The page features some of the all-girl hard-rock bands from Japan. It is part of a series: All-girl Rock Bands from Japan.
This other pages in this series focus on genres such as pop, metal, punk and indie pop. The bands featured on this page, however, are just…well…rock.
Miku Kobato (vocals & guitars), Saiki Atsumi (lead vocals), Kanami Tōno (lead guitar), Akane Hirose (drums), MISA (bass)
BAND-MAID is a five-piece rock band and are, in my opinion, the best hard rock band. 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 maid concept 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 the band’s powerful sound with formal subservience associated with the French maid image. 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”
BAND-MAID was put together by Miku in 2013 in Tokyo. It was her idea to create a maid themed rock band (she had previously worked in a maid café). She contacted Kanami after an Internet search. Kanami then recommended Akane, who in turn recommended Misa. The band started as a quartet but added Saiki as lead vocalist after auditions.
I initially found the look a little off-putting as I thought it had an element of fan service to it (Hey, don’t blame me; even three of the band members—Misa, Akane and Saiki—were initially apprehensive about the maid idea); however, after getting around to finally listening to their music at a Tower Records listening booth, I was immediately impressed by their high levels of musicianship (they definitely have the chops), inventive arrangements (e.g., the little guitar riffs added to the second verse of Choose Me) and clean and powerful sound.
For the last two years, for April Fool’s Day, the band has released videos in which the members dress as Maiko (geisha-in-training) and add traditional Japanese instruments such as the koto and shakuhachi to their arrangments. In this incarnation, they are known as BAND-MAIKO.
In the song Choose Me, the guitar and drums are highlighted, while in the BAND-MAIKO video for the song Gion-cho (www.youtube.com/watch?v=umSt7oMUMcs), it is Misa’s bass lines that stand out. What I like about her playing is that although her bass parts tend to be really busy, they always fit perfectly within the arrangement and never draw undue attention. (official website: bandmaid.tokyo)
Meana (guitar and vocals), Be (bass and vocals), CHAD (drums)
I wasn’t sure whether to categorize MUTANT MONSTER as pop rock (for their catchy melodies) or hard rock (for the arrangements), but I love the vocal interplay by sisters Meana and Be. The band was formed by Meana and Be in 2008 when they were in high school and were later joined by CHAD, a former classmate. Their most recent album was released in 2018 (along with an international version). This band was recommended by Lucymar Betancourt (official website: mutant-monster.com).
Rei Kuromiya (vocals), Aya Kuromiya (bass), Hinako (guitar)
BRATS was formed by two sisters, Rei and Aya Kuromiya (bass) in 2011 when the girls were 10 and 12 years old respectively. They were joined three years later by Aya’s friend, Hinako. The band’s name was inspired by the name of one of the bands in the NANA manga, anime and movie franchise—BLAST. Rei had been modelling as an idol since the age of 8 and the duo’s first video ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvA6kctcdA4) is very much in the child pop idol vein (with only the slightest hints of rock). In 2016, their sound took a hard and deliberate swerve into rock. In 2018, they released their first full album. (official website: brats-official.com)
Ryoko (vocals, guitar), Fumiha (Bass), Aika (Drums)
ЯeaL (りある) is another very young all-girl band. The band formed in 2012 when the girls were in junior secondary school together in Osaka. A fourth member Yurika) dropped out of the band. They released their first album—19. (which would have been their ages at the time)—in 2017. (official website: www.realgirlsband.com). The song in the above video is a cover song.
Current Members: Yurika Onami (vocals, guitar), Himari Ayanokouji (Bass)
SEKIRARA started out as a quartet in 2014, but have since slimmed down to a duo (accompanied by support performers) after Mia Kuboko (guitar) and Madoka Umekyuuin (drums) left the band. The band has a wide stylistic range that takes in various flavors of rock— pop, alternative, emo indie
—often within the same song.
Members: Li-sa-X (guitar), Rina (vocals), Hazuki (guitar)
Li-sa-X BAND is a trio led by seventeen-year-old guitarist Li-sa-X. The band was formed in 2020 and also features Hazuki (formerly of Disqualia and currently with NEMOPHILA) on guitar and Rina on vocals. Session musicians and guest artists perform on the bass and drums. So far, they have only released two singles (the above video is for the second one). The band’s sound is difficult to pigeonhole. The verses and pre-choruses are poppy, the choruses move towards rock and the instrumental breaks veer into progressive rock and metal and there is a slight hint of jazz thrown in as well. Though still a teenager, Li-sa X has been well-known in the guitar community for years (https://www.guitarworld.com/tag/li-sa-x). She first gained attention when she started posting guitar overs on YouTube at the age of seven. Here is a video of her when she was 10 years old.
