“BAND-MAID is Certainly Moving Forward” Interview with Global Icon BAND-MAID Part.2

BAND-MAID is a Japanese band attracting many fans from all over the world, that plays hard rock while dressed as maids. The band is comprised of five members, starting from guitarist, lead singer and lyricist, Miku Kobato, guitarist and songwriter, KANAMI, drummer AKANE, bassist MISA, and another lead singer SAIKI. They are taking over the world with all their world tour shows in the US, the UK, and Europe being sold out. Recently, they are becoming even more recognized from their appearance in the Netflix original film, Kate, which came out this September. 

In the first part of the interview, we sat down with the girls and talked under the theme, “Why is BAND-MAID so popular abroad”—In part two, they spoke candidly about Kobato’s solo project, cluppo; their appearance in the Netflix film, Kate; doing an opening theme song for the TV anime series, Platinum End, with the song, “Sense”; Japanese girl bands in general; and things relating to BAND-MAID’s future as a band.  

――Kobato, I was surprised with your solo project, cluppo.


Kobato: Did I surprise you? Then, I’m happy. 

――I thought it was going to be just an April Fools’ joke, but you actually went on and released a single CD, “PEACE&LOVE/Flapping wings,” on August 10th, the national pigeon day. 

Kobato: That’s right. Originally, it was just a surprise—I wanted to surprise everyone.

――It seems like you’ve put a lot of effort into this song.

Kobato: Before cluppo, we’ve done high-quality stuff in our past April Fools’ projects, so I started the project thinking, cluppo shouldn’t be a half-hearted thing; if I’m doing this, I should do it seriously enough that it’s hard to tell whether if it’s real or not. If it doesn’t work out, I can just end it, and if it works out, I can carry on with it. 

――And you earned great responses, more than you expected. 

Kobato: That’s right. A lot of people were thrilled with it, so we were like: “Let’s do something with this again,” “I would love to,” “Alright then, let’s make it happen in August.” So, at that time on April 1st, releasing a single in August wasn’t a plan yet.

―It’s a great song, by the way. 

Kobato: Thank you. We thought that it wouldn’t make sense if I did something that I’m already doing with BAND-MAID, so I did something completely opposite. 

――Though, it’s not a typical J-POP either.

Kobato: That’s true. It would be mundane if I did something close to J-POP, so in the beginning, like with BAND-MAID, we came up with a concept for cluppo. There’s this song called “HIPPIE-POPPO” from the 60s or the 70s. I reinterpreted the song and infused a modern mood to it, and established cluppo’s unique style.  

――I feel like cluppo is going to go on permanently. 

Kobato: I think releasing the CD on August 10th was cluppo’s new starting line, and I hope I can continue the project as part of a surprise.  

――And SAIKI, how do you view this cluppo project? 

SAIKI: At first, Kobato didn’t have me listen to the song nor say anything about the project, so when she came to me asking to check the music video, I was like, “what, you already have the song!?” After we all saw the video, we were like, “You’re nailing it! Go for it!” [laughs].

Kobato: AKANE is a fan now.

SAIKI: AKANE is, unequivocally, a fan! Because when we did a show, BAND-MAID “THE DAY OF MAID” on May 10th, the day of maid, cluppo was the opening act, and AKANE went to see cluppo’s rehearsal and every time I pass by her, she kept saying, “Ah, it’s cluppo! She’s amazing! So amazing!” [laughs].

Kobato: I was like, “it’s still me. How could you see me so differently!?” 

SAIKI: I reminded her, too, like “You know, that’s Kobato.” [laughs].

Kobato: Couple days ago, I told her that the CD came out, and she asked me, “Could I possibly get an autograph on both the CD and T-shirt…?” I was like, “Are you serious!?” [laughs].

SAIKI: She’s the only one behaving oddly [laughs].

Kobato: KANAMI, on the other hand, was like, “the song, it’s amazing. I especially love this part!” AKANE is the only one being weird. I’m grateful for her, though. 

SAIKI: Anyway, the takeaway is that all the members are giving cluppo the best support. [laughs]. 

BAND-MAID is certainly moving forward

――Releasing “PEACE&LOVE/Flapping wings” acted as a good bridge to start streaming “Sense (TV Size Ver.)” on September 5th. On October 27th, the full version of “Sense” was released on CD.

Kobato: Recently, I’ve been more active as cluppo, so I think people were even more surprised with it.  

――I heard the full version of “Sense,” , you’ve managed to fit a lot into it. 

 Kobato: The song is a tie-up with the TV anime show, Platinum End, and it’s got a different BAND-MAID mood from the kind we normally create for our albums—it’s spiced up and there’s a lot of details in this version. 

――I first heard the full version of “Sense,” and although the TV version is made shorter, you’ve managed to fit a lot into it.  

