Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… Osaka Shunkashuto (One Year Later)

Last year I introduced you to Osaka based idol group Osaka Shunkashuto, at that time they were getting their foot in the J-pop door, and slowly pushing it open. One year later, that door has been slammed off it’s hinges as Osaka Shunkashuto are quickly becoming the hottest idol group to come out of Osaka.

When we looked at Osaka Shunkashuto last year, they were fresh out of Soezimax’s “CampFire” (similar to KickStarter in the West) campaign to help fund his vision of producing a female idol group with a fusion of rock and roll and idol group elements, including music videos featuring a lot of military hardware. Since then, the girls underwent vigorous military weaponry training so their movements in the music videos would seem authentic. Soezimax held a mini-audition to help decide which of the girls handled their weapon in the most authentic manner. That accolade went to my favourite member, Yuna!

Weapon handling audition for PV

There’s an extensive list of videos on Soezimax’s channel documenting the recording of the E.P and the music video. Some awesome Japanese actors were used (森崎正弘、大澤竜、松本大貴、市原厚樹、前田耕陽) and from the behind the scenes videos it’s easy to see everyone had a great time filming. The girls (along with Soezimax and his crew) worked incredibly hard around that time as they produced not one, but two main music videos. On top of that, inbetween shooting, they also made cover versions of popular songs too! Talk about having no days off! Here are the two music videos which were produced for the E.P. The first being a slow love ballad (Moshimo Aetanara), while the second is slightly heavier (Dawn of My Lifetime)…

もしも逢えたなら – 大阪★春夏秋冬

DAWN OF MY LIFETIME – 大阪★春夏秋冬

If you have time to watch some of the behind the scenes footage (links are provided after each music video) you’ll see lead vocalist Maina practicing her English. Maina is known to be a huge fan of ONE OK ROCK and her inspiration is clear in each music video. She’s constantly trying to improve, and for a 17 year old, her English ability is outstanding, I can only imagine where she will go from here.

As some of you know, in April last year I was able to visit Japan for three weeks. During this time I was able to check out many musicians in the Tokyo area such as Outside Dandy, BARBARS, and Sugar ‘n’ Spice. While I was in Kyoto, Osaka Shunkashuto announced they’d be playing a show at Yao shopping centre (their usual performance venue) in Osaka, however I wasn’t scheduled to go to Osaka until the following day. My friend Bob (whom I was traveling with) questioned my sanity when I put forward the idea of traveling from Kyoto, to Osaka for a few hours, see Osaka Shunkashuto, return to Kyoto, only to return to Osaka the following morning…

So off we went…

Osaka Shunkashuto – I Want You Back (cover) performance from Yao, April 5th 2014

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Here I am, meeting Mana, Anna, Yuna and Eon. Unfortunately Maina and Rina had to leave for a radio broadcast which is hosted inside the Yao shopping centre. If you get the chance to visit Yao, then do so. It’s an incredible structure which is home to hundreds of shops, a huge arcade, and event stages. They have their own radio station which broadcasts live via U-Stream too.

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I also had the pleasure of meeting the managing team behind Osaka Shunkashuto, who are an adorable married couple who also speak fantastic English. They were kind enough to allow me to spend a little more time with the girls than other patreons, and gave me some goodies, along with this (somewhat blurry) photo of me with Mana, Anna, Yuna and Eon.

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I was also lucky enough to meet Yuna, my favourite member of the group. She’s just as funny as she is in the videos, and just as sweet. I took some Omiyage for the girls in the form of Cadbury’s chocolate (very British) and an adorable Kumamon teddy which I’d won in Kyoto the previous night during my outing with fellow J-Blogger “Sakura Panda Tea Time“. The girls were very grateful that I’d traveled to see them.

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Yuna signed a photo of herself for me (in English too) while Eon practiced her English speaking skills with me, informing me “I study English, because I am smart”. Very cute and equally as funny.

Here, the girls share their experiences of the music video filming and E.P recording. If you listen around the 3:00 mark, (English subtitles are available) I get a special mention for attending one of their live shows, which they seem to be very grateful for. I felt very privileged that Soezimax included this in the video.

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New member of Osaka Shunkashuto, Runaちゃん!