Rick Rack*, Elfin Planet* & Fern Planet
Rick Rack: SERINA (vocals, guitar), You (Bass), and Natsuki (Drums)
Elfin Planet: SERINA (vocals, guitar), Meiko Yamaguchi (bass), Haruki Mizuguchi (drums)
Fern Planet: SERINA (vocals, guitar), Meiko Yamaguchi (bass, vocals)
The use of social media is now a lot more prevalent, so is easier to see how some musicians were able to develop. Here we can we can see how one young musician—a teenager known as SERINA—has been developing her creativity and musical talents,
- The first video on her YouTube channel (now offline)—tyrashano — is of her performing Shamisen on stage. In February of 2012, For her 14th birthday, she posted a video of herself playing along to Orianthi’s Addicted to Love, and that video is followed a few months later by a ONE OK Rock play-along. In the description of that video, she mentions how her school activities like the Kendo club had kept her away from the guitar. I
- During 2013, she formed the band Rick Rack with You (Bass), and Natsuki (Drums). The band won an honorable mention at the Music Revolution Young Musician awards that year.
- In 2014, the band released their demo video for 幾千の出会いと一つの奇跡 (Thousands of Encounters and One Miracle): www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvRJjC28pKE
- To gain more experience, the band, where were from Nara, performed frequently around the nearby city of Osaka. Here is one of the performances there: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-foZ4lMrzY.
- Rick Rack released their debut mini-album in May 2015 but disbanded a couple of years later without any further releases..
- In 2017, SERINA created a new band, Elfin Planet with Meiko Yamaguchi and Haruki Mizuguchi, but the latter dropped out and the band now operates as a duo known as Fern Planet. Their most recent release is a re-working of Rick Rack’s Solder Girls (the song in the embedded video), but here is a video of a more introspective song by the band: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLGpU9MO3ZA
Current lineup: Miho Nakano (vocals, guitar), Tomomi Araya (lead guitar), Mamiko Oda (bass), Minako Ishikawa (drums)
The original five band members were high school students in Sapporo when they formed the band in 2009. They changed drummers in 2017 and their keyboardist left in 2018. (Instagram page: www.instagram.com/drops_photo/)
At the moment Drop’s style seems to be changing, though one consistent in their music is that is their sound tends to evoke styles of the sixties and seventies. The song in the above video —こわして— has a loose, grungy, rough-edged sound reminiscent of Patti Smith’s 1976 punk ballad Pissing in a River. Drop’s latest release —毎日がラブソング—is an upbeat song that feels much more ‘pop’. The new style is more accessible, but the arrangement, particularly the horn parts, still has a retro feel, which is a signature feature of band’s sound. When introducing performers they admire, the band members tend to name-check performers from bygone eras (e.g. Little Richard, Elvis, The Beatles, Chet Baker, Link Wray, Earl Palmer, Janis Joplin) or performers who have stylistic roots in the past (e.g., Tom Waits, The Black Keys). These influences come through in the the retro feel of many of the band’s songs.
Current lineup: Lucy (vocals), Yoko (guitar), azu (bass), and Moe (drums)
LAZYgunsBRISKY is a four-piece band garage-rock band formed in 2006 when the band members were in high school. They have released several mini-albums. Their songs are almost entirely in English and are influenced by seventies rock. I have the 2009 release, 26times. That 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 a little aural energy, however, a song like Navy Star, with its happily churning bass riff, never fails. LAZYgunsBRISKY aren’t as well known as some other all-female bands, but with their English lyrics and hard-rocking sound, I had hoped they could have reached a wider audience. The band disbanded in 2012 and reunited three years later, with new band member Yuko taking over guitar duties from izumi in 2016. Unfortunately, the band’s three-year hiatus appears to have killed off their momentum, and they are now struggling to get exposure.Here is one of their newer songs, The Sea, which shows a softer, more reflective side to the band: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw7758vAAS8. (official website: lazygunsbrisky.com)
Main lineup: Keiko Terada (main vocals), Miki ‘Sun-go’ Nakamura (guitar, backing vocals), Miki ‘Captain’ Igarashi (keyboards backing vocals), Satomi Senba (bass, backing vocals), Miki ‘Mittan’ Tsunoda (drums, backing vocals)
SHOW-YA are veterans of the rock scene, having formed in 1980 by Keiko Terada and Miki Nakamura, who had been playing together for a year. The band entered a music contest—the East West Grand Prix—and were signed by Toshiba EMI. The group disbanded in 1998 but reformed in 2005. The early songs were more in a pop rock style and had new wave influences but their sound gradually became harder (it was difficult to decide whether to put them in the hard rock page or the metal page).