Kobato: The song is a tie-up with the TV anime show, Platinum End, and it’s got a different BAND-MAID mood from the kind we normally create for our albums—it’s spiced up and there’s a lot of details in this version. 

――I absolutely feel so especially in the intro. 

Kobato: We had some requests from the [anime] production committee as well, so the intro changed a bit from what we had in the demo and turned out the way it sounds now. The orchestra sounds more dynamic. 

――And this song is boosting BAND-MAID’s potential. 

Kobato: True. KANAMI was saying, “I’ve acquired a lot!” 

――The song doesn’t merely go by quickly with a momentum, and it’s intricately well structured. 

SAIKI: That’s true. It’s new, but you can still feel KANAMI’s aesthetic from the structures and riffs.  

――Also, after a long delay, Netflix film, Kate, finally came out.

Kobato: I know! We were eagerly waiting for it to come out. We were worrying like, “what if it’s canceled…?”  

SAIKI: We thought our part was cut [laughs]. But then, we saw the trailer and we were surprised that we were there. 

――It was right when your song for Platinum End came out, so it was perhaps a good timing. 

Kobato: That’s true. We were able to make multiple announcements.

SAIKI: With this band, everything works out in the end [laughs].

――The US tour, EU tour, and Asian tour got canceled, and we’re still uncertain about the future, but how do you, as BAND-MAID, picture the future? 

Kobato: We still want to dominate the world but doing an online Okyu-ji (show) during the pandemic was a huge accomplishment for us. Before the pandemic, we’d never thought about doing an online Okyu-ji, but we’ve realized that it’s actually an alluring way to have people from all over the world enjoy our Okyu-ji, so now we’re positive towards it and hoping to use this medium to achieve our goal of world domination.  

SAIKI: We, of course, want to perform in front of live audiences, but we’re well aware that things won’t be the same as before the pandemic and it’s going to take a while for things to get back to normal. Meanwhile, we ask our masters and princesses (the fans) to hold on tight with us until it’s safe to perform live again. We want to stay cheerful, looking forward to the day we see that amazing view again. 

――I believe, BAND-MAID would not be likely to dwell on negative thoughts.  

Kobato: We don’t dwell on things. With our characters, it goes against our grain to be upset and whine like, “it sucks that we can’t do our thing properly….”

SAIKI: The entire team knows that “Now is not the time to do live Okyu-ji,” and it’s better to wait until we’re safe to see each other again than taking risks. Last May, we started an online streaming service (limited to subscription members only,) and although we don’t know when we’d be able to announce good news regarding our Okyu-ji, we’re thinking of various other ways to entertain and please our masters and princesses, providing fun contents to them—so we hope they enjoy our new challenges together. 

Kobato: People often say, “BAND-MAID is taking a break because of cluppo!” But please don’t worry! BAND-MAID is working on its own thing! I hope people see cluppo as a filler until BAND-MAID is ready for the next thing.

――So, you’re saying people shouldn’t take things too seriously. 

SAIKI: Yes, there’s nothing for them to worry [laughs]. 

We want more girl bands in Japan to thrive

――What do you think about the Japanese girl rock bands thriving these days? 

Kobato: I’m honestly happy.

SAIKI: I’m happy, too. Back when we started the band, there were many bands out there doing pop music and not many girl bands were pitching themselves as “kakko ii (cool) girls.” But now, as times changed, there are more of those [kakkoii] girls, and I’m happy to see hard rock fans livening up. 

――Couple days ago, you guys were featured in the TV show, “Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai (The World Unknown to Matsuko.)”

SAIKI: We weren’t told ‘till last minute!

Kobato: We were just told, “You guys might be featured in the show, so be sure to check it out, just in case,” and when we saw it, we were surprised like, “Wait! They’re actually mentioning our name!” 

――In the show, Ms. SAKI from Mary’s Blood was saying that when the international media asked her, “In Japan, women are in lower social status, but why are there so many girl bands?” she responded, “In that sense, shouldn’t there be more girl bands in your country?”—I thought that was a cool story. 

SAIKI: I agree! I thought to myself, “Well said!” [laughs].  

Kobato: I hear that in other countries, there aren’t as many girl bands as there are in Japan. It’s even at a point where we often get asked like, “Why are you playing the instruments?” It seems like in other countries, the idea of starting an all-female band is not much of a thing these days. 

SAIKI: We often see bands with a female bassist, but all-female band is still rare. 

――There used to be quite a lot of female bands in overseas countries, especially in the 1990s. 

SAIKI: Ah, I see. So, now it’s decreasing. 

Kobato: I wonder why, but simply, it might have to do with cultural and historical differences, rather than gender differences. But still, I’m hoping for female bands to thrive more! Since the beginning, we’ve been saying, “It’d be cool if we could lead girl bands to thrive.”  

――In another interview, I heard from SAKI, “In Japan, women are treated as women, and I think that allows us women to do girl bands in whatever form we want.”  

