In an article on the film The Runaways, Breeanna Hare of CNN asks, “Where are the modern-day Runaways?” Japan is a good place to start. Here are a few of the all-female rock bands from Japan. After the article, there is a poll. Do drop by and tell us who your favorite all-girl band is. If you like the artists on this page, you should also check out my introduction to female J-Pop singer-songwriters like Yui, miwa and Tsuji Shion: J-Pop Girls and Guitars. (Note: I use the term all-girl band as it is term most people would use when searching on the net; I prefer the term ‘all-female band’)
Silent Siren is a pop-rock band formed in 2010, and after a line-up change a couple of years later, it is now comprised of Suu on vocals and guitar, Hinanchu on drums, Ainyan on bass, Yukarun on keyboards. They founding members were all doing modelling work in their teens when they decided on forming the band. Suu and Hinanchu discovered a shared passion for music between modelling gigs and formed the band, inviting their friends to join. They released their first album in 2012, with their fourth album ‘S’ being released 2015. Their sound is quite light and poppy compared to some of the other bands on the list.
BAND-MAID is a five-piece rock band consisting of Miku Kobato (vocals and guitars), Saiki Atsumi (vocals), Kanami Tōno (guitar), Akane Hirose (drums), Misa (bass). In performances, videos and publicity shots, they have a cosplay visual style based on Japanese maid café hostesses, though Saiki and Misa go for more of an elegant gothic look. This image carries over into other aspects as well, with fans being referred to as masters and princesses and with concerts being called servings. The idea behind the visual theme is to contrast the formal subservience associated with the French maid image with their powerful music. As Miku explains:
“Band-Maid’s concept is about creating contrast – how we look and how we sound are worlds apart. One is cute and submissive in nature, the other is wild, powerful and dominant. I thought that idea was interesting. Basically, we want to defy expectations” (teamrock.com/feature/2016-08-30/who-are-band-maid-and-what-do-they-want)
I initially found the look a little off-putting as it does seem to have an element of fan service to it; however, after getting around to finally listening to their music at an HMV listening booth, I was impressed with the strong sound, energetic playing, powerful mix and interesting arrangements.
Scandal is a four-piece pop rock band featuring Haruna Ono (vocals, guitar), Tomomi Ogawa (bass, vocals), Mami Sasazaki (lead guitar,vocals) and Rina Suzuki (drums,vocals). They formed in 2006, when the girls were in high school in Osaka. They started out playing street performances, were soon offered club gigs and have really broken out during the last few years, during which time they also tried keeping up with their studies. Though they are still promoted as a schoolgirl band, I guess that as their ages now range from 19 to 21 they have finished school already. They are now signed to Sony’s Epic label and are about to release their their second major album. Their first album, Scandal – Best Album, is a strong collection of straight-ahead rock songs, with the first half having more of a rock’n’roll influence and the second half moving towards slightly more sophisticated pop-rock arrangements. Their songs are in Japanese.
The second album, Temptation Box, was released in August 2010. The band’s sound is a more polished and varied in this album, incorporating more pop songs (even a couple of ballads) and more sophisticated arrangements. For example, one track makes use of a ska-influenced rhythm while another has an eighties feel. In this album, Tomomi seems to be taking on a more important role, frequently taking over vocal duties and working on more complex bass lines. For me the standout tracks are Shunkan Sentimental (used as a theme song in the Fullmetal Alchemist anime) and the song with the ska-like rhythm: プレイボーイPartII.
This is an interesting video of the band playing Space Ranger in their early street performing days: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2elUuLUiJKc.
- Official website: www.scandal-4.com/
Shishamo is a an indie pop-rock trio featuring Asako Miyazaki (vocals and guitars), Misaki Yoshikawa (drums) and Aya Matsuoka (bass). Like Scandal, Shishamo was formed while the members were high school. In this case, the founding members were all members of the light music club at the same school (Aya Matsuoka replaced founding member Aya Matsumoto in 2014). Their name, Shishamo, is a kind of small fish.
They have a lighter sound than Scandal and Band-Maid and the music is more ‘alternative’ than Silent Siren’s. The band is fairly popular in Japan, but is not as well known overseas as the other three bands.
LAZYgunsBRISKY is a four-piece band garage-rock band formed in 2006 and featuring Lucy (vocals), izumi (guitar), azu (bass), and Moe (drums). They have released two full albums to date and are signed to the Babestar label. Their songs are almost entirely in English. I have the 2009 release, 26times. The album is a little uneven, with the opening tracks—Liar, Bitter Day and Navy Star—creating a powerful opening that isn’t sustained throughout the whole album. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, however, a song like Navy Star, with its happily churning bass riff, never fails. I first heard the album in a record store listening booth and immediately thought, “Wow, this is a must buy!” LAZYgunsBRISKY aren’t as well known as some other all-female bands like Scandal or Stereopony, but with their English lyrics and hard-rocking sound, they can hopefully reach a wider audience soon.
- Official site:(offline)
Stereopony are a three-piece band featuring Aimi (vocals and guitar), Nohana (bass) and Shiho (drums). They are similar in age to the musicians in Scandal—around 20 years old. The band formed in Okinawa in 2007, are signed to Sony and have just released their second album Over the Border. They have a more polished sound with some songs being reminiscent of the singer-songwriter Yui (with whom they’ve collaborated in the past), some songs having a j-pop feel (with Aimi singing in a higher, lighter, more typically j-pop voice) and others using a more indie sound. Stereopony covers a wider musical range than Scandal and LAZYgunsBRISKY but lack the power and bite of these two bands. A lot of the power in Stereopony’s sound comes from the drums, while LAZYgunsBRISKY and Scandal give greater prominence to guitar and bass riffs.
