Newly dubbed “Harajuku-core” band HANABIE. completed its ambitious run across the US, capped with a finale at the Aftershock Festival in Sacramento on October 6. JROCK NEWS caught up with the women who expertly mash together bone crushing metal with otherworldly fashion tastes to form a blend that’s unmistakably Japanese.
Read on for their thoughts on going on the road with tour mates Dropout Kings and Fox Lake, the Harajuku fashion scene, and all the outrageous banter that makes the quartet so outrageous and fun to follow!
Congratulations on completing your USA Tour! Can you share some lasting impressions from your experiences traveling from city to city, sharing the stage with Dropout Kings and Fox Lake, and interacting with American fans?
Yukina (vocals): This was the first time we’ve toured with other bands over the span of so many days. As the days passed, we fit more and more into the groove with Dropout Kings and Fox Lake. I had a lot of fun!
Matsuri (guitar): We visited many regions, and it was really fun to see how every place was unique in its own way. There were people who expressed all their excitement by moving their bodies, people who closely eyed our performance, and people who sang along. I was so glad to see different folks enjoying themselves in ways they were most comfortable.
I also felt blessed to be able to put on a tour with two spectacular bands Dropout Kings and Fox Lake.
Hettsu (bass): America was such a vast place. I got the impression that people were warm-hearted and super friendly!
Dropout Kings and Fox Lake were awesome, and we’re truly thankful for being able to go on the road with them! I’m glad we were able to make this tour a success with these two bands and all the fans who came to see us!
Chika (drums): I felt that America was such a huge country, based on how different the scenery and culture could be in each city.
We shared our fiery passion with Dropout Kings and Fox Lake, and we all became best buds.
After finishing our set in the afternoon at the Louder Than Life Festival, the crowd cheered, “One more song!” which was a huge shock! We didn’t have time for another song, but I was really happy to hear it!
Fans were thrilled to learn about your appearance at Aftershock! HANABIE. should be proud to close out the tour at such an enormous event. How did you feel as you took the stage at this colossal festival? Did you get to see any of the other bands perform?
Yukina: It was a wonderful way to close out the tour! I had fun seeing a little boy riding on his dad’s shoulders as they went around in the circle pit. The intensity from the crowd was at a fever pitch, and people who were only passing by noticed and stayed to see us. It all made me very happy.
Matsuri: Aftershock became our happy place! I was overjoyed to call that day our tour finale! It was so much fun, and it was the best soaking up everyone’s energy. I’m also proud to be able to say that I shared a festival stage with my favorite bands.
Hettsu: It was the last show of the tour, so I gave it my all. When I saw a girl in the front row shedding tears of joy, I knew just how much it meant to perform at this festival.
There was a band called Currents that I’ve wanted to see for the longest time. They were really cool!
Chika: I walked on stage thinking, “Whatever happens, happens!” since this was the tour finale, and there wasn’t another show lined up the next day. But then this beam of afternoon sunlight scorched the stage all the way to the drums in the back. I felt like I was going to collapse, but I think I still gave the performance my all!
Did you have any pre-show rituals overseas? What do you listen to when you need a boost of energy?
Yukina: I put on my makeup while chatting with Chika. Then I sneak a sip from Hettsu’s beer without asking her. Then, Matsuri and I pat each other on the back as we go on stage.
I get pumped up listening to a song called Adrenaline by the Japanese band Hysteric Panic. This hasn’t changed since I was in my teens.
Matsuri: There’s a perfume that I put on whenever I play a show, so that’s how I know it’s “go-time”. Yukina and I have this routine of patting each other on the back, and that’s been going on forever.
When I want to get pumped, I listen to EDM!
Hettsu: Before a show, I crank my engine by drinking a beer!
These days, I listen to Kpop when I need to get pumped!
Chika: I change my hair and makeup depending on whether or not there’s a show that day. On days I perform, my eyes are turned up at the corners, I apply thicker eyeshadow and lipstick, and my bangs are parted to show my forehead.
From this tour’s setlist, which songs were the most fun and which were the most challenging to deliver?
Yukina: I didn’t expect everyone to sing the “WTF?!” part in Kotoshi Koso Gal ~Shoka ver.~, so seeing that was a pleasant surprise! I think it’s evolving into a nice call-and-response at our concerts.
Matsuri: I had fun in TOUSOU! I could feel the excitement peak when the wall of death broke out on the floor. It’s a song off our first full-length album, and I’m glad that people could see us perform it.
