"The past was good as it was and it is good as it is now. As the original members are turning old, the three new members are younger than us and brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the band."
After the unison of around 25 years, the fragmentation of Envy came as a shock to their fans. Things got back in place soon after when the frontman Tetsuya Fukagawa rejoined. This February, 2020, the math-rock band from Japan releases a new album The Fallen Crimson. The first after the line-up change this production comes with its own dynamic flavor. We got a chance to catch up with the band and learn about the new album, their new lineup, and the impacts of the restructuring.
(((o))): 2018 was quite a year for Envy with the re-entry of Tetsuya Fukagawa. The Fallen Crimson is going to be the first studio album after then, how did the album making process workout within the band?
Tetsuya: We approached this album by having no preconception of what we have done in the past, but doing what we thought was right and enjoying the process with our new line-up. In other words, we abandoned to have a vision.
(((o))): With new guitarists and a drummer replaced after around 26 years are there any creative challenges faced? For now is the band confident of freezing this line-up for years to come?
Tetsuya: We are definitely confident with our new line-up. There is no such creative challenges with our new line-up and we are happy with everything. The past was good as it was and it is good as it is now. As the original members are turning old, the three new members are younger than us and brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the band, challenging and moving us forward to new fields and ideas while keeping the original style of envy at the same time. Taki is a professional musician and also does production in Japan, so he leaded the sound recording/mixing process a lot. yOshi does a lot of project management in his daily work so he has taken care of the promotion and production management of this album. Rocky (Hiroki Watanabe) has been supporting envy from the past and still is at his best in drumming.
(((o))): What theme is the album The Fallen Crimson based on?
Tetsuya: The theme of The Fallen Crimson is mainly about death (incld. Life) when I was writing the lyrics. However, each song has its own theme and I wrote about my world inside me or varieties of themes that surrounds my life. The title itself means living a life and eventually returning to nature.
(((o))): The track ‘Rhythm’ from The Fallen Crimson has female vocals. Why was there a need of female vocals in this album? Do we hear contributions from other musicians as well?
Nobukata: ‘Rhythm’ coincidentally became like that. When I brought the idea to the studio and jammed with the band, we thought about having a female vocalist to sing the song and rearrange it. We never had a female vocalist in the band before, so Taki made the melody lines by reading Tetsu’s lyrics. Achico sings in a band called Ropes, and I knew that she had a beautiful voice from the beginning, but I never met with her before, so I contacted her through a common friend and sent the song, asking her if she would like to sing for us and she instantly said YES. We are thinking of inviting her as a guest vocal to sing the song for us.
(((o))): The new album boasts of a melange of the old flavours of Envy and some elements that are slightly new for Envy listeners. How was the sound of the album conceptualized?
Tetsuya: This is not a concept album. As mentioned above, we wanted to do what we thought was good and right to us. It was a collective process. Regarding the song composition, our original guitar player Nobu and new guitar player Taki mainly played this role. Once they brought the ideas and skeletons, we discussed about the structure and composition and fleshed them among the six of us. For the lyrics, it was on my take.
(((o))): After the line-up change why did the band come up with a single and an EP, was it a try out to understand how the audience had taken the change before you could release a full-fledged studio album? How was the release tour in Europe for the EP Definition of Impossibility?
Nobukata: The 2 songs in the EP were the first songs we composed together with the 6 members so we have a lot of feelings toward them. During the composing process there were a lot of negative opinions in Japan toward the new envy, but we didn’t mind about these opinions and concentrated composing these songs, feeling the joy of the environment playing and composing new songs again which we were not able to do for years. It was a really tough period for me when we stopped playing, so when the first song with the new lineup ‘Dawn and gaze’ was done, I was really happy. It is a song we will definitely play from now on.
yOshi: The EP Definition of Impossibility release tour was absolutely great. I got to see many friends and new people at the shows and I think it was a good introduction of the new line-up to everyone. We released EP Definition of Impossibility from Pelagic Records and we wanted to release a special 10″ for this EU tour, so everyone could “sense” the new album and we wanted to thank everyone for supporting the band for many years. We will definitely come back to Europe and try to tour other countries and cities as well.
(((o))): 2019 concluded with a tour in Berlin and 2020 kickstarts with the City Roars festival in January. Apart from your home country Japan, which according to quite a few musicians especially those from post-rock boast of a very attentive audience, which other countries do you prefer performing in?
Tetsuya: Performance wise, we always prepare and play on stage to do our best performance at any country. Therefore, we don’t have a specific country or region we prefer to play. However, personally I like the atmosphere of Europe.
(((o))): Albeit there were shifts to more gargantuan post-rock feels in around 2006, The Fallen Crimson is an album with a changed line-up and with quite some newer elements. Do you have any apprehension that such changes might distance your audience?
Tetsuya: I think it is boring to have similar songs through out an album and envy is a multi talented band which can challenge to compose diverse types of songs. I believe there are many opinions about the new line-up. But we decided to respect individual opinions and continue our band activity so I do understand if some audiences feel distant from the band, but as we are continuing to do our own music which we believe in, I don’t really feel that it is important to care too much about the previous audience if they are feeling distant or not.
(((o))): It has been almost three decades of Envy in the scene. After a number of EPs, studio albums and singles, which one has been a landmark production so far for the band collectively and why?
Tetsuya: I believe ‘All the footprints you’ve ever left and the fear expecting ahead’ showed the direction of the band. It took a long period of time to make this album and I made a lot of myself toward it. Performance wise, I think ‘Dead Sinking Story’ was a challenge for us. It was a challenge toward something new; Both performance wise and mentally.
(((o))): We are aware of your affection for the music Mogwai does. Which are the other post-rock bands you would say is in Envy’s list of favourites?
Nobukata: I think each member has their own, but I’ve been facing envy’s production all the time, almost only listening to envy. If I listen to good music composed by other bands while composing songs, it will not disappear from my head, which will disturb me. Once all the production is over next year, I am willing to enjoy a lot of different music.
(((o))): Being signed with three record labels across continents, how easier does it make for the band to function?
yOshi: All labels are located in different continents and each label has their own local/area strength. It is difficult to take care of all releases and distribution on our own and it is always good to collaborate with labels who are rooted to the local scene and who are supportive. Temporary Residence Ltd. and Pelagic Records are amazing record labels with a really good heart and they have been supporting us a lot. I mostly take care of the production/promotion part of the band, but all labels have been really supportive and I am happy all communication is going smoothly. Personally, I always think it is important for bands to take care of their own activities and understand what’s going on with the support of others; Nothing functions by only relying.
(((o))): Apart from the City Roars Festival, Malaysia and Hell Fest, Japan, which are the other major festivals Envy fans can lookout for in 2020?
yOshi: Hellfest 2020! Also, dates are not fixed yet, but we are planning to do a release tour of the new album so we hope to see you there too.