While we all are anxiously awaiting the new ENVY album (to be released on Pelagic Records on February 7th), we were lucky enough to be able to ask ENVY a few questions about their life as a band. Guitarist Nobukata Kawai was kind enough to answer our questions about the formation of ENVY and what music inspires them to create the epic post-hardcore/ post-rock hybrid that they’ve pioneered for almost three decades.
First off all, could you please give a brief overview and history of the band?
In 1992, our vocalist Tetsu and bass player Nakagawa started BLIND JUSTICE which later becomes envy. At that time, I wasn’t in any band. I went to a small venue in Tokyo to celebrate my junior high colleague who was going to have a gig there. I randomly thought of making some sandwiches at the restaurant I was working at for my friend and when I arrived to the venue, that is when I met Nakagawa. From that day, I’ve been with them for 27 years. By the way, that was the only and will be the only time making a sandwich for a friend in my life.
Around the end of 1994, BLIND JUSTICE decided to break up. Me, Tetsu and Nakagawa decided to start envy. The first intention was more like an extension of a hobby at that time rather than a life time project. We kept on playing under-ground shows in Japan and there were no similar bands like us. There were a lot of times with no audiences and we were just going ape shit on the floor. After Tetsu started his DIY distro and inviting bands from oversea, we got to know a lot of bands and build a strong relationship with them, which kind of made its road to tour oversea. At that time, no one in Japan praised us at all, but the people at oversea really enjoyed our music and originality. We had no money at our first oversea tours, but it was really fun. We slept at a minus 15 degree basement and fought among members for a newspaper avoiding to freeze from death. Good old days. In 2016, most of the members left the band and we entered a stagnation period. When it was only me and Nakagawa, I really thought about quitting envy, but after thinking of my family, friends, fans, Tetsu’s comeback and our great new 3 members who joined the band, it gave me a new step forward to the future.
The expansion of your sound and expression has evolved a lot over the years since Breathing and Dying in the Place to newer recordings such as the Definition of Impossibility 10″. Could you tell us about the way it took from the fast, NYHC influenced band you were when you started out, to the beautiful epic music you create now? And as a follow-up question, do you have any specific music og artists that have shaped you in the way you write and enjoy music?
I believe the early stage of envy was influenced from the NYHC style which was influenced during our teenage. The first trigger that brought us to this style was Union of Uranus’s 1st song of their double 7″ which Tetsu introduced me. I couldn’t believe there was such music that was intense with freedom. Around the year 2000 when we were writing “The Footprints You’ve Ever Left and The Fear Expecting Ahead”, I started to do experiments and prototypes on combining hardcore and fierce beats with beautiful melodies like classic. My wife is a ballet teacher so I was listening to Tchaikovsky and other classic music everyday, so I believe that was a huge influence. But it always comes back to Tetsu’s voice that makes it hardcore.
This might be a weird question, but do you have any peticular Norwegian bands or artists you are fond of right now?
I believe there are different opinions on this among our members, but we used to listen to Kaospilot and JR Ewing as well as blackmetal such as MAYHEM and Burzum!
And something that everyone in Norway is wondering; Will you ever come over here? We have MONO playing here often, and we would love to see you on a stage here as well…
We are really good friends with MONO like a family so we do hear a lot of good things about Norway. Of course we would love to go to such a beautiful country. I’ve actually been there before. I can’t say when we will go, but we will promise to go someday. Really looking forward to see you all!