Self-proclaimed “most powerful Japanese girlie rock” band SCANDAL returned to California for the first time in three and a half years to headline the inaugural year of AM2 – the highly anticipated anime, manga and music convention, held this past 4th of July weekend. The last time SCANDAL performed in the states was with 2008’s Japan Nite tour, where they hit various small venues throughout the country; and Sakura-con in Seattle. The band’s music has been featured in many popular anime such as Full Metal Alchemist and Bleach. SCANDAL consists of Haruna on vocals and guitar, Tomomi on bass, Rina on drums, and Mami on lead guitar.
The four ladies of SCANDAL were met with loud cheers and applause when they entered the fully occupied Q&A Panel room. Being absent from the opening ceremonies, they greeted their fans for the first time. Each member expressed their happiness and gratitude to the many waiting for their return after three years. The panel began with a few words from the MC, who commented on the truth of their hotness, and asked general fluffy anime and music related questions. It quickly passed and the mic was opened for fans, to the delight of many. The first question was a bit thought provoking to the band, as they were asked what they would be doing if SCANDAL was never formed. Surprisingly enough, only Haruna would have stayed the music route, where the other three would have chosen completely different career paths. A response by Tomomi received much laughter from the audience when her answer “Hobo-san (day-care giver)” was misinterpreted.
When asked about their music writing process, drummer Rina replied that she would first compose a demo on the keyboard; then calls the other members to create each of their own phrases for the song. The band later heads to the studio to brainstorm an arrangement for finalization and recording. Then in a strange but hilarious moment, a question regarding a scene from the band’s “Namida no Regret” music video poked at Tomomi’s romantic views as she was asked what she thought of her cute band mates. The inquiry prompted a great deal of laughter from both the band and audience to boost an already lively mood. However, the bassist clarified that while she does think her band mates are cute, she doesn’t swing that way, and still likes boys.
As the panel went on, member-specific questions sprang up from the long line of supporters. According to Haruna, the four have meddled in playing each other’s instruments during rehearsals, but never were able to completely finish a song. Fans of Mami were pleased to hear a little bit more detail about equipment when she revealed that she preferred Ernie Ball .10 gauges, “the yellow package”, for producing sound from her Fender axes. Tomomi mentioned having tried the guitar herself during the band’s infancy; but the six strings were too difficult and as a result, she switched to the fewer-stringed bass guitar. As for Rina, who drew the short straw, drums were the only instrument left after her band mates have already chosen their weapons. Though she explained that it is a position that suited her and made it a goal to be a skilled drummer other girls can look up to, as there are very few female drummers in the scene.
Each member of the girl-rock outfit revealed which song they have the most fun with when performing. Although they each named different songs, it was pieces the audience certainly enjoyed. Closing out the session, SCANDAL expressed their excitement to perform for their overseas fans. “It’s been three and a half years since we’ve performed in America. We want everyone to raise their hands and have fun. Don’t be shy, shout, dance, and have fun!”
The following unofficial fourth day of AM2, SCANDAL held a press conference at the poolside terrace of their Anaheim hotel. With a new single and album set to be released in a few short weeks, the band spoke in detail about their new material. “The song is very upbeat and lively and we want the fans to draw strength from it. We think the song will remind people to keep on loving and feel the love from the song. Don’t stop loving, be yourself, and be happy.”
Rina spoke about the new single “Love Survive”, which was performed at the concert the night before. SCANDAL’s upcoming album “Baby Action” aims for a new, mature personality from the band, according to Tomomi. It has been a year since their last album “Temptation Box”, and the band plans to show how much they have matured within that time frame. “Now we have grown into adults and we’ve grown our individual skills. We feel that we have matured as a band because of this.”
This goal is apparent on the CD jacket covers of the album, where the band has obviously ditched the matching uniforms theme that fans have known and loved. When asked about this, Haruna explained that they are growing up and it was time to show an adult side to SCANDAL, especially after Rina had turned 20 very recently.
Speaking of goals, SCANDAL also talked about future plans for the years to come. Within the past year, they have reached the dream of performing at the popular Osaka Jo Hall. Mami explained that for now SCANDAL’s goals are to develop as a band, but a world tour is a possibility. Rina also added for another American tour through small live houses, akin to their Japan Nite adventures three years ago, would be within reach.
When asked about possible collaborations with other Japanese artists, Haruna spoke about their past work with idol and singer Nakagawa Shoko. The two have performed together at ANIMAX MUSIX FALL 2010, covering popular anime K-ON!’s ending theme “Don’t say ‘lazy’”. She added that SCANDAL would like to work with Nakagawa Shoko again, along the lines of anime related collaborations. Fellow girl-rock band Stereopony was also briefly mentioned regarding a possible collaboration. Other Japanese artists were talked about as the band was asked about who they would recommend to their American audience. Speaking of newer bands, Tomomi suggested rock powerhouse 9mm Parabellum Bullet. She also recommended chart-topping giants Southern All Stars and Mr. Children; and her dance-oriented rock favorite, Triceratops, to the American fans.
It has been three and a half years since SCANDAL performed in the States. Closing out the conference, the band recalled their first big show outside of Japan. “At Sakura-con, the first time we came to the States, the stage was just so huge! It was really a lot to work with. There we also learned it’s not just about the sound, we also had to feel the beat with the fans and feel their energy.”
In three and a half years, SCANDAL has come a very long way; from playing small live houses in their indie days to rocking the foundations of sought out venues like Osaka Jo Hall. They have matured from young school girls in uniforms to mature adults with individual style. Now one of the mainstay girl-rock bands in Japan, SCANDAL aims to develop even more and become musicians others look up to. Thanks for returning to the States and good luck in the future, SCANDAL!
SCANDAL’s 11th single “Love Survive” will be released July 27 and 3rd album “Baby Action” will be released August 10th.