Daemon Interviews Idols: SENANAN

Daemon‘s had himself one hell of an idol-meeting August, friends, and the still-not-last entry from his fine run of work is this interview with SENANAN. Kudos to D, thanks to Hailey at Chaotic Harmony for booking and translating, and of course big thanks to Senanan!

There is a Circle K in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, down the street from the Sheraton Grand Hotel that hosts Saboten Con each year over the Labor Day weekend. Many customers and con-goers who happened to pop into the convenience store during this past convention encountered a stunned clerk who could not stop telling each and every one of his customers about his unforgettable encounter with an energetic young Japanese woman who had reacted to the place like it was a Disneyland theme park. He would tell how she had come into the store like a tornado, about her joyful exclamations in Japanese to all the glowing lights and colors, how she marveled at the 12-foot-long fountain drinks bar before purchasing a mountain of Monster energy drinks, all pink or blue food items on offer, and then bounced off into the darkness.

The young woman the clerk had encountered that night was Senanan (stylized, SENANAN), who also documented her Circle K adventure on her Twitter feed. That this five-minute encounter turned into an unforgettable moment the clerk was compelled to share with anyone who would listen (possibly, to this day) should not be surprising. While Senanan is a singer, DJ, model, fashion designer, and social media personality, at her core she is primarily an unstoppable ball of charismatic energy.

Fans of chika idol may have become aware of Senanan because of her connections to the creative team supporting kawaii-punk idol unit Candye Syrup. She is highly active on several social media platforms, often with (former) mermaid-blue member Mai-chan in tow. She is also a manager and buyer for Candye Syrup boutiques and well known for cultivating a unique fashion footprint in the hyper-competitive world of Tokyo Street fashion. Senanan’s aesthetic infuses traditional Chinese fashion elements with Western sportswear and yume kawaii. It’s a unique, and comfortably wearable, combination of Western kakkoii and Japanese kawaii with the Chinese elements providing a playful, throwback twist.

Head turning fashion aside, Senanan made her biggest impressions at Saboten Con weekend from the stage. Her solo act of vocals, dance and digital manipulation kicked off Friday night where she performed her original music in addition to her take on some classics, including BIS’ “Nerve”. She powered through some early technical difficulties to turn the crowd into a churning, bouncing, fist-pumping throng. Saturday night saw her walking the runway in the con fashion show before she took over the turntables to DJ the evening’s rave. Her DJ setlist flowed like a dream mixtape for anyone hooked on the darker side of J-Pop, smashing mainstream idol tunes into visual kei and the best of alternative idol (BABYMETAL and Dempagumi Inc.) while featuring standout tracks from chika all stars like NECRONOMIDOL, CY8ER and DEEP GIRL.

I got the chance to sit down and speak with Senanan late Monday morning when just about everyone in the Grand Sheraton, con-goers, promoters and her fellow performers alike, were about to drop from exhaustion. Senanan instead was bright and beaming, still sparkling with energy. She was dressed in a flannel pajama top decorated in baby-blue elephants and pink bloomer shorts with her hair in Chinese bun holders. While we spoke, she drank from a Daisy Duck baby bottle which was almost certainly filled with her beverage of choice: blue Monster energy drink.

Next time I want to get people even MORE excited and make it even MORE fun.

Homicidols: Is this your first time in America?

Senanan: Yes. First Time.

Homicidols: What were your first impressions upon arriving?

Senanan: When we arrived in the airport in America, the first thing we did was eat hamburgers, like, fast food. Doing that, I was like, “Yup, this is America alright!” Everything, from the food to the people is just full of energy and life.

Homicidols: Has performing overseas been one of your goals?

Senanan: Yes, I have really wanted to perform overseas. So much so that I would like to come back every single year.

Homicidols: If given the opportunity, where else would you most like to perform?

Senanan: Obviously I would like to come back to America. I would like to go to Canada. I would also like to go to Europe, especially to places like France where there is a love for Japanese culture and fashion.

Homicidols: I see that you are scheduled to return to America next summer and perform at Tokyo in Tulsa. Have you learned anything from this trip that will help you on your next visit?

Senanan: This time I had a really good time and it was super fun. So it makes me think, like, next time I want to get people even MORE excited and make it even MORE fun.

Homicidols: You are a singer, designer, DJ, and model among other things. Is success in one of these areas your main focus or more important than the others? Or is it just everything at once?

Senanan: Not just one thing, I want to be, like, really really successful in every single one.

Homicidols: You have been at the front of China-kei aesthetics for a while now which can also be seen in your merch and through motifs used on your CDs. What drew you to that aesthetic and keeps inspiring you?

