Interview by David Cirone
July 7, 2013
Performing at three American anime events in three years is a rare achievement for any Japanese music artist, and with a growing legion of international fans, it’s fair to say that Japanese rock band exist†trace is on a winning streak.
Playing for thousands at a time at Sakura-Con (Seattle), Tekkoshocon (Pittsburgh), and A-Kon (Dallas), combined with a major-label debut last year (VIRGIN, released by Tokuma) and the prestige of their association with Japanese soccer team Nadeshiko Japan, they seem to be doing something right.
But in spite of their obvious success, the all-female group has demonstrated a constant penchant for change. I interviewed the band during their appearance at A-Kon in Dallas and right before the release of their single DIAMOND, the first official move in the “New World” of dual-vocals by longtime front-woman Jyou and guitarist miko.
How do you feel about Dallas?
Mally: It’s a really cool place. The climate is a lot like Japan. I thought it would be really dry, like desert sand and cactuses. I saw some cactuses yesterday planted in the shopping mall, and that’s the thing that made me feel, “OK, this is Texas.”
Jyou: miko told us about the beautiful evenings, but it’s been more beautiful than I expected. The bright red and orange sky at sunset is amazing.
Mally: But we haven’t seen any cowboys yet! I’m sort of feeling down about that. And I’m ready to have a steak — that’s what’s on my mind right now.
miko, there’s been a lot of anticipation for your return to Dallas, since you spent time here as a child. Now that you’re here, how do your feelings match your predictions?
miko: It’s almost the same as I imagined, it’s not so different. The people here in Dallas are really happy, and I got a lot of power from them this weekend. Just talking to them has been a lot of fun. The most exciting thing, actually, was seeing Reunion Tower again. When I was young, my family and I never went up to the top, but we gave it a nickname — the Onion. We’d point at it and say, “Oh, the Onion’s shining tonight.” So seeing that again is great.
Some fans drove from all over America to see your performance at A-Kon. Some told me that they’ve seen every USA show you’ve ever done. Do you feel like you’ve got a good relationship with America?
miko: There are fans that I actually recognize now. And yes, there are some I’ve seen at every show — it’s very flattering. And the feeling between us and the fans has become very natural. It’s not strange any more.
Mally: I feel there’s a great connection. I’ll admit I feel a little bit comfortable here. But when I go back to Japan, I miss everybody! Even in the airport, I start to cry a little bit.
Naoto: I really like the bright, energetic personalities here in America. Even though it’s our third time here, it’s still a big deal for me. I feel like, “Wow! I’m back!”
Let’s talk about Friday’s concert. How did you feel about the show?
Jyou: It was hot! Not just the stage and the light, but the feeling from that crowd — it was great! We played a few new songs that we’ve never played for an overseas audience before, and I was really happy that I could feel everyone absorbing and paying attention to the new songs. “Judea,” “Resonance,” “Vanguard” — we played some of our older songs, too, and the fans were even more excited for those songs than I’ve ever heard at an American live.
When I saw that “Diamond” and “Judea” were leading off the set list, I knew the crowd was going to going to go crazy.
miko: The fans were crazy! Even the staff and the sound crew were going crazy! So I knew it was working.
There are so many great exist†trace songs that your fans adore, but there are so few chances to play live show in America. How do you decide which songs make the set list?
miko: We focus on songs that connect to the CDs, so fans can take the CDS home and stay connected to the feeling they have during the live. You’re right, we’ve only been coming here to America once a year, so we want the songs that will keep them energized and happy until we can come back.
Are there any songs that you haven’t played live in a long time that make you think, “I want to play that song again?”
Mally: There are so many!
Jyou: “Requiem” — The American fans really like the song, and there’s a part in the song where they sing “sayonara” with us. That’s a really good feeling.
miko: There are a lot of them, even for our lives in Japan. Oh! This one’s an old one… “Hai no yuki” (from Annunciation -the heretic elegy).
Omi: “re: prologue.”
Some fans here at A-Kon have traveled to Japan to see your shows. A few had CDs from Japan that you’d autographed with “See you at A-Kon.”
Jyou: Right! miko and Mally hadn’t signed those yet, so they came to make sure.
I’ve even seen some exist†trace cosplayers here. How do you feel about having a global audience?
Mally: It makes me so happy. Extremely happy.
Jyou: Fans say, “We want you to come to our country,” and we know how hard that is for us. So when they come to our country, despite all the obstacles… to come that far to see us — it’s amazing.
miko: If the fans are willing to travel so far to see us, then we have to be have to be willing to match that. We have to go just as far to give back.