LADYBABY are the latest three-piece in the ‘kawaii-core’ genre to break into the international limelight, capturing the attention of millions with the release of their first video Nippon Manju back in July. Despite only having been around since early 2015, LADYBABY made their UK debut at HYPER JAPAN’s Christmas event last month to a room of hundreds of fans and innocent bystanders caught in the onslaught of cute pop melodies and metal breakdowns. We met up with 2/3 of the group, Rei Kuromiya and Ladybeard to find out more about the group and how they went from mascots to internet stars in only a few months.
So you guys have been around for half a year now?
Ladybeard: Our debut was in March this year, so yeah, half a year and a bit!
Did you expect LADYBABY to blow-up as much as it has?
Ladybeard: Nope! This was never intended to be seen outside of Japan. Let’s get the origin story out the way. The CEO of a company called CLEAR STONE, which is a costume manufacturer, knew of the girls (Rei and Rie) because they both respectively won their categories in a contest called Miss ID, and I was on the cover of a magazine in Tokyo, called us all in for a meeting and said you three are going to be in a pop group together, so that’s how that happened! The whole purpose of the group was to be a PR unit for CLEAR STONE, showing their clothes to the world, but really the goal was just Japan, with our main target being to become the Village Vanguard (Japanese book store) Halloween mascots, as they use a different famous person every year. The hope was that this would eventually happen, and it did happen, within a few months. So that was really the overriding goal of the whole group, and this whole overwhelming response from the rest of the world is totally unexpected.
So LADYBABY is part of a new wave of idol groups that are incorporating metal with pop, but what sort of bands do you listen to and did that inspire your sound?
Rei: Slipknot and MAXIMUM THE HORMONE are my favorite bands.
Ladybeard: She’s a badass! I love metal and I love pop, so respectively I love the power and the sound of metal but I like the structure and melodies of pop, so the combination of the two things for me is the perfect music. My solo career is singing metal covers of J-pop songs, so that’s always been my thing of combining metal and pop.
Ladybeard, you’re a cross-dressing Australian wrestler, actor, YouTuber and all-round entertainer, overall, a pretty impressive guy! But who exactly is Ladybeard?
Ladybeard: I’m a five-year-old girl mysteriously trapped in the body of an Australian adult man, lover of genkiness, with a mission to spread genkiness to the whole world, genkify as many people as I possibly cane through the miracle that is kawaii-core, and beards!
Wow… that’s quite an explanation! So when you started getting into the public eye while you were wrestling in Hong Kong a few years back, did you ever expect to wind up as part of a Japanese idol group?
Ladybeard: Consciously no, but had you said that was going to happen, I probably wouldn’t have been that surprised. I guess when I originally became Ladybeard in Hong Kong I originally said “that’s surprising” but it always seemed like something I would do. When I was in drama school during our last year we were going through our career plans, and I remember one of my best friends saying “he’s going to be like a weird Australian equivalent of Marilyn Manson”, and apart from the anti-christ bit he’s not that far off!
You’re a nice guy as well, so maybe more Wednesday 13?
Ladybeard: I love that guy! I saw him live at the Big Day Out 2003 in Adelaide with Murderdolls, and he changed my idea of what a live performance should be. Every song had a story, and it was just such a good show and it blew me away! And it’s funny, I was looking at videos from that same tour, and they’re totally different from my memory, so some how my imagination took what I saw and fused it into what I wanted to become.
“I remember one of my best friends saying ‘he’s going to be like a weird Australian equivalent of Marilyn Manson'” – Ladybeard
Earlier this year you wrestled under Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) for the first time at a public event no less, how was it wrestling with them for the first time?
Ladybeard: Awesome man! I was in Union Pro Wrestling, which is part of the DDT group, for two years so my time in Union was very much a learning curve in what it was to be a wrestler in Japan, because I got there and it’s a very different experience from being in Hong Kong, Taiwan or Australia. So I spent two years trying to figure out how to fit into wrestling in Japan, and I think I’ve worked it out to a certain extent, but when Union folded, moving up to DDT was massive for me. Also the funny thing for me was that a week after I got to Japan I went and saw that same public show, and when Danshoku Dino (DDT Wrestler) was heading to the ring he kissed me and I made this big reaction, next thing you know the referee came up to me and said “that was a great reaction!” and I’m like “yeah well I’m a wrestler!”, so that’s how that happened! Then two years later at the exact same event to have my DDT debut was awesome!
