Riding the success of 2019’s New Young City, internationally-acclaimed shoegaze and dream pop revivalists For Tracy Hyde talk the Glow through some honest opinions, unmissable tunes and formative musical experiences.
Since their 2017 breakout record, the conceptual cityscape work he(r)art, For Tracy Hyde has been one of the celebrated names in Japan’s current wave of dream pop and shoegaze.
Named not after the British actress Tracy Hyde but after “Tracy Hide”, a song (incidentally, about the actress) by the American pop punk band Wondermints, the quintet bridge the energy and tunefulness of chart pop and the rich atmospheres of dream pop and shoegaze.
Their 2019 album New Young City showcased an increasingly noisy outfit, three guitars rewarding fans with a thicker, rawer, even more remarkable sound. For Tracy Hyde continually looks for ways to shift and evolve, building upon an enormous range of influences.
We got together with eureka (vocals/guitar), Natsubot (guitar/vocals), U-1 (guitar), Mav (bass/chorus) and Soko (drums) for some brief questions about their pasts, tastes, and for hints at what they’re up to next.
First song you learned to play?
eureka: I was in the choir in junior high and high school, so the first song I practiced for real was probably some sort of chant. I think the first time I played guitar was when I was a college student – I played “1984” by Andymori.
Natsubot: “About a Girl” by Nirvana. When I was in third year of junior high school in New Zealand, I was in an entertainment group of Japanese students. We played as a band for one song at a show in the school gym – “About a Girl” was an easy song by a Western artist that everyone knew. It's also the reason I started playing the guitar properly, my first experience with a band.
U-1: The song I practiced when I first picked up the guitar was probably “The Heart of a Lark” by Spitz. However, I was satisfied with just the intro and threw the rest out.
Mav: The first song I practiced on the bass to play in front of people was “Zukka ni Rock” by Yura Yura Teikoku. I was originally a guitarist. There were songs I would borrow and try to play on the bass during breaks in the studio, but I can't remember which song was the first one. The first song I practiced my guitar on was “Line” by Aiko.
Soko: Arch Enemy's “Enemy Within” which, of course, I couldn't play at all.
First album you bought?
eureka: I don't remember much from elementary school, so I'm not sure, but I think it was Michael Jackson's Essential.
Natsubot: The Beach Boys’ Surfer Girl. My father took me to see Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds reunion tour and I was so impressed by the song “Surfer Girl” as an encore that I went out to a CD store and bought it with my pocket money. The Beach Boys have had an immeasurable influence on me, so I'm glad this was my first CD in my life.
U-1: SCUDELIA ELECTRO’s Treasure – the soundtrack to the anime Jing: King of Bandits. It's everything that got me into music.
Mav: The soundtrack to the game Dynasty Warriors 3 got me interested in playing the guitar. Reading the composer's comments on each song in the booklet, I realised that the act of composing is not only artistic but also deliberate and logical. That was the catalyst that made me want to play the guitar.
Soko: The first soundtrack was Dragon Quest 8; the first single was “It’ll be Sunny Tomorrow” by Keisuke Kuwata, and the first album was Tokyo Jihen’s Sports.
Which song defined high school?
eureka: Lia's “Poetry of Birds”. It's the theme song for the anime AIR that I watched during summer vacation, and both the anime and the song were my saving grace at the time. This song reminds me of the sweltering air of that summer.
Natsubot: “Taste” by Ride. My high school was in the middle of Shibuya, and I remember listening to it at high volumes after exams as we walked through the streets of the city... Ride was the first shoegaze band I ever fell in love with, and it was the reason I started making music in high school. They're an important band for me.
U-1: “In One’s Boyhood” by Spiral Life. I really hated high school. I didn’t want to go and I wanted to escape from everything, so I listened to this song and went to the card games shop. I played it until the very last minutes before I had to go to cram school.
Mav: “Underground Searchlie” by Underground Searchlie (Kenji Ohtsuki's solo project). My high school life was filled with a constant sense of incompetence, and I remember wandering around outside late at night, chewing on the lyrics repeated in the outro of the same song: "Confess that I don't have anything to offer you... Apologize for just being satisfied with your five bodies.”
Soko: "Girl's Not Grey" by AFI.
Songs that changed your life?
eureka: The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”. The first time I listened to Magical Mystery Tour in earbuds on my iPod when I was in elementary school, I remember being moved to tears by the beauty of the sound. It also gave me a musical place to escape to – I didn't really fit in with my surroundings.
Natsubot: In the long run, The Beatles’ “If I Needed Someone”. My father bought me my first CD, Rubber Soul, when I was in the second grade of elementary school. I was particularly impressed by the guitar sound in the introduction of ‘If I Needed Someone’. Later, when I found out that the guitar used in the intro was a 12-string, I developed a fascination for it, which grew stronger with my encounter with Ride. This song introduced me to an instrument that was essential to the music and sound that I wanted to make.
U-1: SCUDELIA ELECTRO’s “Shout It Loud”. The opening theme for the anime Jing: King of Bandits. I wasn't interested in music itself until I came across this song in the second year of junior high school. However, I remember that the first time I listened to this song I was filled with various emotions and passions that are hard to express. It was the beginning of my musical life.
