Since their debut in 2019, BALLISTIK BOYZ from EXILE TRIBE — or simply, BALLISTIK BOYZ or BBZ — have consistently showcased the artistic excellence that many acts have become renowned for in Japanese music, consistently rising within its competitive ranks and letting it be known that they are more than equipped to take their rightful place on the international stage.

From the start, the seven-member boy group — composed of RYUTA, YOSHI, RYUSEI, MIKU, RIKIYA, RIKI, and MASA — have displayed the potential to take their music to a more international scale, seeing massive success from the get-go with their self-titled debut album achieving No. 1 on both Billboard Japan‘s Top Album Sales and Hot Albums charts. Five years later, now armed with the experience of seasoned performers and an inherent global perspective, they are undeniably more than ready to take on bigger challenges, setting their sights on much higher goals than ever before.

Courtesy of Geezerbuild Private Limited. (L to R: RYUTA and YOSHI)

From Humble Beginnings

As they celebrate their fifth year together in 2024, the Japanese boy group fondly looks back on their past while setting their sights on the bright future ahead of them with heads held high. “I remember very vividly the first day performance of our first solo live tour,” reminisces MASA when asked about their most favorite memories from the last five years, sharing how worried he was at first back then, thinking that there wouldn’t be an audience waiting for them. “[That] was the moment one of my dreams from childhood came true.”

Fast forward to the present, MASA and the rest of the group have come far from those days of worrying whether or not people would show up to their shows. Today, alongside their fellow EXILE TRIBE groups like PSYCHIC FEVER and THE RAMPAGE, BALLISTIK BOYZ have become J-pop juggernauts in their own right, boasting hundreds of thousands of fans in Japan alone. Year after year, they continue to conquer major venue after major venue across their home country, constantly selling out shows left and right, with absolutely no signs of slowing down.

Five Years And Counting

Last May 22, the group released their latest single “HIGHER EX,” an electrifying pop track showcasing an unapologetic display of sheer confidence and determination, fit for a group commemorating half a decade of refining their craft to perfection. “Five years have passed since our debut [and] we have started to make all [of our] music by ourselves,” answers RIKI when asked why the release of the self-written song was significant for the group. He continues, “I think it is the best and most straightforward way to convey BBZ’s thoughts and feelings to [our] listeners through music!”

And begun conveying those thoughts and feelings they already have, as the group are currently on their ‘HIGHER EX’ LIVE TOUR — a major nationwide trek of Japan across 13 cities. Compared to their ‘N.E.X.T.’ tour in 2023, MIKU notes a massive difference in their “range of musical expression,” thanks to them being accompanied by a live band this time, unlocking even more potential when it comes to experiencing their fiery live performances. “Above all, we are putting everything we can do at the moment into the live show to showcase our thoughts and feelings about ‘HIGHER EX,'” he adds.

With “HIGHER EX” itself meant to be a display of the group’s “unwavering determination to reach even greater heights” together, the members of BALLISTIK BOYZ are aiming towards even bigger goals than they have ever achieved, including a potential world tour. “Eventually, we would like to go on a world stadium tour, ” shares RIKIYA on their future plans following their fifth anniversary. “But for now, we would like to go to various countries and spend time with our fans through fan meetings and live performances!”

Courtesy of Geezerbuild Private Limited. (L to R: RIKIYA, RIKI, and MASA)

Lessons Learned Overseas

Having already garnered experience of tirelessly performing and working overseas — including their boldest move yet of staying and training in Thailand for six months in 2022, BALLISTIK BOYZ are undeniably more than ready to take these plans into action this year and beyond.

“Since our formation, our goal has been to become artists who can compete on the world stage,” states RYUSEI, sharing how the group has been able to fulfill this wish thanks to their activities overseas, which, subsequently, inspired the group to become more united and inspired thanks to witnessing the talent of fellow young acts in other countries.

For MASA, their time overseas in the past were well-rounded, enriching experiences, helping him learn more about the “different cultures, languages, and personalities of the people in each country.” Ultimately, this informed his approach to performing, aiding him in adapting to the atmosphere of each audience, and subsequently, have more fun while doing so.

YOSHI himself shares that he learned a lot about performing, MCing, and even crafting together their shows’ set lists, especially when considering language barriers and cultural differences. “These things are completely different from when we perform in Japan, so we try to include songs that are commonly heard in [that particular] country [into] the setlist,” he shares. “We [also] try to use the local language, at least, for greetings!”

On the other hand, RIKIYA looked back on their collaborations in Thailand, including one with Thai actor GULF KANAWUT. He describes these as a “new experience” for them, helping them learn a lot during their recording process as well as rehearsals together. “We were able to bring out the best in each other, of course, but it was also a wonderful opportunity to meet each other’s fans,” he recalls. “So, when I think back on it now, it was a really important time for us and I think we were able to grow as musicians!”

Adding to this, RIKI shared how the group constantly worked together while in Thailand, stating how their time in the country helped refine their musicality and evolve their music and style, thanks to experiences they wouldn’t have normally had if they were just in Japan. Naturally, this led them to discuss their dreams, as well as write new music and practice together, leading to a further deepening of their teamwork.

Courtesy of Geezerbuild Private Limited. (L to R: MIKU and RYUSEI)

Meanwhile, MIKU acknowledges how these experiences have made him realize how much bigger the world was than he initially thought, noting how communication between people was unique with each country they visited — something he believes will greatly inform how he goes about his activities as an artist moving forward.

“We have become more serious in our approach to our dreams,” shares RYUTA when asked, ultimately, about what they’ve taken away from their time in Thailand. He explains how he personally learned a lot about music production, utilizing social media, communicating with their fans, as well as involving all of their staff members more in their team efforts: “I feel that we have created a very good foundation for our future activities as BALLISTIK BOYZ.”

Future Plans (And Their Filipino Fans)

Performing in festivals around Asia this 2024, including the Muuji Festival in Bangkok, Japan Expo Vietnam, and more, the group are primed to conquer international stages once again, bringing along with them the invaluable learnings they’ve gained during their stay in Thailand and other Asian countries in the past five years or so.

Having significantly grown their fanbase outside of Japan — including the Philippines — since their debut, it’s no surprise that the group, as YOSHI shares, is constantly talking about what they want to do next overseas. “To those of you in the Philippines, we are working hard every day to make sure that we will have a great day with our fans in the Philippines,” proclaims RYUSEI when asked what special message the group might have to their Filipino fans patiently waiting for them. “We want to make the best memories when we go there so, until then, we hope you will spread our songs to your family and friends! Thank you!”