After saying farewell to Kazuki last month and heading into the future with Royz, we’d like to take a look back to the spring at Royz’s Red Desire LILIA tour, and even farther back, to the beginnings of the band. We caught up with Royz for the first time in more than a year at their Aomori performance of the tour this past April and were treated to another impressive show as well as an extended interview. How does the band see itself now, compared to their formation? What are some of their most memorable experiences together? And what’s so funny about spare ribs? Find out in this special feature exclusive to Shattered-Tranquility.net.
Live report & interview: Ku
Translation: Alicia & Shannon
Photography: Ku & Sabra
Special thanks: Sabra, Yayoi, & K
Red Desire -LILIA-
Aomori QUARTER – April 3, 2014
It seems that in our time apart, Royz’s popularity has only grown, even in a small corner of Japan like this northern prefecture, judging from the live house packed with visual kei fans, including many male fans, a rarity in the scene. At 6 o’clock sharp, opening act and new label mate Codomo Dragon took the stage. They were greeted with a number of raised hands bearing glittering rainbow rings, and an enthusiasm not typically invested in opening bands. Among the four songs with which they warmed up the willing audience were mostly highly electronic songs, especially compared to Royz, with their energy matching their sound. Their final number was much heavier, a good segue to the main act of the evening, and with an air of excitement, Codomo Dragon wrapped up their set in less than half an hour and made way for Royz.
Royz took over from there with their usual high-level enthusiasm and flew right into an intense performance, leading off with “Ms.Veronica.” Subaru pointed out that there were probably a lot of new faces in the crowd, and encouraged even the newcomers not to worry too much about the songs’ furitsuke and to just have a good time. The song everyone was waiting for, “LILIA,” the band’s latest single title-track, came after the first MC.
Its composition and execution still sound like Royz, only matured. A striking new element was the guitar duets with Kazuki and Kuina perfectly synched in their arpeggiation. Subaru’s voice was also well-practiced, with nary a flaw in his pitch and tone.
Other standouts included “Depression ~Dress to Ring~,” which showcased the band’s adaptability in composition with its jazzy-meets-hard-rock sections, and “.Flash Back,” during which the members thrashed through the powerful, thunderous number. Koudai even turned a little theatrical, covering his eyes during parts of the song and headbanging sideways in such a way that his hair splashed about overhead.
The encore was noteworthy; no Royz live would be complete without a long, entertaining encore and once again, the band delivered. After an extensive talk about English toast (a treat produced an made popular in Aomori) that included a foam head, Koudai stole the show by taking to an acoustic guitar for an original song: it turns out the bassist composed a short, silly number about English toast (“Kudoupan-pan”) which the band graciously received as a gift from the Tohoku tour staff.
The final trio of songs played during the encore saw the band transform from their goofy break-time selves into professional-level musicians again and their striking performance riled the crowd once more before the night was up. “ACROSS WORLD” ended the evening, a pretty, melodious, and uplifting Royz-esque song that’s always well-received. Koudai and Kazuki’s interaction, as well as Kuina’s wild running about the stage, kept fans’ eyes glued to the performance through the last solo and all the way to the final chords. Before the final goodbye, the band took a bow and extended a deluge of heartfelt thank yous and smiles, and once again left this cold little corner of Japan rocking.
03. witch in the HELL
06. トカレフ (Tokarev)
07. Depression~ドレスとリング~ (Dress to Ring)
08. Love Me?
10. Starry HEAVEN
14. 星に願いを (Hoshi ni Negai wo)
15. .Flash Back
16. 夢空 (Yumesora)
En-1. マーブルパレット (Marble Palette)
En-3. ACROSS WORLD
Red Desire LILIA
―Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. The theme for our interview today is “looking back,” so we’d like to take a look at how Royz has progressed both recently, and since its formation. This is our first meeting in over a year!
Everyone: It’s been a while!
―It has, hasn’t it? First, can you each tell us something you’ve personally learned or changed since the last time we met?
Subaru: Hm, everything.
