“As a visual rock band, clothes play a big role in conveying who we are. You don’t see VK bands playing in jeans and t-shirts because the dressing up furthers our expression as another part of the music.”
ROKKYUU took the opportunity to get some inside stories from exist†trace shortly after their fashion live in collaboration with VK designers, Sixh. The girls have a refreshing attitude and a real appreciation for the devotion of their foreign fans!
69: Please introduce the person next to you and tell us something you like and something you dislike about that person (habits etc.)
Naoto: (Naoto to Omi) Guitarist Omi is always very cool and manly on stage, but rather has a calm and a gentle presence off stage. What I like about Omi is, she is comfortable to be with and we have things in common….Hmm, what I like about Omi…
Mally: You and Omi often go drinking with each other.
Naoto: Yes, Omi is comfortable to be with..?
Jyo: And, the others are not??
Naoto: Sometimes it is difficult to make out what Omi is saying, though I can’t really say about that myself.
Omi: Guitarist miko is sometimes clumsy and often spills drinks on her costume. But that’s what makes her a charming person Clumsy but very passionate and strong at heart.
miko: Vocalist Jyo is very versatile. She can sing both from the male and female perspective. An all-rounder even on stage! Jyo talks a lot and is fun to be with. She lightens up the crowd with her talk. On the other hand, she sleeps easily. This year we went on an US tour and were roommates during the first half of the tour and I was expecting some talk about the days exciting live. BUT when I got out of the shower, she had already fallen asleep! Okay, so she was tired. Even during the long drive she goes to sleep and misses the opportunity to talk! I do wish she could stay awake a little longer.
Jyo: Mally is a very powerful drummer, and the secret to her powerful drumming is that she works hard on her drumming going to the studio before every live polishing her skills. Just like Naoto was saying about Omi, I do think we get along well. Mally is always good company when we go out, especially Disneyland. I like going to Disneyland. The thing I dislike about Mally is…that she is very cool! I say this in a somewhat jealous way. She also has a good sense of fashion. [Laughs]
Mally: Naoto, appearance says it all. She has a very distinct existence even on stage. That existence also reflects off stage as well. What I like about Naoto is, she is down to earth, and has strong nerves. When the other members are all in a lather, she’s the one with the guts. For dislike, or shall I say something that can be improved, well, she skips the point of what she wants to say and jumps to conclusion in her conversation. (laugh) She has it in her mind all wrapped up together but when she speaks, only the end comes out. I’d want to know the details before that. “What do you want to do today?” “Today? About what?” Like that. [Laughs]
69: You’ve been playing together for quite a long time now, how did you all meet and how did this project come together?
Jyo: Naoto and I met first, and around that time, a friend had been doing a band and was longing to do one myself. Then I met Naoto who had a totally different perspective and was also looking forward to form a band. I wanted to form a band with her and that is the start of exist†trace. Naoto introduced me to her friend drummer Mally, and when we got to the point of looking for a guitarist, I don’t know if they still have it but there used to be a column in music magazines for finding members. We posted an ad saying we are seriously looking for a motivated person who’s aiming on going professional. Then the two guitarist (Omi and miko) contacted us. It took us over 3 years to form this band.
69: How did you come up with the name exist†trace?
Jyo: Ah, that would be Naoto.
Naoto: The band name was decided before the guitarist joined the band. The three of us stayed up all night and decided on the name. Well we were young then, and had a strong feeling to leave a name for myself. We wanted to prove what we are doing is something that only we could achieve. The name exist†trace is a formation of those strong feelings.
69: How would you describe exist†trace to your fans overseas?
Mally: Simply, Japan’s entertaining and cool female band? Would that be ok? (Laugh)
69: From all of your songs which one do you think conveys the essence of exist†trace?
Naoto: “Lost in Helix.” The theme life and death is what I present through music and is the song that affects me. This song gives out the feel of rebirth and fate to bring people together again.
Omi: More of personal like than a representative song, “TRUE.” I think it is a song that everybody can relate as cool.
miko: A song that exist†trace can only do, “Little Marry and Utsukushiki Nikushimi no Danube.” The song takes over the dark fairy tale aspect of the early songs of exist†trace, as well as the recent grungy band sound, and the twin guitar solos, even kicking in the exist†trace groove. At lives, costume changes, masks and dancing, all things only exist†trace can do, maybe not representative song but is definitely a recommend.
Jyo: Maybe because I sang it recently but it would be “Cradle.” A very gentle song, and would want to be a person like “Cradle” and be able to say and deliver the message through exist†trace, “ Morning will wash away all, go to sleep, do not be afraid.”
