‘In a place we never imagined we would be’ — JSBIII celebrate 10 years

J SOUL BROTHERS III perform at an EXILE TRIBE LIVE TOUR concert in April. EXILE TRIBE is a team comprising all artists associated with the popular dance and vocal group EXILE.

Popular dance and vocal group J SOUL BROTHERS III (JSBIII) are on an unstoppable roll after marking their 10th anniversary last November. With singles “Kick & Slide” and “JSB In Black” out, they kicked off a concert tour titled “This is JSB” at four domed stadiums last month. Their new album and greatest hits album will also be released in November.

The group’s members are vocalists Ryuji Imaichi and Hiroomi Tosaka and five other performers — NAOTO, Naoki Kobayashi, ELLY, Kenjiro Yamashita and Takanori Iwata. NAOTO and Imaichi spoke with The Yomiuri Shimbun about their past and their future plans. The following is an excerpt from the interview.

Q: It’s been 10 years since JSBIII debuted. How has the group changed?

NAOTO Born in Saitama Prefecture, NAOTO is the leader of JSBIII along with Naoki Kobayashi. NAOTO also is a member of EXILE, a brother group of JSBIII. In addition to appearing in dramas and movies, he displays his conversational prowess in variety TV shows. Having founded fashion brand “Studio Seven,” NAOTO serves as its creative director.

NAOTO: Each person’s strengths and roles have become more defined. We’re all able to better understand each other’s strengths and leave things to other members when we need to. In the past, we had to work hard as a group, and with that, we were able to do something great. But now we feel we have individual strengths, too.

Imaichi: There also are things that haven’t changed. While aiming for high goals as a group, we’ve really worked on making our individual dreams come true, too. I think we all still do both.

NAOTO: When we debuted, we didn’t even think about where we would be in 10 years. Now, we feel like we’re in a place we never imagined we would be. We were always saying we want to do a tour at domed stadiums or top a music chart, and they came true. I’m so grateful to all the people who’ve supported us.

Imaichi: Looking back, I think the song “Hanabi” (Fireworks) made us a little better known to everyone, and “R.Y.U.S.E.I.” (Shooting star), which won the Japan Record Award, gave us our breakthrough. When we debuted, we were busy dealing with stuff happening right then. Now, we feel the weight of the 10 years that we’ve been working with our fans. I feel like I’ve come to have a stronger sense of responsibility as a member of JSBIII.

NAOTO: With “R.Y.U.S.E.I.,” I think we felt the moment when the dream we had been chasing came true. We were so happy.


Q: How have your impressions of each other changed?

NAOTO: Ryuji [Imaichi] has always been passionate about singing. Even when he hits a wall in his work, he just tackles it head-on. I don’t think that’s changed. I think that’s a hard stance to take even if you want to. I think that’s why I’ve been able to talk about so many things with Ryuji … but it’s kind of embarrassing to say this in front of him. (Laughs)

Ryuji Imaichi Born in Kyoto Prefecture, Imaichi was chosen as a vocalist of JSBIII through an audition. He is also actively involved in collaborative projects with other artists. He released his new solo album, “Chaos City,” on July 21, with songs themed around the 1980s.

Imaichi: (Laughs) Thanks, NAOTO. I’m really hoping to grow more as a vocalist with my solo album coming out soon. I want to keep singing even when I’m old. NAOTO, first of all, is a really good dancer. He’s also active in variety TV shows and the fashion industry, and I always think there’s no one like him who can do so many different things. His seniors and juniors also all love him. He’s just an indispensable person to us.

NAOTO: I think both music and fashion are things that evolve along with the times, like they’re alive. I’d love to make use of the knowledge I got from one field and then apply it to some others.

Live performances

J SOUL BROTHERS III at a concert in Nagoya on July 16, the first day of the tour

Q: Your tour concerts at dome stadiums started last month amid the pandemic.

NAOTO: We were supposed to do a lot of live concerts last year. Our fans have really been waiting for us. I think we were able to show the culmination of our 10 years at last year’s online live concert, so this time we want to show “today’s JSBIII.”

Imaichi: We got to do a performance with an audience this year for the first time in many months. Even though there were a lot of restrictions, we were thrown into the heat of a live performance. There are many people suffering because of the pandemic. I hope we can help them feel even a little better through our live performances.

Q: What kind of things do you want to do in the future, as a group?

Imaichi: We’d like to work globally. The way people listen to music has changed in the past 10 years. I’d like to create a movement based on that.

NAOTO: Last year, when we celebrated our 10th anniversary, we had a frank discussion with the members. We are now thinking about what each of us must do, and we are determined to work as one again. We want to keep making songs and giving performances that only we, the seven of us, can absolutely do. If we stick to that attitude, I think we can create something that will reach everyone.

Imaichi: I want to be a source of pride for the people who support us. I want to continue to shine so that people will always say, “JSBIII is so cool.”

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J SOUL BROTHERS III will hold concerts on Aug. 28 and 29 in Fukuoka, and on Oct. 8 through 10 in Tokyo.