Subaru: With so many hurdles ahead, I stopped thinking in the sense of, “It’ll be OK as long as we get from point A to point B,” and thinking more about what steps I can take each and every day in order to become a better “me” than I was yesterday. I really just stopped feeling content [with the way things are].
―What about you, Kuina?
Kuina: Kuina here! Well, I cut my hair! (laugh).
Kuina: I wasn’t purposely trying to change anything about myself, but I’ve definitely come to realize that I’ve been slowly evolving without really noticing it. And also, yeah, I cut my hair! (laugh)
Kuina: Well, we’re a band, and I feel like all of us are really starting to come together as a band in a really good way. Recently I feel that way a lot!
―And you, Kazuki?
Kazuki: We pay a lot more attention to small details, both in our sound and in our live performances. We don’t just stop at “Oh, today’s live went really well,” or “Today was really terrible.” We have really high expectations for ourselves, so we try to look at each live individually to see what we can do to improve each time.
―Koudai, if you would.
Koudai: I made my own bass! (applause)
―Your own bass. That’s great!
Koudai: Yes! I did. Yes! And I cracked a rib (laugh)
Subaru: [in English] Spare rib! (laugh)
Koudai: I don’t think I was laughing about it at the time.
Subaru: [in English] Spare rib.
Koudai: That’s it! I made my own bass! And I cracked a rib! (laugh)
―Tomoya, if you would.
Tomoya: I pay a lot of attention to fine-tuning my drum set now, and I’ve gotten really picky about my sound. And recently when I’m performing live I feel like I wouldn’t even care if I end up passing out as long as I continue to outdo myself and put on a full-power performance each time. I feel like an athlete!
―Well then, next, could you please tell us in what ways Royz’s music has evolved since the last time we met?
Subaru: I think the last time we spoke was around a year ago when we released “Innocence,” right? I feel like our core has pretty much stayed the same, but with “LILIA” we decided to try a lot of new things we’ve never done before. We don’t want to label everything up until now as “good” or “bad,” nor do we want to limit ourselves in the future by saying “this definitely won’t work.” [So we decided to try new things with our recent single], but to be honest, we were a little uneasy right after the release. But in the end I think our musical range has gotten a lot wider because of this. I can really see that now.
―Indeed, ”LILIA” has a very different sound to it than the Royz I remember. Is there any particular reason you decided to go in this direction with this single?
Subaru: Well, we were discussing what direction we’d like to move towards as a band, and, well, personally, I feel like a lot of current visual kei bands look and sound a lot alike, to be honest. So if possible, I wanted us to become a band that stood out in some way… had a big impact. And I thought that if we didn’t do something that would really stick in people’s minds we were definitely gonna lose in this world. So we asked a lot of different people for advice, and when we discussed things with our company and amongst ourselves, we decided to show everyone a tanbi kei* version of Royz that no one had ever seen before. Our opinions about it were a little divided in the beginning, and I was even a little unsure about it myself—I mean it was definitely the most daring and uncertain thing we had ever done as Royz, but once we actually did it everything turned out great. The reactions we got were all great as well, and we actually got more comments from overseas fans [on our “LILIA” PV] than we had ever gotten on our previous PVs on YouTube.
*Tanbikei is a subgenre of visual kei that is known for elaborate, often Victorian- or Edwardian-style costumes and music that typically sounds symphonic metal. Examples are MALICE MIZER and Versailles.
Subaru: Yeah. That surprised me the most.
―Can you tell us what to listen for in the songs on this single?
Subaru: For me, probably the chorus; it’s easy to listen to. As I mentioned before, when we were talking about finding something that will stick in people’s minds, we decided to name our song “LILIA” and have the name “Lilia” repeat several times in the chorus. So if you were to hear it playing on the radio you would think, “Ah! This song always gets stuck in my head.” We wanted to make a catchy song like that, so we repeat the same lyrics a lot.
Kuina: Naturally, the twin guitars in “LILIA.” Up until now we’ve never really had a song that put so much attention on the guitar work, so I think it’s great that we have a song like this in our arsenal now.
