Something landed in the GigRadar inbox this week that had us utterly fascinated, the words ‘Japanese space metal band.’ Obviously we had to dig further and the result of said digging was the incredible rockers Esprit d’Air.
Japanese rock bands aren’t exactly a new phenomenon, the likes of Crossfaith, Crystal Lake and Babymetal are already well and truly flying the flag among many others. But one thing that makes Esprit d’Air stand out is the fact that they sing predominantly in Japanese, with bits of English thrown in.
The band reformed after three years away from the music scene, having originally met at a gig in London back in 2010. Three of the original band remain in the form of Kai (vocals & guitar), Ellis (bass) and Daishi (drums).
We got a preview of the video for the band’s latest single Rebirth, which is released next Wednesday (14th December), and it’s an awesome statement of intent for the band’s return.
The track kicks off with a ferocious blitz of fast-paced guitars and thrashing drums as the video starts out reflecting the manic pace with the band rocking out surrounded by what I presume is droplets of water flying around them. The pace then drops off as Kai’s vocals enter supported by drawn out guitar chords and fast-paced synth notes with occasional drum rolls, then we dive into another instrumental blast as Kai ends the opening verse on a big, prolonged high note.
A massive blast of metal noise that you can’t help but bang your head along to, with almost Slayer-esque guitar riffs follows and flows into a much faster second verse. The pace soon drops off again with a much more prolonged musical interlude led by a high-pitched, drawn out guitar solo supported by consistently fast driving drumbeats that suggest it’s about to kick off again very soon.
Rather than diving into hardcore metal again we’re treated to a huge high-pitched solo then a blast of heavy headbanger guitar chords, ahead of Kai diving into a manic guitar solo. The faster version of the vocal section returns and ends with a huge smash of drumming excellence with high-pitched vocal wails and guitar notes as the track draws to an epic end.
The instrumental quality on this track is phenomenal and if Rebirth is anything to go by then Esprit D’Air for the second time around is going to be something incredible. We spoke to Kai and Ellis this week to find out more about the band’s exciting return.
GR: A fair few Japanese bands have had success in recent years, but how would you assess the state of the Japanese rock / metal scene?
Ellis: “It’s always been a big scene with so many talented musicians old and new. I’d like to see us make something different to what people would generally hear these days. I feel we have something special going on.”
Kai: “I think it is beginning to become a global thing, now that we have so many bands perform overseas.”
GR: Speaking of doing something different, it’s pretty unusual that you sing in both Japanese and English – what was the thinking there? And what’s the reaction been from English speaking and Japanese speaking fans?
Kai: “90% of our songs are in Japanese but we try to write some English lyrics in some songs. We thought it would be great to bring the Japanese rock culture to Europe. It is usually the other way round, we see bands from Japan nowadays try to replicate Western rock music, and even singing entirely in English, but we want to value the heritage and bring a tough of Asian into the European market, so we keep the language in Japanese.
“The reaction has been good, I think. I don’t think the language matters too much to the audience. They can feel emotions from the melodies, rhythms and our performances, so I guess music is like a universal language.”
GR: What’s the backstory? How did you get together? And what made you want to get involved in music / be in a band?
Ellis: “It’s always been my passion to create music and inspire people. Kai and I met at a gig in London and we just hit it off from there! He’s been a true inspiration to me in composing and playing music and one of the best I know at this!”
Kai: “We are all friends that met randomly on the same day and place in London while travelling. I got to know the guys after keeping in touch, I moved to London, and we eventually formed Esprit D’Air. We have had our struggles with other members, including our original singer going back to Japan and couldn’t continue with the band. I was originally just the guitarist, but I now sing in the band.”
GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about?
Kai: “I like to add storytelling elements to the music, like each song would have its own concept and would be reflected in the lyrics, artwork and even melody. I guess the topics are very fantasy style, we like to take our audience a journey into different worlds.”
Ellis: “It’s all about the feeling and current moods. We could be writing a song about doughnuts tomorrow… I’m actually craving doughnuts right now!”
Kai: “Imagine the artwork with that song.”
GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences?
Kai: “I think I started out playing Eric Clapton and Gary Moore songs on guitar when I was younger (laughs), then began listening to Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, X Japan, Van Halen and all these other cool bands in my teens. Having said that, I don’t think we sound anything like them.
“One of my favourite bands is L’Arc-en-Ciel, from Japan. I listen to a lot of different bands and artists now, so I think I just take a little influence from each and form our own style, so I think we have something unique going.”
Ellis: “There’s so many! Off the top of my head I would say Toshiya from Dir en grey and Tetsu, also from L’Arc-en-Ciel. Both bassists have inspired me from the day I started listening to them. Their basslines can turn from being beautifully melodic to really hard hitting and aggressive from song to song.”
Thanks to Kai and Ellis for speaking to us, and we can’t wait to hear more of Esprit D’Air in their rebirth (sorry for the pun). The band will be playing at Le Trianon in Paris on 17th December, then they’re at Underbelly, in Hoxton, London, the next evening to celebrate the release of Rebirth. Tickets for that show are here.
They’ll also have a new album in the works along with even more touring next year and we’ll hope to bring you more on any updates as soon as we hear them.