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From November 3–5, 2023, Yugiri (DaizyStripper) and SARSHI (HERO, Nana, Flutter Echo) took the stage at Nekocon in Hampton, VA, treating attendees to a unique musical experience. Despite belonging to different bands, vocalist Yugiri and guitarist SARSHI joined forces to create a special two-person session band, delivering covers of DaizyStripper songs exclusively for the convention.
Over the weekend, Nekocon-goers enjoyed two dynamic live concerts, a Q&A panel, and an exclusive VIP event where Yugiri and SARSHI engaged in a humorous round of “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”. Beyond the official events, fans had multiple opportunities to meet the artists throughout the weekend.
As Nekocon wrapped up, JROCK NEWS sat down with the visual kei duo to delve into their 17-year musical careers, their Nekocon experience, and more. Dive into our exclusive in-person interview with Yugiri and SARSHI as they share insights on musical freedom, “Fath Thor”, and Yugiri’s hidden phobia. Keep reading for an inside look!
Thank you for the awesome events this weekend, and for meeting with us today. To get started, please introduce yourselves to our readers at JROCK NEWS.
Yugiri: I’m Yugiri, the vocalist of DaizyStripper.
SARSHI: I’m SARSHI, the guitarist of HERO.
Some readers already know you both as skilled musicians with established bands. Can you share an interesting or little-known fact about yourself—something our readers may not know?
Yugiri: I hate haunted houses. When I was on the plane coming over to America, they had newly released movies. Disney’s “Haunted Mansion” was on there, but even just seeing the trailer gave me the creeps [laughs].
SARSHI: As for me, I’m from the Kansai region of Japan, and Kansai people are well known for being funny. But I’m really boring and not funny [laughs].
I’m sure you guys spent a lot of time traveling together or spending time together for this convention. What is something interesting you learned about the other person?
SARSHI: I had no idea that Yugiri could speak English so well. I was surprised.
Yugiri: As for me, SARSHI took my phone when I stepped away and took a bunch of funny selfies of himself. Minutes later, when I came back, there were a bunch of close-ups of SARSHI’s face on my phone and I thought, “Damn, he’s good!” [both laugh].
As both DaizyStripper and HERO formed in 2007, you’ve now had almost 17 years of experience. That’s an impressive career so far. What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned during that time?
Yugiri: For me, I learned to not have expectations of people. In the first few years, I thought that if I put this much amount of work and effort into the band, then other members would give the exact same effort as well, right?
When this wasn’t the case, I wondered, “Why?” and then we would, for instance, get mad at each other or get into arguments from there. I think maybe it’s like this for a lot of bands in the beginning.
But now, we’ve become more mature with age, so if I give 100% I do not also expect others to give one 100%. If I give 100% and get say, 90% from others then I am very happy with that because we do not have expectations of each other, in a positive way. From there, we can begin to respect one another and have a mutual understanding.
That’s what I have learned over the years, to not have expectations of others.
SARSHI: HERO had a hiatus once during our 17-year career, which led to a comeback. Although we came out of hiatus, I was really happy during those two or three years when we first made the comeback, as each of us was able to re-affirm in themselves our love for HERO.
When you do it for a long time, you start to become unsure if you really like your own band or not. We were able to see the answer to that because we were able to come back to it after having stepped away already.
17 years is a long time. How do you push yourselves and evolve, to keep things fresh and exciting?
SARSHI: Evolution is really important, but at the same time with HERO, we had a desire to keep giving people that same product. It’s good to challenge yourself and try new things, but at the end of the day, it should still be “HERO”. It’s the same with kabuki theater in Japan—it’s the same show every time, but the performance is always different.
Yugiri: Now DaizyStripper is on its independent label, made by the five of us, “Kiss Records”. At this point we’re in charge of what we get to do, so we can think about what we want DaizyStripper to do this year, or what kind of concert we want to do, and things like that. The other members can share their input as well. If we want to do something, we can do it—if we don’t want to do something, then we don’t have to. We have a lot more freedom. The current incarnation of DaizyStripper feels much more fulfilling in that way, and this has been the most fun for me in the last 17 years.
I’ve always been a curious person—even in my elementary school album, I was voted as “the most curious in the class”. If something happens, I want to know why—I’m always asking those kinds of questions, which pushes me to evolve too. Because of that, I don’t think my curiosity will be drying up any time soon, so as long as I have that going for me, that in itself is evolution.
