|Origin||London, England, United Kingdom|
|Years active||2010–2013, 2016 – present|
Esprit D'Air ("Spirit of Air" in French) is a British-Japanese rock band based in London. In 2013, the band increased in popularity as their single 'Shizuku' became the first playable song in the J-rock category in the video game Rock Band 3 but disbanded in the same year as members went back to Japan. Reformed in 2016 as Kai's solo project, their debut album Constellations was released in 2017. Kai now appoints session musicians and support members, which included some of the original line-up to perform with him on tour.
Formation and Deai (2010-2011)
The band met at a concert in London and made their debut in May 2010. At the time, the band had five members – Yosh (lead vocals), Kai (lead guitar and backing vocals), Ellis (bass), Yuki (rhythm guitar) and Daishi (drums). Esprit D'Air first released an EP entitled 'Deai' in October 2010, which loosely translates to 'encounter'. Kai described the name as a 'sort of like the first hello from the band'. They recorded the 3-track EP at Sarm East Studios in Brick Lane, London.
In early 2011, rhythm guitarist Yuki left the band due to personal reasons, leaving the band as a four-piece, whilst Yosh organised and performed at charity events in aid of Japan's 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The band also announced news about their second release.
The Hunter and Shizuku (2012)
In February 2012, Esprit D'Air released The Hunter and performed two headline shows at Nambucca (London, UK) and La Farga (Barcelona, Spain) as part of their single launch. Tom Smith, the director of European-based independent record label JPU Records (The Gazette, Polysics, Ling tosite Sigure), described the single as a release that 'excites them much more than any recent visual kei or J-rock from Japan'.
In June 2012, Esprit D'Air released Shizuku and offered the track free for a limited time.
Rock Band 3, hiatus and Yosh's departure (2012-2013)
In early 2013, the band rose in popularity as Shizuku became the first playable Japanese-language track on the Xbox 360 video game, Rock Band 3 and the only track to be featured in the J-Rock category.
Coma, Hakuren and disbandment (2013)
Coma and Hakuren joined as the new lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist respectively, in April 2013 making the band a five-piece once again. However, the band performed their last show with this line-up at Brighton Japan Festival in September 2013. A month later, Coma flew back to Tokyo, Japan without a definite plan to return. With the singer in another country, the band could not see a future together and decided to disband, despite having record label interest for their upcoming album.
It was revealed in an interview with Louder Sound that the disbandment was partially due to primary songwriter and composer Kai's depression and personal struggles, which led him to split up the band.
Reunion and comeback single, Rebirth (2016)
In March 2016, Esprit D'Air reunited for a one-off show as a three-piece with Kai on vocals to perform at a charity event in London, where all proceeds went to Aoba-gakuen, an orphanage in Fukushima, Japan. Through ticket, merchandise, food sales, and donations, the event raised over £1,100 for the orphanage. At this point, it was uncertain whether Esprit D'Air were going to reform. Subsequently, due to interest and demand by fans, in June 2016, Esprit D'Air officially announced their return with original guitarist Kai taking over the role of lead vocalist, Ellis on bass and Daishi on drums (it is later revealed that Ellis and Daishi were not really in the reformation but as session musicians). The band also announced three shows, including a performance at the main stage of Hyper Japan Festival.
In December 2016, Esprit D'Air released "Rebirth", their first single in four years and celebrated the launch of their single at Zigfrid von Underbelly in London and at Le Trianon in Paris. According to Kai, the song tells the story of a man who finds his voice and sings under the stars, this leads to him becoming the savior of his town as his voice inspires and refreshes everyone who hears it. The first and second lines allude to the beautiful view of audiences from the stage ("Aoku yureta hoshi wo matoi" - in blurred lights of the blue stars). The middle bridge implies his bright future, and how he's moving forward towards it.
In April 2017, the band released their second comeback single, Guiding Light and premiered their music video exclusively with Teamrock.com, and was later listed as their top 50 best rock songs of 2017 so far.
Esprit D'Air released their album Constellations digitally on 30 June, followed by a physical album on 7 July featuring three bonus tracks under Starstorm Records. Kai described the overarching theme of the album as finding hope and positivity in the darkest and most challenging times.
