Another fast-rising star in the sky of visual kei, MarBell made quite a splash on the scene when they performed at the hide memorial summit in 2008 and gained a lot of new fans during their United States debut at Otakon in the same year. Somewhat mysteriously and famously, the vocalist Mar and the guitarist Tsunoda met by chance at a club and formed the basis of what later became MarBell.
Not long after that chance meeting, the band took on two more members We got a chance to sit down with this very unique and very driven group just before their Otakon debut to ask about where they’ve been and where they hope to go.
JRR: Could we start by just doing an introduction?
JRR: Is this your first time coming to the United States in general?
MAR: I’m looking forward to it, hoping it will be fun.
AZUSA: I think it’s really incredible that we could come all the way here. I still have a hard time believing it.
Tsunoda: I’m honored to be here because I grew up listening to the music of this country.
JRR: How would you describe your music to American fans who haven’t heard you before?
Tsunoda: I take great pride in the Japanese that is used in my lyrics. So, I’m sure it’s very difficult for the listeners but if you could listen to each song and then translate the lyrics of the song into your own language, then I’m sure that you’ll find many surprises hidden within them.
Yu-ya: Hopefully we’ll give you a good impression of our music at the live tomorrow.
JRR: Did you make any special preparations to play in the United States? Is it going to be different for you guys somehow?
Tsunoda: Well, we haven’t done anything particular during our rehearsals. Nothing special for the American audience but I believe that since this is our first time performing in the United States, each of us has looked within ourselves to prepare for this performance. That we’ve all made some emotional preparations for it.
Yu-ya: And it is also our belief that that the fans here in Baltimore [ are hoping to get a glimpse of what our usual live performances are in Japan so we’re hoping to deliver upon what we think they want.
JRR: So what feeling or what message do you hope that fans at the live tomorrow most get from the music?
MAR: I’m hoping that we can evoke some emotional response in the audience. I don’t care if they like it or if they hate it or if they’re annoyed by it, so long as they feel some emotion from our music.
Yu-ya: Well, this isn’t really a message but, I mean, this is a huge festival so we want to try and enjoy it as much as possible and we want the audience to enjoy it as well.
Tsunoda: When we make our music, we sort of try to glimpse and question ourselves in our hearts with our music. So I’m hoping that the people who listen to our music can listen to it through headphones.
JRR: Many of us are familiar with the story about how you two [Mar and Tsunoda] met but how did you guys meet each other as a band?
Tsunoda: Mar and I were performing as a band together and we got news that we were going to be performing at the hide Memorial Summit. It was going to be a huge live for us and we felt that we would be more stylish performing as a band rather than just having Mar singing and me playing on the guitar. So we looked around for people whose rhythm would fit in with ours and that’s how we came together as a band.
JRR: Can we talk about the hide Memorial Summit? What was that like for you? That was such a huge live. Was that a very memorable experience for you?
MAR: I had a fever of 38°C [about 100°F] on that day so I was taking all of these energy drinks and nutritional drinks. I don’t really remember much of it.
MAR: I think, in a good sense, I wasn’t nervous during the performance and we were performing outside in a place where we could see hide. So, I think it was incredible that despite my fever I was able to enjoy the performance.
Yu-ya: Unfortunately, I didn’t have a fever.
Yu-ya: And just the size of the live really made me think about how huge hide’s existence was in the hearts of everyone. And it was also the first live that the four of us performed together as a band so I knew that there weren’t going to be too many people there who came for us and I knew there weren’t going to be too many people who knew us. So, in a good way, I wasn’t nervous during the performance.
Azusa: I had gone to many lives by X while hide was still alive so I was very happy to be able to perform there.
Tsunoda: I respected X JAPAN and hide very much so I was very honored to be able to perform there. But as far as I go, whether it be the hide Memorial Summit, Otakon or a small live house in Tokyo…well, my band members, they get nervous rather easily so I want to try to make it as easy for them to perform as possible. So the size of the venue doesn’t matter. We want to try to perform the same way at each of them.
MAR: We’re all Blood Type A. [Ed. Note: A reference to the blood type/personality tie-in in Japanese pop culture. People with blood type A are said to be creative perfectionists.]
JRR: So your new album Sister came out. Do you have a favorite song or a song that you most like performing on that album?
MAR: Unfortunately, we are not going to get to perform the song here at Otakon but I really like the song "Mermaid." And out of the songs that we are going to perform here at Otakon, I also really like the song “Is it time for grace.”
Yu-ya: The first track on the album, "Narcolepsy." We’re not performing the song but before I joined the band MarBell, I got a tape of the song from a friend. Listening to it made me fall in love with the sound.
Azusa: I also like "Narcolepsy" and the reason for it is that it leaves an impression. And the reason for it is it was the hardest song to practice for.
Tsunoda: My favorite song is “With the lights out,” it’s the last track on the album. As I said earlier, when we were making this album we were sort of looking within ourselves and questioning what we really feel in our hearts but we decided to, with this last track, leave the last track as a song where we’re looking out into the world.
JRR: What are your plans for the future? Are you guys producing a single soon? Or are you going to come back to the U.S. at some point?
Tsunoda: We plan on releasing a single within this year and we are planning to make an album sometime next year—or sometime afterwards. As for performing, I don’t care whether we’re performing in Japan, the U.S., Europe, Asia…we’d like to perform everywhere and we hope to be able to come back to perform in the U.S. again.
JRR: For many fans who know Japanese rock music in the United States, the vocalists are men and it’s unusual for American fans to see a band that has a female vocalist. I was wondering what you thought as a female vocalist. Is that unique to you, maybe—do you feel pride?
MAR: As far as I’m concerned, gender doesn’t matter. If it’s something I can take advantage of, of course I’m going to take advantage of it. I mean, with our influence, I’m sure that there will be a lot more copy-cat female vocalist bands coming out out there but, you know, I’m always going to be the Queen of JRock! [Laughter]
Interview by Maria
Transcription by Kia
Special thanks to Yaz Noya