Toky’s Crystal Lake have had a consistent level of buzz surrounding them since their international rise in popularity with their ‘Cubes’ EP in 2014, most notably through their wicked cover of Limp Bizkit’s ‘Rollin”. Whereas that release and 2015’s damn fine ‘The Sign’ showed the band confidently charting metalcore waters with their tight breakdowns and well-tuned, aggressive riffs, their music definitely reached a wider audience. But the wider the audience, the wider the array of opinions and critiques, and while I thoroughly enjoyed both of those aforementioned releases, one couldn’t deny the generic nature of their music, with many listeners positively and negatively comparing them to The Ghost Inside. However, with their latest record, last year’s ‘True North’, the group branched out their sound into cleaner vocal styles with ‘Breathe Deep’, warmer guitar tones and catchier riffs with ‘Waves’ and ‘Black & Blue’, all the while still maintaining their hardcore/metalcore sound with the likes of ‘Omega’, the title track and of course, ‘Six Feet Under’.
In our recent Q&A with the band, vocalist Ryo Kinoshita answers our questions about his thoughts on The Ghost Inside comparison, the musical direction of their latest record, being managed by Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden their view on cover songs, and on which Japanese acts they’d love to share the stage with.
Hi guys, hope you’re all doing well. First off, to whom from the band are we speaking to for this interview and how are you doing today?
This is Ryo, the vocalist of Crystal Lake. We are now doing well, thanks. Right now, we are in the middle of ‘Alpha and Omega Tour’ in Japan right now and it’s been awesome so far.
Good to hear, Ryo. Now, when people talk about a “true north” in the non-scientific sense, they usually mean their destiny or their desired journey or goal(s). So, is the sound and direction of this new album the desired end goal for Crystal Lake’s music? Is this where the band will be heading with future releases?
This is not a goal yet but this is where we’ve been heading for from the start. We claim in “TRUE NORTH” that no matter what surrounds us changes and no matter what music we play differs from what we used to, our core (emotion and passion) will never change.
On the style of the new album, the warmer, cleaner guitar tones and the far stronger focus on clean singing in songs like Breathe Deep, Metro, and Black And Blue was a big shock to me at first. And I know that that was the case for many others. Was that musical change decided upon because you feel you’ve proven that you can deliver this brand of contemporary hardcore and metalcore well enough? Or was it also a strategic move to reach wider markets and attain more commercial appeal? (Hey, there’s nothing really wrong with that!)
I think it’s because the range of what we want to write has expanded recently. We just want to make something new and interesting for us. So they came naturally to be like this. As a result, it is great if our songs would reach the mainstream rock listeners but that not something we did on purpose.
‘True North’ did not feature any cover songs, unlike how the ‘Cubes’ EP and ‘The Sign’ did. Was that because you simply didn’t cover any songs for this release or that you want to move away from covering other bands music and not be known as a cover band by larger, more casual audiences?
First of all, we didn’t want to be recognised as a cheeky cover band. So we decided not to include any cover songs to the track list this time before we write the songs for this album. But as matter of fact, we do love covering songs so who knows we [may] cover some Babymetal songs next time!
Babymetal & Crystal Lake? Yes, please! In saying that, though, I would argue that Crystal Lake would be one of the best bands to do a full covers release, with maybe Hacktivist coming in just behind you. Would a full covers release something that the band has talked about before or something that you would be interested in doing down the road?
That actually sounds very interesting! I personally would love to cover the songs I’ve been listening to for years like Metallica and some metal shit.
Cool! One of the noblest things the band did in 2016 was covering Wide Eyed by The Ghost Inside, with 100% of all proceeds going to that band in the wake of their horrific bus crash. How much did you guys raise with the release of the Wide-Eyed cover, and did you receive any acknowledgements from the band or their management about it?
As soon as we had this idea, we asked if we can really make this happen to their management and label through our team in the States and surprisingly we got approval right away. The band tweeted about us on Twitter many times after we released it. Such a great band in many ways. I can’t really tell you how much we raised exactly, but we would be happy and honoured if what we did helped the band [out], not only financially but to let our fans have the intention to support a band we look up [to] and respect in the long term as well.
Likewise, the band has always received a very strong comparison to TGI with Ryo’s vocals and the way that you structure your songs, the breakdowns, and how your music is written and performed. Do you think that that has been a plus for your career or a detriment? Does that comparison bother you at all or are you humbled by it?
I see where it’s coming from but it doesn’t bother us at all. It’s an honour for us to be compared to one of the greatest metalcore bands in the world. No doubt that Vigil has been my inspiration for years.
One thing that has been brought up a lot by the label lately is that Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden manages the band. Now, I think that a Good Charlotte tour supported by Crystal Lake would be fucking sick! And as incestuous as that sounds, would the band be down for something that if given the opportunity?
Yeah, of course, we’d love to if we have that opportunity somehow. That would be an epic tour for sure.
It would be. On the topic of your manager, are you any of you fans of Good Charlotte’s music? I personally loved The Young & The Hopeless myself.
I’ve been a huge fan of them. ‘The Young & The Hopeless’ is one of my all-time favourite albums. They were the voice of my youth.
I love that album too. So how did this management with Madden come about then? Who approached whom first and do you truly think that he can do the right thing by your band with his experience and name recognition?
Everything happened so fast. One of our good friends in the States introduced us to MDDN and Joel was interested in us and here we are. It is clear that they experienced a lot of good and bad things in this industry which can never be filled by ourselves. I trust them in every way.
Good to hear. I’m not sure of the exact statistics of your countries population but with singing/screaming in English instead of in Japanese, do you feel that you maybe alienate some of the music markets over there? Also, and I think I may know the answer to this question already, but do you feel that choosing English vocals/lyrics was the tight call to make for Crystal Lake to become successful as possible on an international level?
I haven’t felt alienated because there are so many Japanese bands singing in English. As a non-native speaker of English, sometimes it is hard for me to get the sympathy of English speakers. Conversely, I want to write the words and the feelings only Japanese can express in English.
As far as the Japanese heavy music scene is concerned, are there any big names that you would like to share the stage with one day? Maybe, Babymetal, Maximum The Hormone, Boris, or Dir En Grey?
That would definitely be Maximum The Hormone. They are so big in Japan. Personally, I love Boris.
Boris are sick. Finally, Crystal Lake seems to be such a big name in Japan’s heavy music scene right now, and there’s a lot of interest and buzz going on in other countries about you, like us down here in Australia. So, will 2017 be the year that we see Crystal Lake on Australian shores? I know that Jake Taylor of In Hearts Wake guest featured on The Sign and that Greyscale Records were asked to release ‘True North’ over here…so surely something could be worked out, yes?
We hope to make it happen this year. We’re trying our best to see you guys in Australia. We have many friends over there, so we can’t wait to play shows with them in your beautiful country.