"For example, Rebirth is a story of a man who regained his voice to sing again among the stars. It reflects my personal story of the reformation of Esprit D’Air, and the strong feelings I have of performing music again after many struggles. Guiding Light is about finding optimism and the will of moving forward in the most bleak of times. Starstorm is an abstract story about fulfilling a promise in the doomed future on a dying planet. Reminisce is about the death of someone really important to you, but you move on as you reminisce about the person, with the last line meaning ‘my courage has just started to turn into freedom’. Versus is about chasing your dreams – the ‘you’ in the Japanese lyrics sounds like it is chasing romance, but the ‘you’ is actually used as a metaphor for your dreams."
Constellations reached number three in the Amazon.com hard rock & metal sales charts and number eight in the rock charts. The album release was shortly followed by a release of another single, Ignition in August, and the single received airplay on Kerrang! Radio.
Esprit D'Air performed at O2 Academy Islington as a support act for The Birthday Massacre on 24 October 2017, as well as a 7-day headline UK tour in London, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Carlisle and Glasgow in February 2018 to celebrate the release of Constellations.
In January 2018, Esprit D'Air released their single "Starstorm" from their album Constellations. The single version is remastered by Stuart Hawkes, who is known for his works with Miyavi, Sugizo, and Mika Nakashima. It also contains a remix by Shudan and an instrumental version.
In March 2018, Esprit D'Air won the award for "Best Metal or Hardcore Album" at The Independent Music Awards in New York for their album Constellations. The judging panel featured Amy Lee of Evanescence, Slayer and Sepultura. The band shortly announced that they will extend their Constellations Tour to Europe in September 2018.
In May 2018, the band released the single, "Calling You". The track featured on Louder's Tracks Of The Week alongside Nine Inch Nails, Ghost and Bullet for My Valentine, and also received its first airplay on BBC Radio.
At the start of 2019, Esprit D'Air started a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to release their new single "Amethyst". The band reached their goal within three days. Midway through the campaign, Ellis left the band due to personal reasons, and the single was released in February 2019.
In June 2019, it was announced that the laptop that contained all the contents of their upcoming album was stolen from them, which meant that they would have to start the recording process all over again. It was then that they had also announced that the upcoming album was going to be entitled, Oceans. The release of the new album is now delayed as Esprit D'Air is re-recording it. The stolen work also included backups of their single "Amethyst".
In May 2020, Esprit D'Air announced their 10th anniversary show to take place at The Dome in London on 24 October 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the live show was replaced by a livestream on the same date, and instead took place at KK's Steel Mill in Wolverhampton.
In December 2020, Esprit D'Air released their single, "Leviathan" accompanied by a music video directed by Andy Mihov, which premiered on Loudwire. Kai tells Loudwire:
"We interpreted 'Leviathan' as a huge power or impact beyond human power or knowledge. When we wrote this, we were thinking about how significantly our world has changed with the pandemic and how we can think positively and have hopes in tough times. Through our composition and songwriting, we tried to express lights of despair, human weakness and stupidity, and human wisdom to build a new world."
The release of "Leviathan" garnered some praise from peers with The Sisters of Mercy's Ben Christo stating of the song, "It's a really unique blend of djent, industrial, electro, goth, emo, metal and much more. I love the dramatics and cinematic quality it has, with haunting, melancholy colors swooping betwixt the cruel, relentless jaws of the machine.” Michael Falcore of The Birthday Massacre stated that "Leviathan" is a "wonderful song, feels like a modern day opera with heavy guitars set on fire! Melancholic and haunting, the vocals cut deep. A truly inspired song." Accompanied with the release were two remixes, one in the style of drum and bass by Los Angeles-based Heavygrinder, and one in the style of eurobeat by London-based producer Shirobon.
In February 2021, Esprit D'Air released their 10th Anniversary Live album with recordings from their online concert in October 2020. The physical CD version contains the full twelve tracks, whilst the digital version contains ten recordings from the show.
In March 2021, Esprit D'Air released a cover of X Japan's Kurenai, with the guitars, bass, and vocals recorded by Kai, and drums by Jan-Vincent Velazco. Due to the ongoing pandemic, this is the first release by Esprit D'Air without a full performance music video and instead was released with a motion graphics video.