Hettsu: I had fun in Kotoshi Koso Gal ~Shoka ver.~! And Today’s Good Day & So Epic was challenging for me!
Chika: I thought the wall of death in TOUSOU was the best! And for me, LOVE Ranbu was challenging. I was listening to the track and practicing right up until the US tour. I felt more and more at ease with my performance as we played it at each show!
Hettsu, you hurt your foot in North Carolina. The next day in South Carolina, we saw you bravely walk on stage with a special boot, smiling and waving to the audience. You sat down on a chair and slapped that bass like a rock star! Is your foot all better now?
Hettsu: My foot’s healed up so nicely that I could pretty much jump on it! We took care of it immediately, so it didn’t turn into anything too severe. I didn’t want to make our fans worry by having to play sitting down, but I was happy to see them smiling and enjoying themselves!
While on the USA Tour, what was each member’s favorite thing to eat or drink? Did you buy any souvenirs to bring home to Japan? Conversely, was there an item that you just had to bring with you from Japan when being away from home for so long?
Yukina: Dropout Kings recommended Mountain Dew Baja Blast at a soda fountain inside a Taco Bell. I loved the taste! We need this in Japan…
For a souvenir, I bought my favorite perfume at DS & Durga, which is a store I’ve always wanted to visit. There aren’t any locations in Japan, so I’ll cherish it.
My must-have item that I brought from Japan was a portable electric fan to cool off after each show!
Matsuri: There was a pizza joint inside the building at one of the venues. Their pizzas were enormous and delicious!
I bought a pair of shoes on one of our days off. Very into those right now.
To keep my voice in shape, I needed to bring some wet masks and cough drops from the Japanese brand Ryukakusan.
Hettsu: During our US tour, I got to know the gas & grocery store chain Buc-ee’s and became a fan! They sold a ton of merch featuring the official mascot Bucky the beaver. I bought a lot since they were all so cute [laughs].
I always bring furikake and instant soup mix from Japan! They let me recharge even when I didn’t have a lot of appetite, so I really treasured them!
Chika: When we were in Denver, we got ice cream from a place with the slogan, “We love sweets” on the packaging! It was so good, I’d say it was top three ice cream I’ve had in my life!
I bought a toy glockenspiel for my 10 month-old niece! Apparently, it’s for 18 months and older, but she’s a genius and has no problems playing with it already!
Long sleeve layers were a must for the tour! It was hot outside, but the AC was cranked every time I was indoors, I was shivering. I’ve been told Japanese bodies are sensitive to cold.
It was impressive how quickly Chika adapted as the new drummer. She joined HANABIE. just in time for an explosive new music video TOUSOU, a new album, a major label signing, and an ambitious overseas tour. Chika, how was all this from your perspective?
Chika: It was a dizzying few months of meeting many new people and experiencing many new things.
Since joining HANABIE., the band’s genre and style are gradually becoming a part of me. I’m steadily getting used to performing with double bass pedals, getting wilder on stage, and loving putting on shows more and more! I used to be good at the slower, mid-tempo songs, but I might be losing my edge a bit on those lately [laughs].
When I first joined, it felt like there wasn’t any time to sit down and catch my breath, but these days I realize that I can make my dreams come true with hard work, perseverance, and also luck.
We see a story threading through three 2023 music videos: Osakini Shitsurei Shimasu, TOUSOU, and Kotoshi Koso Gal ~Shoka ver.~. You all escape the oppressive office work and start living your own lives. Will there be a continuation of this storyline in future releases?
Yukina: All three videos are full of character that makes us who we are! Hmm… What do you think will happen? Stay tuned!
Matsuri: The three music videos are packed with HANABIE.’s world view! Each one carries a theme of its own, so please watch closely and discuss among yourselves.
Hettsu: We hadn’t really considered these to be parts of a series, but perhaps they just happen to bleed into one another. The storyline could go on, or maybe it won’t. I’ll leave it up to all your imagination [laughs]!
Chika: It’s. A. Secret!
Who gets credit for the humor and mischief in HANABIE.’s music videos?
Yukina: We have a general idea of the themes for the music video at the time we put each song together. We always ask for the same director, and that director brings some humorous ideas to the table!
Matsuri: There’s already humor built into our songs, and all of us including the director feel strongly about using visuals that clearly convey these themes. I think that’s how we manage to cram all these ideas into the videos!
Hettsu: There are times when we come up with ideas during the writing process and also times when the director brings up an idea on the day of the shoot [laughs]. We’re always wondering how we can work in one more joke!
