Making waves in Japan with their infectious EDM-infused pop tunes and cute-as-a-button image are After Romeo, a hard-working independent boy band from Los Angeles. Comprising members T.C. Carter, Blake English, Devin Fox, Jayk Purdy, and Drew Ryan Scott, AR have come a long way from their humble YouTube beginnings, amassing fans (whom they call “Bromeos” for the men, and “Juliets” for the ladies) and being named by Billboard Magazine as a band that “could be the next One Direction.”
As part of the April 1 release of their first album The Story Continues… on the Sony Records label in Japan, the fab five flew over to Tokyo for a promotional tour; and Metropolis wrangled a few minutes from their busy schedules to get the scoop.
Please introduce yourselves and tell us what piece of the puzzle you bring to the group.
T.C.: I’m T.C., and what I bring to the group is good energy on stage and good dance vibes. I also like helping with anything that has to do with hands-on things.
Jayk: My name is Jayk. I do a lot of the social media stuff for the band [on Twitter and Instagram: @AfterRomeo].
Drew: My name is Drew, and I like to twerk a lot—no, I don’t. [Laughs] I write a lot of the songs, and I like to work a lot. I work 24/7, so I’m always “go, go… focus, focus!”
Devin: I am Devin. I love singing; it’s one of my favorite things to do, ever. I do a lot of the graphic design for the group, and I also speak the most Japanese.
Blake: Hi, I’m Blake. Whenever we don’t have a choreographer, I work on choreography for the group for certain numbers for a show. I’m also dance captain whenever there is a choreographer working with us.
Why did you choose the name “After Romeo”?
T.C.: Everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet. We wanted to take that and put a little twist on it. And we wanted to show that we will be as dedicated to our fans as Romeo was to Juliet. So we are “after” Romeo.
Blake: And so our album is called The Story Continues because it’s taking off from where Romeo and Juliet would have taken off had they not [killed themselves].
T.C.: And people are like, “What ‘story’?” And we’re like, “…Romeo and Juliet?”
You started off in 2013 by releasing singles instead of an EP or an album, which is a technique that was popular in the ’50s or ’60s. Why did you choose to start that way?
Drew: [Our first single] “Free Fall” was a song T.C. and I wrote with a DJ, and the DJ wanted to put it out. And we were like, “Why don’t we get the whole group and test this.” So we recorded the song, and shot a video for it. We were excited but we didn’t want to put it out because it was kind of expensive. We were thinking, “let’s save this for something important.” And Jayk magically…
Jayk: …The deal was that we shot the music video, but the only way were were going to release it was if we could get on Vevo’s homepage. I thought, ‘I’m going to cold call Vevo,’ and I did. Then I sent the guy the video, and he called me back a couple of days later to say, “Good news, you are on the homepage of Vevo, and we are going to put you all over similar acts’ Vevo pages. So, we’re going to put you all over One Direction’s Vevo page…” Blake, Drew, and I live together, so I knocked on their doors early in the morning and said, “Guys, just a little bit of news: We got the homepage of Vevo, so we’re going to be releasing the music video.”
Drew: We were like, “What? How?” and he was like, “I called them.” [Laughs] But now we have a partnership with Vevo, and they are really cool with us—so we do a bunch of our stuff through there. Thank you, Vevo!
Jayk: And another thing about “Free Fall,” we went out the other night, and they played “Free Fall” at the DJ event … so that’s pretty cool.
Blake: We weren’t put together or constructed by some mass entity like a huge label. We put ourselves together. So everything we do is from the ground up. We were trying to figure out the sound that we wanted to put out at that time [at the beginning], so when we were releasing music like “Free Fall” and “Love on Lock,” it was actually our progression of figuring out what sound we wanted to represent us as a group.
You have a respectable and growing fan base here in Japan. What do you think appeals to Japanese fans about your group?
T.C.: We always sing live.
Jayk: That, and I think it’s also how personable we are. We always stop to take pictures. We literally jump off stage to go sing to our fans, and I think that’s a little different from Japanese acts. They might be more traditionalist and stay on stage. We just have an “anything goes” mentality on stage. We jump, and we’ll go into the crowd. So I think that kind of makes them part of the show, and they just like that difference, I think.
Drew: We also hug them, which is not something that’s happening culturally here. So, we always hug our fans as much as possible, and blow them kisses.
What are your favorite things about Japan?
Devin: I love how polite all the Japanese girls are. They’re just so kind and always give you gifts when they see you, and they’re just so appreciative of everything. They are appreciative of you coming to Japan. They always say, “Thank you for coming to Japan,” and I just really respect that. And it makes me respect them more because of how kind, polite, and appreciative they are. They are really kawaii.
There aren’t any musicians listed on the liner notes for your album. What is the backstory behind the musician side of things?
Drew: The producer and myself always play all the instruments.
Drew is one-quarter Japanese. Is that why you chose to include so many references to Japan on this first album? Or were there other reasons?