I’m sure that over a long career, a creative block can happen. What inspires you, and helps you move through a slump?
Yugiri: I write all of the lyrics for DaizyStripper’s songs, but I haven’t had a songwriting slump before. But I think if I just drink some alcohol and get some sleep, I’d be alright [laughs].
SARSHI: I don’t write HERO’s lyrics, but I do the arrangement for our songs. I haven’t experienced creative block as much. As long as I have a deadline, it’s fine—if someone says “finish it whenever you want”, it’s impossible. As long as I keep myself to a strict deadline, it’s fine.
After all this time in visual kei, do you ever experience pressure to conform to societal or industry standards, or to “move on” from visual kei?
Yugiri: If you look at YOSHIKI from X Japan, he’s still in visual kei and super cool even to this day. It’s the same thing with HYDE from L’arc-en-ciel, I think he’s the coolest person, same with the members of Luna Sea. Even though a lot of my senpai are older than me, they’re still carrying the visual kei torch. Because of that, I think it has extended how long you’re able to do visual kei. They’ll probably still be cool, even when they’re 70 or 80 years old. I always think about how I’m going to keep up my appearance and aesthetics, so I can keep doing this for as long as possible too.
SARSHI: I’m not particularly worried about whether music is visual kei or not, I don’t like it when people try to put labels on music with strict categorization. If it’s something that I feel is cool, then that’s enough for me. As I get older, I’m going to keep doing whatever I think is cool, whether it’s visual kei or not.
Yugiri, you performed at Otakon in 2008 with DaizyStripper, just one year into the band’s career. How does it feel to return to the USA, representing an established band?
Yugiri: Honestly, I wasn’t sure how many people would be waiting for me here in the US this time. Frankly, I was both nervous and excited right up until the time I went on stage. I thought when I came out everyone would just stare at me. But when I finally came out, the audience was just as excited as the Japanese fans, shouting. It was both a relief and it got me fired up. Also, it made me want to perform more overseas—it had been a long time since I got to go abroad since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thank you for the concerts at Nekocon this year. How did you select the setlist for this event?
Yugiri: First we added songs that SARSHI likes. Then, we focused on singles that have music videos, as well as songs I could sing together with the audience, even if they don’t know the song. Then, we added a song that had a strong Japanese aesthetic. Those were the things I thought about to create the “best” setlist for this overseas performance.
SARSHI, can you share with us the song you suggested or wanted to play on the setlist?
SARSHI: I always liked DaizyStripper’s song “Tresor” (トレゾア), so that was one I was looking forward to playing. I took the original song and arranged it differently, quite a lot. People who heard the original version probably wouldn’t recognize the new version I played live.
That version you arranged was only for Nekocon? It hasn’t even been recorded and released before?
SARSHI: It’s never been released. It is a DaizyStripper song after all [laughs], and I’m not in DaizyStripper.
Yugiri: Yeah, we haven’t released SARSHI’s version before. It was only for this event. But maybe if there was an opportunity to release it someday, that would be cool.
SARSHI: Also when I first heard the song “Hanareta toki ni ai ha” (離れた時に愛は) at a taiban, I thought it was an amazing song. It makes me emotional, it even made me cry during rehearsal.
Yugiri: There’s a link between those two songs, lyrically. In “Hanareta toki ni ai ha”, it’s like the lyrics of “Tresor” have grown up.
SARSHI: Now that I’ve been playing DaizyStripper’s songs, I’ve come to like all of them.
SARSHI, you mentioned that one of the songs made you so emotional, that you cried during rehearsal. How do you express the feelings in these songs live so they transcend language barriers?
SARSHI: I think lyrics are very important and all, but for me, a melody and the chords you choose for it—the way it comes together—it’s hard to explain in words, but sometimes you get a combination or a progression that just deeply moves you on an emotional level. And there are a lot of these moments in many of the DaizyStripper songs! Rather than forcefully trying to change things, I just listen and re-arrange it quickly—like within a day—in the moment as I’m enjoying it. That way, I can do my arrangement without changing much at all. I’m not changing anything in a drastic way or anything.
Yugiri: It’s like when the lyrics, melody, and chords come together, at that moment, it’s like “bang!”. It’s a moment of inspiration or emotion, and it’s like “that’s it, it works”.
SARSHI: Whether you’re Japanese, American, European, or whatever, you like what you like, and what’s cool to you is cool. So if I put out something that I like and think is cool, then there will be people out there in the world who love it too. People will respond to it.
