Japanese quartet Scandal taking J-rock to the world

After nearly a decade in the music business, all-girl J-rock quartet Scandal are finally putting Japan on the world map.

Described by The Huffington Post UK as "bigger than the proverbial Godzilla in their home country", the spunky Japanese foursome - comprising lead vocalist Haruno Ono, 26, bassist Tomomi Ogawa, 24, guitarist Mami Sasazaki, 24, and drummer Rina Suzuki, 23 - are currently on their first international tour, Hello World, to promote their new studio album of the same name. Besides Asia, they've already covered the UK, France and Germany.

As you read this, the girls will be gearing up for a slew of highly anticipated concert dates in Mexico and the US, including a couple of gigs at the famed House of Blues in Los Angeles and Anaheim.

While in town last week for the Singapore leg of their tour at The Coliseum at Hard Rock Hotel, Scandal, which formed in 2006 as a high-school band, told M that no matter where their hectic globetrotting schedule takes them, it's their hardcore fans - and the interesting things they do - who make their efforts worth it.

"We've definitely had our share of crazy, super enthusiastic fans," said Ono in Japanese through a translator.

"I've seen fans with my name tattooed on their arms. Some have tattoos of our Scandal logo.

"Then, there are other fans who emulate our hairstyles, like sporting green or orange hair like Mami."

Sasazaki added: "I've noticed that in Japan, it's mostly the girls who will play with (their) hair colour to look like me. "But in Singapore, it's the guys! They have short, cropped hair, but their hair would be green or something."

Last month, Scandal played in Paris, London and German city Essen.


Their maiden UK and European experience debunked the long-time myth that Western fans are wilder than their Asian counterparts. "We observed that some of our Western audiences are actually pretty laid-back," said Suzuki.

"Unlike most of our Asian fans, who would immediately rush to the front of the stage to reserve seats the minute they reach the concert venue, some of our Western fans prefer to just sit at the bar counter, relax and enjoy our show.

"That, to us, is quite refreshing."

Also, on their Europe leg, Sasazaki found herself suffering from jet lag for the first time.

"Well, fighting against sleepiness might be a good experience for our world tour," she said.

Scandal, best known for their energetic anime theme songs Shunkan Sentimental (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood), Shojo S and Harukaze (both for Bleach), declined to answer any questions that drew comparisons with other successful J-pop acts like Babymetal. However, the girls acknowledged that there is a current emergence of modern Japanese music on the international scene.

Cutesy trio Babymetal, with their unique blend of ferocious death metal screams and sugary bubblegum tunes, opened for Lady Gaga on her US tour and performed at the same festivals as heavyweights Metallica and Slayer.


And then there are J-rockers L'Arc-en-Ciel and veteran Japanese heavy metallers X Japan, who have taken New York's Madison Square Garden by storm.

"We are very happy that our overseas fans have shown appreciation for our music," said Ono. "Doing this tour has given us a chance to witness their passion at first hand.

"Personally, we started out doing a lot of anime theme songs and it's amazing that anime culture has spread to so many different parts of the world."

Hello World, Scandal's sixth studio release, contains the upbeat lead single Image and is now available on iTunes.

The single's music video starts off with the girls jamming in an underground garage, decked out in casual sweatshirts and jumpers. Halfway, a buzzer goes off and they transform into superheroes whose mission is to help kids and teenagers.

"The song has a straight-up rock sound, so many people might expect a typical music video with cool visuals. We wanted to overturn their expectations - in a good way," said Ogawa.

"Also, in the music video, our 'evolving' (into superheroes) represents our step up to the next level as a band."

This article was first published on May 13, 2015.
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