Kazuki: Yes, I would have to say that the guitar arrangements this time are really amazing. On either side you’ve got a really pretty ensemble, and we’re playing with 2 different guitars, so yes, I’d really like you to listen to the pretty guitar arrangement.
―I see. What about you, Koudai?
Koudai: Yes, Koudai here.
Subaru: He broke a rib (laugh).
Koudai: Shut up (laugh). What to listen for! Hmm… well there’s all the cymbal work that went into supporting the twin guitars that Kuina was talking about. And musically, it’s just got a really cool sound that anyone can listen to. Its sound is like the growing pains of teenage years.
Subaru: It feels kind of devious in a way. How everything was so calculated.
Koudai: Yep, it has a really calculated sound! That’s all!
―If you would, Tomoya.
Tomoya: Well, this time we were trying out tanbi kei, and to me tanbi kei equals double bass drum—we had some in our demos, but up until now we never really emphasized that booming double bass drum sound, so I really want you to listen for that. Also, during the twin guitar parts I have some phrases where I play in unison. We calculated this song down to the most minute details, so if you want to please give it a listen (laugh).
―Let’s take a step farther back – we’ve never talked about how Royz formed. We’ve heard that the members met on Mixi*, but can you tell us a little more about your meeting?
*Mixi is a popular Japanese social networking site much like MySpace or Facebook.
Kazuki: Where should I start (laugh). Well… I used to be in a band with Tomoya, but it disbanded due to musical differences. So Tomoya and I were searching for members to start a new band that had the same musical goals that we did, and that’s when we met Koudai. We met Koudai on Mixi, then met up and talked, and then he joined. And then Koudai found Subaru on Mixi and Subaru joined. And then on the day we had our first live, we were playing in the same event that Kuina was playing with another band. Then Tomoya had the opportunity to play in a session band with Kuina, and invited him to join the band at that time. And that’s how we became our current lineup! Yep!
―What did each of you think of the other members the first time you met?
Subaru: My first impression? Well, when I first saw Kazuki he had black hair at the time. And it was short. I thought he looked like a pretty serious person, and he spoke really politely, so my first impression of him was a really smart and successful person. As for Tomoya, his hair was way way darker than it is now—or rather, his whole body was super dark and tanned and I kind of doubted that he was actually visual kei. In my mind visual kei and tanned skin just did not go together, and to me Tomoya was definitely crossing the line of tanned-ness at the time, so I felt like I had been fooled or something (laugh) I thought, “He must have come from a rock band. No way he came from a visual kei band!” and felt a little uncertain about him, but Koudai… Koudai I actually passed by unknowingly at the station before we met up all together for the first time. His hair was kind of reddish at the time, but I didn’t think that he was our guy. I didn’t feel like he was the type of person that would fit well into our new band, so I kind of ignored him. But when I got to the place that we were all meeting up at, there he was eating takoyaki (laugh) and I thought, “Ah, so that really was the guy.”
Koudai: Hey hey hey hey hey…
Subaru: And the t-shirt he was wearing at the time was really shabby, too (laugh) I just thought
“What the heck is this guy doing walking around the station like that?” I mean, I’m not really the type of person to go out and say something like that about someone, but he really had an impact I guess. I already knew about Kuina’s existence from the time I started playing in a band. He was about the same age as playing visual kei in the Osaka area as well. His style was pretty flashy and I thought I’d like to see him perform sometime. And then it turns out he would be playing at the same event we were for our first live. He looked really visual kei to me—nice costume, cool looking guy.
Kazuki: Subaru, were you wearing sunglasses that time you ran into Koudai?
Subaru: Yeah, I kinda thought a lot of myself back then (laugh)
Koudai: You were such a showoff.
Subaru: I was pretty fearsome wasn’t I (laugh). Like a jackknife.
Kuina: We were all pretty much showoffs back then. Something like that.
―What do you think the biggest change has been for Royz since your formation?
