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HomeMusicHow CVLTE Showed Its True Essence In Its First Solo Concert

How CVLTE Showed Its True Essence In Its First Solo Concert

On Jan. 15, 2022, the four-person band CVLTE held its first-ever solo show, RITUAL vol. 1, at Tokyo club Shibuya WWW. A video of the show has been posted on YouTube for a limited time only, available for viewing until Feb. 28.

CVLTE began working on music in earnest in 2018. Their live shows, most of which were in their hometown of Sapporo, generated a lot of buzz, especially regarding their musical sensibilities and the quality of their visuals. This led them to being called a “new icon of the social media generation.” Frontman aviel, whose roots go back to both Japan and Argentina, is the band’s main songwriter and, despite his being only 21 years old, a tremendously charismatic figure.

Early on, the band was influenced by American post-hardcore and metalcore bands like Sleeping With Sirens (known in Japan for its ties with ONE OK ROCK) and I See Stars, but before that, aviel was creating music on his computer while still in junior high school. He has a very free approach to music, not bound by the conventions of the “band sound.” This spirit shined through on the 616 EP, featuring guest rapper shaka bose, which established CVLTE’s genre-spanning style. Last year, CVLTE released its first album, praystation 2, joined by guest artists from Japan and overseas. The band’s newest EP, HEDONIST, includes Japanese lyrics, a major departure from past songs, which featured lyrics almost entirely in English. A few days after CVLTE’s solo show, Spotify picked the band for its RADAR: Early Noise 2022 playlist, which highlights new Japanese artists expected to achieve success in 2022.

The show started with an intro featuring drummer HAL, who had helped with drums in previous shows but became a full member of CVLTE with this show. This was followed by songs from praystation 2, like “robbers.,” which stands out for its distinctive way of using AutoTune, and “heartbreak.,” an anthem that had everyone’s hands in the air. The band, accompanied by backing tracks, wove a new world for every song, and the VJ created a theatrical atmosphere, but what stood out above all was aviel’s presence as he delivered a skillful vocal performance from the center of the stage.

In an email interview conducted after the show, aviel shared “CVLTE uses a drum machine for its percussion, due to my own personal tastes, but I wanted to showcase HAL’s drumming in the live show, so I came up with that opening piece. HAL was the drummer for metalcore band MAKE MY DAY, and my musical roots are also metalcore and post-hardcore, so we matched up really well. HAL’s a great drummer — powerful but refined and precise at the same time.”

aviel continued, “When it comes to singing, I don’t put a lot of emotion into the lyrics. If I had to pick between emotion and skill, I think skill is far more important. If you’ve got skill, you can sing like you’ve got emotion or you can sing with a more detached style if you want. It broadens your options.”

During the middle of the show, CVLTE was joined onstage by guest Kaito, frontman of Paledusk, an up-and-coming metalcore band from Fukuoka. aviel’s emotional singing voice and Kaito’s screams meshed in songs like the trap beat-based “ritual.” and “eat acid, see god.,” which sounds like an updated version of THE MAD CAPSULE MARKETS (a Japanese digital hardcore band that achieved success in Western countries, becoming one of the pioneers of electronicore).

“Kaito is a really cheery, sunny guy, whereas I’m more of the quiet, reserved type. In some ways, we live in different worlds. But when you put us together, it’s like there’s a chemical reaction. I like his voice, and he has a cool mentality and presence as a lead performer. He’s a good friend, too. I feel a lot of respect for him,” aviel explained.

In the second half of the show, the band played several songs from its latest EP, HEDONIST, showing off the varied expressive modes of the band: “hedonist.” toned down the band’s usual twisted approach for a pop-like feel unlike any of CVLTE’s past songs, and the band was joined for “kuromi.” by 4s4ki, known for her Japanese take on hyperpop. Recently, aviel has mentioned feeling a connection with the music of DJ and producer Porter Robinson and genre-spanning artists such as SayWeCanFly and nothing,nowhere. This open and welcoming sensibility is one of CVLTE’s great draws.

“I hate how people are always trying to pigeonhole CVLTE with a genre. We’ve called ourselves ‘alternative’ because it’s a handy term that covers everything, but HEDONIST isn’t easy to categorize. It’s only five songs long, but when we made it, we wanted to give listeners the same satisfaction they get from listening to a full album. I always make the music I think of as ideal. What I make now is the ideal music for 21-year-old me. Next year, it might be different. With CVLTE, I want to do whatever I think is right, and just keep making what I think is good music, without placing limits on myself.”

Toward the end of the show, aviel opened up to the audience, “I’ve got to tell you, this show has been such a moving experience. To think that this music, which for me is almost like ego-gratification, is being heard by so many people and there are even people who wanted to come but couldn’t, right?” (The show was sold out in advance.) “I’m never going to make music just to make other people happy, but for all those people out there coming along with me as I make my music? I love you. Thank you.” And with that, he made a heart gesture over his chest.

“I really meant what I said on stage,” aviel later shared in the email interview, “I don’t think you should make music for other people if it’s not what you truly wanted to make. Even if everyone loved it, you’d just be tying yourself down. I just want to make music I like, so when I play a show it’s a fun, joyous experience — one that leaves me with no regrets.”

Modern music often transcends genre, and listeners’ tastes have become even more finely segmented. No longer in an era in which specific musical genres take the world by storm, followed by a deluge of similar acts, what’s important now is artists believing in their own music and having the power to share their musical ideas with the world without relying on others. The power of positive “ego-gratification,” as aviel puts it, extends across national lines to draw in listeners from around the world. Near the end of the show, the band returned to songs from praystation 2, like the lyrical and melodic “memories.,” which aviel sang while seated on stage. During the finale, “wasted times.,” aviel called out for the audience to “sing along, inside your hearts.”

In the interview, aviel also reflected on how his feelings changed after the show ended. “That show was the first time that I realized, ‘There are all these people out there who love CVLTE.’ Feeling that love firsthand was so moving I just can’t put it into words. I feel like the show opened my eyes to what I really wanted to convey to the audience through music.”

This “new icon of the social media generation” truly felt its audience for the first time at its first solo show. CVLTE has long believed in its own musical sensibilities, dedicated to polishing its arrangements and vocal performance. Now it has a message to share with its audience. CVLTE is poised to transcend generational lines to become a true icon of the music scene.

This article by Atsutake Kaneko first appeared on Billboard Japan.

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