Also before LADYBABY you started a YouTube channel?
Ladybeard: Yeah that was something that me and my manager Naoko Tachibana, a girl who I owe all my success to, decided to do to get the character out there. There’s loads of stuff that I would like to do with that but we just haven’t had the time, it’s just been full on! Don’t think we’ve had a day off in two months, apart from the days on the airplane.
So Rei, as well as LADYBABY you also have your own band called BRATS, can you tell us about that?
Rei: BRATS is a pop-rock fusion group, bringing the two genres together, but the emphasis is more on catchy pop melodies.
BRATS released its first video for ’14-sai byou’ the other week, which was written by Temma from trauma-pop group Urbangarde. How was it working with him?
Rei: He’s a bit crazy. His brain works quite differently to normal people, his thinking is a bit out there. He has the mentality of a 14 to 15-year-old, naïve and very sensitive, and that song in particular, he wrote for me. I talked to him before about not wanting to grow up, so that song is about wanting to stay a child.
So how does it compare playing with LADYBABY vs BRATS?
Rei: In BRATS we play instruments, everything is a live sound, whereas with LADYBABY the sound is all pre-recorded and we just do the dancing and singing. I see those two bands completely differently, even my persona is completely different, but both have their good parts.
What’s the main thing you hope to achieve during your musical career?
Rei: With LADYBABY and with my other band BRATS, I cherish every single activity and just do what I do, in order to make my audience happy and lively and to become famous worldwide.
“He has the mentality of a 14-15 year old, naïve and very sensitive” – Rei Kuromiya
You starred in a short film that aired at Shibukaru Festival called Heavy Shabby Girl. Can you tell us about the film and the role you played?
Rei: I played as a girl who doesn’t have a place at home and school. At her home, there are two ‘good-for-nothing’ sisters, who does a night-time job and is an underground idol. She couldn’t find her place at home and had no friends, but she became friends with a homeless person and found her place in the friendship. With this homeless person, her sister, sister’s boyfriend and another girl met via Twitter, the girl was finding a new world that she has never seen.
At the beginning, I didn’t think I could play this role and told the director so. The director responded saying “you can just be who you are”. Then I played the role mixing myself and the character, so I could enjoy playing it. Now I feel like playing in movies again!
Though you guys are the faces of LADYBABY, who are the main guys who work behind the scenes?
Rei: They are so free! But they do their job. They are so passionate, sometimes more than us!
Ladybeard: If the backstage people can’t do their job, our stage performance can’t be done well. All our staff always work hard. I appreciate their hard work. Before our show, I usually have my staff chop my back to get me in ‘zone’.
You worked alongside legendary guitarist and producer Rolly for your first track, can we expect any more top-class appearances in your new material?
Rei: I would like to collaborate with great musicians again! Rolly was a very gentle, sweet and fun guy! In the future, I would like to collaborate with metal musicians such as Slipknot or MAXIMUM THE HORMONE. By collaborating with them, LADYBABY’s metal sounds will be even more amazing!
Ladybeard: I’m interested in collaborating with musicians who are far different from LADYBABY. For example, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce. It’s exciting to collaborate with similar musicians, but it could be something totally new if we collaborate with totally different musicians. I want to work with foreign musicians too. This would be interesting- like a collaboration between a rapper and us- a metal performer and Japanese pop girls!
Where do you hope to see LADYBABY play in the coming years?
Rei: We currently perform often overseas, so I would like to have more shows in Japan. Also I want to visit different countries where people watch our YouTube videos. I want to go to New York again too!
Ladybeard: The US and all countries in Europe, especially Finland. There are so many crazy fans there! I’m also interested in seeing Apocalyptica.
Any last words for our readers?
Ladybeard: Everyone, thank you so much for your support, we feel incredibly honored, incredibly lucky, and incredibly grateful! We’re really excited to be here in the UK and we look forward to coming back again soon!
Rei: We love London!
Words, video and live photos by Charles Shepherd