Interview by David Cirone
April 12, 2020
Photos by David Cirone
Japanese rock band BRATS performed their first USA live concert at Anime Los Angeles in January 2020. On the same day as their first American event, the band released the single “Excuser“, the first of a seven-month streak of new digital releases.
They followed up in February and March with stabs at commercialism and social media (“No more No more“) and the crowd-favorite rocker “Ms. Downer“. As the band gets ready for their upcoming April release, members Rei Kuromiya (vocals), Aya Kuromiya (bass), and Hinako (guitar) discuss pre-show nerves, bridging the language gap in music, and why the dark side of rock is where they feel right at home.
Your first USA concert at Anime Los Angeles is still a strong memory for your fans. What was on your mind before the show started?
Rei: I was trying to focus, but there are always so many things that happen right before any show starts. One of the security people was very friendly and showed me photos of his dog. And then I showed him a picture of my dog, too. That cheered me up and relaxed me.
Hinako: I get really nervous before live shows, and in America, I didn’t know how fans would react to us since it was our first time. I got stuck in the restroom for a little while.
Aya: I was really worried. I don’t know how the other band members can manage to calm down, I can never do it. I went to the bathroom a lot, and I was backstage making circles non-stop. “What if I mess up?” “What if they don’t like our music?” “There are so many people watching, I have to get it right!”
When it’s your first time performing in a new country – America, Korea, Taiwan – do you feel like everything has to go perfectly?
Hinako: I do feel pressure, more pressure than in Japan. The environment is totally different, so if there’s any problem, I’m not sure how to fix it right away. We always want to show fans our best performance, not matter where we are.
Aya: I’m like that always! It doesn’t matter if it’s overseas or at home in Japan. I’m a perfectionist.
Rei: I also feel pressure, but I always mess up anyway. No matter how much we practice, somehow I find a way to get it wrong! It’s just how my brain goes, it’s my nature. Right after I mess up, I panic for like three seconds, and then ten seconds later, I mess up again. And then if I think about it, I mess up even more. So I just have to keep going somehow.
You’ve released 3 singles already in 2020, and the lyrics, as usual, are pretty intense. Rei, you’ve mentioned that the themes of these songs, like “Excuser” and “No more No more”, are pretty close to your personality, and you also co-wrote the lyrics to “Ms. Downer”.
Rei: We’re not shiny, innocent girls. Many J-Pop songs cover the same kind of topics –- “I want to see you”, “I miss you”, that kind of thing. We don’t want to sing those songs, and we can’t write those types of lyrics either. We want to express real experiences through our music, things that are really happening in life. We can express ourselves and our personal experiences in a different way than just talking about romance, and our fans can relate to us because we’re sharing those real feelings.
Does this style choice reflect your own personal taste in music?
Rei: I think anything can be expressed through music. Some people like that kind of “kira-kira” style, and some people like heavier songs. I was always the type of person who was drawn toward the deeper, darker side.
Do you think that young women in Japan have enough choices in music these days? Are there enough bands for females who, like you, prefer the darker side?
Aya: Those girls usually go for visual kei bands!
Rei: I think there are options if you don’t limit yourself to the music of just one language. I think artists like Billie Eilish are really interesting for girls who share this feeling.
BRATS – “Ms. Downer” (official audio)
BRATS special live events with other bands share the title of “Versus”. Do you feel like you’re competing with the other bands on those nights?
Hinako: It’s like a sports game. We’re not really fighting them, but it’s like a friendly match. “Let’s see who wins.”
There is a little bit of English in BRATS’ lyrics, but not a lot. How do you feel about seeing fan get excited about songs you’re performing in Japanese?
Aya: It’s so great. I feel like music can connect to people and break through the language barrier. I was really touched to see that.
Hinako: I listen to songs in English that get me excited, and I don’t always understand every word, so I understand that feeling, too.
Rei: I listen to English songs sometimes, but I always check the lyrics online so I know what they’re saying.
You spoke a little bit of English to the ALA audience, and that went pretty well. They were really cheering for you.
Rei: I wasn’t sure if my English was good enough for them to understand, but I did my best anyway. I heard them cheering, and it made me feel good, but at the same time I was thinking, “Do they really know what I’m saying? I’m not so sure!” (laughs)
How do you feel about interacting with your fans through social media, and seeing so many comments from overseas?
Hinako: It’s fun to read those messages. It makes me happy we’re connecting from so far away.
Aya: I’m always curious about what fans have to say about our music. But I know we can’t be too sensitive to that, so we can keep creating music that we’re passionate about.
BRATS Official Website: http://brats-official.com
Official Fan Club: https://fanicon.net/fancommunities/1696
BUY AT CDJAPAN!