In November 2014, Soezimax made a huge announcement via YouTube. It would be the addition of a new member called Runa who would become the youngest member of the group at just 14 years old. I imagine this must be terrifying for her, to join an already established group, however judging from recent videos and Twitter posts, she seems to be settling in just fine.

Since the start of 2015, both Soezimax and Osaka Shunkashuto have worked tirelessly for the next chapter in their careers. Not only have they been producing more music videos featuring cover versions of popular songs, but also they’ve finished yet another E.P bringing the number of recordings up to three!

カメレオン少女 – 大阪☆春夏秋冬

Osaka Shunkashuto continue to expand their live shows as more recently they’ve started moving away from Yao, and into smaller live houses. There are a number of new videos showing the girls performing in Tokyo to substantial audiences which a very energetic vibe to them. With the direction of their music constantly evolving, the girls seem to be focusing on the rock and roll elements with catchy guitar hooks, galloping bass lines, and uptempo drum beats. This energy spills over into their dancing and performances.

Osaka Shunkashuto performing live in Tokyo

It’s been an amazing 12 months for the girls. I’ll continue to support them in any way that I can, from retweeting tweets, to writing articles such as this. The girls were recently enrolled in a competition to support ONE OK ROCK, based on the number of votes gained determined the winner of the support slot. The girls finished 7th out of hundreds of entrants, which was very impressive! I can only imagine their ranking if we could get them more supporters here in the west.

So come on everyone, let’s help these girls continue their growth in popularity and maturity. You can follow them on Twitter by checking out their profile page here. Don’t forget to subscribe to Soezimax’s YouTube channel as he releases videos on a regular basis

ショーンと大阪!春夏秋冬でした!

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… F.E.M.M

There are seldom moments in the music industry where fantastic artistry and music come together to form something totally different. Creative back stories for bands are somewhat a thing of the past, except for gimmick artists. However Far East Mention Mannequins (aka FEMM) really bring this fusion of artistry into a new light.

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Touted as a music unit created by the FEMM Agency Syndicate, and fronted by mannequins MS-000000 (aka LuLa) and SW-000000 (aka RiRi) this electric duo are handled by their “Agents” Honey-B and W-Trouble.

Confused? Don’t worry. This debut video released in 2013 will explain all…

F.E.M.M Introduction Video

From what I can understand, FEMM isn’t just these two hypnotic mannequins, but a large team of creative individuals. After watching some of their music videos on YouTube, it’s obvious this unit is made up of graphic designers, videographers, fashion designers, producers, photographers, and other incredible artists who have worked with musicians such as Skrillex and Beyoncé. While LuLa (described as the healer mannequin) and RiRi (described as the combat mannequin) are the main performers, their “Agents” (the people who speak on the behalf) Honey-B and W-Trouble can be seen briefly in one of their music videos (Astroboy), and they also feature in rare interviews with online magazines.

LuLa and RiRi in a rare public appearance

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FEMM exploded onto the scene late last year with their “Girl Power” track “F**K Boys, Get Money”. It clearly has heavy influences from Hip-Hop artists such as Nicki Minaj, with the in-sync typography and outlandish costumes featured in the video. But it’s also receiving critical acclaim for breaking the stereotypes of the archaic subservient Japanese woman, which many still believe to be true.

FEMM – F**K Boys, Get Money MV

FEMM’s tagline is “Do Dolls Have Feelings? Do Their Songs Move People?” I’m inclined to agree. After hearing just one track (Wannabe), I was hooked. It has the dark electro synth aesthetic that I love, which drove me to listen to more of their tracks, and eventually download their album from iTunes. Which brings me to  the other great thing about FEMM, all of their music is available worldwide unlike most Japanese artists who limit their tracks to the Japanese iTunes store.

FEMM – Wannabe – Alternative MV

So what are you waiting for? Join the FEMM movement, become an agent, and share the noise. You can find FEMM in the following places…

FEMM Official Website
FEMM on Twitter
FEMM on Facebook
FEMM on YouTube

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… JPU Records

When you’re a fan of Japanese music and you don’t live in Japan, you’re always faced with the same problem: imports. Some Japanese artists make their music available through iTunes, while others can’t for legal reasons due to their record contract. If you do manage to track down the CD you want, you’ll be faced with ludicrous shipping costs, often costing more than the CD itself.

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This is where UK based company “JPU Records” can help. They’re relatively new being established in 2012, and going from strength to strength ever since by helping huge Japanese artists gain popularity in the UK such as SCANDAL and Spyair.