Mav: Kenji Ohtsuki and Fumihiko Tachibana's “Dancing Baby Human”. When it was played at the end of an anime adaptation of my favourite novel/manga, I was shocked by the sound, lyrics, and vocals of the song. My days of listening to only anime songs changed drastically. That was the moment when my musical life began with Kinniku Shōjo Tai, Tokusatsu, Coaltar of the Deepers, shoegaze, etc... which continues to this day.
Soko: “Tombo the Electric Bloodred” by Number Girl.
The most underrated pop song?
Natsubot: The single version of Serena-Maneesh's “Sapphire Eyes”. It’s so perfect as a collision point between the Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine and '60s American girl group pop.
U-1: Revolver’s “I Wear Your Chain”
Mav: Obscure’s “Nervous Decay”. An all-too-obvious masterpiece of Japanese shoegaze.
Draft: It’s an album, but the entirety of Skirt’s Twilight.
Song you wish you had written?
eureka: “Wasuremono” by Passepied. When I first heard it, my feelings and the lyrics overlapped so much - I really want to pretend that I wrote it!
Natsubot: I'm a jealous person, so I have a lot to choose from. It depends on how I'm feeling at the time but if I'm in the mood, I'd say Red House Painters’ “Void” or Big Star’s “Thirteen”. I envy people who can make beautiful music with just a simple acoustic sound.
U-1: Kenji Ozawa “Aruko” – the lyrics, the song and its length are all perfect.
Mav: There's a mountain of it, but I'll always be jealous of the electronica-type songs from the Vocaloid scene, circa 2011. “Strobe Last (feat. Hatsune Miku)” by Powapowa P (a.k.a. Siinamota), “Botanical Garden (feat. Hatsune Miku)” by Moyoyo Miyazawa and “Haruni Kimito (feat. Hatsune Miku)” by Nekobolo (a.k.a. Marii Sasano).
Soko: “Transparent Girl” by Number Girl.
What would people be surprised to hear that you enjoy?
eureka: I've always been quite fond of original anime songs and radio songs, and I still listen to them a lot. I guess I'm not that surprised that anime is now accepted by the masses.
Natsubot: I don't dig it enthusiastically, but I unexpectedly like the current J-pop mainstream. I think it's very healthy to have mainstream artists like Kenshi Yonezu and Official HIGE DANdism with a strong musical background and context, and artists like Aimyon who simply have good songs. Also, Indigo la End has been a favourite of mine since the indie days.
U-1: WANDS...and all ‘90s artists in general, I guess.
Mav: Due to the influence of my friends in the scene, there was a period of time when I was an avid follower of so-called "net label” music [a type of music label that operates entirely online]. I delve into club music as well – I'm particularly fond of drum 'n' bass, but my favourite song in the genre has yet to be updated from “Agent Yoru wo Iku (Imoutoid's Liquefied Remix)”.
Soko: Nothing in particular, but I was surprised to hear Kenshi Yonezu’s latest album and it's really good.
Favourite song by a hometown musician?
Natsubot: I've been moving around the world since I was a child, so it's hard to know where I'm from. I've lived in Komae, Tokyo for the longest time, but the only musicians from Komae is Mr. Children, which I don't have any idea about…
U-1: Kenshi Yonezu. treasure of Tokushima.
Mav: I'm from a town called Hikarigaoka. The song “Koisuru Danchi” by ayU tokiO, who is also from Hikarigaoka, is based on the town. The scenery in the music video is exactly what I grew up with, and it makes me nostalgic every time I watch it.
eureka: I think Predawn was the first gig I attended of my own volition.
Natsubot: If you exclude the fact that my parents took me to various concerts since I was a child, the first concert I went to voluntarily was a double-billing with Cruyff In The Bedroom and Luminous Orange. I was on the baseball team at the time, so I remember leaving the club early and rushing to the venue with my sports bag slung over my shoulder and my high school uniform on. I was lucky that my first show starred two veteran Japanese shoegaze bands when I was only just getting into the scene.
U-1: B’z played my hometown when I was in high school.
Mav: Queen + Paul Rodgers in Japan. The venue was too big and the performers were too far away – honestly, it was not a satisfying experience.
Soko: Galileo Galilei's final live performance.
eureka: I don't have much experience of going to see live shows, but Slowdive and MUSE's visits to Japan have been memorable for me.
Natsubot: There have been many memorable shows, but it was great to see Ride, Slowdive and the Stone Roses in Japan right after their reunions. I've been crazy about British bands since my high school days...
U-1: Kenji Ozawa's 2016 tour was magical. My experience that day changed the way I lived my life. I was honestly thought it was great to be alive.
Mav: Coaltar Of The Deepers' two-day revival show in February 2011. I remember going to see them at a prep school in Shinjuku in February when I was still doing my ronin studies. It was one of the best experiences of my life, combining the depression of being a ronin with the excitement of their resurrection.
Favourite music venue?
Natsubot: For good sound and atmosphere, I like Liquidroom. I've seen Galileo Galilei, BBHF, Art-School, Chapterhouse and other bands I admire there, so I have a lot of affection for it. I definitely want to be on stage there one day!
Mav: If I had to say my favourite place that I've played, I'd say O-nest in Shibuya. There's a separate floor for the bar and the live space, and I like to relax at the bar. The sound is good, too. As far as I'd like to play - Club Quattro in Shibuya.
Tags: For Tracy Hyde