One could argue that the Japanese Metal scene has only really broken into the Western hemisphere and began to establish a respectable presence here. Sure it's true that if you look at the history of the Japanese Metal scene, you would notice that it's origins are firmly placed in the 1970's, echoing a similar backstory to the British Metal scene. It has to be said though that the Visual Kei movement certainly spurred the overall Japanese Metal scene on and pushed it outside the country with bands like X Japan gaining overseas attention. Fast forward to the turn of the century and bands like Crossfaith, Babymetal and now Lovebites are riding the tides of the New Wave of Japanese Metal.
Lovebites are definitely pretty, but don't let the looks fool you as this all-female Heavy / Power ensemble have enough brutality, grit and power to leave you in awe, given Lovebites have only been going 3 years. In these 3 years they have played at Wacken and Bloodstock Open Air and have signed two record deals, subsequently releasing 2 albums and 2 EP's.
Drummer Haruna spoke to GMA about the girls backstory, rise to global success and the debate of whether to call their music Heavy / Power Metal or Kawaii Metal.
"Maybe people say we are Kawaii Metal because of our looks... listen to our music... we are a Heavy / Power Metal band!"
Festival appearances, a headline tour, two EP's and now two albums across two years since the band's inception, that must be a dream start right?
"I have never thought I could experience this much in such a short time. However, I was sure that this band was going to be a good band because of these great members. I am very pleased to get good reviews for all of our songs. Playing overseas was great too. I have never experienced these kind of things so I just really hope the band will be grow up bigger by footing these chances."
When you were informed you were to perform on the main stage at Bloodstock (instead of Sophie stage), what were emotions like in the band?
I was very surprised. The happiness was bigger than the nervousness. I felt like the luck was on our side. I could do my best and did the best performance, I wanted to make good use of this opportunity. It felt so good to play Bloodstock Open Air, it was the first outdoor festival to play as Lovebites. It was raining that day, but when we played the sky became clearer and many people came out to see us."
You all seem to have different tastes in music: Asami listens to Alicia Keys and Aretha Franklin, Miyako learned to play a classical piano; do you use these as influences in Lovebites' music?
"Halloween triggered me to get into metal music. The first album I listened to was “Master Of The Rings” and I was inspired by Ulrich Kusch’s drumming style. His style became my basic drumming style.
Do you feel that the Japanese Metal scene has gained more attention from Europe over the last decade or so? It seems Japanese Metal is on the rise?
"I believe it’s getting bigger. Loudness and Babymetal are playing often overseas. I hope Lovebites to get in to the boom."
In your own words could you tell us the difference between Visual Kei and Japanese Metal? Is the Visual Kei scene still active?
"I think it’s just the look. Visual Kei bands are mainly guys dressed up, their music styles vary, sometime metal and sometimes not. Somehow people mix up Visual Kei with Metal and think it’s the same thing in Japan. Visual Kei is still highly popular though.
With your new album "Clockwork Immortality", what did you do differently that wasn't present on "Awakening From Abyss"?
"Regarding drumming, I wanted songs to stand out. So sometimes I play aggressive, sometimes I go for something simple to let the vocals and guitars sound stand out. Through the entire album, we wanted and tried to make stronger heavy metal."
Some say your music is Heavy / Power Metal, some say it's Kawaii Metal, how would you describe your music?
"Maybe people say we are Kawaii Metal because of our looks. Just listen to our music or come see us play live, you’ll know we are a Heavy / Power Metal band!
With 2019 in full swing, what have you been up to and what plans have you got for the year ahead?
"We played a Japanese tour in January. I hope to play a lot inside and outside Japan in 2019."
Do you have any greetings, thank you's etc you wish to send out?
"The new album “Clockwork Immortality” shares strong points from “Awakening From Abyss” and “Battle Against Damnation”. Plus it became more powerful with greater melodies, I hope you’ll notice the evolution of Lovebites. You will see us before long. See you there!"
Metalcore is arguably one of those genres that has fallen into the trap of being stigmatised for being too formulaic, relying too much on riffs, breakdowns and bland imagination. So where does this leave Windrunner? Well by adding melodies and progressive elements to the mix, the Vietnamese quintet have come up with a solution to bypass the clutches of being pigeon-holed as just another Metalcore band. It might as well be said that whilst Vietnam is famous for it's motorbikes and bicycles, with Windrunner in full throttle, soon Vietnam will be acknowledged for it's vibrant metal scene. Windrunner were more than pleased to chat to GMA about their deal with Famined Records, the Vietnamese Metal scene, how metal is viewed by the public and their plans for 2019.