Subaru: The biggest change? Everything’s changed so much (laugh).
Kazuki: Something that’s changed since our formation.
Kuina: Our beards have thickened.
Subaru & Kazuki: (dry laugh)
Subaru: We grew beards — beards.
―You grew beards? (laugh)
Subaru: They thickened; we grew up.
Kuina: Right, it’s wild.
Subaru: What’s up with you guys!! (laugh)
Kuina: [in English] Wild boy.
Subaru: Will they omit that? (laugh)
Kazuki: Well if you compare to how we were when we first started, I feel like, well, recently I feel like I’m spending almost every day with the other members and–
Subaru You’re sick of us? (laugh)
Kazuki: Well there’s that… (laugh). Nah, but really, it feels like we’re more than just good friends now—in a good way. It’s like we’ve become this 5-person perfect pro-group unit! But–
Kuina: We’re bonded together! (laugh)
Subaru: Well, there’s the whole “family” feeling of the band, but around a year or so after we formed I think “really close friends” was a lot closer to how we actually felt. And now… I feel like recently we’ve crossed over labels like “friends” or “family” and have this new kind of unique existence with each other.
―What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had as a band?
Subaru: For me, our one-man at Zepp Tokyo.
Kuina: Our first anniversary live was definitely memorable.
Koudai: Our first anniversary.
Kuina: [in English] Wild boy (laugh).
Subaru: No, not “wild boy” (laugh).
Kazuki: Well, there are a lot but aside from lives, we all went to the beach together.
―Did you have fun? Did you eat any tasty food? (laugh)
Kazuki: I had fun (laugh). We didn’t have any tasty food, but… (sigh)
Subaru: There were tasty girls (laugh)
Kuina: Aaaa! [in English] Wild boy! Wild boy!
Kazuki: That’s a joke!
Subaru: It’s a joke, it’s a joke!
Koudai: It’s not funny!
―What about you, Koudai?
Koudai: Hm, good memories…
Subaru: You broke a rib?
Koudai: You’re making that too much of a thing (laugh). Oh, moving to Tokyo together from Osaka!
Koudai: When we dropped by Osaka on tour we took stuff like a refrigerator and a bike using our equipment car (laugh).
Subaru: And vacuum cleaners.
Koudai: And vacuum cleaners (laugh). That’s probably the most memorable.
Subaru: That’s because we all went at once.
Tomoya: Hm, for me… probably takigyou* (laugh).
Koudai: It’s not fun, though.
Koudai: Takigyou is getting really popular on YouTube.
Subaru: I can’t forget it.
Koudai: I don’t think anyone can. I really thought I was gonna die.
Subaru: If I have another chance, I’d want to do it by myself (laugh).
Tomoya: Helllll no, doing a one-man takigyou (laugh). No way in hell! Seriously! (laugh)
Kazuki: If you’re from overseas and you come to Japan, you should experience takigyou.
Subaru: It’ll help you speak Japanese better.
*Takigyou is a Buddhist ritual involving standing beneath a (strong) waterfall for an extended time as a kind of training and mind-clearing exercise.
―The last time we spoke, Royz hadn’t yet had activity overseas, but you’ll be going to Korea on your third overseas trip in June. What were your impressions from your first two trips?
Subaru: The first time we went I was just really, well, purely ecstatic. Even in Japan we may only be able to come to places like Aomori once a year, but since we started activities, as you’d expect, we never really got to go abroad. It’s so cool that fans were actually there waiting for us. So cool; I was ecstatic. Whether it’s the first, second, or nth time we go there, I’ll always think that, just like I thought the first or second time.
Kuina: Well naturally when we first went, I didn’t know left from right, and I only remembered a few words. We were really scrambling the first time and it was a bit scary. But the second time, everything turned into fun.
Kazuki: Well, I bought a guitar that sounded more like the one I had in Japan. It was really, really heavy to carry by myself… it was awful. Everyone was always angry at me for being late (laugh).
―So, what are you looking forward to the most about going to Korea?