Mally: Same as Omi, “TRUE.” Everything including the PV and all of it is lively. Even when making the music, the feel of fighting and yet the song has its own will. In midst of a male oriented V-ROCK scene, we have succeeded in working and go over the limit with woman power and we want to treasure that feeling. Even the sound is flooded with power, and as the song is played, the song gains sophistication and there is no doubt this song will be a promising song.
All: Can’t wrap up the passion. [Laugh]
69: What do you think is the biggest difference between VK male and female bands?
miko: At first, people assume we are weak because we are girls yet we have worked hard to prove them wrong and boost our musical performance and vitality. Recently, people have said that we are just as vibrant. More than that, when writing lyrics, I think there are differences between a man and woman when we talk about life and death. So, there are lyrics only a woman can write and a lyric that can be sung by a woman’s perspective. These differences are what we are focusing on.
69: Is there a difference when it comes to fans?
Mally: Not really. Actually, male fans tend to be more in the back and the female fans are mostly in the front. The female fans are relatively smaller so the male fans let the female fans go to the front. There are many gentlemen in the crowd. Previously, we have taken a poll of gender percentages, and ended up even. When we look through questionnaires and letters, the range of age is also wide from elementary student to 60 year old elder. We are happy to have such wide range of fans.
69: Have you had funny moments backstage at event when you are sharing the dressing room with male bands?
Mally: Not at all!
Mally: More like the male bands are polite with that. We don’t care much about it but sometimes. When there is only one toilet, we do occupy the room so, that we regret but other than that we don’t really have any problem with it.
Naoto: Once, only our members were there so we changed with the dressing room door wide open but the event staff of the live house got angry. We were scolded, “You’re girls so shut the door before you change!” Changing has always been a thing for us. Sometimes we would be changing and someone would walk in, apologize, leave and shut the door. [Laughs]
69: You’ve released an album this year with a lot of jazz elements and such. How do you think your songs and imagery have evolved?
miko: “Yeah, let’s throw in some jazz!” …isn’t really how it happened. It just happened that way while I was songwriting at home, humming along with my guitar. It just felt like that sort of element was in it and so I ran with it and it came along naturally. It turned into an interesting song so I encouraged the others to listen to it and they all wanted to do it. It just came about on its own.
69: You’ve had collaborations with Sixh. and recently Omi worked with ATELIER BOZ. How did these projects come to happen?
miko: As for Sixh., in the past we have attended conventions together and though there was no real connection there, we were acquainted with each other. Then in February this year, I appeared in Sixh.’s fashion show. Taking part, I was really taken in by the fusion of music and fashion that Sixh. strive to create and at the time, I felt that if exist†trace put ourselves to it, we could come up with something really great so I talked about it with designer IBI. “I’d love to do this someday,” I said. I did some web modeling and as we continued expanding our ideas, we arrived at the event we held.
69: How about your collaboration with ATELIER BOZ, Omi?
Omi: The blouse of one of my outfits was from ATELIER BOZ. They asked me if I wanted to participate in the campaign as a model and since it’s one of my favorite brands I immediately said yes.
69: Do you have an interest in fashion?
Mally: Definitely. [Laughs]
Jyo: It’s not that I don’t, rather that I’m just very bad at it. [Laughs]
miko：It’s also true when it comes to everyday fashion but, as a visual rock band, clothes play a big role in conveying who we are. You don’t see VK bands playing in jeans and t-shirts because the dressing up furthers our expression as another part of the music.
69: Is there a fashion item you wouldn’t leave your house without?
Jyo: Yes! When it comes to lives it would definitely be gloves. I’ve been wearing them for about a year straight. Onstage I often try to convey a manly image and I feel that the fact that my hands are so small interferes with that. It’s not so much that I want to hide my hands but more that I think the gloves help bring together the image I want to pass off. Oh, and when it comes to everyday fashion then my standard is to buy anything with skulls. [Laughs]
Mally: The things I can wear for lives are quite limited. I move around a lot so it has to be something that is not too warm that will absorb perspiration.
Jyo: Mally moves to so much it looks like she’ll break. [Laughs]
Mally: I always tear my clothes! I think of it like drumming equals sports I think so I have to choose something that’s cool yet practical. On the other hand, when it comes to casual clothes. Both things that are difficult to move in or completely regardless of the season have their good points and I have fun with it.
Naoto: For lives, I like unusual designs; unique things you wouldn’t usually wear but you can because it’s a live. I’m always thinking of designs different from what everyone else is wearing usually I wear black.
miko: You don’t wear yellow or anything like that, do you? [Laughs]
Naoto: [Laughs] I like black and strange designs!
