As a band comprising five female members, exist†trace is a rarity in the male-dominated Visual Kei scene. While they initially over how to present their gender when they debuted in 2005, alternating between womanly and sexually ambiguous appearances, exist†trace soon won over fans with their menacing, Kittie-inspired death metal sound and uniquely feminine lyrical viewpoint. Having performed in America at Sakura-Con last March and released their major label debut True in June, exist†trace has broken gender barriers in the Visual Kei scene and become role models for aspiring female musicians.

Guitarist miko answered several questions for Rose Tegami Media via e-mail.

Your latest release, True, has a more mainstream, polished sound than your previous music. What influenced this new direction for you?

miko: We didn’t particularly intend to make it more mainstream. The sound of this album is what formed naturally after we filled it with what we wanted to express. We think that our music is something that keeps betraying your expectations, in a good sense.

Was this sound something you’d planned for a while, or did it come more spontaneously?

miko: It depends on each song. “True” came out almost the same as the demo, but “Honnou” and “Tokoyami no Yoake” changed so much during the recording. Especially the guitar work and the laughing in “Honnou”–the passion in the studio made this song change into the version that’s on the CD.

Can you tell us about the experience of recording True?

miko: We began recording at the beginning of this year, and we were still working on it until we went to America in April. Because we spent a long time on it, I think we were able to polish the sound into exactly what we wanted. Also, we wanted to create our first major-label release completely on our own, and this was self-produced. So, the band came together more than ever, and that made it really special.

I think it’s fascinating that you’re among the few female Visual Kei musicians. What do you think are the reasons Visual Kei remains a mostly male music scene, even though it’s been around for decades?

miko: I think it’s because there is a bias that Visual Kei is music only for men. This is true for fans and for musicians, too. There shouldn’t be a gender wall in music, right? I think the common ideas about Visual Kei have been changing during the last few years. We want to be the leader in this change, so that female artists can be proud and perform.

When exist†trace was new, you didn’t make the band members’ gender clear. What was the reason for this?

miko: The five of us got together, saying “We want to do a band with only women,” but we never thought that a female band wouldn’t be welcomed. In the beginning, we didn’t hide that we’re female, but there were many times when things didn’t work out. So there was a certain period of time when we purposely got rid of the feminine side. However, Jyou’s voice is without a doubt a female voice. We started to think that if we could take more advantage of being female, we would be able to fully express our thoughts from the bottom of our hearts in the lyrics. That’s why we started to push the fact that we’re female. As a result, we have more support, and we’re able to create music freely.

I’ve read that exist†trace’s style comes from the fact all members are females. What are the ideas that only women can express?

miko: I think the theme of “Life and Death” that often appears in our lyrics is probably perceived differently between men and women. We, the women, are the sex that can bear children. I’m very attracted to the life-and-death concept because of this fact, and the other members also understand it deeply. This largely influences not only the lyrics but also our sound, too, so the fact that all of the members are female is really important for us. It’s irreplaceable.

exist†trace Official Website: http://www.exist-trace.com