Tomo Nakamura had already decided before walking through the door that this audition would be his last. He’d already been in a half dozen bands that had never taken off. He was prepared to give up on dreams of being a musician, but fortunately for him he had found a group of young men who felt precisely the same way.
“It’s the age thing that worries us the most,” vocalist Justin Christy says. “If we were five years younger, it’d be a different story.”
This is the danger of success in an industry that focuses on youth. Not the music industry — the fashion industry. Christy, who uses the surname Hayato professionally, and Nakamura are joined by bandmates Iriya Kurosawa and Shino Tanaka at Cafe 9 in Tokyo’s Akasaka neighborhood. They’ve named their pop group Shunkashuto 4seasons (shunkashūtō means spring, summer, fall and winter in Japanese) and they’re all working models.
As models, the ticking clock that signifies the rapidly approaching end of their youth is nothing new to them, and even though it’s almost funny the way 20-something models worry about turning 30, this isn’t a simple case of vanity — the four men are acutely aware that their target student demographic is drifting out of reach.
“This year and the early part of next year will be a ‘do-or-die’ kinda thing,” Christy says. “If we make it in the next year or two, then I think we’ll be fine. It’d be a lot tougher to make it when you’re in your 30s, so we have to break that barrier in our 20s or we won’t be able to get up there.”
Photographer Michael Holmes later relayed to me his disagreement with this statement based on the reaction his female high school students had upon seeing the pictures he shot of the band. “The squealing was unbearable,” he says.
With the stark realities of the industry nipping at their heels, SKST 4seasons have been trying to make up for lost time. In March, they were among the Japan hopefuls for this year’s Emergenza festival, a global event for independent bands. The group’s performance was a jumpy, energetic brand of J-rock that included a dose of charming stage patter. Christy’s charisma as a frontman was likely a takeaway from his days performing in theatrical groups as a song-and-dance man.
They impressed the audience as well, because when it came time to decide who would be going to the finals the vote was overwhelmingly for SKST 4seasons. The group will play Emergenza’s finals at Shibuya club Tsutaya O-East on July 5, and if they win they’ll be heading to Germany to share a bill with acts such as Jimmy Eat World and Biffy Clyro at the Taubertal Open Air Festival in August.
Facing a challenge that has the potential to either define them or defeat them, there has to be a lot of pressure.
“Training every day and sticking to the basics is something we do to keep ourselves calm and sane,” Christy says. “When the times comes, we’re ready to show them what we’ve got.”
Shunkashuto 4seasons take part in the Tsunagari Live music event at Ikebukuro Mismatch in Toshima-ku, Tokyo, on June 6 (4 p.m. start; ¥2,000 in advance; 03-6915-2774); and Tsutaya O-East in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on July 5 (4:15 p.m. start; ¥3,000 in ad.; 03-5458-4681). For more information, visit www.skst-4seasons.com.