A conversation with Fuji Gateway about “Waking Up”

Q: Hi! Can you tell us about your journey as a musician and how you came up with the name Fuji Gateway?

A: When I was really young I took piano lessons and I played saxophone in school so I had some base knowledge when I picked up the guitar around 13. I played a lot throughout high school but stopped playing when I went to college. In college I had a roommate, Brandon, who was an amazing singer and guitarist and had recently delved into producing. At this time in my life, I was feeling very lost and unsure about the direction I was taking. Seeing someone else in my position who was able to do all of this on their own really opened my eyes and made me realize it wouldn’t be such an impossibility if I worked really hard at it. I bought a guitar and decided to start messing around again. Each year after that I became more dedicated and obsessed with getting better. Over time I got a nice computer, a bass guitar, mics, etc. and kept working at it until I felt comfortable enough with the results to start putting them out into the world. When I had my first song SE5 ready to release and it came time to come up with a name, I had a hard time thinking of anything that I liked. I knew I didn’t want to use my own name. When I was younger I always wanted to be in a band so I liked the idea of having a project name separate from myself. My last name is Applegate so I came up with Fuji (a type of apple) Gateway. I liked how it sounded and I couldn’t find it being used anywhere so I went for it.

Q: As a multi-instrumentalist and DIY producer, which instruments do you play, and how did you learn them?

A: I mostly just play guitar and bass with a tiny bit of keyboard here and there. I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be with the guitar so I started paying for private lessons once a week in the beginning of 2022. I really treated it like a second job and took them super seriously, kept a practice notebook, and practiced 2 to 3 hours a day no matter what else was going on in my life. I kept up the lessons for 6 or 7 months and this is really when I got much more comfortable with my playing.

Q: How has your musical style evolved since you started your career, and what factors have contributed to this evolution?

A: I tend to move around a little bit stylistically. I spend a lot of time with each song so by the time I’m done with one I’m usually looking to do something a little different for the next one. I will however, most likely always stay somewhere in the psychedelic/indie rock/lo-fi pop kind of neighborhood.

Q: What inspired you to write “Waking Up,” and what is the main message behind the song?

A: The emotion behind the song comes from the struggles of maintaining a sense of self worth. The lyrics are about feeling lost and alone in my early 20s and going back and forth between feeling confident in myself and feeling like I was delusional for pursuing music. The main message is that everyone feels alone and unsure of themselves so why not do what you want to do for yourself and not for the imaginary approval of others.

Q: Can you describe the creative process behind “Waking Up”? How did you come up with the melody and lyrics?

A: The start of Waking Up was actually kind of a happy accident. I was messing around with a drum beat to try to spark some inspiration. I use virtual instruments to program my drums and I was trying out some different sounds to see what I wanted. At one point, I accidentally mapped the drums incorrectly and ended up with a bunch of open hi hats. I realized I actually thought it sounded pretty cool and that ended up inspiring the drums for the chorus, which was the catalyst for the rest of the song. Once I had all the instrumentation, I wanted a melody and lyrics that matched how the song made me feel. I actually deliver pizza at a local place so I just played the song in my car while I was working and came up with the melody and lyrics while driving around.

Q: What challenges did you face while producing “Waking Up,” and how did you overcome them?

A: Waking Up was the first song I put out with vocals so I pretty much had no idea what I was doing when it came to recording vocals and vocal production. I spent a lot of time watching random tutorial videos and went through lots of trial and error to get them sounding how I wanted.

Q: How does “Waking Up” fit into your overall discography and musical style?

A: I think Waking Up is one of my more groovy, catchy songs. I really enjoy the pureness and simplicity of more poppy songs but I also like exploring more interesting chord progressions with unexpected changes of direction. I love albums that have a little of both and I think it makes them more captivating to listen to all the way through. 

Q: Are there any specific influences or artists that inspired the sound of “Waking Up”?

A: The bass and drums in the chorus are definitely influenced by the Tame Impala album ‘Currents.’ I love his simple but hard hitting drums and rhythmic bass lines. My love for soft synth pad sounds and long, reverby vocals comes from artists like Mac Demarco and Washed Out. During the time I was recording the vocals and finishing up the production, I was really into the Morabeza Tobacco album ‘Shadow of the Cherry’ so I’m sure this also influenced some of my production choices and the lo-fi feel that Waking Up has.

Q: What are your future plans and goals for your music career, and what can fans expect from Fuji Gateway in the coming year?

A: I’m currently just focusing on writing and recording new songs. I’m really excited about putting together a full, cohesive album next year with some of the music I’ve released, including this song, and some new songs. Thus far, I haven’t ever played in front of an audience but once I have more of a body of work I’m open to the idea of starting to do some live shows.