanbase. Despite her short discography, she’s already sung pieces for extremely popular anime, starting with Angel Beats, where she served as the singing voice of Yui. After moving on her first solo mini-album entitled Letters to U, her most recent hit includes Fate/Zero‘s opening song “Oath Sign”. With an appearance at Animelo Summer Live 2010 and an overseas performance at Anime Festival Asia in Singapore, LiSA made her debut American appearance last weekend.
Introduction by Kylaran
Kevo As a special treat (more like an accident) the Anime Expo staff divided press into groups of about 6 to interview LiSA in a hotel suite — press junket style. This also meant that each group had a slightly different dynamic, so different groups asked different questions. This was my first time doing press interviews at Anime Expo, and I must admit that it’s pretty cool waking up in the morning to sit across the coffee table from the singer of “Oath Sign” and “Ichiban no Takaramono”. It was a great experience talking with a performer with whom I am familiar.
Q: What does your name stand for and what’s the meaning behind it?
A: My name is Oribe Risa! My fully name. Also, L-I-S-A stands for Live is Smile Always.
Q: Is what you’re dong now any different from your background singing in bands?
A: I experienced a lot with them, and it was fun. Thanks to that, all I did was focus on that.
Q: What are some of your musical inspirations growing up?
A: Avril Lavigne
Kevo I’ve never been a fan of Girls Dead Monster, but it’s good to hear that LiSA can really connect to her character despite not voicing her. I also got a funny kick out of Jun Maeda intentionally telling LiSA to tune it down, but in the end it’s about adapting to the character. I was a bit taken aback when she just responded with a specific artist and didn’t give any details at all. Avril was insanely popular in Japan and I can see some of the similarities in their music.
Q: Have you seen the anime Angel Beats and who is your favorite character?
A: Yes, and of course Yui.
Q: What’s it like working as the vocalist of a character that already has a seiyuu?
A: There wasn’t much difference between how I imagined Yui as a character, so I was able to connect to her without much difficulty. However, Maeda-san told me to sing “crappier” because Yui is only in high school.
Q: How do you feel about Japanese culture becoming popular here?
A: [In English] Very happy!
Q: Did you work with Kajiura Yuki for the opening for Fate/zero?
A: We met for the first time yesterday. However, I listened a lot to Kajiura-san and Kalafina’s music when watching the Fate/zero anime, so I was happy to meet them yesterday.
Q: The director of Angel Beats told you to sing in a crappier voice. How closely did you work with him?
A: [After numerous translation problems] I wasn’t sure why I had to sing crappier at first, but then I realized that, since Girls Dead Monster is a band of high schoolers, it did make sense to match singing with that.
Q: What has it been like to work with the other Girls Dead Monster members?
A: Girls Dead Monster is only myself and Marina Iwasa. The band members change too. Even then, we always made sure to sing as the band Girls Dead Monster.
Q: What are you most excited to do in the U.S. Also, what’s your dream for the future?
A: Since coming to L.A., the first thing I’ve wanted to do is go to the beach. I’ve heard that the beaches are beautiful here. Also, I’m a fan of Green Day so I want to go downtown after hearing their song that goes “Downtown!” My dream is to meet a lot of people who like Japanese anime and perform for them all across the world.
Kylaran Luckily, I got a chance to ask the very last question. So of course, I picked up on what she said earlier about Maeda telling her to sing worse. Her answer sort of made me smile, because it really showed that she had confidence in her abilities, which I think is something that you don’t always hear from Japanese artists.
Q: When Maeda Jun asked you to sing crappier, did you think back to when you were singing in high school and how you’ve improved up until now?
A: I definitely felt a connection with Yui as a character because of my high school years. But I definitely didn’t try to sing poorly back in high school. [Laugh.] So, instead of memories from my own past, it was more about expression, such as not adding vibrato. I sang by focusing on the idea of just having fun.
Kylaran Our next meeting with LiSA was at her official panel on Saturday afternoon, Day 2. What was most surprising was that the panel wasn’t at the largest room in the convention center; instead, it was upstairs in what seemed like a slightly smaller room. That didn’t stop the panel from being sort of fun, though. It would’ve been a pretty standard panel if it wasn’t for the hilarity of some of the fans.
First, the panel started with two showings. One was a clip of the newest music video for her new album, which we were told she had a hand in directing or producing. Another was a brief look at her next song “Crossing Field”, which is the opening theme for the anime Sword Art Online.
Next was Q&A, and some of the questions overlapped with press conference questions. One interesting fact did pop up: LiSA was some what introverted as a child, so her mother put her through singing lessons in hopes that she would open up more. However, there was one hilarious moment where a member of the audience walked up to the microphone and asked her about her experience recording the voice for Vocaloid3 Ia— except Ia’s soundbank was actually provided by Lia, not LiSA. The unfortunate soul was sent back to his seat with a chorus of boos from the audience, though LiSA did tell him she didn’t mind the mistake.
Kylaran To put it succinctly: the concert was an absolute blast. The audience was totally drawn in to the music, and LiSA was extremely good at getting the crowd excited. One thing I noticed about her music was that her singing feels far more rock than your typical j-pop artist, which is somewhat refreshing. She also does a great job of getting into the music, and showing the fans that she’s enjoying performing for them every bit that they enjoy watching her, mostly with lots of energy singing and bouncing around stage.
LiSA started off the concert with a bang, singing her cover of “My Soul, Your Beats” of Angel Beats. Most likely due to nerves and jet lag, several of her high notes throughout the song never reached their mark; there were moments where she was flat when belting high during the chorus, and other times she went into a softer head voice to make sure she could sing the notes.
This continued on into her next song until her third song, Mousou Controller, which she went into with feet running. In particular, the chorus for this song is difficult because of the repeated high notes in the chorus she has to hit; these were no problem for her live and in fact sounded great. I couldn’t tell if she was using up a bit too much energy through body movements, but it did feel like some of her phrases were sung a bit shorter than the way they were recorded.
“Crossing field” saw its world premier next, followed by the balladic “Ichiban no Takaramono.” I have to admit, I thought the latter song showcased her talents the best out of all pieces from the concert, especially because she has quite a few low notes with which she could perform her trademark rock belt by crescendoing through the phrases. However, I couldn’t help but think that she might benefit a bit from adding more chest to her voice on this song specifically. It sounded like she is struggling to get her entire body behind those higher notes live, compared to the much more refined sound in her recordings.
Of course, “Oath Sign” from Fate/Zero drew a huge cheer from the crowd once the song started. By now, everyone was pretty engaged in her music from where I was, in the middle of the crowd towards the right, and I’m fairly sure the entire crowd was rocking out all the way back into the bleachers. The venue itself, which was a huge hall located in the convention center, had terrible sound acoustics, but that didn’t prevent her contagious passion from getting across.
Perhaps the best part of the concert was “WiLD CANDY” toward the end, at the beginning of which she asked the crowd to join in with a call. With the stage showered in pink, LiSA brought out a cute little wand with a star on it, and totally had the entire crowd whirling around their glowsticks (or towels, if you were one of the well-prepared fans) within a minute. Unfortunately, AnimeExpo’s sound technicians completely failed and caused some feedback problems, but all in all this was one of my favorite experiences of not only her concert, but the convention as a whole.
All in all, the concert was a ton of fun. It’s extremely difficult to give your best performance while fighting jet lag, singing for a crowd you aren’t used to, and going through several days of travel. I look forward to seeing how she improves as an artist in the future.