Subaru: Samgyeopsal! Authentic yakiniku!
Koudai: Ah, yakiniku! Kimchi! Kimchi!
Subaru: No, shows, too! We’re going to be playing with this Korean visual kei band that’s kind of like our nemesis. On our last Asian tour, we played with a Kansai band that used to be Kazuki’s senior, Lilith, but this time in Korea, we’re going to be playing with a band of a different nationality but in the same genre as us. And Korean fans and Japanese fans will be together. It’s like seeing one of my dreams come true, so I’m REALLY looking forward to it.
―Codomo Dragon is joining you on this tour as an opening act. Is this the first time you’ve had an opening act for a countrywide tour?
Kazuki: It is.
―What are you enjoying the most about having them on tour with you?
Subaru: What do I enjoy most… it’s not lonely. Like whenever it seems like someone around you is going to go off somewhere, someone is always there. There’s always someone around from Codomo Dragon and it really puts me at ease.
Koudai: Well, yeah, I think that too. You don’t have to be alone. Like, I went home to Tokyo for a little bit and I didn’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do when my band mates aren’t there (laugh).
―You must get to eat a lot of local foods when you tour. What has been your favorite dish so far this time?
Subaru: In Kagoshima! I went out to eat with Chamu from Codomo Dragon at this shabu-shabu place that specialized in kurobuta in Kagoshima. The shabu-shabu itself was delicious, but so were the other menu items like sashimi. We kind of went in there randomly, like we thought it looked like a good place, and I’ve eaten at a lot of good places until today, but nothing tops that place. So right now, what’s really going on in my head right now is that I want to eat food that was even better than that place in Kagoshima. So me and Chamu have already decided that we’re going to find a better place in Akita.
Kazuki: This time, I really enjoyed the sukiyaki I ate in Okayama. It’s not really a specialty of the area, though. I just happened to eat it there and enjoyed it.
Koudai: The basashi (raw horse sashimi) in Kumamoto was delicious!
Subaru: The kaki in Hiroshima. The raw ones. [in English] Oysters.
Kazuki & Subaru: [in English] Oysters.
Kuina: The beef tongue in Sendai! And the mozuku I ate in Okinawa!
―Finally, please say a few words to the readers at Shattered-Tranquility.net and your overseas fans.
Subaru: Royz has already played lots of shows overseas, so I think we’re a really globally-marketed band. Of course, Japan is our home base and we really place importance on activities there too, but I don’t think it would become a problem if we worked as a band on a more global level. We want to go to a lot of places, and my dream before I die is to go to as many different countries as possible. That’s the ideal we’re working towards, so we’re going to try our hardest to be able to go [to different countries].
Koudai: On a world tour, like Kazuki says.
Kazuki: I want to go to countries I haven’t been to before, see places I’ve never seen, eat food I’ve never tried, and meet people I’ve never met before. So, we’ll come to see you. Please wait for us.
Kuina: Please wait for us. We’re trying our best to be able to go.
Koudai: Well, the truth is, I really like going abroad, so yeah. I don’t understand any other languages and I can’t really speak English, but even so, I think it’d be fun to see it with my own eyes. I want to play a lot more shows overseas.
Tomoya: Well, I get a lot of comments from people living overseas on my blog, and I realize that there really are a lot of people there waiting for us. I want to go see them as soon as we can. Before I was in a band, I was so in love with Japan that I thought going abroad would be really scary. But since we’ve gone on our first Asian tour, my thought process has changed a lot, and now going overseas is fun! I really want to go to different places as soon as we can.
―It’s not that scary!
Tomoya: It’ll be fun. Remembering money is my specialty (laugh).
―Then by all means, go! Thank you very much.
Everyone: Thank you!
Autograph Board Raffle
The members of Royz were kind of enough to make a special autograph board for us to give away on Shattered-Tranquility.net! Entering is easy; all you have to do is complete the tasks below for free entries. A winner will be randomly selected on July 22nd, and notified via e-mail.
Good luck to all those who enter!