You might have seen the announcement about the very first EP of “The Betrayed” being available on Bandcamp right now, but this information seemed a little stale to me, especially because of the current situation worldwide. We’re all forced to stay home as much as possible and be careful, but to record an EP in this time… I really wondered what that was like, so I decided to ask the driving force behind The Betrayed, Ryo Fujimura, if I could talk to him about this subject. What was it like for him, Syu, HIROA, Pippi and guest vocalist MAYA to record an EP in this weird time? And what does he think about the “online culture” that has formed since the pandemic started?
Because this interview wasn’t planned and actually very impromptu, I didn’t ask Ryo to introduce himself as the first question like I normally would do with artists. I’ve explained a little bit about him in the announcement about the EP itself (which you can read here), so I won’t introduce him here for now.
So, without further ado, let’s go!
This EP was recorded while the country was in a semi-lockdown state, so I’m sure there were quite a lot of rules and restrictions you’ve had to work around. What kind of problems did you run into during the recording of this EP?
Ryo: The worst problem was that we couldn’t use the recording studio during spring and at least half of the summer season. It was a really hard situation for the band, since the government doesn’t provide any support for musicians like us. And at the start of the pandemic there were no clear rules or guidelines either. They just “requested assistance to stop the infection”, without any support. We were all really confused, and the guys all had their own views and opinions about it. We’re a band and I’m the leader, but I never force anything onto the members. So we decided to be “good citizens” in that moment and stayed silent and under control to assist with the government’s plans.
Compared to a normal recording session this was completely different then! But what was different exactly? How did you get around the problem of “social distancing”?
Ryo: Well, it’s not comfortable and not so easy. But it was enjoyable and fun enough for me. I think the most difficult part was that we were being forced to play without close communication. Normally we would spend time together to think about the phrases, beats or if whatever we want to play will fit in the real ensemble or not. I call this phase “optimize”. But this time we weren’t able to do that together, so we had to optimize in some other way.
Recording something together is indeed a lot easier when everyone can be in the same room at the same time. You can give and receive feedback directly and without delay, but since this wasn’t possible this time, how did you get around this problem?
Ryo: In our case it would be four guys together in the same room, each playing their instrument at the same time for the recording session. It feels natural to me to do it like this. But this time this wasn’t possible. It was only myself and Syu (drums) together in the studio to record the drums. I sent the files to HIROA (guitar) and Pippi (bass) afterwards so they could record the guitar and bass lines of the songs in the comfort of their own homes and then send their files back to me. Once I received these files I could add my guitar parts, vocals, keyboard and other sequential decorations from my room before moving on to mixing and mastering.
Normally I love to work with a respectable mixing engineer and an experienced mastering engineer, but this time I had to do all of this myself. Some of the good studios I know and like to work with weren’t open for business, and some of them even closed down entirely.
There are 6 tracks on the EP in total. 3 new original songs, and the remaining 3 tracks are the instrumental versions of these songs. Did you record any songs that didn’t make it onto this release already? And if yes, are you planning on releasing these in the future?
Ryo: Actually, yes we have. We’ve already recorded the drum parts for a total of 7 different songs. “Crying with One Eye” has 3 of these songs, so we have 4 unreleased songs at the moment. We’re still working on them though. They’ll be released as a second EP in December or in January 2021.
Because of COVID-19 everything has changed this year. There were no real shows, which meant a lot of artists have moved to an online platform like YouTube or TwitCasting, just to name a few. Bigger artists overshadow the smaller ones with ease, but what is this like for you? Is it difficult to get noticed online now you can’t do any in person shows?
Ryo: I don’t really know. But I can say for sure that I can’t be a YouTuber or radio DJ or something like that. If I ever get a license for mental health care advisor or something I might start a channel though.
Either way, it’s quite hard to get noticed in the sea that is the world wide web. Like for example, if a famous artist is doing a livestream at the same time as your performance, which one will you watch? In all honesty, I think I’d stop my performance to go watch the one of the more famous artist instead lol.
Some artists do livestreams from the comfort of their own home, but others have managed to secure a moment in a livehouse to play a show that’s streamed online without a physical audience there. So I understand there are options, you’re not limited to your couch…
Ryo: I personally had some questions for livehouses these days before the pandemic hit. But now a lot of venues are closed, or they indeed try to offer services for livestreaming wherever possible. It’s not my type of business, but I can’t really find much benefits for using them from my point of view.
Despite that, we did do two acoustic live performances from the studio. We’ve uploaded the audio of these performances to our Bandcamp page, where you can get your own copy for a small fee. I think the sound quality is better than the typical local venues, and we don’t have any restrictions for how long or how often you can listen to the songs or watch the videos. I don’t understand why venues and artists set an expiration date on their works, like, making it available for only one week or a very short time. If you purchase a Blu-ray or a DVD for example there is no expiration date. You can watch it as often as you want. You can download my work and watch it as many times as you want. I think this is normal, and a fair trade with your customer or audience.
You said you don’t want to be a YouTuber or something, but we’re still stuck at home and unable to visit shows like we’re used to. We’re mostly confined to online performances and streams. Are you planning to do something online for fans and others who have gotten interested in your work through this interview?
Ryo: Well, I’d actually like to broadcast our live performance from the studio. But the situation has evolved to a critically bad state. I want us to be able to do our own thing, but I don’t want to be part of the group that agitates and provokes by doing so. Even if it’s unintentionally. We’re a band with four members. If we gather in one room for a performance in which we play loud music and shout without masks covering our faces people will ask “why can’t we have a party of our own, with our friends? They’re doing it too.”.
Right now I think it would be best to stay at home as much as possible, and don’t agitate or provoke others by going out for our own selfish pleasures.
I don’t have any further questions at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we’re done… As our closing question, is there anything that you would like to share with the readers? Something I haven’t asked about, or something you just want to share with them?
Ryo: Thank you for reading this interview, and thank you so much again for listening to “Crying with One Eye”!
Something else… Let me think… Ah! Yes! I released a song called “March Macabre” for the charity album of HIGHFeeL: “Silent Spring”. HIGHFeeL is my old friend’s label. I put my personal opinions about COVID-19 in this song, and if you would be interested in this, please listen to it. All profits for this release go to charity, so you’re not just helping yourself, you’re also helping those in need.
You’ll find it being very different, since it’s one of my solo works and not something I composed with The Betrayed in mind. We’re all in this difficult situation together, but please don’t be selfish and please keep healthy and stay safe! Now is the time to be patient. Not just for me, not just for you, but for our future together.
March Macabre & Silent Spring
Like Ryo mentioned at the end of the interview, HIGHFeeL has released a charity album called “Silent Spring” on their Bandcamp page and through major streaming services. The album contains 13 tracks and features Ekotumi, G.L.A.M.S, Galaxy7, GOOD THRU DATE, HITT, Ichion, Kihiro, Rie Fu, Ryo Fujimura, 砂月-SATSUKI-, Sho Kotani, ソメイヨシノ (Somei Yoshino) and Tezya. All songs have been selected by the artists themselves and are a mixture of already released songs and songs that have been composed especially for this release.
All profits from the album, which costs €12, will be donated to local charities that help seniors, and those who work on the front lines during this pandemic.
If you’d rather not get the entire album but are only interested in Ryo’s contribution, that’s also an option. You can download March Macabre from Bandcamp, here.
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Top header photo credit: Shin Kobayashi.