- Official website: www.stereopony.com/index.html (Japanese)
- Fansite (Very Good Days, Offline) (English)
- Fansite (Flowers and Dreams):(Offline)
New Strike Zipper
New Strike Zipper is a six-piece punk/nu-metal band formed in Tokyo in 2005 and featuring Chiori (vocals), Nao (Vocals), Yuki (guitar), Yuino (guitar) Mika (bass) & Ka-ni (drums). So far, they have released one album—All Is Not Lost. Unlike Linkin Park, in which one vocalist handles rap while the other sings, both vocalists in New Strike Zipper do some of each.
New Strike Zipper Online
- Official Website: ip.tosp.co.jp/i.asp?i=newstrikezipper
tokyo pinsalocks, featuring Naoko (vocals/keyboards), Hisayo (bass & and programming) and Reiko (drums & programming) are a rock trio that have sound thats’s build on rock and is influenced by electronica, funk and psychedelic rock. They formed in 2000 and are still going strong. Their line-up changed in 2006 when their Tomocchi, the guitarist, left the group. Rather than replace her, they decided to go for a more different sound. They’ve released five albums and a few mini-albums and singles.
tokyo pinsalocks online
- Official Website:www.pinsalocks.com
The Pink Panda (2002-2008) & BLiSTAR
I don’t know much about these bands. Two membersof The Pink Panda went on to help form BLiSTAR.
Eu Phoria (2002-2008)
This was a short-lived Tokyo-based band, releasing only three singles in 2007 and 2008 before splitting up. The band featured Shoco (vocals), Tomo2 (guitar), Ayaka (bass), Reona (keyboard) andSawa2 (drums) and seemed to be heading for a more pop-oriented rock sound. One distinguishing feature of the band was the classic rock guitar solos from Tomo2.
Nakanomori BAND (中ノ森 BAND) (2004 – 2008)
Nakanomori BAND (中ノ森 BAND) was a four-member band featuring Ayako (vocals/guitar), Yucco (bass), Cheeta (drums) and Shinamon (keyboards). They were signed for Teichiku records (the official webpage of the band is here: www.teichiku.co.jp/artist/nakanomori/. They debuted in 2005 and released three albums before disbanding in 2008. Their songs veered between pop-rock and pop ballads. To me, the song I Need LOVE is remniscent of Don’t Get Me Wrong by Chrissie Hyde and the Pretenders (Ican’t find that online anymore, so here is another).
Zone started as an eight-member dance-oriented pop idol group in 1997, but to differentiate themselves from other idol groups on hitting the market, they morphed into a four-piece rock/pop band featuring Miyu Nagase (lead vocal, guitar), Mizuho Saito (vocals, drums), Maiko Sakae (vocals, bass) and Takayo Ookoshi (vocals, guitar). Yakayo left the band in 2003 and was replaced by one of the former Zone members—Tomoka Nishimura. The members were all quite young and attending high school at the time. For example, Miyu was born in 1988, making her just shy of seventeen at the time of the band’s final performance. This video of their biggest hit, the beautiful and melodic Secret Base is from that farewell concert.
Scandal has a nice cover of Secret Base, but the videos keep getting deleted. See if you can find it on YouTube.
This long-serving retro rockabilly, surf-rock garage band trio is best known for appearing in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. here they are performing Woo Hoo at a bar in San Francisco. Originally a quartet, the band formed in 1986 and is still actively touring and recording.
An even longer serving rock trio is Shonen Knife. They formed in 1981 and with their optimistic pop-punk sound earned a strong cult following in America’s indie rock scene in the late 80s and 1990s and played concerts with Fugazi and Nirvana. The line-up has changed a lot, with Naoko Yamano, guitarist and lead vocalist, being the sole founding member still with the band.
Did I miss one of your favorite bands? Write a reply and let me know.
In the comments, Mark introduces this band. He writes: “They’ve swapped members a bit in the three years they’ve been around, but they’re putting out some awesome music. The band was started by F-Chopper Koga after she left The Pink Panda, on bass, and her longtime friend Hana on drums. They added Tomo-Zo (formerly Tomo2) from Eu Phoria on guitar and Armmy (formerly Taka) from Link Age on vocals. Unfortunately, Armmy left the band early in 2012 due to illness, but the band played on and added Reona from Eu Phoria as keyboardist (she now goes by Oreoreona, or just Oreo). Currently they are working with Fuki from Light Bringer on vocals and calling themselves Doll$Boxx (no idea if it’s a side-project or what). That lineup has their first album coming in December 2012.”
chatmonchy (9チャットモンチー) is recommended by Icarus. This is a two indie-pop duo featuring Eriko Hashimoto (guitar, vocals) and Akiko Fukuoka (bass, backing chorus). They formed as a trio in 2000 but their drummer left in 2011. Personally, I find the cute-style vocals (quite high, thin and ‘pitchy’) a little off-putting.
Another recommendation by Icarus, this quartet is more indie-pop than rock.
More Articles on Japanese Music
I’ve added more videos to a YouTube playlist of all-girl bands, you can see them here: www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL127DDE49F921367D
If you like female J-rockers, do check out my latest article on female singer-songwriters: longzijun.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/j-pop-girls-and-guitars-female-singer-songwriters
YUI, miwa, Tsuji Shion, Rika Shinohara, Aya Kamiki, Cocco, Nana Kitade
ELLEGARDEN, Nothing’s Carved in Stone, the HIATUS, Boom Boom Satellites and fly sleep fly
Kojima Mayumi, GARNET CROW, ohashi Trio and moumoon
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