vistlip is a Japanese visual-kei band formed in 2007 and who has been, ever since, combining different musical genres from rock to jazz and creating a unique sound. With their successful 15-year-experience and their technical skills behind them, the band has decided to move forward to a more adult-like and sexy sound with the release of their seventh studio-album titled M.E.T.A. (March 30th).
On march 30th, you released a studio-album named M.E.T.A.
For those who haven’t heard the album yet, how would you describe it?
Tomo : You started off with a difficult question (laughs and points at Tohya).
Tohya : Why me (laughs)? I think Umi is the best guy for this question.
Umi : Alright, alright ! I think this record has a fairly broad musical spectrum. People who like Visual Kei in general will like this record. I also think that people who don't particularly like Visual Kei will still be able to fully appreciate the album because it is accessible, wide-ranging and at the same time eclectic. We wanted to create an album that could be listened to, in its entirety, by a large music-loving audience.
Yuh : Indeed. I think this album brings together a lot of musical genres, which ultimately makes it a Pop record with a more mature feel.
Rui : I agree. If I had to classify the album in a single music range, I would label it as a J-Pop record.
Tomo : J-Pop for adults though since it contains Jazz and City Pop sounds. With this record, we wanted to develop a mature and poised image. It's less heavy than our previous albums and it possesses sexy and sensual sounds.
What's a sexy album according to you?
Tomo : The Jazzy sounds. I think that Jazz music, thanks to its refinement, elegance, and the atmosphere it emanates off, offers the music a sensual dimension. It’s about how you fill out the sound or leave open spaces within it.
Yuh : Right ! I also think that this sensual dimension of this album is due to the rhythms which are a little more haunting and hypnotic than our previous songs. This was allowed thanks to more complicated chords, but also thanks to a more nocturnal atmosphere which emerges from the whole disc. The fact that it's not a happy album plays a big part in it. Thanks to this cocktail, this blend, the album enjoys a sensual dimension. I think, keys and chords have a great bearing on the atmosphere of a song.
An aphrodisiac album was the concept to begin with?
Tomo : Yes, indeed (smiles). It was the very first and main idea we had in mind before creating the new album. Over 2 years ago, we thought about developing an adult, more mature, sensual and sexy image while evolving in a popular musical genre, in the broad sense of it. During the writing of the music, each in every one of us took what was the most mature within himself to create. This year marks our 15th career anniversary and I think, we wanted to celebrate the occasion with music, like the way we did. It was high time we expressed the skills we had gathered from our experience. I think, we are heading in the right direction.
If we want to get in the mood, we need to listen to the album (smiles).
What’s the origin of the title?
Tomo : After consultation with the other members of the band, we decided to name the album M.E.T.A. Before separating the letters with a dot, I proposed the word META since it suggests diversity and strength. The definition of meta is a person or thing that is more than usual or that goes above and beyond. When combined with other words, the suffix signifies change or alteration. It’s an interesting word. By adding dots between letters, not only do we draft away from the Facebook’s company but we also gain some mystery and complexity. You can add any definition to the letters. For example, M could signify music, E could signify entertainment, T could mean toxic (in the scoundrel meaning of it) and A could mean art. You can leave free access to your imagination. I also had the word transcend in mind, as to suggest the idea of living and being alive in the head of our fans, to transcend reality, and the word transverse as to invite music-lovers to join us into our virtual world. I am talking too much… I will hand over to the others.
Thanks for the detailed explanation.
Can you tell us more about the recording process?
Tohya : Usually, we record an album as follows : the drums, the bass, the guitars and the vocals. For this album, things were a bit different due to diverse reasons including lack of time. This time around, we recorded our respective parts in a dispersed and fragmented way, in a different order than usual. This album was a bit more difficult to complete. But it was also beneficial. I could record my parts in a different studio which forced me to find new artistic ideas. Thanks to time constraint, I could optimize mine, it stimulated me. Very often, difficult conditions and obstacles push people to explore the path of creativity. The constraint becomes a stimulating entity. We recorded the album in Levin’s studio (from La’cryma Christy). He’s a super talented drummer, he gave me great advices.
What kind of advices?
Tohya : I had him listen to all the drum parts. For each piece, he gave me artistic advices, advices on how to play. He gave me his opinion on the sounds, the nuances, the atmospheres. They were advices from a musician to another, advices from a real professional. It helped me a lot.
Do you have other special anecdotes regarding the recording process?
