Earlier this year, alt-rock unit Joy Opposites, the latest venture from ex-FACT members Adam, Tomohiro, and Eiji as well as ex-The Amity Affliction guitarist Imran, released their highly anticipated debut LP Swim across Japan. We caught up with frontman Adam to find out more about how the band came to be and where they hope to take the band in the coming years.
2016 has been a roller-coaster year for you guys, how are you all doing?
We’re doing great, we’re just in the middle of a whole bunch of shows with Coldrain which lead into some shows with Crossfaith (all here in Japan) and we’re having an awesome time. Both the aforementioned bands asked us to play with them before they’d even heard any songs by Joy Opposites, so for them to trust us enough to take us out with them is something we’re really thankful for. The shows seem to be going really well too so we’re on a high!
At what point did you decide to start Joy Opposites?
I think it was some time shortly after we announced the FACT split…to not continue playing music wasn’t really an option we ever considered, and the three of us that were in FACT have always got on super well so it was quite a natural thing really.
Was there a deciding factor in the split with FACT?
Hahaha, I think that there’s a good percentage of FACT fans (especially the non-Japanese ones) who would like to think that the deciding factor was actually me! I’ve been sent some lovely messages, haha! But it’s cool, they don’t know what happened and they’re just frustrated, and I guess as I was the last one in it’s easy to see me as the catalyst, when actually it’s nothing like that at all. I worked with FACT for years in the studio and on tour before I even became a member, so it wasn’t like I suddenly joined and threw the chemistry out of whack. Ultimately it was a combination of things – Japan has a very strange system whereby if you sign to a major label you can actually get a “salary” from them in return for a certain number of pieces of product per year (and a HUGE slice of your income from live shows and merch), which leads to a strange sort of security which I don’t personally think is healthy for a musician. You should create something when and how you want to create it, but if you know you HAVE to put out an album and a live DVD per year or whatever it becomes more like a job and I think inevitably the quality of the music begins to suffer. So we wanted to break out of that cycle, but we all had different ideas about what we should do, and ultimately we didn’t have the right people around us to help us and shepherd us in the right direction. When you have 6 people in a band it’s difficult to balance ideas and personalities, and that’s where having a good manager can come in really handy – unfortunately we didn’t have anything like that, quite the opposite. I think the fact that we’re on a new label and with new management with Joy Opposites speaks volumes for what we think of the team we had when we were in FACT, haha.
In August you released your debut LP Swim, obviously your sound is very different to what you guys were producing in FACT, how has the reception of the album been so far?
I think at first there was a bit of a mixed reaction when we released the single “In My Bones” to be honest. I don’t think people knew what to expect, but I kept saying in interviews it wasn’t going to be like what we did in FACT so I tried my best to prepare people! I personally just didn’t want to do the same kind of music, I don’t really know what the point of breaking up one band to start a new one with the same sound would be. I think we all saw this as an opportunity to create something new from scratch and so that’s what we’ve done. I’ve always been a massive fan of catchy melodic rock songs so that’s what I wanted to aim for. Since the record came out and we’ve started playing shows I think the consensus has changed somewhat, people in Japan are starting to get it and the reaction at show is actually really great. I guess people expected us to do something fast and kind of skate-punky because of what we’d done in FACT, but now they see that Joy Opposites is it’s own thing – I’ve actually seen people on Twitter and stuff saying they wish stores and magazines would drop the “ex-FACT” tag from their promotion because JO has it’s own identity, and I’m really happy to read comments like that, I’m like “you get it!!”
Did you guys have any worries when starting Joy Opposites?
Well of course there’s always a little tremor of nervousness whenever you do anything new, whether that’s a band or anything else, but isn’t that what makes it fun? I wasn’t worried about “losing” FACT fans if that’s what you mean? We’re playing music that we want to, and yeah we played in another band before, but just because you liked that doesn’t mean you’ll like this. We’re starting from scratch and we’re happy to do that!
Does the album have a concept/message you were trying to get across?
