Interview by David Cirone
January 15, 2017
Royal Straight Magic feels packed with confidence, strength, a really super-charged energy. How do you feel about the album now that’s it’s finished?
Jyou: I get excited no matter how many times I listen to it. I want to make it even better so that fans get that excited energy going through their whole body when we perform it live.
miko: Our previous mini-album was really good, but this one surpassed, I think! When I listen to Royal Straight Magic, it gives me courage.
Omi: It’s a step toward our future, it’s going somewhere special together with our fans. I feel like there’s such vitality in this album. It came out awesome.
Naoto: This album gives listeners a push forward, and at the same time it gives me a push, too.
Mally: This album made me challenge myself with beats I’d never played before and made me evolve even further!
What’s the theme at the center of Royal Straight Magic?
miko: The title comes from a “royal straight” in poker, and the feeling that happens when you draw that hand. It has a message to those who are hesitant to step forward: “If you take the next card, the next day may be like a miracle. So let’s go forward!” I want people to listen to the brand new magic that happens when the five cards of exist†trace get together!
How did you decide which members would be Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten? Was there any competition?
Jyou: Each of us really understands our own personalities and the other members, too, so we decided right away without competition: Jyou is Ace, miko is Queen… There’s no other way besides “Jyou is Ace of the band”, right?
There are a lot of English sections in the Royal Straight Magic lyrics, almost every song I think. (miko) How did this happen? Is there a part of you that’s thinking in English? (Jyou) Are you getting more comfortable singing English lyrics? How do you handle the challenge of expressing your emotions in two languages?
miko: Starting with “DREAM RIDER” in the previous album, I started to use more English in the lyrics. The rhythm and fast-paced feelings that English provides match our recent songs, I think. I choose words that are familiar to Japanese people, so the songs should leave a strong impression on listeners’ ears all over the world.
Jyou: I’m really not that comfortable… yet. (laughs) It’s hard to sing in English. But, miko’s English lyrics and the melody she writes for them are always interesting and fun, so I look forward to what comes next.
Omi, Royal Straight Magic contains your song “Yoake no Hikari”. How has your feeling about songwriting changed since The Last Daybreak’s “Kimi no Masshiro na Hane”?
Omi: More than ever, I felt that I wanted to write about myself and my feelings just as they are, without being afraid.
The first time I heard “Sky” I thought. “This has to be the final song of the set list!” It feels like it was made specifically to get the audience involved. What inspired you to write this song? How have the fans reacted to it in the live shows?
miko: My first thought was, “I want to write a song that surpasses ‘VOICE’ which was the last song on the set list until now!” “VOICE” has its own special quality as well, and both songs have become important for exist†trace. At live shows, the fans sing with us. I’m happy that our hearts can unite as one.
Last year, exist†trace’s promotional images were black and white, but for Royal Straight Magic, you’ve returned to color images. Is this a symbol of new power, or a new phase for the band?
miko: The new photo is cool, isn’t it? Last time, we pushed exist†trace’s strong side to the forefront, but this time we added the glamorous part while keeping our strength. So just like the music, the image came out of that unique balance of exist†trace, I think.
Songs like “Pyschedelic Black Night” and “Get Back” have a really strong bass and drum sections. Can you tell us about some of your challenges learning and recording these songs?
Naoto: Some songs were already performed at live shows before we recorded, so I was able to channel that live feeling into the recording. That helped me a lot, but with “Psychedelic Black Night” I had experienced a sort of Gestaltzerfall during recording, and I had a hard time.
Mally: It was difficult because the BPM was so fast. After I was able to get control of that, I put everything I had into recording, so I was satisfied with the result.
Some of the songs include electronic sounds. How did you decide to include this kind of element on Royal Straight Magic?
miko: exist†trace has always used strings and electronic sounds, but particularly this time, there were many songs where electronic sounds felt best. For the intro of “Psychedelic Black Night”, the high-pitched electronic sounds catch your attention, but in the first verse, Omi plays the similar phrase using the guitar and Whammy bar. The structure of electronic sounds against guitar is very interesting. Please pay special attention to it and let us know what you think!
Which song are you each most proud of on this album?
