Jazzy, free-spirited five-piece band Kroi enjoyed a string of tie-in successes in the anime world. Most notably, the band was tasked with composing for the anime adaptation of SAND LAND by the late manga goliath Akira Toriyama, of DRAGON BALL’s fame. You could say that Kroi’s career is still amidst the liftoff phase in the global music scene, but make no mistake about the virtosity. Each member brims with so much talent, imagination, and commitment to make a mark that the literal face of anime handpicked none other than this very unit for what would become his final and posthumous act.

If you haven’t already, put Kroi on your radar! There’s no better time. Come June 19, Kroi will release its third album Unspoiled.

Read the interview below to learn about the band’s artistic roots, writing process for the theme song Water Carrier, and positioning to become the inspiration for future generations of Jpop!

Congratulations on your new single Water Carrier and tie-in with anime SAND LAND! There are lots of jazzy, freestyle jam band elements in this piece. When you write your songs, do all the members come together and improvise some grooves and melodies? Or does each member meticulously write out his part to put together a carefully planned composition?

Masanori Seki (bass): Thank you! Our songwriting typically starts with a demo track by vocalist Leo. This serves as the foundation for the rest of the band as we dive in and become inspired to arrange parts for our own instruments, which are then brought back to the table to build up the song. We more or less followed this workflow this time as well.

Because each member writes for his own instrument, each part ends up bearing so much unique character that when we put them all together, some of the sounds might feel “out of place”. But we don’t always write off these serendipitous moments as a bad thing, and I think that’s what gives Kroi this feeling of being a free style jam band.

#Kroi - Water Carrier [Official Video] #SANDLAND #Kroi_WaterCarrier

Kroi lists a lot of genres as inspirations, like funk, soul, R&B, hip hop, and rock. Are there any standout artists in each of these genres that have influenced your style?

We all have roots in different kinds of music. Here are several artists that have inspired each of us.

Leo Uchida (vocals): Red Hot Chili Peppers, Al Green, Lauryn Hill, Weldon Irvine, Slum Village, Pat Martino

Yuuki Hasebe (guitars): Red Hot Chili Pepper, Yousui Inoue, Yutaka Ozaki, BOOWY, Yura Yura Teikoku, Isley Brothers, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang, Funkadelic, Parliament, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Staff, Cornell Dupree, Mark Lettieri, Snarky Puppy, Ghost-Note, Nirvana, The Ventures, The White Stripes, Donny Hathaway, The Roots, D’Angelo, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Alabama Shakes, Steely Dan, Daft Punk, Jamiroquai, Tomo Fujita, David T. Walker, The Beatles, Bobby Womack, Marcus King, HYUKOH, John Valenti, Samuel Purdey, Tokyo Jihen, Kandy Town, T-Bone Walker, Ennio Morricone, MUSE, Shuggie Otis, John Frusciante, Mr. Children

Masanori Seki (bass): Rage Against the Machine, Jamiroquai, Earth, Wind & Fire, Delegation, L.T.D., Larry Graham, The Brothers Johnson, The Whispers, Slave, BRICK, Kool & The Gang, MAZE, Con Funk Shun, Emotions, EXTREME, The Cardigans, The Carpenters, Metallica, Prince, Michael Jackson, Queen

Hidetomo Masuda (drums): Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lee Ritenour, Marcus Miller, Steve Gadd, Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Jordan, Benny Greb, Larnell Lewis, Taron Lockett, Robert Sput Searight, Billy Taylor, Duke Ellington

Daiki Chiba (keys): Kenny Barron, Bob James, Thelonious Monk, Michael Jackson, SMAP, Denki Group, Complex, Flying Lotus, Tatsuro Yamashita, Cory Henry, Chromeo, Dean Fujioka, Drexciya, Ghost-Note, Jodeci, Tame Impala, Ryan Hemsworth, Plus-tech Squeeze Box, Crazy Ken Band

What was your reaction when you were approached to write music for Akira Toriyama’s SAND LAND? Were there feelings of both excitement and intimidation? Can you describe some of your biggest challenges?

Seki: As a matter of fact, it’s been over two years since we received the offer, and we recorded the song exactly two years ago. Toriyama’s SAND LAND was the first anime tie-in for Kroi. I still clearly remember being both surprised and overjoyed. Even though we still have a long way to go as a band today, we couldn’t believe back then how a group of unknown newbies like us had been chosen for this tremendous undertaking.

At the same time, we were very serious about putting all our hearts into the songwriting, knowing that our first tie-in would back the great Toriyama, the manga-ka who had essentially been the face of Japanese animation.

What are your favorite parts of Water Carrier that reference the themes in the SAND LAND universe?

Uchida: The search inside our minds for a good idea for a song felt analogous to journeying toward an oasis in the middle of a desert. We tried to express these kinds of similarities between our band and the SAND LAND universe. The brisk choruses were written while imagining ourselves as the SAND LAND characters, racing through dunes in their buggies, except our quest was for great musical expression.

With Water Carrier, did you start working on a soundscape for the work from a blank template? Or did you receive directions or suggestions from the SAND LAND anime creators?

Seki: We received the offer to write for SAND LAND in part due to Kroi’s free-spirited and genre-defying nature, which aligned with the feel of Toriyama’s work. It was an honor to be asked to write music that was “unmistakably Kroi”.

With this in mind, Leo read the source material and created a demo track for Water Carrier based on what he took away from the vibes throughout SAND LAND. All of us in Kroi as well as our staff were elated to hear glowing praise from the SAND LAND team from the early stages of production.

[Behind the Scenes] Kroi - Water Carrier

With the recent tragic passing of Akira Toriyama, how has this affected your creative process? How has Toriyama’s work shaped your childhood or your approach to music?

