I finally found the time to continue my “Why L’Arc~en~Ciel” series. L’Arc~en~Ciel Philippine Street Team has been moving forward with activities and plans for the growth of L’Arc fandom here in the Philippines and the Team has finally gathered Filipino fans into a group, aptly named #LArcMNL (so if you’re Filipino and a fan, join us!).
It would not be fair if I keep on blabbering about MY opinions of L’Arc~en~Ciel so I asked the members of #LArcMNL, “Why L’Arc~en~Ciel?” The responses I’ve received have given me a new perspective on how I should write the second part of my series of defenses on why L’Arc~en~Ciel is arguably the best Japanese band to ever exist. My thanks to Glenn Orbon, Cheska Garibay, Dharwin Bustamante, Kath Acebuche, Catiejima Sacopon, Jahra Roxas, Merii de Ocampo and Jen Brazal for giving me their inputs.
The post appears long because it’s embedded with quotes from the members of L’Arc. Despite how long it is, I hope you enjoy reading. 🙂
“It’s not like I just realized this, but I recently thought that everyone in the band has good artistic sense. There’s times when I’m really moved by a guitar part that’s made ad lib. And it’s the same for bass and drums. It makes me wonder if there’s any other band that has a better artistic sense than us!” ~ hyde
“I think how ‘pop’ a song is depends on the listener’s tastes. Can you say something is pop just because it sells? Or is pop music a song with a certain sound to it? It all depends on your definition.” ~ ken
“I don’t necessarily like to be called a rock musician, because then I think to myself ‘Does that mean I can only play rock music?’ I don’t like people to pigeonhole me, and I don’t even want to categorize myself.” ~ tetsuya
“What’s great about music is that you can do all kinds of things. There are songs where anyone from any time period can listen and say ‘that’s great,’ and then songs that are so abrasive that people are like ‘WHAT is that?’ But when both of those kinds of songs can come from the same guitar and the same band, I actually think that’s the secret to keeping a group going for a long time. That’s because people will keep their interest for a long time.” ~ ken
“I’m the type of person who has to try something in order to make a judgment. Instead of sitting around wondering how something might sound, I like to say, ‘let’s try it just to see if it’s good or bad, if it does something for us, and then decide.’ There will be things that sucked, just like we thought, but then there are also things that are like, ‘hey, that actually sounds pretty good.’ That’s when you first know how something really is.” ~tetsuya
I don’t think I need to ask whether you agree with hyde’s statement or not. Japanese music has been stereotyped worldwide, I believe, as “anime music”. The fans agree that first and foremost, the band’s music is what makes them different. According to Jahra, “They lace in old world poetry with hip newness”. Their artistic sense is just amazing. To quote Kath, “they really stretch their genre”. You can’t really classify their music as anime sounding though they allow their music to become soundtracks to anime as well which also became a factor to their growing popularity which Glenn highly appreciates. But also Catiejima says that you can’t just call them a rock band as well as they doesn’t want to be classified as to what type of band they are. Their experimentation with music, along with their techniques and abilities has definitely brought them a long way. According to Jen, “Other bands experiment on different genres but in the end [we can say that] the sound is really not them anymore.” L’Arc~en~Ciel’s desire to take on music in a whole new way as a band, with fearlessness to experiment allowed them to create masterpieces like XXX, winter fall and snow drop – these songs have arrangements are extremely unique and there are no songs I could compare them to, even in their own compositions.
“I think there are two things that make famous songs successful. One is of course is that the music is great. The other is that the song is embedded with this desire to say something, and that’s how it becomes so famous.” ~ ken
“Whether you like it or not, some songs just have a melody that you can’t deny. Something that crosses that boundary is so powerful it doesn’t really matter who made–it’s a killer tune. Those are the songs that L’Arc-en-Ciel chooses as its singles. But it’s not a killer tune that L’Arc-en-Ciel made… just a killer song, period.” ~ hyde
Why L’Arc~en~Ciel? In Cheska’s words, “because there is something captivating, magical even, in their music”. That “desire to say something” is made possible by that powerful arrangement in music coupled with poetically insane lyrics and the awesomeness that is hyde’s voice. This triumvirate gives their songs depth. Catiejima said that “their lyrics seeps through the heart and soul, [that] when I sing-along , I feel like crying/jumping for joy. They’re so inspiring, and in my opinion, they do bring out the best in me.”