Well the title comes from the “sink or swim” saying, and I know it’s a little cliched in a way, but it just summed up where we were as a band and as people at that particular time. The idea of choosing to swim instead of giving up just fitted really well with our own mindset at the time, because of course not doing music any more, or not doing it in such a public way, were both choices, but we love what we do and so in that sense it wasn’t really a choice, it was a gut instinct. Individually the songs all have their own meanings but I like to write lyrics in a pretty vague way, I don’t feel like I’m in any position to be telling people what they ‘should’ do through my lyrics, and I’m not really a fan of storytelling in lyrics either. I love the English language and I love the way that words can paint a picture, how sounds and images can fit together, so I aimed for that kind of thing lyrically. I really like Chino Moreno’s (Deftones) lyrics, and of course people like Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) – the kind of vagueness that leaves things open to the interpretation of the listener. So each song is about a certain aspect of humanity, I mean, what it is to be a human being, but what a person might take from the song is completely up to them.
Judging from other interviews and your music video it seems like you guys are having a lot more fun as Joy Opposites. Would you agree?
Hahaha well yeah I think I would. I think the last year or so of FACT was really really hard going, and I think now we’re in a totally different headspace and it feels a lot freer. As for the music video, well….it WAS fun, it was amazing. We recorded the album with Alex Newport who has played in bands we LOVE (Fudge Tunnel, Nailbomb) and recorded with artists we LOVE (At The Drive-In, The Locust) and we recorded at Dave Grohl’s studio out in California – how could that NOT be fun?! It was amazing. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
What was going through your heads when you started making new music? Was there a particular sound you were aiming for?
Well like I said earlier, I’m a fan of “rock” music with good melodies, and the other guys are too, so we knew we wanted to do something where the songs, the melodies were memorable. You listen to Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Biffy Clyro – the SONGS are great and I wanted to aim for that kind of thing. I say that because these days you hear a lot of bands where the SOUND is great, but the songs are lacking….and so we wanted to do our best to write memorable songs I guess. I mean nowadays anyone can go into the studio and come out with something sounding decent. Most records have drums edited to within an inch of their lives, with sound samples stuck all over them to make sure each hit sounds exactly the same, and vocalists don’t really have to be able to sing because there’s the magic of ProTools and Autotune, so I think you have a lot of stuff that in one way sounds great, but to me it sounds super boring. Working with Alex was great because he thinks in the same way as us. He wanted to get great performances from each of us and capture those instead of relying on computers to jazz up mediocre performances.
Out of all the tracks on the album is there a particular one that means the most to you? Be it because of something that happened while writing/recording the track or just the message.
For me ‘Now & Then’ is quite a big one because I think it’s just a great song, I have since the time we wrote it, I kind of wanted it to be the single, but also wanted to keep it for the album too, haha! I think ‘Skim The Sun’ too because that was the first one we wrote where we were all like ‘this is it, this is the right direction’. I remember being so stoked when I was writing the vocal line, because I just love the harmony – I was looking at the artwork for the reissue of Sleep’s ‘Dopesmoker’ where it has these aliens traipsing across a desert on another planet, and I wanted to sing something that evoked that kind of image. I quickly recorded the vocals on my computer and sent them to Eiji and he told me what came to mind when he heard the melody, and it was exactly the same image, so I just thought “yeah, we’re on the same page here, this is great”!
How was it recording the album at Studio 606 in LA under the watchful eye of Alex Newport?
I kind of alluded to it in previous answers but it was amazing, just amazing. When we recorded the drums we all sat down in a circle in the live room at 606 and all played the songs together, and that was the first time we’ve ever recorded like that. Usually things are all recorded separately and pieced together afterwards, but this was recorded “live” as it were, and that made a huge difference I think. It was done in a really organic way with the bare minimum of edits, no drum samples, no Autotune. That was really refreshing for me, and I think Alex really brought the best out of us. He put us at ease, but at the same time he’s a tough taskmaster, he wants the very best you can give and it just all clicked really well. Being in 606 surrounded by all that Nirvana and Foo Fighters memorabilia, recording through the same Neve console that Nevermind was recorded on, the first Rage Against The Machine record….it was mindblowing. I am so thankful to everyone that helped make it happen, it was just totally unforgettable.
