Japan’s SCANDAL Talk New Label & Album, Being ‘All-Girl Band’: Interview

The all-female Japanese rock band SCANDAL released their ninth studio album, Kiss from the darkness, earlier in February, the first set recorded under their own private label established under Victor Entertainment, a long-standing rock label in Japan.

The four-member band was formed in 2006 in Osaka and debuted two years later. They founded their new label, called “her,” in 2018 on their 10th anniversary, and share that recording the new album in their new environment last year was like “making music feeling really relaxed in our own atelier.

“The result is an album that the members say “embodies how we live as a band and as individuals,” and also “redefines what ‘all-girl bands’ are.” Japanese society is gradually shifting toward a more gender-free mindset in general, but the members of SCANDAL don’t mind being called an “all-girl band.”

“People come up to us and say, ‘You’re not an ‘all-girl band’ anymore, you’re a rock band,’ and we find that so weird. Who says you can’t play rock while also enjoying being women?”

SCANDAL kicks off a world tour promoting Kiss from the darkness in March, with 19 domestic concerts and 12 engagements abroad with more dates to be announced. The members — HARUNARINATOMOMI and MAMI — sat down with Billboard Japan and spoke about their new label, the concept of their new album, their thoughts on being called an “all-girl band,” and more.

Tell us how your private record label “her” came about.

HARUNA: We celebrated the 10th anniversary of our debut in 2018, and were wondering what else we could do that would be exciting. We figured it might be really fun to create our own label and make new music like we were debuting again.

RINA: We wondered whether or not we should actually do it, though. Our team at our former label supported us for a decade and helped build SCANDAL’s style with us. But we did feel as though we were able to complete one thing under that team, so we decided to move forward in a new environment so that we can take on various things in an experimental way.

It’s been over a year since you founded your label. Have you noticed any concrete changes up to this point?

TOMOMI: It felt like we were making music feeling really relaxed in our own atelier. I think the way we live our lives and our lifestyles are directly connected to our songs now. Of course we were always honest when tackling music in the past as well, but we used to think that our band’s mission was to do songs that highlighted our brighter side, and wanted to play songs like that. But when you go through various things over the course of a decade, obviously there are days when you don’t feel so upbeat. I feel that we’re now able to make songs out of that kind of humanity that we have.

Did you have a concept for your new album from the beginning of your own label?

MAMI: We started making the album without any particular concept. We came up with the title after all the songs came together.

What kind of album do you think Kiss from the darkness turned out to be, then?

MAMI: I think it embodies how we live as a band and as individuals. In terms of our respective daily lives, and mentally as well.

TOMOMI: It shows our human side. It might be the first time we were able to include all kinds of emotions — delight, anger, sorrow, pleasure.

Were there any songs on this album that were particularly challenging for you?

HARUNA: I think “SaishuheikiKimi” is a challenge in terms of the type of song included on an album. It’s a pretty wild song — the kind that changes the scene, so to speak, at a concert when we perform it — and we hoped people would sense that “something is different (with SCANDAL)” by releasing it as a single. It expresses our current modes and our feelings towards this album through sound.

SCANDAL has always been pretty clear about presenting itself as an “all-girl band.” Why?

RINA: We like being called an “all-girl band.” People come up to us and say, “You’re not an ‘all-girl band’ anymore, you’re a rock band,” and we find that so weird. Who says you can’t play rock while also enjoying being women? It’s one of our themes as a band. I wish more people would accept all-female bands in a more positive way.

Could you elaborate on what being an “all-girl band” means to you?

RINA: It just means we’re a band with women members. But we want to celebrate being women, and think that it’s better to remain extremely positive about being framed or labeled in that way.

HARUNA: I think this new album redefines what “all-girl bands” are. We used to mostly present our positive sides in our previous works, but three out of four of us will be in our 30s this year, and for SCANDAL to keep being an “all-girl band,” it’ll become more important to show what each member is feeling as human beings. I think we were able to express some of that in all of the songs on this album.

SCANDAL performs outside of Japan almost every year. Not very many Japanese rock bands perform so many concerts abroad like you do. Why do you think your music is accepted by international audiences?

HARUNA: I think that might have a lot to do with us being an “all-girl band.” It’s a part of J-pop culture. We noticed this after we began playing overseas a lot, but most countries don’t have very many all-female bands.

Could you share your ambitions for this year?

RINA: Improving what we currently do. And while we tour every year, we intend to show our audiences a different SCANDAL that they’ve never seen before this year.

SCANDAL World Tour International Dates

May 23: Seoul, South Korea – West Bridge Livehall
May 30: Singapore – The Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa
June 6: Manila, Philippines – New Frontier Theater
June 13: Bangkok, Thailand – Lido Connect (Hall 2)
June 21: Hong Kong – MacPherson Stadium
Sept. 4: Paris, France – YOYO – Palais de Tokyo
Sept. 6: London, U.K. – O2 Academy Islington
Sept. 9: Berlin, Germany – Musik & Frieden
Sept. 17: Anaheim, California – HOUSE OF BLUES
Sept. 19: Dallas, Texas – Canton Hall
Sept. 21: Atlanta, Georgia – The Masquerade
Sept. 23: Toronto, Canada- Queen Elizabeth Theater