A Conversation With Looprider

On last year’s Ouroboros, Looprider unleashed a sound that mixes equal parts punk energy and sludgy stoner rock. Just like the pretty flowers that grow from muddy soil, the Tokyo trio creates fuzz that beautifully cascades and shimmers. If you want to play musical connect-the-dots, you could do worse than drawing a line from Looprider to Boris to the Melvins to the Wipers. (You can connect the Zeppelin, Sabbath and Stooges dots on your own after that.)

MAGNET spoke with singer/guitarist Ryotaro about Ouroboros, pushing the boundaries of fuzz and Johnny Cash.

Ouroboros is really good. All 10 tunes are tightly wound blasts of fuzzed-out mayhem. Talk a bit about how the band approaches composing, how things have changed compared to your last release (25-minute single-track LP Umi), and what attracted you to the album moniker motif of a snake eating its tail!
Thanks. We’re really proud of the album. A lot of times it’ll just start with a riff. I’ll flesh it out into a rough band arrangement, and then I’ll send it over to the band and we start hashing out the details in the studio. Most of the process will involve me and the drummer, and once the foundation is there, we start adding the other guitars and bells and whistles. We do whatever we’re into at the moment, so every album ends up different in terms of style and concept, but the process is generally the same: We start with some riffs and take it from there. Umi was essentially the same process. I really liked the idea of the ouroboros, that everything is cyclical and life informs death and vice versa. Music is a cycle, too, and new sounds always come from old sounds. We also had to go through some spiritual deaths to put this album together. It was in a way a rebirth, so I felt the title was fitting on multiple levels. It also ties nicely into our band name.

I know your lineup is composed of you, a drummer (RYO7) and another guitarist (Haruka), but your sound is full, with plenty of bottom end. I couldn’t quite tell if there was any actual bass on the album, although it sounds like it on tunes like “Dunes.” What prompted you to go mostly bass-less?
There is absolutely no bass guitar on the album. We had a bass player previously, but we had to let him go for various reasons. All the songs for Ouroboros were ready to be recorded at that point, so rather than going through the process of finding someone new, we figured we should just try it with the three of us and see how it turned out. We tried it a few different ways; I used an octave pedal, I was on bass, etc. I didn’t like playing bass, so one day I tried plugging my guitar into a guitar amp and bass amp at the same time, using a low-frequency boost pedal on the bass-amp side, and it sounded massive. We sounded tighter, too, because there were fewer instruments going on. So we decided to run with it. We’re probably much louder and heavier now, which is ironic, but I also realized that some of my favorite bands are bass-less—or almost bass-less, anyway. I think people have it in their minds that a guitar band has to be a certain way or has to have a certain configuration in order to work, but as long as you can create the low frequencies in some form, either with a synth or a pedal, you don’t need to necessarily use a bass guitar to fill that role. 

Which early ‘80s bands are you conjuring up on “NWOBHM” (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal)? I hear hints of Killers-era Iron Maiden. How are those groups an inspiration for you?
That song is funny, because we are calling it that despite it being more of a stoner-rock song. It’s supposed to be an homage to those bands, but at the same time it’s taking the piss, because I feel like they have painted metal into a certain stereotype, especially in Japan, that has long been shed. The song is about going above and beyond the status quo or what has come before. Don’t get me wrong, though, I love all those bands, but I think metal has many forms beyond that imagery. 

You also list band like Kyuss—the forefather of Queens Of The Stone Age—and Boris as touchstones for your sound. Popular music has broken into so many sub-genres that labels like “stoner rock” or “doom metal” are almost meaningless and likely confining. In what way are those groups a jumping off place for Looprider’s sound?
Those bands are interesting to me because they essentially take old tropes, in this case the blues, and turn it into something else by playing it really loud or really slow. I like extremes, so music that’s super slow or super fast, or really loud or really quiet, is very intriguing to me. Obviously, we are named after a Boris song, so that band will always be a big influence. I like how they dabble in the extremes, but they also play in the areas in-between, which is something I hope we are also able to do with this band. I think knowing how far you can go, conceptually, in each direction is super important, as it informs everything else you do. The Melvins are another band who are good at that. 

The current COVID-19 crisis is affecting everyone, of course, including live-music venues around the globe that face permanent closure as they have to remain shuttered. Looprider has been actively trying to aid the ones in Japan by donating all sales from your new Inside The Ouroboros EP. Have you been seeing some success?
We’ve seen support from our followers on social media and Bandcamp, so that’s been great. We’re not a big band, so it’s especially weird asking people overseas to help us support far-away venues that they may never set foot in, but we are extremely grateful to the people who have decided to pitch in. I think a lot of members in the community are feeling the same thing in that we all feel a little helpless, but want to do something. We’ve decided to help out places that are closest to us, but at the same time, it pains us that we can’t help every venue. I think on a macro level, these places will need government support in order to survive, so I think the best thing artists can do is to support places they have a close relationship with and raise awareness about the issues. Hopefully, we’ve been able to contribute to that, even if it’s just a little bit.

I believe you spent a significant amount of your growing up years in Tennessee. If you had to choose, Elvis and Memphis or the Grand Ole Opry and Nashville?
I like Johnny Cash, but apparently he was banned from the Opry at one point. So, probably Elvis.

—Bruce Fagerstrom