"Society has been more and more accepting of metal, but it’s still nowhere it needs to be in a music scene dominated by V-pop and K-pop"
For those who have not heard of Windrunner, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"The band began about 6 years ago, when two local Vietnamese bands combined with current members of Windrunner. Mind you, the scene here is still small, so we have all known each other for years and a few of us have played in different bands together before. It's been kind of back and forth between acts, before this line up solidified. The band has been officially together as Windrunner only for 3 years, continuously growing and blending styles and ideas."
Please can you tell us the history of the Vietnamese Metal scene, it's current state, what festivals, media, support, etc., are present?
"Our scene is quite young, but pulsing. We regularly have shows of every genre you can think of - and the metal scene is doing great right now, with some fresh new acts and creative new directions. There are a few promoters that are pushing the scene and inviting some amazing international acts - Emmure is coming over in March, for example, so we are eternally grateful to them. It's young, it's thriving, and it's at that point where it just steadily keeps growing because it hasn't been around for long."
Bands like Ngũ Cung, Microwave and Black Infinity have gained international attention, for yourselves what is it that makes the Vietnamese style of metal (as it were) what it is?
"We look up to our big brothers in Ngũ Cung, Microwave (we just recently shared the stage with them!) and Black Infinity as the pioneers of metal in Vietnam, but we don’t draw much musical influences from them. Each band has a different style and we want to create our own style too. One thing that we all have in common though is we all have tried to incorporate some elements of Vietnamese traditional music into our own style of metal, one way or another."
It seems that neighbouring countries like Laos and Cambodia are producing metal bands too, do you have bands from neighbouring countries come to play in Vietnam?
"Yes, South East Asia is certainly growing more talented bands each year. We have a few notable bands from around the region from places such as Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, even Japanese bands are making motions to tour in our area."
What do your parents think of your music? On a wider scale how does Vietnamese society view metal music?
"As metal music has only been in Vietnam for a short time, the generation gap generally doesn’t allow for a good connection among us and our parents in terms of music. The same applies to how the society views metal music. Rock music isn’t even mainstream here, so metal is just another black sheep. Just over a decade ago, underground metal shows would always get busted by the authorities. Generally though, society has been more and more accepting of metal, but it’s still nowhere it needs to be in a music scene dominated by V-pop and K-pop."
Are you all self-taught? Or did you attend music school's (if there any?)
"Yes all of us are self-taught. Besides the general music classes in grade school, YouTube was and is still our best music teacher."
Obviously releasing 'Mai' your debut album through an American label must carry great feelings? Are you hoping you will expose Vietnamese Metal to the world?
"It’s an honour, so we are eternally grateful for Famined Records and the help they have given us. Our heads were exploding with the feedback and exposure we were witnessing on various internet platforms across the States and international scene in general. It’s truly humbling and so unbelievably exciting. Of course! We are hungry, and Vietnam has tons of quality acts ready to break out."
With the Metalcore genre saturated as it is, what is Windrunner hoping to bring to the table that has not been done already?
"Too right. Lyrical themes and structures are becoming a bit standardised for most genres of heavy music, so what we want to bring is a genuine fresh blend, and push for new sounds and combinations not heard before. We have a few ideas in the pot ready to go for our next release."
For metalheads visiting Hanoi, what sights / attractions could you recommend? What is the best way to get around?
"The city is rich in historical sights. Museums, traditional pagodas and temples are scattered across Hanoi, and the night life in certain areas will keep you busy for sure. The food alone is a landmark in Vietnam, so come hungry! Renting a motorbike or just good ol’ taxis are the best and fastest way to get around."
What are your plans for 2019?
"We already have some ideas brewing for our next release. We have an amazing tour coming up in March with Emmure across South East Asia and China, which we are beyond excited for. After that, we're definitely moving onto bigger and better things! If you liked what you heard so far, just wait for what's next."
Finally do you have any greetings, or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"We would simply like to thank everyone for their interest and support over the last few months. All the feedback, likes, posts, shares - each one means the world. We would like to thank our local supporters for coming to shows and making each one memorable. We would like to thank the team at Famined Records for believing in us and giving us a chance to grow in a way we would never have thought possible."