Omi: I like long coats and jackets for lives. I don’t wear them all the time but I do like things that spread out when I move. Regarding ever day clothes; I’m also not very good when it comes to fashion. Luckily there are some people here who are good with fashion so I’ll try to learn from them. [Laughs]
miko: Usually I’m not the kind of person who likes to show a lot of skin but in exchange for that, I show some skin onstage. [Laughs] It’s not something you can just expose but for example, I’ll show from “here” to “here” or my legs will be screamingly exposed. Partly, I can do it because I’m onstage so it’s like a different me; a me who can do it with abandon.
69: You have a big international fan base. Do you often receive e-mails or letters from foreign fans? Have there been any particular ones that made a strong impression?
Jyo: Yes, we receive many and many people work hard to write to us in Japanese! They’re so good it makes me think “Wow, they are studying really hard!” and that makes me very happy. It leaves an impression, and though there are some who type it into a computer, I’m thrilled when people hold the pen in their hands and write “Konnichiwa.” in their own handwriting. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand what it’s written because the grammar is strange [laughs] but even then I think it proves how much care they put into it—that they would try so hard to write in Japanese really gets the message across.
Mally: There are also many fans who send us drawings. Some are really creative and as Jyo said, they pour their feelings into it going down to the smallest details, putting in the time and effort to draw something really well for us. One for each of us. It really makes me feel loved.
Mally: You could say it’s a given that if we go overseas there will definitely be at least one fan who will draw portraits of us and I always take care to bring those back with me and preserve them in a file.
miko: Also, for my birthday, I was sent a stuffed toy and an alarm clock from overseas. It’s very difficult for me to wake up in the morning yet this alarm clock rings really annoyingly and I wonder if this person knows I have trouble waking up! It was indeed the perfect present. Thank you! [Laughs]
Omi: I have Ameblo and I get mails from overseas every day. They send very warm messages like “Marry me!” [Laughs] They are very passionate. That makes me happy.
Naoto: I’m very happy to receive such straightforward messages, letters and presents from abroad. I really like it. Two years ago I got a message saying “I like exist†trace so I’m studying Japanese.” At first, the messages were in English but it seems that person is studying really hard and recently has started writing messages and letters in Japanese! I really think it’s amazing that everyone writes to us is such good Japanese. I feel like it’s my turn to study English.
69: You’ve been abroad quite a few times. Do you have any fun episodes to share with us?
Mally: This time we stayed in America quite long, almost two weeks. It’s very different from Japan, especially when it comes to how big the meals are. [Laughs] At first I got full right away and couldn’t finish my food but after about a week I was able to eat everything. My stomach got bigger, you see. When I realized that I was surprised. American size! After that, thanks to all that food, I was able to expel all of my power at the live.
69: How were the lives? Were they different from the ones in Japan?
Jyo: Foreign fans move to every song, even ballads. There were some Japanese fans in the back and they just stood still, watching silently. Of course, some Americans also watched us quietly but quite a few were dancing and that made us realize the difference between Japanese and foreign fans.
Mally: That we want everyone to enjoy our lives freely, however you wish, seemed to get across and that really made us happy.
69: Lastly, could you give us a message for ROKKYUU’s readers?
Naoto: We’ve been to America a few times now just for a few days or weeks and then come home. It’s really lonely. The atmosphere of everyone overseas—or perhaps the candid feeling—is a lot of fun and when I get back I miss that so I want to go again right away.
Omi: The atmosphere of lives in America is unique. I want to go back to feel that atmosphere again soon. I want to do another fun live like that and to see everyone.
miko: Going abroad is not just about doing lives and having fun; from the position of making music, it’s also about the towns, the atmosphere, the people. Of course, everyone’s reactions to lives are very fresh and as a result of all of that, new music and lyrics bubble up. To that end, everyone’s existences, the countries that everybody lives, the existences of the towns, they all help us improve. I want to go much, much more and improve along with everyone.
Mally: Our goal is to go on a world tour and we want to become a band that circulates throughout the world so we’ll work hard to be able to go and meet you all. So when you come to Japan, if you make exist†trace’s show your main sightseeing event, we’d be thrilled and I want use to fiercely enjoy that together so you come to us and we’ll go to you, too. That’s all that I ask for!
Jyo: The fact that we have been able to leave Japan and go to so many places abroad is amazing for us. We honestly thank everyone who has been supporting us and listening to our music. I know we are still mainly unknown abroad and that’s why we will keep doing our best here in Japan so that we can reach more and more fans all over the world. We’ll try hard for all of you. We want to go to the biggest places in each country and meet all the fans waiting for us and enjoy our shows together. We are still small but will do our best and we thank you all for your support! Please wait for us excitedly in your part of the world.