Drew: Well, for the [version of the] debut album in Japan, we did special songs that are more J-pop influenced. “Hard to Get,” “Overnight,” “Tokyo to L.A.” and “Juliet”… those are all songs that are done exclusively for Japan. We are trying to release in each market, and in each we want to cater to that specific market. Also, I write a lot of songs for J-pop acts, so it was a market that I understood naturally.
Was your song “Thank You” based on personal experiences? Do you as artists find it important to promote healthy reactions to negativity?
Drew: Our whole tour in America for the past year and a half was called The Bully Proof Tour. And we based that around going to schools, and sharing our stories of how the five of us were bullied growing up. Like Devin…
Devin: I had a music video when I was 12 or 13 that went viral, and it was all for hate. It had like 300,000 dislikes, and there were a bunch of comments telling me to kill myself. They also called me “fat albino Bieber.”
Drew: Google “fat albino Bieber,” and a photo of him comes up!
Blake: But that’s typical of what a ton of kids nowadays are going through, especially with social-media bullying. I mean, our band gets it all the time. So we wanted to help as many kids as we could, and we needed to have a song that told that whole story.
Jayk: To add on what Blake is saying about the anti-bullying, it’s not even just about people who were bullied. It’s just [about] people who took the alternate route of not doing the norm—just doing what they want. Doing what makes them happy. If positivity comes out of it, don’t let people’s words stop you from doing what you love.
Drew: Use their negativity towards you as fire to fuel your flame.
The last track on your album is “Save Some Snow.” Now, a lot of Japanese people enjoy skiing and snowboarding. Do any of you enjoy winter sports, or snow at all?
Devin: I love skiing! Skiing is so much fun to me.
Blake: I have actually never been snowing skiing.
Drew: Me neither.
Blake: I’ve been waterskiing.
Drew: I will never. I am afraid I will smack into a tree, like numerous people have, and die. So I’m like, “I’ll just not do that.”
Devin: I love skiing! It’s so much fun. I get such an adrenaline rush.
Drew: He loves adrenaline! … And the song, “Same Some Snow,” is about how—because we live in L.A., so there’s never snow—we tell all our fans from around the world to save some snow for us from the holidays, because we don’t get to experience it.
Do you have any parting words for your fans and for the other readers of Metropolis?
Drew: To all the listeners out there, we’d like to know what your favorite song is on the album. So tweet us @AfterRomeo, or Instagram us @AfterRomeo, and tell us what your favorite songs is. If you buy the album, take a photo and upload it so we can see that you bought it. If you bought more than one copy, tell us how many copies you bought.
T.C.: And in the album, there’s a little card with a picture of one of us on it. Let us know if you find one with Jayk on it.
Drew: There’s one card in each CD, and although we had all opened CDs—20 copies—we couldn’t find any of Jayk. Also, to all the Japanese fans: If you know any fans in America, please help them get a CD, because this [Japanese edition] CD is not available in America; so maybe they can send you some merchandise, and you can send them a CD.
Blake: That’s actually something really cool. I’ve seen a lot of our American fans tweet that they’ve been in contact with some of our Japanese fans who’ve sent them our CDs and merchandise and such.
Drew: And a lot of Japanese fans are learning some English because they are communicating with our American fans.
Devin: American fans are learning some Japanese words now, just because we’ve been here and they’ve communicated with Japanese fans.
T.C.: To all the readers of Metropolis, thank you for listening to the story about our album. We love all of our fans, Japanese fans and American fans, and we can’t wait to meet you in all the other countries as well.
Jayk: I think the coolest thing is when you communicate with fans on Twitter, but you’ve never met them, and then you finally get to meet them face to face. Coming to Japan, we’d always been communicating with fans that had never met us; and then it was so cool to actually see them when we got off the plane. I can’t wait to meet you! I love you very much, and thank you!
Drew: I hope I get to meet all of you out there. Thank you for all the support and the love. We hope you like the album as much as we enjoyed working on it. There’ll be lots more music. We’re working on our—hopefully—second album for Japan as we prepare to release our first album in America. And we’re working on some European stuff too, so be on the lookout.
Devin: We’re so excited to be releasing our album. And without our fans, we wouldn’t be able to do it. So thank you so much for everything and I can’t wait to see all of you guys that I haven’t met in person yet!
Blake: I don’t think there’s anything that [the other members of the group] haven’t said, but just, again, thank you very much. I love you guys, and just continue to keep a look out on all of our social media @AfterRomeo. We love to talk to our fans and our listeners!
Drew: And don’t forget, in August, or maybe the end of July, we’ll be doing a very big concert—our first full concert in Japan. It’s going to have an hour-and-a-half’s worth of showtime: Full dancing, full singing. And we’re going to bring five lucky girls onstage. Check out our social media to find out how you can enter for a chance at that.
To hear Metropolis’ audio interview with After Romeo, check out http://metropolisjapan.com/after-romeo-audio-interview.