Seki: Two years ago, we would have never imaged things to end so tragically. It’s our greatest regret that Toriyama couldn’t live to see his characters come to life, backed by our music, for the entire world. We feel so blessed for the opportunity to have become a small part of his work. As artists, we feel there is no greater honor.

With anime like the DRAGON BALL series and video games like the Dragon Quest series having been such an integral part of our childhood, there’s no question that we’ve all been inspired by Toriyama’s creation in ways beyond our music.

As I mentioned about the time we first received the tie-in offer, Toriyama and Kroi share this genre-defying free-spirited quality, and that’ll always resonate with us.

Kroi provided opening themes for two recent anime series, with the song Sesame for Bucchigiri?! and the song Hyper for Under Ninja. While both songs flaunt a distinct “Kroi sound”, they are quite unique in their overall feeling. How different was the creative process for these tracks when compared to working on Water Carrier for SAND LAND?

Seki: Our keyboardist Daiki mixes down all our music, including Water Carrier, which underwent another round of mixing before being released. So even though it had been two years from the time we recorded the song, it has a consistent feel as the two others you mentioned.

When comparing these three songs, the most noticeable difference is that Bucchigiri?! is the only work that originated as an anime and isn’t based on prior source material. With tie-ins, Leo likes to really read into the source material as he crafts a demo track, so for Sesame there was a bit of room left to fill with his own imagination.

It also goes without saying that every anime has its own setting and universe, so writing for each one required us to change gears every time. Still, we pick up on a lot of new techniques whenever we record a song, and the collective knowledge works to help elevate any piece of music in the studio.

As for weaving together the “Kroi sound” you bring up, Leo keeps all this in mind from the early stages of constructing a demo track, and there’s also the aspect of the “out of place” elements interlocking that I mentioned earlier.

#Kroi - Sesame [TVアニメ『ぶっちぎり⁈』オープニング・テーマ]

When played in sequence, the aforementioned Sesame and Hyper seemingly bleed into each other in a way. Was this intentional? Is this something fans can look forward to with future releases beyond Water Carrier for a feeling of progression and exploration?

Leo: Since Hyper, Sesame, and Water Carrier were back-to-back anime tie-ins, these three songs offer a look into Kroi’s most current approach to composing music that supports storytelling through anime. We often inject whatever snapshot from the anime that most impacts us at the time of songwriting into various themes for the lyrics, and we hope this continues to serve as an opportunity to express the directionality and new challenges for the band, moving forward.

How much influence do you think anime and game tie-ins have for international exposure for an artist? Do you think it helps generate long lasting fans, or is the relationship sometimes temporary that might not grow beyond the tie-in?

Seki: The Japanese anime and video game culture has colossal global recognition and following, and this serves as the gateway for listeners across the world to discover our music. At the same time, we must remain mindful that the relationship doesn’t become transient—that people don’t associate us exclusively with anime theme songs. Ideally, we’d like folks to feel drawn to Kroi not because we wrote a couple of anime tie-ins, but rather because of their fascination with the band and our musicality. It’s easier said than done, but it’s important to create opportunity that leads the listener to want to check out the rest of our catalog or see us perform live.

This is the path to growing a fanbase that sees us not just as an anime unit, but as artists who deliver quality music and strive to expand activities to the rest of the world.

#Kroi - Hyper [Official Video] #アンダーニンジャ #UNDERNINJA

We’re so excited to hear you’re spending time in Los Angeles to record some new material! What have you enjoyed about your time here so far? How has life in the US contrasted from each member’s everyday life in Japan?

Seki: We really enjoyed our wonderful time in LA! This was our first time in LA for all of us, so there was some anxiety as we flew out. But once we arrived, everything felt so fun and fresh that we were reluctant to leave when it was time to go home. Since returning to Japan, everyone’s been lamenting about how much we miss LA and want to visit again.

The biggest difference between LA and Japan was our day-to-day cadence. While in Japan, everyone in Kroi is active at night and goes to bed in the morning, but in LA, we stuck to a very regular routine.

Maybe all our internal clocks are set to LA time…

With your work continuing to gain more and more attention with overseas audiences, what is the next big move for Kroi?

Seki: We’re still just getting started. Ever since we were signed to an indie label, Kroi had its sights set on “going as far as it possibly could”, beyond the bounds of a Japanese band and to stand shoulder to shoulder with the wonderful artists who’ve become household names for music lovers across the world.

Of course, nothing would make us happier than to achieve our dream. But even if we fell short of the moon, we’d like to at least be a small part of a movement that opens doors for the current Japanese music scene to attain that success.

Are there any particular locations in which you would really like to have a greater presence? Specifically, which overseas markets like the United States, Europe, South America, or Asia are you interested in?

Seki: Last year we performed in Taiwan and this year in the US, which was a priceless experience for the band. The audience in both countries welcomed us with such warmth that it further motivated us to reach out to even more people of different languages and cultures.

There are so many regions that we’ve yet to visit that I can’t quite pinpoint a particular location. I’d like to go anywhere and remain hungry to write songs and put on live performances that can be enjoyed by people of any region.

Thank you for spending some time answering some of our burning questions! Lastly, can the members of Kroi leave a message for all the JROCK NEWS readers around the world?

Seki: I think most readers will have gotten to know Kroi for the first time from this article. First, thank you for reading to the end. If this interview spurred any interest in our band, I’d love for you all to check out our music and live videos. I truly believe that with your continued support, we’ll one day meet in person. Please keep Kroi on your mind!

JROCK NEWS thanks all the members of Kroi, the band’s staff, and our partners at Project Asteri for coordinating the interview. And be sure to check out Kroi’s new album Unspoiled on June 19!

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