Yugiri: I think that words have their own soul, and can be understood regardless of country. I can also convey that emotion with my eyes, my expressions, and my energy. I think there’s a point where words can transcend the written language, and you can still feel something, regardless of which country you come from.
The concerts and events this weekend had great fan interaction, especially on Saturday. What were some of your favorite interactions this weekend?
SARSHI: The fans understood a lot more Japanese than I expected! I was also happy that they liked when I did “kyun”, making a heart shape with my fingers. It was understood easily. All I had to do was make the heart shape with my fingers and say “kyun”, and everyone was so pleased [laughs].
Yugiri: Two things stood out to me this weekend. The first was when I put out my hand during the concert, and fans in the audience would grab it. In Japan, fans haven’t done that in like 12 or 13 years. They rarely do it these days. The Japanese fans tend to keep their distance because they think it might be rude. I don’t think it’s rude, rather, I want the audience to grab me. Well, in Japanese it’s fine even if they don’t since it’s in the culture. But in America or other places where the fans would reach out back to you, it’s really exciting! Even at the VIP event, a fan apologized for touching me during a two-shot photo. But it’s totally ok. Seriously, it’s “No problem! Touch me!” [laughs].
Also, speaking of meeting fans, I love the film series “The Avengers”. During the convention, I saw someone cosplaying Thor from “Avengers: End Game”, the part where he gives up and stays at home drinking beer and playing video games. He was cosplaying “Fat Thor”, and looked exactly like him [laughs]! I saw the cosplayer during one of the concerts and almost said into the mic “Is that Fat Thor?!” [laughs].
Then I was really happy when Fat Thor came to the autograph session after the concert. First, I took a photo with him and put it on social media. It made me so happy.
Yugiri, your ability to hit and sustain high notes in ballads and pop songs is remarkable. Can you share how you train and take care of your voice, to achieve such beautiful notes?
Yugiri: During the show, I’ll swallow a few drops of honey. It helps coat my throat and keep my voice silky. I’ll try to have a drop as well especially before a delicate ballad, or even a drop for almost every song, as it helps keep my throat condition good. After the show, the muscles in my throat get inflamed, so I’ll ice them for about five minutes, and by the next day, the exhaustion is pretty much gone. I’ve been using honey, and icing my throat after shows for a few years now.
As for SARSHI and your skills, you said during a Q&A panel this weekend that you taught yourself the guitar. What advice do you have for people also trying to teach themselves the guitar?
SARSHI: First, practice the guitar phrases from songs that you like. At first, I practiced a lot of phrases from Luna Sea, and of course from the American rock band Kiss. Of course, the fundamental skills are important, but it also helps to try and copy things from music that you like.
Please share with us what is next on the horizon for DaizyStripper, as well as SARSHI and his projects.
Yugiri: I have two things in mind for the future. First, I want to perform live at the legendary venue Nippon Budokan. We’ll take any little chance we have to get to that level. On top of that, I want DaizyStripper to continue for a long time, even when we’re old and our hair turns white. Even when we have to be brought out on wheelchairs and canes, I want to keep doing shows together, the five of us. I want to keep doing this until the very end. I want the fans of DaizyStripper not to worry about us disbanding or taking a hiatus, and to keep following us. That’s my dream.
SARSHI: On top of my band HERO, I also have the bands Nana, Flutter Echo, and my solo project. It’s important to me that my projects continue for a long time. However, each of those has its own dream—HERO has HERO’s dream, Nana has Nana’s dream, etcetera. I currently play visual kei, but I like a lot of different kinds of music, so I’d like to try performing something from all different genres. I want to give it my all, until the day I die.
Also, this is just a personal goal, but I’d like to perform in each of Japan’s 47 prefectures. DaizyStripper has done that before, right?
Yugiri: Yes, twice [laughs].
SARSHI: Yes, I’d like to do that myself. The bands of my generation have done it, but I have yet to do it, either as a solo act or with my bands HERO and Nana. I regret not having the chance to do that yet. It’s something I’d really like to do.
Do you have a final message or parting words for JROCK NEWS readers around the world?
Yugiri: DaizyStripper as a five-member band will keep doing what we’re doing and performing for a long time. When you meet us, please greet us loudly and passionately.
SARSHI: This is just for me personally, but I want to keep performing all over the world. Whether that’s America, Europe, Asia, etcetera, I’d like to meet as many people as possible. Please look forward until the day that we can meet.
Stay tuned for our Nekocon live report!