“…Instead of having a discussion about technique, it would be about feeling. Usually I would have to say ‘If you do this, then you’ll get this kind of feeling.’ But this time I could say ‘I want it to have this kind of feeling’ straight off the bat, and that was the case with discussions between everybody.” ~ ken
They have songs that speak to the soul. Imagine being serenaded with a ballad like “Hitomi no Juunin”. The darkness of “finale” and “Ibara no Namida” makes you feel the loneliness and the longing. Despite the language barrier, the feeling of the song immediately conveys the message to us, even without looking at the translations.
“We write songs out of whatever feeling comes to us–not out of design. We don’t try to write upbeat, cheerful songs or dark songs–they just end up becoming one or the other.” ~ ken
“I can mold my songs into ballads if I want, and make them up tempo tracks if I want. But that’s a problem that I approach after I write the song. I don’t write the song with that kind of objective in mind. If you have a good melody, then the rest can be changed any way you want.” ~ tetsuya
“These days, when I write a song I think ‘this is no good’ and I toss it out, one after another. So I can’t come up with any songs to propose to the band. (laughs) It’s not that I’m slower at writing songs, but instead my standards for what’s ‘good’ have gotten so high that I can’t accept most of the stuff I write. It’s like I’m lost in a maze. (laughs)” ~ hyde
“It’s a good band. It was good before I joined… I’m sure there are some things that changed after I arrived, and some things that didn’t change. There were all kinds of developments, but when you add up all of the elements that came together over the years, the band you see now is what you get.” ~ yukihiro
Not only is their music evolving, but the members and performance level as well. To paraphrase Dharwin’s statement, they know what to do so that their fans would not get tired of them. Taking breaks to focus on their individuality as artists helps them to create their rainbow of musical genres. “All their different styles make such a unique blend of musical flavors that can go from rock to bossa to techno to lullaby in a blink,” says Jahra and that just makes us keep on wanting more of them.
“yukihiro hates the songs I write, because he says ‘It’s so hard to figure out the drums!’ ha ha ha! But he ends up doing it with this really consternated look on his face.” ~ hyde
“Even if everyone tells me I can just edit what I’ve recorded on Pro Tools, I really don’t want to do it. I make it my motto to say ‘Hell, you should record the whole thing perfectly from top to bottom in one take.'” ~ yukihiro on modern recording.
“When he writes songs he always has a crystal clear vision of the way he wants it to be. Of course he incorporates other people’s ideas, but his original idea is very good so you need something even better than that for him to accept it. And he’ll get mad at you if you don’t have your parts down perfectly. In the opposite way ken is pretty laid back. (laughs) As long as you have the main parts down he leaves the rest to you!” ~ hyde on tetsuya
They are like wine, with age they become better. And like alcohol, sometimes you don’t remember why you like it as Merii conveyed. Fans all agree that how they perform during lives gives a lot of impact. Again, translating Dharwin’s statement, you don’t need to be handsome to be handsome, sometimes you need to be beautiful to be handsome (referring to hyde’s presence). They’ve also matured in the way they make songs, by way of adjusting to the writer’s preferences and they are perfectionists in their craft – no shortcuts.
“To me, the band dynamics is similar to what goes on in a family. There are good times and bad times in life. But since there are four of us, they don’t all come at the same time, and each member takes a hit at different times. So if that happens, somebody else can compensate. That’s why I see our individual relationships as similar to a family’s, in the sense that they can’t be broken.” ~ tetsuya
L’Arc~en~Ciel is a band that can’t be broken. Even with the loss of the great drummer in the person of Sakura, the band continued. Even with each of the band members having their solo careers to pursue their individual takes on music, L’Arc~en~Ciel exists. Jen describes L’Arc fandom as “a way of life” even the Eraserheads (a major Filipino band) of JRock according to Glenn. I’m sure fans will keep on supporting the band even after they decide to retire (which I hope isn’t soon!)
“We walked a long road–all of us persevering–to get here, so I’m glad we got to celebrate the 20 year mark with all of our fans. It had a lot of meaning. Of course, we as a band feel fulfilled but more than that I feel gratitude to the fans. I want to say thank you to them because we helped each other along to get here.” ~ hyde
Quotes from compiled from: http://www.facebook.com/pages/LArc-en-Ciel