Japan’s BAND-MAID Talk Connecting With Fans Around the World During COVID & Their New Single ‘Sense’


BAND-MAID released their new single “Sense” on Oct. 27. BAND-MAID, formed in 2013, is a maid-themed hard rock band. Their aggressive sound, a stark contrast to the band’s look, has endeared them to rock and metal fans in Japan and overseas, and their February concert (which they call an “OKYU-JI”) was watched by people in 67 different countries, a new record for the band.

In an interview with Billboard Japan, Hideyuki Mori talked with Miku Kobato (guitar/vocals) and Saiki (vocals). The COVID-19 pandemic has put the brakes on many of the band’s activities, but Miku and Saiki shared their feelings about their “Masters and Princesses” (what the band calls their fans) in Japan and abroad. We also talked with them about their new song, “Sense,” which was chosen as the opening theme for Platinum End, a TV anime based on a comic by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, the creators of DEATH NOTE.

I would expect that the pandemic has put a lot of limitations on your activities over the last two years.

Saiki: That’s right. We haven’t been able to hold our OKYU-JI with live audiences, so we’ve been doing them online. We haven’t really let it get to us that much, but, yes, it’s been hard.

Miku Kobato: There was a tour that got cancelled before we even announced it. We also had to cancel the OKYU-JI we had planned for the Nippon Budokan in February, which was really disappointing, po.

Saiki: Yeah, that hit hard.

You had plans to tour throughout America, Europe, and Asia in the latter half of last year, right?

Kobato: Yes, po. We signed a contract with Live Nation in 2019, and the first thing we were going to do under the new contract was this tour, so we were really planning to go all-out, touring the whole world, po. But that all got cancelled, the whole thing, po.

Saiki: We had three or four overseas music festivals booked, too, and all those plans got cancelled.

Kobato: That’s why we want to do an OKYU-JI with a live audience so badly. All that frustration that’s built up? We want to let it all out sometime, somewhere with a show that’s two, three…no, five times better, po.

BAND-MAID has fans around the world, so live shows where you can interact with your foreign fans have always been really important, right?

Saiki: Right. Normally, we can only do one overseas tour per year, so for us it’s a really special event. Making that emotional connection with our overseas fans through our OKYU-JI is incredibly fun and exciting.

Kobato: When we come back to Japan after going on tour overseas, we can really see how much we’ve grown, po. Of course, that’s true for our OKYU-JI in Japan, too, but our OKYU-JI in other countries are always new experiences, and I feel like they really help us grow, po. For us, it’s almost some kind of hardcore training [laughs]. We’re always like “We’ve gotta go overseas, po!”

In the online show you held during the pandemic, it seemed like you really communicated with your fans. Is that something you were really focusing on since you couldn’t tour overseas?

Saiki: Exactly. We couldn’t meet with fans face-to-face through OKYU-JI, but we still wanted to create opportunities for interacting with them, so as soon as the pandemic started we sprang into action. Not only have we had an online OKYU-JI, but we’ve also held online events such as live talks.

Kobato: During the talks, each of us read letters we had written to our foreign fans, po. One of the great things about doing the events online is that comments started coming in right away. During the online OKYU-JI, too, we were able to read comments from our Masters and Princesses. One of the great things about streaming is that there are no borders — our show could be seen by people around the world. I think that perfectly matches our style, po.

Saiki: At first, it felt weird without our Masters and Princesses there in front of us, but I got used to it pretty quickly and discovered the fun aspects of doing an online show.

Your online OKYU-JI was accessed by people in over 60 countries, and there were quite a few comments from people in countries that you’ve never toured, right?

Kobato: Yeah, there were, po. There were also a lot of comments where I thought, “What language is this, po?” I checked later, and it turns out we had viewers from every single continent other than Antarctica.

Saiki: I was like, “This is amazing!” Still, at the same time, I’d love to break through to Antarctica, as well (laughs).

