Most metal fans will be familiar with Japan’s Lovebites by now. Their extraordinary musicianship and stunning live shows have earned them a formidable reputation with fans and musicians alike. The band have a new album out on February 22nd and a new bass player too. You can almost sense the excitement growing. So this was a good time for Gary Trueman to chat to guitarist Midori about how the band works, the new record and how they ensure writing in Japanese doesn’t get lost in translation.
You’ve been on hiatus for a little while but are back now and with a new album ‘Judgement Day’. You released a teaser song of the same name in December and another single ‘The Spirit Lives On’ in early January both of which blew everyone away. It’s your trademark sound but you’ve matured as a band too. We’re guessing you were still really busy writing during the band break?
“Thank you for enjoying our music. Yes, although we were on hiatus and didn’t play any shows, we were still busy working and developing our sound. Each of us were improving our skills, like me and Miyako taking twin guitar lessons so we can improve our teamwork, and we were constantly working on production. I think it was around the winter of 2021 that we started to focus as a band on production. We all kept moving to power up our sound so we could restart with our best material yet.”
Did any of the original band members also take some personal time out too? What did you all get up to?
“Of course, we all have our own private lives. We’re also always in contact with each other and with the team, so we’re always working on something so I don’t know if you can really say there was “time out”. But it is essential for LOVEBITES to have a balance of professional and personal life, but I think this particular period was important for our growth as a band. For me, I started to focus on weight training seriously and competed in national fitness competitions. Now training and strict diet management are part of my lifestyle, and you can see the results in the music videos for this new album! Haha. Although the focus is on the muscles, the reality is that I’m learning and practicing many things in order to get my body in shape from the ground up. So I’m seriously taking on the issues that I need to in order to remain on stage for a long time.”
How do you write. Is it something you do over a long period of time or do you sit down together just ahead of wanting to record?
“First, the team examines the ideas brought in by each member and if they say “this one’s good!”, then the composer takes the lead in creating a demo around it. Miyako often works on her own, while other members often co-produce with Mao and Miyako to create songs. The progress is shared with the team, and opinions exchanged and polished. This is why it often takes a long time to complete a song, which is especially true with this album.”
Does Asami write all or most of the lyrics as she’s the singer or do others contribute too? And you sing in English so how does what you want to write translate from Japanese? Do you think in Japanese first then look for the write words in English? It must be quite difficult to do this?
“I think Asami wrote all the lyrics this time. The lyrics are usually written in Japanese and then translated into English, but there are some songs with specific English phrases in mind that she wants included, and then we create a melody to match the phrase. Melodies that are beautiful, easy to convey and easy to sing in English are quite different to those in Japanese. So I try to reduce the number of notes in the melody and devise articulation in the song writing processes to make it as easy as possible to use English. For some of the songs on the previous albums I wrote the English verses, but I also tried to choose words that sounded more natural in relation to the melody. None of the members are native English speakers, so we have a native English speaker check the final version to make sure the lyrics are conveyed well.”
How did working on ‘Judgement Day’ differ from previous albums? And what parts of the writing process remained the same?
“We decided on the album title ‘Judgement Day’ first, and used that as the foundation of the album. The basic flow of composition and arrangement was the same as our previous albums, but we spent more time exchanging ideas and opinions among ourselves than ever before. When it was decided that Fami would be our new bassist, we had already recorded all vocals, so it was a bit unusual to record bass at the very end of the process, but her self-arranged bass phrases really stand out.”
Would you like to introduce Fami to our readers. How did you get to choose her? And what does she bring to Lovebites already amazing sound?
“Fami is a solo bassist who was originally active on YouTube and other platforms. We selected her to join the band after several auditions. She’s not only a great musician, but also a great human being. We felt from the first time we met that she was technically flawless, and that her bright personality and aura were the essence of what LOVEBITES needs right now. Fami has good musical instincts and she’s not only great support for the low end, but she can also play technically and prominently which I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of in the future.”
It’s obvious that you’re all progressing as musicians. What are the most satisfying things for you as a band on the new album?
“I’m happy that you can hear the progress that we’ve made. I think this album is the result of new chemical reactions from the addition of Fami, along with the improvements of each member during our hiatus. It’s also satisfying that this is an album on which all of the original members exchanged opinions on each track during each stage of production, which I feel brings a very “band” feel to it.”
Will we be seeing you tour the album and in particular have you got any plans to return to the UK and Europe?
“Of course we hope to! The last time we went to England was before the pandemic, but since then and now our name has spread further than ever through social media, where our fans have helped spread our name all over the world. We would like to thank all of our fans for their continued support through this time, and we hope we can bring our sound directly to a stage near you soon.”
We touched on your amazing stage image before but do you have a specific designer you work with for your outfits?
“Yes, we’re working with the same stylist who worked on the outfits from our last album. Each member makes a request about how they would like to look, and then the stylist and all the member talk about the designs to make sure we’re not too similar. In terms of colour, the theme this time is white and champagne gold.”
How much of what you wear has to be a balance between aesthetic and practicality. Presumably some things might look great but just wouldn’t work on stage? Do you try new outfits out before touring just to make sure they work? Are there any specific considerations for a particular band member such as Haruna needing to be able to move around her drum kit freely?
“Yes, it’s essential that the outfit does not hinder our performance in any way. We know from experience what to expect when each member performs, so we relay that info at the design stage, and then we check for any problems during the production process by fitting them several times. We also do photos shoots and film music videos before we get to wear them live on stage, so we can test for any problems then. If any issues happen while on tour, we can ask for amendments to be made.”
Are you a close knit family on the road? Does any of Lovebites take on a specific role such as helping with organising the rest of the band and do you have a band joker to keep everyone laughing and spirits high?
“We get along well, but we don’t go everywhere together all of the time haha. We spend our time off in our own way. Asami is often the one helping organising the rest of the band. We also have a local tour manager, and since we’re all adults, we’re basically left to do as we please.”
What’s the best and worst things about going on a long tour?
“The good thing is that if there’s time, we get a chance to experience various cultures and food! It’s so stimulating coming into contact with a culture different from Japan, and I feel it can have an impact on our creative output too. On the last UK tour with DragonForce, the members of DragonForce and support band McRocklin were so friendly, I even had the opportunity to play on stage with them many times! We had a lot of fun backstage talking and I learnt a lot from them. It was such a valuable experience that’s only possible from touring. The bad thing, or rather the hard thing, was keeping in shape. In addition to the daily gigs, the air is different, the food is different, and the travel time is so long that we often don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is really important.”
If you could choose one musician to join the band on stage for a song who would you each choose, what song would you want to play and why?
“Hmmm! I would love for Kiko Loureiro to join us on ‘Holy War’! He’s one of the best guitar heroes for me. That song was inspired by Angra, and my solo in it is especially influenced from Kiko’s time in Angra. I respect him a lot. I want to harmonize the main riff with the three of us on guitar and extend the length of the solo so we all get a section! Haha.”