My favourite band SCANDAL, give a message to their UK fans via JPU Records

But that’s not all JPU Records provide fans of Japanese music with. They’re a growing network operating out of London, and touching base with the artists. Their website contains extra content such as reviews, interviews, and dates of underground performances. Their news section is updated regularly by Tom Smith who publishes awesome articles on the latest ins and outs of Japanese pop and rock music. This helps to further raise the profile of bands already gaining more popularity in the UK such as BabyMetal and ONE OK ROCK, who recently sold out London shows.

With conventions like Hyper Japan gaining more popularity each year, this provides an amazing platform for JPU Records to introduce more exciting music to their target audience. Hyper Japan continue to hire exciting new acts every year, and recently hinted at the possibility of having Dempagumi Inc. perform at their next event, so here’s hoping!

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It’s good for the music industry to have a company like JPU based in the UK as they’re not a specific genre label. If it impresses them, it gets their attention, which in turn will grab your attention. This allows the best Japanese music to reach the UK and even parts of Europe, as their distribution network continues to grow.

Taken from the JPU Records website, here’s what they’ve accomplished over the past few years:

Our journey so far has led to our first release, DIVISION by the GazettE, being featured as a Q4 hot release in British industry mag Music Week (found here on page 35), as well as the band being voted Music Act of 2012 by the readers of NEO Magazine. We followed that up in 2013 by getting their next album BEAUTIFUL DEFORMITY into charts across Europe, including #3 in the iTunes UK Metal Chart and #2 and #5 Finland and France’s respective iTunes Rock Charts, as well as in the top ten of Amazon UK’s rock chart.

With exclusive versions of artists albums being offered to JPU Records, I know where I’ll be getting my releases from in future (Sorry PlayAsia). I was too hasty with the latest SCANDAL release and preordered it when it was announced in Japan. Little did I know, that a few weeks later that JPU Records would bag an exclusive edition with two bonus tracks, a signed poster card, an A4 folder, and all the lyrics in the cover booklet would be in Romaji and English. There’s still time for you to grab yours here though!

You can check out JPU Records (and Japan Underground) and their connected networks (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr) right here.

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… Dempagumi.inc (でんぱ組.inc)

Dempagumi.inc (でんぱ組.inc) are a Japanese pop idol group who formed in 2008 performing daily on Akihabara’s DearStage live bar. Dempagumi are; Nemu Yumemi, Ayane Fujisaki, Eimi Naruse, Risa Aizawa, Mirin Furukawa and Moga Mogami. They are currently signed to MEME TOKYO.

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Idol groups in Japan are huge, that’s obvious. There’s even a Wikipedia-esque website that has a full A-Z of every idol group in Japan. Many idol groups follow the same format and can often find it difficult to break away from the mould. However Dempagumi.inc have kicked up somewhat of a storm in the last two or three years. I think it can mainly be attributed to their attempts to appeal to the otaku crowd, with each member specialising in a particular otaku genre (they’re also colour coordinated for easy identification). They’ve all expressed in previous interviews about being shut-ins and that the music has been a way for them to break out of their shells. What better way to connect with the modern hikikomori generation?

でんぱ組.inc「バリ3共和国」

I first heard of Dempagumi.inc when browsing YouTube for cover versions of rock music, believe it or not. This was attributed to their *ahem* unique cover of Beastie Boys – Sabotage which Daniel Robson of “It Came From Japan” also mentions in his recent MTV article. Since 2008 the girls have gone on to become one of the biggest exports of Akihabara. Not to mention, a force to be reckoned with in the fashion world, with many of the members featuring on the front cover of magazines such as KERA. Let’s take a closer look at the members…

risa

相沢梨紗 Aizawa Risa (Leader)
Nickname: りさちー Risachi
Team Colour; White
Date of Birth: 1986年8月2日
Otaku Genre: 90’s anime songs
Trivia: She’s good at making sweets!