In April 2021, Esprit D'Air released their single, 'Nebulae'. The single is described as a song about moving forward and taking the wheel of your own life. Kai commented, "We can let circumstances rule us, or we can take charge of our destiny. This is our anthem of motivation and inventing our own future.". It was announced that Esprit D'Air will continue to release new music every six weeks via the Patreon platform.
In June 2021, Esprit D'Air released their single, 'Glaciers'. The single went towards having a post-rock ballad direction, which Kai has said was inspired by bands such as Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky.
In July 2021, Esprit D'Air released a re-recorded version of their 2017 single 'Guiding Light' containing a different ending and arrangement.
In September 2021, Esprit D'Air announced their return to performing a concert in London at the O2 Academy Islington in February 2022 and released their single, 'Tsunami', which is performed in a heavier djent and electronicore style. The video features touring members Jan-Vincent, Yusuke, and Takeshi.
Musical style and influences
Like many Japanese rock bands, Esprit D'Air has been categorized in many genres such as electronicore, gothic metal, power metal, and industrial metal. In various interviews, Kai has said his favorite bands are Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Megadeth, X Japan, Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P., and Anthrax, although the music of Esprit D'Air does not reflect this. Kai says:
"How I approach music is to try and evolve from what is already done in rock and metal music. I do not find it inspiring to copy music that is already done, but at the same time, I also do not want to follow a current trend."
During their brief 2010-2013 line-up, Esprit D'Air was a group where all members contributed to the songwriting and production. Since their reformation in 2016, Esprit D'Air is now considered to be a one-man band, with Kai being the sole official member, playing and recording all instruments on the releases, and having complete creative control. In a recent interview with Heavy Magazine, it is confirmed that Esprit D'Air is Kai's solo project since 2016.
In a live setting, Kai appoints a backing group of musicians to perform the songs, including long-time previous official members Ellis on bass (until 2019) and Daishi on drums (until 2018), as well as Pendragon's Jan-Vincent Velazco on drums. Esprit D'Air takes a DIY approach by purposely not seeking a label, management, or booking agent, but instead manage everything themselves to be as self-sufficient as possible.
- Support live members
- Ryoma "Ryo" Takahashi – guitar (2016–present)
- Jan-Vincent Velazco – drums, percussion (2016–present)
- Yusuke Okamoto – guitar (2019–present)
- Takeshi Tokunaga – bass (2019–present)
- Yuki – guitar (2010–11)
- Tatsuya "Hakuren" Nashimoto – guitar (2013)
- Ellis – bass (2010–13, 2016–19 live only)
- Daishi – drums, percussion (2010–13, 2016–17 live only)
- Yoshisuke "Yosh" Suga – lead vocals (2010–13)
- Coma – lead vocals (2013)
- Support live members
- Jimmy Pallagrosi – percussion, drums (2016)
- Chris Allan-Whyte – percussion, drums (2016–17)
- Taku Miyamoto – percussion, drums (2018–19)
- Yuri Shibuichi – bass (2019)
- Kazuki Nishigaki – bass (2020)
- Andre Joyzi – percussion, drums (2020)
|2021||10th Anniversary Live
|2012||Shizuku (雫; Teardrop)
|2021||Kurenai (紅; Crimson)
|2021||Guiding Light (Reimagined)
|2010||Deai (出逢い; Encounter)
- Various Artists - Now Hear This! The Winners of The 16th Independent Music Awards (2018)
- The Hunter (2012)
- 雫 ('Shizuku') (2012)
- Rebirth (2016)
- Guiding Light (2017)
- Ignition (2017)
- Starstorm (2018)
- Calling You (2018)
- Serafine (2018)
- Amethyst (2019)
- Leviathan (2020)
- Kurenai (2021)
- Nebulae (2021)
- Glaciers (2021)
- Guiding Light (Reimagined) (2021)
- 津波 ('Tsunami') (2021)
- 2012: JpopAsia Music Awards – "Best J-Rock Single" (Nominee) – Shizuku
- 2017: Neo Awards – "Best Musical Act" (Nominee)
- 2018: Independent Music Awards – "Best Metal or Hardcore Album" (Winner) – Constellations
- 2019: Neo Awards – "Best Musical Act" (Fourth place)
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