Yuh : As for me, the creative and the recording processes were a bit different compared to what I had done before. This time around, I used more distortion effects in order to create fuzzy and gritty tones suitable for Pop music. I also used 6-string guitars instead of my usual 7-string guitars with the aim of creating a clearer and purified sound. Everything felt new and refreshing.
Rui : What stimulated me the most about this album was to be able to play a broad spectrum of music genres. I really enjoyed being challenged as a musician.
Umi : I don’t really feel like this recording process was very different from before. We just tried to find new ways to be creative. But, we’ve always done that, we’ve always tried to be creative. For this record, the sound of the drums and the bass is rawer and more direct. The most interesting aspect of the recording process was that we were able to really get along with each other. It was very easy to work together. It was a real collaboration between musicians. We consulted each other a lot, we discussed artistic aspects of the album a lot. We had fun and, in the end, that’s what matters the most to me. This album was created in a friendly and happy atmosphere.
Tomo : As for me, I could easily write lyrics, as usual. I could express my feeling effortlessly. Even though, we recorded the album in a new location, a new studio, I was able to go get myself involved deeply into the text. I was able to sink into my inner self and explore what was presenting to me. What I liked the most about the recording process is, like Umi said, the friendly and warm atmosphere. The other members were around. We could talk. We laughed a lot. That was really cool!
2022 marks your 15th anniversary as a band.
How have you developed as musicians over the years?
Yuh : We all have become better musicians. The music we play nowadays would have been inconceivable to make and difficult to play a decade ago. I think that we have developed a sharp eye towards music and the band’s art direction. We could have never played the music we make today. I think that we have broaden and deepen our musical horizon. We have become better musicians, individually, and as a consequence, we are a better band.
What has been the funniest or interesting experience as a band so far?
The band : Going abroad!
Rui : The very first time we went abroad was at the Japan Expo, in France in 2009. That was an amazing experience. Going abroad for the first time is a unique experience which will remain with you all of your life. It’s probably one of the most exciting events in a person's life!
Yuh : We also went to Finland and Taiwan. Cultural differences are very interesting and enriching. Everything is different, the languages obviously, but also the markets, the streets, the clothes, the food. It was a great experience, except for Umi who got arrested in a supermarket due to a misunderstanding.
Umi : Yeah... I was arrested by a supermarket’s security guard in France. He certainly thought that I had stolen something from the shop he was working for. Anyway, long story short, I was minding my own business when suddenly, a huge, muscular, man came to me and took me to a corner of the shop. He started speaking French to me, fast and quite angrily. I couldn’t understand a word (smiles). I lifted my hands and said "OK, OK it’s alright, it’s alright" (in Japanese). Big mistake! He grabbed and threw me outside the shop. After a while, I understood that he wanted to check my Passport which, of course, I didn’t have on me at that time. Rotten luck! He emptied my bag, saw that I hadn't stolen anything. He violently put my stuff back in the bag and waved me off. The reason is that, at the entrance there was a sign stipulating that all our belongings, small bags included, should be put together in a bigger, closed, bag. I don’t know why they were imposing such an odd rule but the fact remains that I didn’t respect it. As you can imagine, I can’t read French (smiles).
I feel embarrassed, let’s move on (the band laughs out loud).
Umi : No matter how embarrassing was it, it has become a good story to tell. It was my duty to abide by the rules. I should have known better.
What has been the biggest accomplishment of the band the past 15 years?
Umi : It’s very exciting to be contacted by journalists, the media and be featured in different mediums (online, print publication, TV). The band is getting more and more attention from people. Recently, we have been receiving lots of solicitations to be interviewed. Just like today. Since the release of M.E.T.A in particular, press articles have popped up here and there. It’s very flattering and encouraging. From a very personal point of view, this interest regarding the band is very appreciable.
Tomo : I am going to say something quite similar to what Umi has just said. The biggest accomplishment of the band so far is, as far as I’m concerned, to be able to gather lots of people in front of us for live-shows. The fact that we have more and more people supporting us. The fact that our music is spreading around more. We played at Kokusai Forum Hall A, which has a pretty big capacity. It’s a beautiful memory. I hope we’ll have another opportunity to play in a big concert hall.
What are your hopes and wishes for the band for the next 15 years?