furukawa

古川未鈴 Furukawa Mirin
Nickname: みりんちゃん Mirinchan
Team Colour; Red
Date of Birth: 1987年9月19日
Otaku Genre: Video Games
Trivia: Originally a solo idol, and an avid gamer

nemu

夢眠ねむ Yumemi Nemu
Nickname: ねむきゅん Nemukyun
Team Colour; Mint Green
Date of Birth: 1988年7月14日
Otaku Genre: Fine Art
Trivia: Also DJs under “DJ Nemukyun” and models

naruseemi

成瀬瑛美 Naruse Eimi
Nickname: えいたそ Eitaso
Team Colour; Yellow
Date of Birth: 1988年2月16日
Otaku Genre: Anime and Manga
Trivia: She was previously in another idol group called “Mizutama Online”

moga

最上もが Mogami Moga
Nickname: もがたんぺ Mogatanpe
Team Colour; Purple
Date of Birth: 1989年2月25日
Otaku Genre: Online Games
Trivia: She’s good at Ikebana, and she won the “Next Gravure Queen Battle” in 2013

ayane
藤咲彩音 Fujisaki Ayane
Nickname: ピンキー!Pinky!
Team Colour; Blue
Date of Birth: 1996年2月25日
Otaku Genre: Cosplay
Trivia: She used to upload dancing videos to Niconico before joining Dempagumi.inc

You can find out more about Demagumi.inc via their:
Official Website
YouTube Channel
Twitter
Facebook

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… BARBARS

As many of you may, or may not know, I’m a bass guitar player. Like any bass guitar player, the first thing I’ll notice in a song is the bass line. A decent bass riff can have me hooked in seconds. This is how I discovered Tokyo based band, BARBARS…

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Miki – Bass & Vocals (left) and Rioko – Guitar & Vocals (right)

BARBARS – Make No Systems

The crunchy bass riff from Miki kicks in to open the track, as Rioko and Kōsuke  join in to get the song underway. The composition is classic (Bass, Guitar, and Drums), but that’s just one of the great aspects of BARBARS, in that they aren’t using layers upon layers of backing guitars, backing vocals, synth, and whatever else they can throw in there. BARBARS are a rock band! Two bad ass chicks, twin vocals chorus work, superb guitar riffs, groovy bass lines, and bouncy drum beats enough to scare the hell out of people to listen.

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 12.28.52Miki and Rioko at EGGMAN, Shibuya 01/04/14

In April this year, I was able to catch one of their live performances at EGGMAN in Shibuya, as they were the opening act for Sugar ‘n’ Spice (who were launching a new E.P that night). I dropped a quick tweet to Rioko asking if they were going to play “Make No Systems” that evening (as at the time, it was really the only song I’d heard in full as BARBARS music isn’t readily available outside of Japan). She didn’t have time to reply (most likely she was warming up for the show) however after the performance, I was able to speak to them both briefly to which Rioko apologised for not playing the track, as she received the tweet too late. Very cute.

BARBARS – Hero (I wanted to show Rioko’s pedals at the end, I’m not gawping at her legs!)

(You can also listen to the full version of Hero by clicking here)

In my broken Japanese I managed to explain we’d traveled from England to watch the show, and we really enjoyed it. As I only had ¥2,000 on me at the time, I could only afford one album, so I went for their debut album “OPEN!!!” (which has Make No Systems on there) and the girls even signed my copy for me.

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 12.42.43My stack of merch from Sugar ‘n’ Spice and BARBARS

Since returning to England, my biggest regret was not taking more money to buy their second album. As soon as I’d finished listening to “OPEN!!!” all the way through, I put the entire album on repeat, after that, I wanted more! Luckily BARBARS do have a webstore which can ship internationally, however it’s a little tricky to navigate if you can’t read Japanese. I managed to figure it out, so if you want to buy their albums don’t be afraid to drop me a message and I’ll help you navigate it.

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 13.18.51My mail order of “CUT! CUT! CUT!” and “花畑ダンスフロアー” single.

Now that I own both albums and have time to listen through all the tracks, it really resonates with how catchy each track is. I can listen to both BARBARS albums back to back, without skipping any tracks (a very rare occurrence for me). It’s impossible to not be captivated by Miki’s bass riffs, I could genuinely watch that girl play bass all day long. That Danelectro DC-1 bass guitar she uses, is something to die for. A bass guitar from the 1960’s, with the classic Danno twang factor, even with a single pickup for that beautiful bass tone, a beautiful sound as beautiful as the woman behind it.

