For many Exist†trace is the all-female Visual Kei band. You can’t talk to a group of international bandgya about women in Visual Kei and not talk about them. It’s just not possible. So let’s get into their origin story shall we?
Exist†trace was formed in June 2003, with vocalist Jyou, drummer Mally, and bassist Naoto. Miko and Omi would be recruited via a newspaper ad in March 2004, as guitarists completing the group’s line-up. In 2013, the group announced that Miko, who did composition and writing as well as play guitar, would be stepping up as a co-vocalist with Jyou. The group since formation has had no member changes, and has remained fairly active over their 17 year career having multiple one-man tours within Japan, a European tour in 2008, as well as several appearances in the United States as musical guests at anime conventions. As of writing Exist†trace has released 2 demo tapes, 4 full albums, 8 EP’s, and 9 singles, as well as a few DVD’s and omnibus releases.
Exist†trace as a band, are those bitches. They really swaggered into a scene dominated by male bands, with just as much if not more power and presence then them. I mean, look at how many bands have fallen to the wayside over 17 years. No one in 2003, ever thought that an all female band would survive and thrive as much as they have.
These women were and remain to be my role models of sorts. They defied genre expectations, gendered norms, and showed that there’s more then one way to do VKei as a women. That being in VKei as a women doesn’t have to mean just being a fan. They’re such a staple within my Visual Kei experiance, and knowledge that I’m finding it hard to fully express everything. They’re so incredibly talented, amazing, stunning and so many other things.
Yet, I have some hesitations saying that Exist†trace is a current ‘Visual Kei’ band. As stated, their roots clearly lie in Visual Kei. I mean you can obviously tell in the “Resonance MV”. And I mean, please look at this image of their first release “Recreation Eve”.
That’s a stronger Visual Kei concept image then most current Visual Kei bands have, let’s be honest.
Admittedly, the band has changed over the years. Most obvious is that their stage costumes have matured over the years. I mean, take a look at their most recent concept image below:
Physical changes aside, the group has gone through some musical changes as well. As stated, Miko joined as a co-vocalist in 2013. Experimentation within their musical stylings started earlier with the jazz inspired “GINGER” (2012), which you can see and listen to below.
I think we can all agree, that this particular release was not one that most fans would put into their metaphorical, or literal “Visual Kei” playlist. That doesn’t make the track bad; I actually quite enjoy “GINGER” as a jazz fan as well. But, like many niched sub-genres many fans did not appreciate the change. If you dare venture into the comment section of their more recent music videos, nearly every other comment is “I miss old Exist†trace”, or “I’m really proud of how far they’ve come/I really like this particular release”. While there is elevated levels of production, technical skills, composition and so much more; a lot of ‘original’ fans have since left. It is an isolating moment to chose to change, when your fans want you to stay the same. I.e. Visual Kei or nothing.
If we move into other parts of their career such as taibans (mult-band lives), and physical media distribution we get some more muddled results. Exist†trace to no one’s surprise, has a strong enough fanbase to do one-man (only them) lives. When they do book taibans, they are typically booked with all female bands, rock groups, or metal groups. It’s been a very long time since they’ve been billed with other Visual Kei artists. Yet, if you check out Visual Kei specialty stores like littlehearts or Like An Edison, you’ll still see Exist†trace on shelves and being sold on the online stores.
The final, and most important part in my opinion is that the band themselves, don’t identify as Visual Kei anymore. Their own biography page, says as much. The original Japanese does say specifically, “Rock Genre”. That they have the power and aggression of their male contemporaries, but sense and direction of a female group that coexists in their productions. Most importantly, and go Exist†trace for this, that their sound transcends a gendered label, and is born of a passionate performance instead.
So to summarize my long-winded example filled explanation; Exist†trace started out as a Visual Kei band. Certainly they are the OG all female-Visual Kei band. Ss they are now though, I would categorize them as being more of a highly stylized, or concept heavy rock band. Seeing what I’ve seen over the years, and in the comment sections, I don’t think I’m too off the mark with that assessment.
They are indeed a pillar for women in Visual Kei, as well as the scene in general. Of course I had to give them the proper respect they deserve.
As always, I hope you found this deep dive interesting. Considering they’re still active in 2020, make sure to give them a listen even if Visual Kei isn’t your thing. They’ve experimented in plenty of other genres where you’re sure to find something or interest.
I’ll be back next week with my final installment for this mini-series, so be sure to check it out!
Exist†trace’s Official Spotify
Exist†trace’s Official Youtube
TOKUMAJAPAN Youtube Exist†trace Video Listing
Exist†trace’s Official Website
Thank you for a very interesting article about Exist†trace 👍 I agree that they should be more respected. And I also agree (like you said) “They are indeed a pillar for women in Visual Kei” I find your articles always very professional and exquisitely written (^-^) ✌️ Maybe because of Exist†trace has been my favorite band also.❤️ But haven’t had time for all Visual Kei -bands, unfortunately.
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You’re welcome! I’m glad you’ve been enjoying this series!
[…] schedule. One that took them not only around Japan, but also had them co-heading with their seniors Exist†trace at one point. They toured abroad extensively, appearing not only at anime conventions, but also […]