Chika: The ideas come from both the band members’ and the director’s imagination! I remember watching the TOUSOU music video for the first time and all of us bursting into laughter!
Who is the funniest member, generally speaking?
Yukina: Chika, She’s serious, but a natural space cadet, and her commentary and actions are funny.
Matsuri: Hettsu! She’s full of quippy remarks that just cracks me up.
Hettsu: Chika. Her strange actions and word choices are really fresh.
Chika: Matsuri. She has a cool, dry humor and sometimes blurts little things that make me laugh.
Music by HANABIE. is described as a hybrid genre called “Harajuku-core”, a blend of hardcore, metalcore, and Japanese pop culture. And the Harajuku neighborhood in Tokyo is often referred to as the fashion mecca of Japan.
Who are HANABIE.’s fashion icons? Is there a particular fashion style that you draw influence from for your sound?
What significance does the Japanese “gyaru” culture have for you?
Yukina: In both music and fashion, it’s important not to be defined by age or gender identity. They’re about expressing the things you love by remaining true to yourself. I think that’s why HANABIE. keeps making music that’s all mixed up and chaotic and out-of-this-world.
The gyaru culture is fantastic! I adore all the gyaru in Japan because they cherish this brilliant mentality of staying true and positive and valuing the things that make each of us unique. We should all aim to be gyaru!
Matsuri: The gyaru culture is about pursuing the things you enjoy. Personally, I also like punk and melodic hardcore bands, so I was inspired by their street fashion. Each member of HANABIE. has our own fashion sense and likes flashy displays of our own unique taste, so I think that comes out in the music.
Hettsu: I was definitely inspired by the “kawaii” culture of Harajuku and the anime culture of Akihabara! When you wear a fashionable piece of clothing or discover music that speaks to you, you experience that same feeling of happiness. I think that’s an example of how music and fashion can overlap!
I’ve always looked up to the gyaru culture! When I was little, I thought to myself that one day I’d have some fun with over-the-top makeup, a mini skirt, and some baggy socks or leg warmers. I’m delighted to see the fashion trends of the early 2000s making a comeback!
Chika: I used to pick clothes that were black or white, but I’m starting to incorporate more colors into my wardrobe! Gyaru present themselves to be full of energy and optimism, and that’s what I admire.
After holding so many concerts across several countries in North America and Europe, how has your perception of “performing” been influenced or evolved over time?
Yukina: I wasn’t prepared to speak much English, so I was worried about how well I’d be able to communicate. But the fans at each venue had so much fun, they blew away all my anxiety! They helped me understand that even without words, we’d be able to bond at an emotional level. I got a boost of confidence, thanks to everyone.
Matsuri: I felt that even though we were born in different countries, the crowd would understand our excitement and passion. Live music is an incredible medium for an emotional connection, regardless of what language we speak or which side of the ocean we’re from!
Hettsu: It’s hard to explain in detail, but my view of the world definitely opened up! I want to remain true to HANABIE., no matter where we end up.
Chika: I believe that in order for the crowd to have a good time, the performers need to enjoy performing. I used to tell myself, “You need to smile more!” when in front of people, but I realized it’s way more fun and fulfilling to just go wild and lose myself on stage. I sense that I now know where to go in my journey as a drummer.
You’ll soon open for Limp Bizkit at Tokyo Garden Theater on November 20! How do you feel about sharing the stage with these rap rock giants?
Yukina: When we first received the offer, I couldn’t believe my ears. I’m really looking forward to it! They seleted us, of all the bands in Japan. We’ll put on an amazing opening show.
Matsuri: I’m full of excitement! We’ll make it the best day ever!
Hettsu: I’m really looking forward to it. Many people in the audience probably haven’t heard of HANABIE., so I’ll make sure they’ll know all about us before they’re done with the night!
Chika: I’m full of gratitude for being chosen as the opening act. I’ll put on a performance that exceeds all expectations!
Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with JROCK NEWS today! What other activities or announcements can our readers expect from HANABIE. in the near future?
Yukina: We want to travel a lot to places both old and new. Let’s have fun together at the next concert! Look forward to it!
Matsuri: We’ll tour in both Japan and overseas. See you at the venue!
We’re constantly writing new songs, so stay tuned!
Hettsu: We’re headed out of Japan again on November 25! After we come back, we’ll close out the shows for this year with SiM! We’re looking forward to an even busier year in 2024, so be sure to check us out!
Chika: We’ve booked shows in both Japan and abroad! Full steam ahead. See you there!