*ahem* Sorry, where was I? Oh yes! BARBARS…

BARBARS – A brief history:

2004 – Formed under the name of “VIRIDIAN” creating very heavy music, similar to System of a Down.
2006 – The direction of the band was heavily reconsidered, with more focus on the female twin vocals, and including some English lyrics.
2008, June – The self-produced mini-album “Karoriumu” was released.
2010 – They won a contest held by music magazine ROCKIN’ON in “RO69 JACK 2010” (Rock festival).
2011 – A band who owned the trademark of “VIRIDIAN” contacted them, so as of January 2011, the band was renamed BARBARS (Babazu)
2011, March – The debut album “OPEN!!!” was released via King Records.
2012, August – The first single from the album was released “Reverberation Sub-story”. Watch the making of here! (The most hilarious moment for me is at 7:25 when Rioko tells Miki to “drink sexily”. I sent a tweet to Miki recently about this clip, to which she said it was incredibly embarrassing, but brought back good memories.)
2012, October – The band released their 2nd album “CUT! CUT! CUT!”.
2013, November – After nine years of performing, Kosuke Kageyama sadly left the band. He left on good terms, and still speaks to the band.

BARBARS are…

Miki Tanaka (タナカ ミキ) – Vocals & Bass guitar – Miki on Twitter
Rioko Minato (ミナト リオコ) – Vocals & Guitar – Rioko on Twitter
Eri Utsumi (ウツミ エリ) – Drummer (Replaced Kosuke Kageyama in November, 2013)

You can find BARBARS in the following locations…

Official Website
Facebook
Twitter

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus…BABYMETAL

I first heard of BABYMETAL around this time last year when stumbling across their music video for メギツネ (MEGITSUNE) on YouTube. At this point it already had over 2 million views (It’s currently on over 5 Million) and BABYMETAL were already establishing a fan base across the globe virally via the internet.

So who are these three super kawaii maidens with a killer backing band throwing down catchy guitar riffs and thunderous drum beats?

Babymetal

BABYMETAL

In Japan, idol groups are huge. Imagine how most people are in the UK when it comes to football, well idol culture is equally as huge in Japan. So many kinds of people go to idol converts for different reasons; to join in with the dance moves, to sing along, to blow off steam after a long day at the office, to enjoy music with friends, to support their favourite idol, the list is endless. But trust me on this one, I’ve witnessed it first hand in Akihabara, it’s huge.

BABYMETAL – ド・キ・ド・キ☆モーニング (Doki Doki Morning)

With such a huge culture of idol groups forming on a daily basis, it becomes increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd. The general formula of an idol group consists of a small group of girls, dancing and singing, it’s that simple. We see it all the time in the West with huge shows like “America/Britain’s got talent” and “X-Factor” churning out pop groups year in, year out. But in Japan it’s a little different, there’s an independent scene of thousands of these groups trying to break it into the big time to join the ranks of groups such as Purfume or AKB48.

Sakura Gakuin さくら学院 – Song for Smiling

This is where the origins of BABYMETAL start. Sakura Gakuin (さくら学院) (Cherry Blossom Academy) is a Japanese idol girl group formed in 2010 by the Amuse talent agency. It is essentially a fake high school which runs along side the girl’s real studies. When a girl graduates from high school, they also graduate from Sakura Gakujin, and new members are inducted. It’s a great formula to keep the group fresh, and able to continually generate money. While at the school, all of the girls belong to “sub-groups” or “clubs” and these are as follows; Baton Club, Heavy Music Club, Cooking Club. Go Home Club, Newspaper Club, Tennis Club, Science Club. All of which have their sub groups, to which BABYMETAL belong to the Heavy Music Club.

BABYMETAL are; SU-METAL (16) (Suzuka Nakamoto), YUIMETAL (14) (Yui Mizuno), MOAMETAL (14) (Moa Kikuchi) with support from their “Kami Band” who are Takayoshi Ohmura (guitar), Leda (guitar), BOH (bass) and Aoyama Hideki (drums). If you’re under any doubt about their musicianship, please search YouTube for their names, watching BOH play the 6-string bass is a sight to behold.

BohBass player – BOH

So why have BABYMETAL become such a huge hit in such a short space of time since their formation, while other more established bands remain unknown outside of Japan? It’s basically because someone decided to fuse the huge idol culture with heavy metal. It’s that simple. It hadn’t been thought of, and someone put it together.

