Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on June 2010
One of the first questions people ask when they hear about Prague is—why is a Japanese rock trio named after a city in Europe? The guys smile.
“We did lots of interviews back when we first debuted,” says drummer Kensuke Ito, “and I explained that it was because my grandfather was from the Czech Republic.” He pauses, as the others burst into laughter. “But that was a lie.”
Such playfulness is typical of Prague, both offstage and on. Their distinct personalities—the rocker, the serious one, the kid—are apparent from the very beginning of our interview, as they banter and tease each other like siblings. In fact, Ito and vocalist/guitarist Yuta Suzuki first met back in their high school music club in the early ’00s, and have been friends ever since. After graduation, they attended the same music college, where a friend introduced them to baby-faced bassist Tsuguhito Konno, and in 2006 the band was born.
Together, Prague (pronounced “praha”) produce a blend of high-energy pop/rock propelled by a distinct groove. The word “danceable” comes to mind, but how do they describe their own music?
“It’s like a shape-memory alloy,” Suzuki says.
“Of course, there is a certain specific core to our style… But on a surface level, the various costumes that we dress our music in are constantly changing,” he explains. “I think we’re a band that can show many different faces.”
That’s understandable, considering that the members’ individual musical tastes range from the likes of Tatsuro Yamashita and Thee Michelle Gun Elephant to Stevie Wonder, The Police and Yellow Magic Orchestra.
In the scant few months since Prague’s September debut, the trio has cut three singles (“Slow Down,” “Light Infection” and the most recent, “Distort”) through Ki/oon Records; their first album, Perspective, is slated for release this July. Yet memories of the band’s indie days are still fresh in their minds.
“The first show we played in Tokyo was at this tiny live house in Shibuya, with about three people in the audience,” Ito reminisces. “Back then, it was always just the girlfriends and friends of the other bands we were playing with. We didn’t have any fans at all. Those shows had this incredibly intense atmosphere that I don’t know if we’ll ever experience again.”
Konno agrees: “Playing for those three people was ten times more nerve-wracking than playing for 10,000 people could ever be.”
Prague has come a long way since those days, and their goals have grown apace.
“We want to make our mark on history,” says Konno. “To be the kind of band that gets written about in textbooks.” He laughs and quickly adds, “For the near future, though, our goal is to play at Liquidroom before this year is over.”
What about going to visit their namesake city?
“It’s the place I most want to go, both for the band and for myself. And anyway, in a more dangerous country, I think someone like me would be targeted right away,” Konno says with a blush. “Places like Manchester or New Orleans would be too scary for me. I’d have to go with a bunch of other people.”
“OK, let’s go together,” Suzuki says comfortingly.
“Nah,” Ito interrupts, “I’m going alone.”
Prague will hold a special free concert on June 29 at Shibuya Quattro. For tickets, email name, age, sex and number of people to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 13, with “Prague Free Live” in the subject line. Prague Monthly Sessions “Fire Fire Fire”@Shibuya BOXX, July 27, Aug 31, Sep 28. www.praguemusic.jp