Jyou: “Kimi to Ame to Himitsu.” I think this song let me show something different, and I challenged myself to do new things with the way I sing and how I express the emotion of the song. I’m still not a perfect vocalist, but I felt my development with this song.
miko: I want to say “All of them!” but I’d pick “ROYAL STRAIGHT MAGIC.” As a fan of Jyou, I think that I finally gave her the lyrics that match Jyou’s power. I hope you can read the lyrics to this song, and “SKY” too, and understand their meaning.
Omi: “Yoake no Hikari.” I exposed myself and my pain, and I was sort of afraid of the reaction I’d receive. But, I heard reactions like “It saved me, too,” and “This song is really important for me,” so I was happy that I could finally deliver “Yoake no Hikari” to all of you.
Naoto: “GET BACK.” This was the first song that starts with the bass, and it was really fun.
Mally: “Psychedelic Black Night”! From the impact at the beginning to the development and the peak, it feels like the drums lead everything. It is really fun to play!
Recently, exist†trace has been playing new songs at live shows before recording them. Have you always tested new songs live, or is this a new method for the band? Can you give an example of a song that changed during live performance before you recorded it?
miko: Before, we usually performed at live shows after recording. Lately, we don’t hesitate to try out songs we want to develop with the fans at live shows. For this album, “GET BACK” particularly kept changing every time we performed it live. Naoto tried different bass solos at the beginning of the song, and we picked the best one.
When I was young, I tried to learn magic tricks with cards and I was terrible at it!. Have any of you ever tried to perform magic tricks?
Jyou: Yes! I thought about doing magic somewhere for “ROYAL STRAIGHT MAGIC”… Before, with “KISS IN THE DARK” I wanted to do a magic trick at live shows, but I lost the chance while I was thinking about which trick to do. Actually, I guess I’m always performing a magic trick by making you all smile…!
miko: I performed something for my younger brother using toy magic goods. It was like “The content in the box… disappeared!” (laughs)
Omi: I was never interested in magic, so I’ve never tried.
Naoto: I’ve researched about witchcraft, but I haven’t tried it out… yet.
Mally: When I was small, I used to perform easy card tricks to my classmates. (laughs) Now I’m not that interested. (laughs) Instead of magic, I want to mesmerize you with music!
Please describe the “magic” you want fans to feel when they listen to this album.
Jyou: I want you to expect what exist†trace will show you in the future.
miko: Even though we used many new elements like dub steps and new chorus works, you must have felt that you heard a lot of the core of exist†trace, I believe. This is the magic that was born because the current exist†trace has gone back to our origins.
Omi: Even under the sky far away, my heart is always close to you.
Naoto: Each person feels something different after listening. If you can find an unique power-delivering point for yourself, that is the magic only for you.
Mally: I hope that our momentum and thoughts through music can create an exciting, awesome moment for you! That is the magic!
The lyrics in “SKY” are about moving forward and keeping your eyes open as you face a new part of your life. How does being a member of exist†trace give you courage to move forward and face challenges?
Jyou: When something happens, I tend to think about it alone and to close my heart. But, when the five of us get together, it reminds me that I’m not alone. Other members, too, are always fighting against and troubled by something, and they play instruments in order to overcome that something. I can’t fall behind, I don’t have time to be troubled, so I just sing with everything I have. Then, without knowing, my smile is back. So, I want to keep singing, so that you guys feel that you’re not alone and exist†trace is with you and so that you get courage to keep going.
miko: Even when the road was difficult to be on alone, I was able to go forward because I had the band members, staff, and fans. The road itself gives me courage, and I wouldn’t be miko if I didn’t face problems. So, there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Omi: The band is the place where I can throw all my emotions and thoughts into it. And then you, the fans, I always feel your voices and smiles make me realize that I am alive, and also give me power to move forward.
Naoto: For me, exist†trace itself is courage.
Mally: The fans being in front of me gives me power, and we’re able to move forward thanks to the fans who give us messages through social media and letters. So, I have to believe in myself more and just push through, because I want to share much more time with you!
exist†trace Official Website: http://www.exist-trace.com
exist†trace on iTunes: http://smarturl.it/exist-trace_iTunes
exist†trace on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/exist-trace_Spotify
exist†trace on Google Play: http://smarturl.it/exist-trace_GGLPlay
exist†trace on Amazon MP3: http://smarturl.it/exist-trace_Amazon
exist†trace Official International Fan Club: http://archangel-diamond.com