Senanan: I’ve never been to China before, but mostly just looking at Chinese fashion like the little hair buns and dresses, like qipao, that’s always just really appealed to me. Inspiration definitely comes from these fashions.

My personality itself is not that cute actually. Basically, when I write the music, I write exactly what I want to say.

Homicidols: You also seem to be interested in Vaporwave aesthetics, but your own music is very different from what is produced around this. Is this an avenue you would like to explore more in the future?

Senanan: I definitely want to explore more into vaporwave. Similar to the Chinese influence, I got into vaporwave from the fashion side of things. Especially in my DJ work, I would like to explore vaporwave.

Like much of the best music coming out of Japan right now, Senanan’s original music borrows from several genres and resists categorization. She seems to draw heavily upon her DJ influence with a throbbing EDM and sometimes dubstep base then incorporating J-rock and even anisong elements but with a sometimes dark and brutal twist. At the Saboten Con Q&A when asked what her favorite music was, Senanan’s instant response was, “Metal.”

Homicidols: While you have a “pure cute” look, your music includes aggressive bass and brutal drops. Is this a contrast you create consciously?

Senanan: The difference is definitely on purpose. My personality itself is not that cute actually. Basically, when I write the music, I write exactly what I want to say. I am very much like a, “Go! Go! Go!” kind of person and I just put it all out there.

Homicidols: Candye Syrup shops (not the hairdresser) are a dream for anyone interested in Yume Kawaii. For your own style, we noticed you incorporate a lot of sports brands. What guides your choices? What is the Senanan fashion essence?

Senanan: I definitely like both yume kawaii and sports clothing. A lot of that comes from the fact that I like things that are easy to wear. That are comfortable. Stuff you can move around in a lot. Yume kawaii and sports clothes are obviously related to that so sometimes I just mix both together. Originally when I was doing my look, I would try to be like an anime girl, both in the fashion and the hair style and all the colors and everything. I was very anime focused. So, in the past I was much more high maintenance and styled and everything. But as I get older, like right now I’m 27 and I’ll be 30 pretty soon, so the older I get the more I’m like, “I just want to be comfortable”. “Kawaii and easy*”, is the Senanan fashion essence now.

*Originally spoken in English

I want to have the same happiness that any regular person would have, and also to be successful and make a lot of money.

Homicidols: Visiting Candye Syrup stores in Japan, we noticed that most accessories are produced by small, independent creators. What is the process for deciding which items are sold in the store? What do you look out for in making those decisions?

Senanan: In Japan they have, sort of similar to Saboten Con, they have these conventions for small fashion designers and lots of creators will gather there. I go there a lot of times just to shop for myself. I’ll look at what they’re selling and sometimes I think, “Oh, I want that!” or “Ooh, that’s cute!” But most of all, if I see something where I’m think, “Oh, this is going to get big” or “This is on the verge of becoming the new thing”, that’s what I look for. So right now these little bun covers are really, really in vogue. That was something I saw. And headdresses are currently the really big thing. So I’m always looking for what’s the NEXT big thing. That’s how I think about what we should sell.

Homicidols: There has been a lot of discussions about yami kawaii and menhera recently, especially as these terms are starting to become known to the western fans of Japanese fashion. How do you feel yume kawaii compares to menhera/fashion menhera?

Senanan: I’m into more of the sporty and upbeat and brand new fashion, so menhara is not really my thing. I mean, I understand it, and sometimes I will take elements from it but it doesn’t really go with my style so much.

Homicidols: Do you have a moment that stands out for you from this past weekend? What do you think you will remember most about your visit?

Senanan: The live show definitely stands out for me the most. Everyone got really excited and they were really into it and they were like, dancing for me. The DJ set was the same and it’s totally different from what I experience in Japan. In Japan they literally just stand there and watch me DJ. Like they won’t do anything. And they didn’t do that in America and I was like, “Yay!” As for what I will remember the most, I mean, I will remember everything of course, but how kind everyone has been. And honestly, how cute everyone is! Like everyone from little kids to full adults, everyone is so cute! Even older people. So I will definitely remember that. Like it’s not even to gender: older men – super cute! Little girls – super cute! Just everybody. All the people have been so cute!

Homicidols: What would be your hopes and messages for the Senanan five years in the future?

Senanan: I want to tell my future self, “I hope you’re still super cute and still dress like this!” Also, I hope you get married and have kids. I want to have the same happiness that any regular person would have, and also to be successful and make a lot of money.