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Crossfaith: Origin of the species

Although most of their plans for 2020 have long since gone out the window, Crossfaith have managed to stick to one key part of it. In May, the band released Species, their fourth EP and first collection of new music following 2018’s Ex Machina. Speaking to Blunt from his home in Osaka, frontman Kenta Koie noted that the EP’s release allowed for some balance and stability at a time of great global uncertainty.

“I’m happy to be making music,” he says. “I think it keeps me calm. I know for a lot of people, in a time of quarantine, it’s like therapy. I’m very lucky to be in a quiet countryside place – it’s been very calm here, and my friends and family are all safe and healthy.” Fans of the band will quickly note that Koie’s talk of calmness and serenity is at odds with Crossfaith’s pummelling, precise take on post-hardcore. Rest assured: Species is not some sort of folksy operation. In fact, it picks up where Ex Machina left off – at least, from a musical standpoint.

“We hadn’t made an EP for a long time,” says Koie. “It might seem like less work than an album, but they’re equal and very different processes. When we’re making an album, we’re always ensuring that you have a strong concept and that we have as many different songs as possible. When we were making Species, however, the concept wasn’t as important. Because the collection of songs was smaller, we made a point of ensuring the tracks were stronger – as strong as they could be.”

Thematic structure has always factored into the music of Crossfaith, with all of their studio albums attempting to tell a story in one way or another. To do away with such formalities in the creation of Species, then, was a big step for the band to take. Koie admits that, while the challenges certainly presented themselves, he and his bandmates came out the other side of the process all the better for it.

“Writing with a concept has always been awesome,” he says. “We always feel amazing when it comes together like that. That said, writing that way is not exactly freeing. Writing this EP outside of that framework, we were excited by the prospect of being able to write anything that we wanted. Musically, lyrically… anything was possible. It was so much fun – I listen back and I can really hear what a great job everybody did here.”

Koie shares that on account of the creative process for Species being so positive, the band have already begun to work on new songs while in isolation. When queried as to whether that will eventuate in album number six for the band, however, Koie is somewhat reticent. “That’s something we haven’t really decided on yet,” he says. “If I had to guess, though, I think we might make another EP again.”

“I feel as though it’s getting harder to present full albums, as more and more people are connected to music through Spotify and Apple Music. People can find new music easily, but you’re unlikely to hold their attention for a whole album. I also feel like the timing is very important when it comes to releasing albums, as well.” Koie laughs nervously to himself. “It’s weird to talk about new music at a time where we’re just putting out new music,” he concedes, “so I don’t know.”

“It feels like starting new again. Even though we’ve been doing this for so long, there’s still so many people who don’t know about us.”

For the time being, Koie is happy to speak about what he and his bandmates have created on Species. While still identifiably them, the quintet have also made a point of exploring the farther reaches of their musical spectrum across the EP’s five songs. Opener ‘Digital Parasite,’ for instance, is fearless in its genre hopping – industrial, metalcore, trap, doom metal, you name it. Elsewhere, the band cast off ‘None of Your Business,’ which features a guest verse from Japanese-Korean rapper Jin Dogg. This instance proved to be one of the most exciting parts of the EP’s creation, as far as the band itself was concerned.

“It was so much fun to work with Jin,” says Koie. “Not only was it our first time collaborating with a rapper, but his verse is in both Japanese and English – which means it’s our first ever song to have Japanese in it. He was funny – I offered to show him the entire song before he came in, but he didn’t even start writing his verse until he came into the studio. He just kept building as he was listening to the song, then he went in there and got it down in a couple of takes. It was so cool to watch him work – especially because he works in such a different way to me. Sometimes, it can take me a month to finish writing a verse. To see him go in like that was honestly really inspiring.”

Jin Dogg’s contribution to the EP marked one of several deviations from Crossfaith’s norm. The band also produced the EP themselves – working only with an engineer to track it – and found themselves experimenting with a wider array of sounds in their arsenal. The latter came literally in the form of using, a modular synthesizer owned by keyboardist Terufumi Tamano that factored into several tracks finding their sound.

“We were angling for that acid house kind of bass sound,” says Koie. He vocally acts out the sound, the same way one might ‘dun-dun-dun’ a guitar riff – “de-de-de-de-dee-de-de-dee-de-de-dee.” He laughs, before continuing: “We really wanted to bring back more of a 90s vibe to our sound. That rave sound was obviously huge back then, especially when The Prodigy came out. It was really powerful music – there was a lot of excitement surrounding it. I was born in 1988, so I was a kid when all of it happened. I feel like it really impacted my generation.”

Koie also notes that Floridian post-hardcore giants Underoath served as one of their biggest creative influences for the EP – something especially sentimental when one pieces together that Crossfaith’s last Australian tour was alongside Underoath in support of The Amity Affliction in September 2019. “We love throwing back to that post-hardcore sound, and no one did it better than them,” he says.

“We played with them for the first time in 2012, when they came to Japan. I was so shy around them because I was such a huge fan. I think I even got their signatures after the show. Spencer [Chamberlain, vocalist] might be the nicest guy I’ve ever met. They’ve been nothing but supportive of us. When this is over, the first thing I want to do is bring Underoath back to Japan.”

With hopes for the future and expanded horizons, Crossfaith have welcomed the next chapter of their careers with open arms. They hope fans respond in kind to Species, as its a collection that they’re incredibly proud of. “This is our first release with the new label that we’ve started here in Japan, Species Inc.,” Koie says. “It feels like starting new again. Even though we’ve been doing this for so long, there’s still so many people who don’t know about us. If the first they hear from us is the Species EP, then I really hope that they’re surprised by it. I can’t wait for people to get to know us.”