Kobato: Right, we were all talking about how we wanted to get some viewers from Antarctica, too, po. Another of the things that’s great about online events is seeing that kind of numerical data about the people who’re watching us. It’s really interesting.

Saiki: We’re even using that data to coordinate future tour plans. It’s like, “We’ve never been to that country, but there are so many fans from there in our online shows, we should go there next time.”

Kobato: No matter where our Masters and Princesses are, they can reach us online, so we’d like everyone to keep sending their comments to us through our online OKYU-JI and YouTube, po.

Saiki: Right, we read every comment, so if we get a lot of excited comments from our fans, we’ll be sure to head their way in the future.

Kobato: Everybody in Antarctica, let us hear from you, po!

Now you’ve released a new single, “Sense.” It’s the theme song for the Platinum End anime TV show, right?

Kobato: That’s right. I’ve always been a fan of the original “Platinum End” comic. That’s why I wrote lyrics that really fit it well, po. Our guitarist, KANAMI, read the comic closely before writing the music, so the music is also a really tight match, po.

Saiki: The fast guitar riffs just get into your head. They match the opening animation, so keep an eye out for that. One of the things that we took a lot of care with was the intro, which features an orchestra. Originally, we had the song start with the sound of the band, but we received a request from the producers, so we changed the intro to a really majestic orchestral intro.

Kobato: It was our first time really using an orchestra in a BAND-MAID song, so at first, I was a bit nervous. I was like, “How’s it going to turn out, po?” But when I heard the final cut, it felt really original, but it also had all of the great qualities of a BAND-MAID song. I love it, po!

Saiki: Through this song, we found out that our music goes really well with an orchestra, so we just might use an orchestra again in some later songs.

Kobato: That’s right, po. The heavy feel of the orchestra came through even more than I expected, so I was like “We need to use that again sometime.”

What kind of message were you trying to convey through the lyrics?

Kobato: The main thing we wanted to convey were the messages of “I want to be happy” and “I want to live, po.” One of the major themes of the anime is “What is happiness?” I think that, even away from the context of the anime, that’s a theme that applies to everyone, po. I wanted to share those messages with as many people as I could, so I wove them into the lyrics.

Saiki: The song ends with the expression “Yuomaishin,” (a classical idiom that means “pushing forward”), which is another key point. I know people overseas like seeing kanji lined up like that.

Kobato: Right, po. The meaning really matches the song, and so does the look of the kanji up there on-screen. I really looked hard to find cool classical idioms. I picked five or six candidates, and then Saiki chose between them, po.

Saiki: Right, and then when I sing it I try to put an English accent spin on it. Like “you all my thing” (laughs). We have a lot of foreign fans, so I always keep things like that in mind.

Kobato: We always try to make our songs have a universal feel, not just limited to Japan.

How was the recording of the vocals?

Saiki: The melody is free and open. It has a soaring feeling, so I tried to really express that when singing. You can also feel a really strong sense of intent behind Kobato’s lyrics, so when singing I also tried to pepper the song with some sections of real power. I really liked the unusual nuances of the melody and the structure of the song itself. It allowed me to make some distinctive touches of my own, and it felt great to sing. It might be a little hard to sing in karaoke, though. There’s almost nowhere to catch your breath (laughs).

Kobato: But it’s the kind of melody that makes you want to sing along when you hear it, po. I think you just have to hear it over and over and let your body become really attuned to it before you sing it, po.

In your latest song, “Sense,” you’ve tried out all kinds of new things. What do you see in BAND-MAID’s future?

Saiki: I’m going to keep writing new songs, so I hope we can keep sharing them with our fans.

Kobato: I also hope we’ll be able to put on an OKYU-JI for a live audience soon, po.

Saiki: Yeah. I’d like to finally be able to do another overseas tour again next year. I want to do it as soon as it’s possible.

Kobato: Me too, po!

BAND-MAID’s new single “Sense” can be streamed here.

This article by Hideyuki Mori originally appeared on Billboard Japan.

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