From there, two huge crowds of people are instantly merged into one, coming together for the appreciation for a J-Idol group, a heavy metal band, and of course the “quirky” Japanese novelty. You hear it all the time attached to sensationalist articles on the latest craze in Japan; “Oh Japan!” or “Only in Japan!” but not this time, as BABYMETAL are breaking out and have already announced a world tour…

When I saw that BABYMETAL were playing UK rock festival Sonisphere, I was a little concerned, as every year at UK festivals, there’s one “stand-out” artist which people love to berate and throw bottles at. We all remember Daphne and Celeste at Reading 2000 (Search YouTube if you don’t remember) and I was worried about any small minded idiots doing the same. So imagine my sheer amazement when I discovered BABYMETAL were actually playing Sonisphere by request, and then to top that, people weren’t happy with them being pushed onto the side-stage and campaigned to have them perform on the main stage!

I think it’s safe to say that there’s something in BABYMETAL for everyone. If you listen to their album you will find something from all genres. Besides the obvious J-Pop and Metal, there are lashings of Rap, Rap Metal, Hip-Hop, Dubstep, Trance, Dance and Reggae (Yes, you read the last one correctly)

You’ll often see the girls putting up an unusual hand sign, very similar to the “metal horns” you see at most rock concerts. But don’t be quick to mock the girls for not doing the sign correctly, this is their own sign. The sign of the fox god whom prophesied the birth of BABYMETAL… Yeah.

Their lyrical content ranges from serious to comical, with such tracks as ギミチョコ!! “Gimmi Choco!!” in which the girls have a desire to eat chocolate and worry about becoming fat (I’ve seen equally bizarre lyrics in System of a Down tracks) however there are tracks such as イジメ、ダメ、ゼッタイ ” IJIME, DAME, ZETTAI” which tell people to stop bullying.

How long this will last is really up in the air. People have a habit of latching on to the latest craze and then dropping it a few months later after becoming tired of the same material. You only have to look at Korean pop star PSY who had already established a fan base in Korea, and went on to worldwide success for a short while. However people soon grew tired of hearing the same track, and even the follow up track “Gentleman”. So will BABYMETAL suffer the same fate? It’s hard to say, but I think with them being such a young age and the group being new and exciting, they will only grow even more (Literally)… BABYMETAL! がんばって!

BABYMETAL Official Website

BABYMETAL on iTunes

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… Outside Dandy

I’ve been attending local live shows since I was 15, so I’ve seen bands of all calibres over the years. Though I find it hard to recall seeing a band as talented as “Outside Dandy” on an independent level.


Outside Dandy

I found “Outside Dandy” on YouTube after watching videos of “Sugar’n’Spice” (See them by clicking here) when their live video was pushed in my face as “recommended to watch”, and I’m glad it was. I’m a big fan of rock music, and I’m a sucker for a killer riff. This is why their song “Stripper” grabbed my attention…

Outside Dandy – ストリッパー (Shibuya O-Crest 11/04/14)

Their sound is phenomenal. I was fortunate to see them live twice while in Japan, and on both occasions they stole the show with their balls to the wall rock. Not only are they a ridiculously tight unit, but they are all incredible musicians who clearly give their all to their craft.

The band consists of Tatsurow (Vocals & Guitar), Yuma (Bass), Sho (Guitar), Ryuta (Drums) and are some of the coolest guys I’ve met in Japan. I contacted the band via Twitter to let them know I would be attending their live show in Shibuya at the Chelsea Hotel at the end of March. After the show, we were able to hang out and talk about music (using my limited Japanese language proficiency) 

Myself & Outside Dandy @ Chelsea Hotel 30/03/14

Signed copy of their latest mini-album “BIRTH”

We then encountered one another at other live shows in Shibuya! So not only do they dedicate their time to their own work, but they’re supportive of other local musicians which is a fantastic quality to have…

Shibuya O-Crest 11/04/14 (Photo by せきねしずか)

Shibuya EGGMAN 01/04/14
They were excited to have gained fans from the UK, which is one of the main reasons I started this blog in the first place; to connect our two countries. So I hope you will check them out. Hopefully one day they will be able to visit the UK as some venues have started to put on “Japanese nights” for unsigned acts.