Rui : The 30th anniversary of the band…
Umi : Knowing that we are living in a digital and globalized world in which music streaming services, such as iTunes and Spotify, are easily available, musical borders have fallen. Music has never been more accessible to a worldwide audience. The biggest wish I have right now is to spread our music internationally. I don’t know how many years it’s going to take but, this is my ultimate goal. I’d like the band’s music to be listened by an international audience.
Does vistlip have a message?
What do you people to take away from listening to your music?
Tomo : People tend to think that music isn’t important. Often times, it’s put aside. When in fact music is life. Music is used all the time, everywhere. It’s one of the most powerful things in life. I can’t imagine life without music, without melodies, harmonies and the lyrics that go along. Life would be completely empty and dull. Music, no matter its genre, has the ability to convey emotions, whether the emotion is happiness or sorrow. The effect that music has on us is tremendous. It brings the world together. Music is inspiring. Music can change the world. The message I want to convey through my music is that music is a masterpiece of life. Music is precious. Music can help you go through rough times. Listening to music is also an easy way to alter mood and relieve stress.
Umi : It’s my turn to agree with Tomo. I’d like music to be considered for what it is, a treasure. I’d like music to be abundant in people’s life. I want music to always be by your side, to help you, make you better. I’d like music to have a positive impact on people’s life. Life is more interesting and fun with music. Don’t overlook it. Listen to plenty of music! Enjoy life to the fullest and let music be your partner.
As fans yourselves, what do you look for in music?
The same, I assume.
Tohya : When I listen to a piece of music for the first time, I feel a certain emotion. I feel a certain way. When I listen to it again, let’s say, a few years later, I can feel the same emotion. I can feel the exact same way. That’s what I am looking for in music. Emotions and music go hand in hand. Music has the ability to evoke powerful emotional responses. Music has a strong connection to our rich emotional spectrum.
Thank you for all these interesting answers.
Let’s move onto the second part of the interview. The game we’re about to play is called "what if".
What if you had to choose one word to describe the new album, what would it be?
Tomo : Sexy.
Tohya : Colorful.
Umi : Dramatic.
Rui : Artistic.
Yuh : I need to choose one too?
Umi : Yes. He’s hard of hearing that guy (laughs).
Yuh : Well, innovation.
If you could be one member of the band for a day, who would it be?
Tohya : For a day, I would choose Tomo. I like karaoke. I like singing. I’d love to know what it feels like to sing in front of an audience. I’d like to charm them. I am sure it’s tremendously pleasurable (smiles).
Tomo : What are you talking about (looks embarrassed)?
Rui : I choose Tomo. We have been doing this for 15 years and I still wonder what happens in his head when he writes lyrics. I’d like to understand his creation process, his vision of the world. I’d like to unveil the mystery.
Yuh : I would choose Rui. He’s very talented and has endless ideas. His imagination is always overflowing. His way of thinking is different from mine so it would be very interesting to be able to be him for a day.
Umi : I wouldn’t like living within any of these guys (laughs).
Rui : Don’t cheat.
Umi : If I had no choice and had a knife at my throat, I would choose Tohya. The reason is that he’s very different from me. We are at odds. And so, it would be interesting to be a very different person than who I am, for a day. The next day, I would thoroughly reflect upon myself. I would probably gain new qualities, or something. Seriously, Tohya is the main composer of the band, he has a great sense of art. He has lots of ideas, all the time. I’d love to know what it feels like, I’d love to have a taste of that… I don’t want to taste Tohya, I need to be careful with words… But eventually, if it would still be "me" in the body of Tohya. That’s why I said I wouldn’t like trading bodies.
Tomo : I would choose Umi for his communication skills. He’s easy to talk to, he has a laid back personality that helps put people at ease. He’s also straightforward and authentic. He opens up easily and is confident. I would like to be able to talk to people, in a warm and friendly way, right away. But I can’t. I am kind of scared of meeting someone for the first time. I have social anxiety, I feel nervous in most situations that involve interacting with people.
– I wouldn’t have guessed. You are far, far from being socially awkward.
Umi : See ! Just talk man.
Tomo : I am about to nervous sweat (laughs).
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Umi : I would like to have a body that is completely up and running without sleep. I would like my body and mind to recharge on their own, leaving me refreshed and alert at all times. I would like my brain to function properly without the need to sleep. I feel like the days are not long enough.
Rui : Instantaneous movement. I would love to be able to teleport. I would go anywhere I want, instantly, whenever I want it (places his index and middle fingers on his forehead like Son Goku when he teleports).
