Envy, recently released their Temporary Residence debut, the awe-inspiring Insomniac Doze. The record channels both their roots in hardcore and their love of post rock like labelmates Explosions in the Sky.
I had a chance to speak to the band through a translator and they shared a little about the music scene in their native Japan as well as the evolution of their sound.
Can you tell me a little about how Envy got together and how you reached the current lineup?
We are friends from school and started a band just to kill the time. The drummer changed a few times but the rest of us have been together more than 10 years.
What is the climate like in Japan for the music you play? I know there are some other bands in the genre (Nitro Mega Prayer, etc.) but few have had the kind of international acclaim that you guys have.
I don't think bands like us would get so much attention in Japan. But at the same time there are so many people who support us to make our movement more confortable, so we have no problem with that. Most of the guys in the bands in Japan have their regular jobs to do and it makes it harder for them to have long vacations to arrange tours oversea. And many of them stop playing in a band because of their jobs, too.
Speaking of that, is there a hardcore community for more intense music like Envy plays as opposed to more traditional melodic punk?
Recently we play shows with bands regardless of the size of their record label they belong to. There are some good bands that we like to play with, but not so many. I don't think anything that I can call "community" exists for a band like us.
Lyrically and musically, the band seems to be very focused on both beautiful and painful images. Can you tell me about the areas you are writing about?
The lyrics I write are very personal. I write them randomly on a note and assemble them together to make songs. I try to use the beautiful & ugly words at the same time to show my feelings at the time to add variety of looks into songs. It might be a little difficult for some people to understand what I'm trying to say since they are very personal and they are the reflections of my love and hate.
The spoken word piece on Mogwai's last album was quite beautiful; how did you start working with them and with their label, Rock Action?
One of our fans saw the mamber of Mogwai on the street when they were touring Japan. He/she was listening to Envy at the time and gave a copy of it to them. And they liked it and they sent an email to me directly saying they wanted to release our record from their label. They are nice people and a great band. So it is a pleasure to be able to work with them.
Your earliest material (Angers Curse, From Here to Eternity, Eyes of a Single Eared Prophet) seemed to be much more focused on short, melodic bursts while you've definitely incorporated much more post rock influences like Mogwai and even your labelmates, Mono. How did the sound evolve?
In short, we got bored playing only fast & intense songs. And I think we are better musicians compared to when we started, so now we are capable of writing more complicated songs. I don't know if we were influenced by the post rock thing. Now we are focusing in making more beautiful songs that the sound entangles in a complicated manner. The latest song we are working on sounds very dark.
How does soundwriting work for a six piece band like Envy?
We used to be 6 piece but we are now 5 piece again. It was hard to get the ideas of 6 people into shape back then. However, we are a solid 5 piece band now.
What bands inspired you to start a hardcore band in the first place?
We were listening to all the different stuff back then, as for me, I liked Japanese hard core bands and New york hard core bands. But the biggest influence was Born Against.
How did you meet up with Temporary Residence?
Jeremy came to our show in New york when we first toured U.S. He said he liked the show and would like to work with us. We were in touch foe a while and I thought he was reliable,so we signed. He really is a good guy and so is his label.
Singing in Japanese, did you ever expect to get such a strong following in the United States and Canada?
I don't think the language is that important when it comes to music. I believe that the feelings would reach no matter which language you're using. That is why we've been able to tour so many countries over the years. It's such a wonderful experience and would like to continue doing it.