If you’d like to hear more from Outside Dandy, please check out the following links:

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… OSAKA SHUNKASHUTO

I recently posted a blog about videographer Soezimax (which you can read here) in which I briefly touched upon his CampFire campaign project of creating a new idol group. I wanted to use this post to go a little more in depth into that project… OSAKA SHUNKASHUTO!

OSAKA SHUNKASHUTO

With an average age of 16, the girls hail from the Kansai region and have been training to become the next big idol group. All of them are studying at high school while working around the clock to become amazing performers. While many people may see this as putting too much pressure on teenagers during a crucial time of their development, they clearly have lots of fun doing what they do. The girls display strong character and the ability to deal with all situations. Not to mention the amazing support they receive from Soezimax and their senior idol group MilkyHat.

MilkyHat – The senior idol group

Osaka Shunkashuto is made up of seven girls in total; Maina, Anna, Mana, Eon, Rina, Maya and Yuna. Each girl brings their own bubbly personality and characteristics to the group.

Maina is the most confident and the eldest of the group. She takes centre stage in most of the performances. Most recently, she came 3rd in a national Japanese song tournament in which there were over 10,000 entrants, yet she was still disappointed with her place! 

Anna, complete with cute dimples, she seems to be the most humble of the group. She is consistently smiling in every video behind the scenes and seems to really enjoy every second of being a part of something special.

Manna was recently selected to be the leader of the group during a photoshoot for the CD single cover. Much to her surprise, she was taken back by the announcement, however her fellow Shunkashuto members were very supportive of the decision. Watch the announcement here!

Eon seems to be the loveable jester of the group. She’s often seen in videos fumbling her words and actions, much to the hilarity of the rest of the others. She shows great enthusiasm when Soezimax presents new challenges, be it a sample of the new single, or dance challenge.

Rina is one of the more quiet members of the group. But what she lacks in volume, she makes up for in solid performance. While she may not always be in the main spotlight, she stands out in all of the music videos for her sharp dance performances, and support of the other members.

Maya recently graduated from High School (おめでとうございます) and seems to be the most interactive person via social media. I’ve managed to catch her not only on Twitter, but also TwitCasting (mobile web streaming) a few times. Much like Rina, Maya seems to play a strong supporting role to the other girls and oozes confidence when speaking.

Yuna is the youngest of the group… and also the clumsiest (check out the end of the “I Want You Back Video” at the end of this blog post). As she’s one of the tallest members, Yuna can usually be found in the centre of the action. Despite her age in comparison to the other members, she manages to hold her own, and keep up with her peers.
 

OSAKA SHUNKASHUTO – The Lazy Song (Bruno Mars Cover)
 
 
OSAKA SHUNKASHUTO – Baby (Justin Bieber Cover)
 
As you can see from the videos above, the girls work together as a tight unit and their choreography is more than impressive. If this is the kind of talent Soezimax is working with at the moment, I can only imagine what level they will be at in a few years time. No doubt with the CD and music video release later this year, the girls will be thrust further into the spotlight. However, judging from the many “behind the scenes” videos, they can prepare themselves for anything. I wish all the girls amazing success from this project, and hope they realise what an amazing opportunity Soezimax has presented to them. 
 
I’ll close this blog post with another cover video from the girls (Keep an eye out for a bonus scene at the end) and point out once again how great they are at what they do as a group… 
 
Though Maina and Yuna are my favourites (^_-)-☆
 
 
OSAKA SHUNKASHUTO – Want You Back (Jackson 5 Cover)
To find out more information about LIVE shows and updates from the girls, be sure to check out the official website:

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… Hanato Chiruran

I’m always on the look out for new Japanese music (After all, there’s only so much Scandal one man can listen to) which is how I stumbled across a podcast called “It Came From Japan“, an independent outfit ran by Daniel Robson. I listen to the podcast on a regular basis, and really enjoy all the bands Daniel suggests. However none of them really jumped out at me like Hanato Chiruran did.


Hanato Chiruran


I’ve always been a fan of bands with disjointed guitar riffs and jazz beats. The first musicians that jump to mind are Acoustic Ladyland and Giraffes? Giraffes! which is where I think Hanato Chiruran would fit in the west.

Hanato Chiruran are a Japanese rock band formed in Tokyo in 2008. They have had collaborations with many other musicians, including hip-hop artists, but over time they have changed their style to classic rock and roll. Releasing their first album “Dirty and Beauty” in 2009, they followed this up in 2010 with “Bulldozer” where they were picked up by a management team and began touring in Europe in 2011 and 2012 in places such as Germany, France, and Italy.