Because of your time with FACT we all know the three of you, but how did Immy get involved with the band?
Well, Immy and I used to live together for a time in London. We made a band called Hope & State, which had the 2 of us plus ex members of Your Demise and Last Witness, but then I left to work with FACT and Immy was asked to join The Amity Affliction, so he moved to Australia, but obviously we’re just great friends so of course we stayed in touch, and when we came to making Joy Opposites Immy was just an obvious person to ask to be involved from our point of view. He’d also Tour Managed a few times for FACT when we toured the UK and Europe too, so the other guys knew him super well, and the timing was perfect!
So far you’ve played some pretty big shows touring with the likes of Coldrain, Crossfaith, and HER NAME IN BLOOD as well as playing SUMMER SONIC. What’s a typical Joy Opposites show like?
Haha! Good question. Well we’ve been supporting all those bands, so the kids turning up to those shows are really there to see the main attractions rather than us I think! We haven’t done a headline show yet, but when we do I imagine there’ll be a lot less circle pitting and a lot more tea and biscuits than at a FACT show. Nah, I mean, later this year we have some dates with Citizen when they come to Japan, and early next year we have a tour that isn’t announced yet but it’s with one of my favourite bands, and I think those bands are kind of close in sound and ethos to us so I’m excited to play with them to see what their shows are like. We’re still in the process of building what Joy Opposites actually is, so it’s really exciting…but I’m stoked that we can play with heavier bands like the ones you mentioned and the kids will actually properly listen and get into it. SUMMER SONIC was our first ever show so that was pretty crazy… we played on the second biggest stage, so to have that as your introduction to people is insane. Really happy we were given the opportunity to do it though!
Last time we talked I asked if there were any bands you recommend people should check out and you said PALM and waterweed, both of which kick ass! Are there any other bands you guys think people in the UK should have on their radar?
Well, no JPOP. I think your average JPOP artist makes One Direction seem like Pink Floyd, so there’s not really anything I can recommend in that field. But there are definitely some amazing ‘alternative’ artists. OK so there’s a band called Storm Of Void, they’re an instrumental sludge/stoner band, but I sometimes play with them and they rule. The drummer of Envy is in that band. And yeah I mean obviously stuff like Envy and Mono and Boris, they’re good ones. I saw this metal band called Cohol a few months ago and they were awesome, and the noise band ENDON. I think it depends what you like…I’m pretty much open to any style as long as I can feel some kind of soul in the music. There’s a super heavy band called Friendship who are great, And Protector, Hollow Suns, Kensuke Yamamoto…check them all out!
What’s next for Joy Opposites? Where do you hope to see the band in the next couple of years?
We want to be playing everywhere! We had a somewhat scattered approach to playing overseas when we were in FACT, but I’m hoping that we can be a bit more structured in our approach with Joy Opposites. You look at Coldrain and Crossfaith, and they do it so well, so that’s something we want to emulate. And you know, me being English and Immy being from Belgium, I don’t think you can say that JO is a “Japanese” band as such, we just happen to be based in Japan, but we don’t want to be limited by it! Like I said before, we’re doing a Japan tour with one of my favourite bands early next year, and we have a whole load of shows lined up already, but for me the major priority is to get the record released overseas and get over there and start touring to support it. Having said that we’ve already started writing songs for the next album, so I wouldn’t be totally against recording again in the near future, haha!
Anything you guys want to say to readers in the UK?
Hang tight, we’ll get the record released there soon. Really can’t wait to get over there and have some decent food (you know I’m talking about Gregg’s and Nando’s).
Release Date: 10/08/2016
Label: IVY Records
Get at: CDJapan.co.jp