– But, this is magic.
Yuh : In that case, I’d like to have lots of powers. In particular, the power to become someone else. I would be able to alter my physical appearance and live within a character or somebody else’s body. I would change every single day.
Tomo : You’re a cheat. That was not the question.
Tohya : I would like to be a musical genius. I’d like to possess a natural ability to understand any instrument, to make a great piece of music like a puzzle, trying to figure out how all the different parts must fit together to make the best song. I’d like to have mastery, understanding, emotional depth and technical skills in any musical instrument. I’d like to know everything about music.
Tomo : It’s related to communication again (smiles). I would like to be naturally gifted at languages and pick them up with ease. I would like to be a polyglot. Or, at least, I’d like to be able to speak English.
This, can definitely happen. You can do it!
If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be?
Tohya : Jinsei Otsukare-Yanmaa.
NOTE : The word jinsei means life. The term otsukare-yanma is wordplay using the expression otsukare-sama, which means thank you for the effort, thank you for the work. It is used very often in different contexts in Japan.
Tomo : And so, nobody would understand. It’s not judicious.
Tohya : It’s my book we’re talking about, so I call it as I deem fit (smiles). This title really matches my personality. I often use this expression, I created it myself. This title underlines the adventures I have experienced in my life.
Umi : Fair enough. I would call mine Ningen (human being in Japanese). The title would put emphasis on my life, as a human-being and the fact of existing in relation to the others, the other human beings. This title would highlight the interactions between individuals within a society, human relations.
Rui : I would name my autobiography Positive and Tomo’s, Negative.
Tomo : OK. We’ll need to sell them on the same day.
Yuh : Mine would be something in between, Grey Zone.
What would it be like to be an animal?
Umi : A crow.
– Good fit, I think.
Umi : I know some people consider them a nuisance, but I adore them. I have one that looks real at home. Crows are mysterious creatures, they are beautiful and strong. Their ability to fly makes them even more attractive to me. I’d be a crow.
Rui : A snake. Not only is this animal beautiful, but it’s also one of the oldest and most widespread mythological symbols They represent duality of good and evil which makes them interesting. I think, the way I move on stage is pretty close to the body movement of a snake too. I probably do that consciously.
Tomo : It’s true, you zigzag on stage (makes a gesture with his hand, then pauses and reflects).
– I can picture you as a cat.
Tomo : Really (smiles)? A lion, then. He's the king which makes the others envious.
Umi : What the hell are you implying (laughs)?
Tohya : As for me, the bird that can talk, the parrot. My owner would tell me how cute I am when I repeat his-her words (smiles). I’d love that!
Tomo : Are you serious (laughs)?
Yuh : The snow leopard is one of the most beautiful animal but if I had to choose an animal to become, I would choose the honey badger. It’s particularly strong and has ferocious defensive abilities. If it is attacked by a snake or even a scorpion, it will able to neutralize the poison. A lion's fangs cannot pierce its body, it is very resistant.
I've never heard of it.
If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing right now?
Tohya : A math teacher.
Rui : A beautician.
Yuh : A soccer player.
Tomo : A chef. I love cooking and drinking alcohol (smiles).
Umi : He’s a great cook, he really is. As for me, I would have worked in the fashion or design industry. I would have done something artistic, no matter what. If I go back to my childhood, I wanted to become a baker at the time. I love bread… and ramen noodles.
Umi, you made the artwork of the album, what inspired you?
Umi : It's hard to describe it with words but basically what happened was that, a general image appeared in a corner of my head after the recording was over. Contrary to our traditional way of proceeding which consists of drawing what the songs say, I made other artists who knew us and others who did not know us, listen to the tracks, based on their feedback, from their impressions, I made the design of the cover.
If you could control one element, which one would you choose?
Air, water, soil, fire?
Tohya : Easy-peasy, the air. Air is the most powerful element. You can use the air to master the other elements. The other elements, alone, are basically useless. Think on that for a second. You can do whatever you want with air. You can turn all the other major elements into subcategories with air controlling. You can make some powerful combinations, too. It’s the best.
Rui : I was about to say, the fire…
Umi : The fire.
Yuh : Tohya’s answer troubles me, I don’t know anymore…
Tomo : How about thunder (says sarcastically to further disturb Yuh)?
– Is it your turn to cheat (laughs)?
Thank you for the interview.
As we say, otsukare-sama desu.