It’s hard to describe Hanato Chiruran’s unique sound without hearing it for yourself. Lead vocalist Yumiho has a beautifully haunting voice, combined with John Frusciante style guitar from Kokeshi, funky and lightning precise bass tones from Karuta, and indie trip-hop beats from Rossi. Altogether they give an amazingly epic sound for an indie band.


Hanato Chiruran – The Game

The track which caught my attention from the “It Came From Japan” podcast was “The Game”. I sent a tweet to Daniel asking if I could download the track from iTunes. He then messaged the band directly, which put me in contact with Yumiho. She was kind enough to explain that they had no digital version, only a CD, but she would send me a CD in the post!


“To Sean, Enjoy our CD, Thank you!” – A message from Hanato Chiruran / Yumiho


Hanato Chiruran – Bulldozer

I received the CD in just a few days and immediately imported it to my iTunes and it’s been sat on repeat for days now. There are segments of each track which are reminiscent of some of my favourite tracks by western artists including Bloc Party, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and The XX. “The Game” is still my favourite track, just for it’s haunting opening lyrics where Yumiho asks “Did we shoot a dice when we walked in for the first time?” as we realise this is a romantic song full of regret, but no sooner do we fall in love with her soft traditional Japanese vocals, that the rest of the band explode into action into a fast paced five minute belter. The video above doesn’t really do the track justice due to the recording quality of the video camera, but believe me, it sounds fantastic.

I’ll wrap up by leaving you with another track from the album, it’s called “JUMP”


Hanato Chiruran – JUMP


For more information on Hanato Chiruran, you can find their official links here:
Hanato Chiruran official website

Hanato Chiruran on Facebook
Hanato Chiruran on Twitter

Don’t forget to check out “It Came From Japan” too:
It Came From Japan official website

It Came From Japan on Twitter

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… Sugar’n’Spice

As most of you know by now, I’m a huge fan of the band Scandal. They played a big part in my love for discovering new Japanese music to listen to. One day whilst browsing YouTube for Japanese bands, one particular video caught my attention called “Hybrid Age”. The reason it caught my eye is because my username on YouTube is Hybrid3415 (Don’t ask, it’s a username I’ve used since I was 15) So I gave it a listen…



Who was this bad ass of a front woman, accompanied by a cute punky drummer and attitude fuelled crunching indie guitar tones? It was of course Sugar’n’Spice. I loved the track so much, I had it on repeat for over an hour. I followed the links via their description and shortly downloaded the album also entitled “The Hybrid Age” from iTunes. I soon came to love their other tracks, with one of my other favourites being “Queen Kate”, a song in which lead singer Kyao, daydreams of visiting London and hanging out with one of her idols; Kate Moss. The track has a very rough British punk, Libertines-esque, vibe to it.



Since discovering the band, I’ve tried to share them with my friends via Twitter and Facebook. I recently tried my hand at DJing at a local rock night, where I was able to throw in a few tracks by Sugar’n’Spice too. As Kyao manages most of the social media aspects of the band, we have had a few interactions, the same goes for the other members Tsue (guitar) and Mie (drums) …

A quick Tweet to Mie chan for her birthday…
And a question to Tsue about her incredible appetite…


Kyao was even kind enough to help me surprise one of my best friends for his birthday! Since hearing Hybrid Age, my friend Bob has enjoyed the band as much as I have. I asked Kyao via Twitter if she wouldn’t mind getting the band to sign a CD and send it over to me for his birthday. How cool is that?!


The girls hosted a LIVE web chat before one of their shows recently. I messaged them to let them know that I would see them one day…


If your Japanese is like mine isn’t that strong, Kyao says; “A guy from England is watching this too! He will visit Japan one day and come to our show, coming from across the sea. Thank you so much!” (Thanks to my friend Mami chan for the translation)

It’s really great to see an upcoming band that has such great interaction with their fans. I really look forward to seeing what the girls produce next with their new addition of Okumurakana on bass guitar, and hopefully seeing them play live one day.

Sugar’n’Spice… Ganbatte ne!

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There are links scattered throughout this blog post linking to the band’s Twitter profiles and YouTube accounts, for more information check out the following links: