Masters and Princesses from abroad. Thank you for always supporting us. With the release of "glory" and "Bubble," we'd like to present all of you with an interview we did in Japan that's been translated into English. We hope you will enjoy it.
BAND-MAID released two singles called "glory" and "Bubble" on January 16. "glory" is the ending song for TV Tokyo anime series "Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS ", and "Bubble" is the theme song for ABC TV/TV Asahi drama series "Perfect Crime.” This attempt at releasing two TV tie-in songs simultaneously can be said to symbolize their current momentum. Additionally, both "glory" and "Bubble" are more subtle arrangements when compared to their previous music. Why did they change their approach to making music? I asked the five members about their reasoning behind this. Reporter and writer / Daishi "DA" Ato Photographer / Yusuke Kusaba
Momentum so intense it's hard to grasp
── Since it’s the start of a new year, I’d like to begin with looking back at 2018. What kind of year was it for all of you?
Miku Kobato(G, Vo) Well, it was such an intensely packed year that I felt like it was over before I knew it. So many things happened.
Kanami(G) We were so busy that I don’t really remember much (laughs).
Kobato We began with the release of our album ("WORLD DOMINATION") in February and by April we had become BAND-MAIKO (note:BAND-MAID temporarily renamed themselves as the maiko-themed BAND-MAIKO).
Saiki(Vo) Then there was the Higashi-Meihan tour. In the summer we released our single ("start over"). We also got to play at summer festivals. From September our international tour started, and we went abroad as well... .
Kobato Other than that, we also made our latest singles.
Saiki We were making music pretty much the whole time.
Kobato The momentum was just so intense it’s hard to grasp.
Saiki There were a lot of "Wait, did that happen this year? " moments, which made me think, “Hey, it’s almost like we’re popular or something? " (laughs).
── What moments stand out the most from 2018?
Misa(B) Riding on a tour bus for the first time during our Europe tour.
── Ah, every bandmember’s dream!
Kobato Up until now, we’d stayed at hotels and get moved around by car, but this time we got to sleep in a huge bus.
Saiki Now that we’re used to the bus life, we’ll be able to do more servings (concerts) next tour! Or something like that. I hope we can tour American by bus as well.
Kanami Sounds like fun!
Akane(Dr) Since I love anime and always dreamed that BAND-MAID would do an opening or ending song one day, I am so happy that finally, with “glory,” we’re able to do the closing song for "Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS”!
── How did you feel when you first watched "Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS" on air?
Akane I’ve never waited with such baited breath for the end of an anime before.
Kobato Since I didn’t know how the song and the anime visuals would match up, my reaction was both an impressed “Whoa! ” and incredible happiness when the credits for “glory” appeared. It also made me happy to different people posting images of that on places like Twitter and Instagram.
── Kanami-san, what was your memorable moment?
Kanami During our Europe tour, when we flew from Moscow and landed in Helsinki, it turned out that my guitar hadn’t made the trip! (laughs).
── That’s a tough one!
Kanami Since we had a serving in Helsinki that day, we went to a nearby music store and asked if we could rent the same PRS (Paul Reed Smith) guitar I always use, but the one they lent me instead was a vintage PRS. When I actually played it during the serving, the sound had this dry vintage quality to it. Since I don’t get many opportunities to play guitars like that, it ended up becoming this incredible memory.
Kobato It was a good thing they found your guitar during our serving that day.
Kanami True! It was rough, but I think I’ve reached the point where I can enjoy myself even when unexpected problems occur.
Saiki I happen to like sneakers, and 2018 was the year I was able to get many different kinds of sneakers (laughs).
Kanami Sai-chan (Saiki) has sneakers lined up in her house like a shop.
Akane She even shopped for sneakers when we were in Los Angeles for our tour.
Kobato Actually, some of Sai-chan’s stuff was in the baggage we lost at Helsinki (laughs).
Saiki In there was a pair of sneakers I had just bought, so I found myself pleading, "Never mind the other stuff, just give me back my sneakers! " Then they found it the next day.
Singing risqué lyrics with a smile and louder than anywhere else
── Kobato-san, how about you?
Kobato It was a pleasure to visit the Netherlands, something I’ve always dreamed of doing since I was small. The place I wanted to visit the most was Utrecht. It’s the city where the character Miffy, who I love, was born. But our serving was in Amsterdam, so it was a bit far. On top of that, it was the only country where we didn’t have any time off our schedule, so it’s only expanded my dream of visiting it the next chance I get.
── There’s a reasonable distance between Amsterdam and Utrecht, isn’t there?
Kobato Exactly! It’s 40 minutes by train, so I could have made it if I just had the morning off.
Saiki Hopefully this year!
Kobato It was our first serving in the Netherlands, but it made me so happy to see more Masters and Princesses come home (attend) than we had expected, especially because I love the Netherlands so much.
── How was the U.S.?
Kobato We’ve had several servings in the U.S. before, but it was our first solo show. That said, the cheers from the crowd were louder than any other country. I mean the sheer volume of their voices was extreme.
Saiki The U.S. had the largest number of people who sang along with us. They were the first country to discovere our song “Thrill,” so their enthusiasm for that song was especially noticeable.
Kobato Also, they sang the final risqué lyrics in “start over” louder than anywhere else.
Saiki And with big smiles on their faces.
Saiki Ultimately, it was the U.S. who accepted those lyrics the most. They kinda shrugged and said, "What’s all the fuss?" (laughs).
── That’s a great story (laughs). I heard also that the event organizers in the U.S. said the reaction was extremely positive there.
Kobato We received such kind words. They also said that our merch sold like hot cakes.
Saiki They told us, "You sold far more than any other artist who’s performed in this venue before." Our response was, "Wow. All right then, we’ve gotta do this again! " (laughs).
Differences between the U.S. and the U.K.
──So, how was London?
Misa The serving was energetic, of course, and it was nice we sold out.
── This was your third serving in London, wasn’t it? It’s amazing that you sold out a 600-capacity venue.
Saiki Since the capacity increases every time we go, I wonder if it’ll be bigger next time.
── Do you feel there’s a difference between the U.K. and the U.S.?
Saiki The crowd responds enthusiastically to different songs. In the U.S., they like intense songs like "Thrill" and "DOMINATION,” while in the U.K., they like songs such as "DICE," where we get to showcase our individual talents more.
Kobato We have a song where we take turns playing solos only during servings. This seems to get a more enthusiastic reaction in Europe.
── I get the impression that people in the U.K. enjoy music more for the sake of music, and the people in the U.S. enjoy the atmosphere of a live performance as a form of entertainment.
Saiki I agree. In the U.S., I felt they were enjoying our visual appearance and the atmosphere BAND-MAID creates.
── Ah, I thought so. While I’m sure your overseas tour turned out to be a great experience, wasn't Amsterdam, London, and Paris 3 days in a row quite demanding?
Kobato It was pretty tough, but we enjoyed ourselves. We were able to do some sightseeing in between servings, and we rode the subway as well. Despite the tight schedule, we had fun.
Saiki Considering how little time we had, we found moments to reenergize ourselves, and I think that helped us weather through.
── So you’re gradually getting the hang of touring overseas.
Kobato Although we did end up talking about wanting to build more stamina.
Saiki I need to strengthen my body.
It was my fault everyone got so busy, wasn't it?
── So, let me ask you about the singles. Why did you decide to release both "glory" and "Bubble" at the same time?
Kanami Yes, exactly. The arrangement and lyrics were done individually during our world tour, and we were in the studio 2 days after we returned.
── That’s quite the schedule! In the past, you’ve started recording the day after returning from a domestic tour, but even that’s hardly on the same level compared to this.
Kobato Ah-haha! (laughs) We’ve upgraded to "level international"! What happens next?
Saiki Maybe we’ll record abroad.
Akane That sounds awesome! I want to!
── Since both singles are part of tie-ups, they must have each come with their own separate demands?
Kobato Surprisingly, we were given a lot of freedom to do as we wanted.
Saiki In fact, "Bubble” was actually our suggestion.
Kanami That's right. When the tie-up with "Perfect Crime" was suddenly confirmed, initial talk was to choose one of our unreleased songs, but I had actually read the original manga for “Perfect Crime,” and, thinking about the source material, I realized that the demo I just happened to be working on at the time was a better fit for the drama. So, we made the suggestion to the people working on the drama, and they said OK, and... Now that I think about it, it was my fault everyone was so busy, wasn’t it? (laughs) I’ve just realized!
Saihime All of us already knew you were the culprit.
KANAMI Right, of course! Sorry!
── But you did it with good intentions.
KANAMI I did. I originally intended to make it a mature song.
Going from “We need to do this, we need to do that,” to “We don’t have to go to that extreme.”
── By the way, hasn’t there been a change in BAND-MAID’s recent approach to song-making? In the past, I feel like you were relying on your strengths to push through an arrangement.
Kanami Hehehe (laughs). Before, there was a part of us that kept adding sounds with the mentality of, “Let’s put this in, let’s put that in.”
Kobato We started removing sounds from around "start over".
── Right. In the past, I had the impression you were packing your songs with everything that you could. But recently it seems you’re dedicated to exploring the best approach for each song.
Kanami Oh, I’m happy to hear you say that. In my case, I used to be all about making it cool and creating contrasts, so I think that’s why I would come up with heavy arrangements and expand them in complex ways. Now that you mention it, though, I think my recent motivation has been to make songs for as large of an audience as I can.
── And "glory" and "Bubble” have a great subtlety to their arrangements.
Kanami Previously, we didn’t mind our sounds clashing (laughs), but now our production process is changing. For example, now Misa sends me the data for her base playing, and I listen to it before making any new requests. With the drums as well, I have the MIDI data of an arrangement sent to me, so I can evaluate it. This way I’ll have the data for the entire song on hand, so as soon as anything clashes, I can tell immediately, and I can add things based on this data. I think this has helped eliminate any weird sounds.
── I see.
Misa I recently bought a new desktop computer, so exchanging data has become much easier.
Akane As for drums, until now, the only time I had to play on a real set was in the studio. So, even if Kanami would send me a demo, I needed an actual drum set to start arranging. On top of that, when I would actually play it on the drums, it would sometimes sound different than what I had imagined, making the process take even longer. But now that I can input any phrase I come up with on the spot, it’s greatly reduced the time it takes to realize if something doesn't work, giving me much more time to think about a song.
Misa Computers are so convenient.
── So I guess the changes in the production environment is also one reason why your songs aren’t as packed with notes anymore. As a result, I think it’s become easier to hear your individual performances, making the ensemble more enjoyable.
Kanami Oh, I’m happy to hear that.
Kobato True. I think the past year has brought a greater range to both our songs and our servings.
Saiki Our feelings have changed as well. When making "WORLD DOMINATION,” we were passionate about the need to make something that screamed, "This is BAND-MAID!” As a result, it was well received. Since then, we’ve been able to let loose in a good sense, and there wasn’t much desperation on are part when it came to these singles. We had enough breathing space to say, “Let’s show this side of BAND-MAID.”
── Thinking back now, I wonder if you were scared of creating gaps between the sounds.
Kanami Up until "WORLD DOMINATION,” Sai-chan would often say, “Let’s fill here (this gap) more,” but, lately, this happens less frequently regarding the songs.
Kobato We’ve gone from “We need to do this, we need to do that,” to “We don’t have to go to that extreme.”
Saiki We’ve matured.
Kobato Grew up!
The different approaches to "glory" and "Bubble"
── As a result, listening to the details of your performances has become a lot of fun. They can be enjoyed down to the strength of the cymbal.
Akane Right. In the past, I used the bass drum and the toms to fill in the sound gaps. But, from the recording of "glory" and "Bubble," I imagined every sound leaving an auditory impression, and I think our listeners will pick up on this.