SAIKI: Right, there aren’t that many [female] bands abroad that go for the cute look. They’re more towards sexy or cool.  

Kobato: People overseas are familiar with the word, “Kawaii,” so I think the kawaii culture in Japan is huge.  

SAIKI: In Japan, there are many different types of girls, and I think that’s widening the spectrum. Even if you say, “a Japanese-ish girl,” I feel like there are way too many different types compared to in other countries. I just realized as I speak, that the high level of freedom in fashion [in Japan] may be somewhat relating to this point.  

Kobato: There are so many unique types of girls in Japan. 

――That’s true. In Japan, there are even sub-genres of Kawaii

Kobato: There’s a lot! Like, Harajuku-kei (Harajuku-style), Akiba-kei (Akiba-style.)

SAIKI: Also, there’s Yami-kawaii (dark cute girls) and many more.

Kobato: I feel like there’s increasingly more different kinds nowadays. Jirai-keiPien-kei…[laughs].

SAIKI: Absolutely, I just can’t keep up. I’m like, “Don’t they all look the same?” [laughs].

――In fact, I can’t even keep up with the Kawaii fad [laughs].

Kobato: I think anime is a big influence in this. In Japan, the anime culture plays a huge role, and people get excited when there’s a new character.

――That’s true. Girls start cosplaying in that new character, and other girls follow and emulate them. 

SAIKI: It’s because we have so many anime shows for girls. 

Kobato: Yeah, there’s a lot. In overseas countries, American comic superheroes are more common, and I think there are more girl protagonists in Japanese anime. Say, for example, Cutie Honey and Sailor Moon. I feel like it’s always been this way.  

――If I think of a US manga or anime with a woman protagonist, I would immediately imagine Wonder Woman

Kobato: They usually portray strong women. If not, pretty women like Cinderella. 

SAIKI: Yeah, and also elegant women; I think each country’s view on femininity is reflected on these female characters. 

――So, I guess what we can say is that this country’s culture is the major part of the reason why there are a wide variety of girl bands in Japan. 

Kobato: Yes, I think Japanese culture is major. If you even look at us, we’re dressed as maids [laughs].

SAIKI: The entire genre of Kawaii is in this band [laughs].

Kobato: But I’ve got to say, I’m happy with the fact that, recently, there are increasingly more young girl bands coming out. 

――There are [female] bands that want to be seen simply as a band, and not as a girl band. 

Kobato: We don’t really care now, since there are more hard rock girl bands making appearances in the media and the world now seems to properly understand what girl bands are, though, when BAND-MAID first started, girl bands were lumped together as “idol groups,” and we wanted to prove to people that “we aren’t idols!”  

SAIKI: We were like, “It’s okay if people call us a girl band, but just don’t forget that we’re a band!” 

Kobato: Back then, there were quite a lot of bands that weren’t actually playing the instruments on their own, and we wanted to show that we were different from them; I think that was huge. 

SAIKI: It’s been years since we started, and we have more songs in our repertoire and our own staple tunes that make people say, “these songs are unique to BAND-MAID,” so I don’t care anymore about how people label us. 

――In the near future, I hope to see you become an influential presence with many followers.   

Kobato: We would love to be like that. We want to be more recognized in Japan as much as we are recognized abroad! [laughs]. Also, we want to do our best and be more known outside of Japan!   

A hard rock band from Japan formed in 2013. Consisted of five members: Miku Kobato (guitar/lead singer), SAIKI (lead singer), KANAMI (guitar), AKANE (drums), and MISA (base). With their heavy rock sound, opposed to their appearance as maids, they are gaining fans and garnering media attention from all around the world, and have reached over 100-million total YouTube views. In 2019, they announced tour partnership with the world’s largest event promoter, Live Nation, and released the album, Conqueror, produced by the legendary rock producer, Tony Visconti. In January 2021, they released their 4th album, Unseen World, and made an appearance in the Netflix original film, Kate, that came out in September. On September 6th, they released “Sense (TV Size Ver.)”—an opening theme song for the TV anime series, Platinum End—on streaming platforms; a CD single of “Sense” was coming out on October 27th
■BAND-MAID “Sense”Music Video
■BAND-MAID “Sense”
■BAND-MAID “Sense”

The founder of BAND-MAID, Miku Kobato’s solo project. Defining a new music genre christened “HIPPIE-POPPO,” cluppo re-interprets the good old 70s music into lovely peaceful music. 

Photography Akihito Igarashi(SIGNO)
Translation Ai Kaneda


Daishi "DA" Ato

Born in 1975 in Tokyo. While spending 4 years in college in Tennessee, US, he met the members from Hi-STANDARD on their North American tour, which later led him to enter and work at their label, PIZZA OF DEATH RECORDS in 1999. He is currently a freelancer working as a PR for BRAHMAN/OAU/the LOW-ATUS, and a music writer. Twitter:@DA_chang