With Takabashihonoka on vocals and guitar, Umi on bass, and Yukiyama on drums, Japanese girl band Regallily has made quite a few impressive appearances now in North America. As an indie pop band, Regallily goes above and beyond with a combination of a high-pitched vocal and an intense wall of guitar sound to create an airy, refreshing, and nostalgic vibe.
This SXSW, we were able to meet with the band and talk about where they get their inspirations from, and their love-hate relationship with the current Japanese music scene.
I met with the three girls in front of Elysium, the venue that they were going to play at. Although they just flew in from Tokyo the previous midnight, they still looked glowing. Being first-time visitors to the States, they said they hadn’t even got a good look at the streets yet before going on stage. Everything felt surreal.
Looking back five years ago when the band started, Takabashihonoka initially played alone, until she met Yumiyama, the drummer, at a school event. The two then acquainted with each other, and Takabashinonoka invited Yumiyama to join her to play some music.
However, speaking of their passion towards making music as a life career, that decision was in fact made a lot earlier. Takabashinonoka told me she wanted to be a musician ever since primary school. She especially wanted to form a girl band, she said. Inspired by Shonen Knife, she longed for making the same kind of uplifting music of her own, that carries weight.
This year’s SXSW saw a lot of girl bands from Japan attending the event, like Otoboke Beaver, STEREOGIRL, Furutori, etc… Regallily was the first time to play with these bands at the same festival. “It will be a fresh experience for us.” They said.
Although Regallily has played foreign festivals before, SXSW is apparently a unique experience. The music festival “Next Music from Tokyo” they attended in Canada was a Japanese-artist-oriented event, while SXSW is a much bigger-scaled, international festival. Regallily told me that the Canadian festival did not feel foreign that much, if at all, because all performers were Japanese, and they hanged out together during their stay.
SXSW, however, gave them a bigger stage and a broader audience profile. With smaller, different themed events, bands could play to listeners who they would never have approached otherwise. This is especially beneficial for foreign bands such as Regallily. Events like Next Music from Tokyo may have a 600-person presence, which seems impressive, but the people who attend such events could be fans already. SXSW provides a chance for these Japanese bands to draw attention from audience who are considered as outside of Japanese culture lovers’ inner circle.
This is not to say that the Canadian audience were any inferior being potentially more familiar with Regallily. According to the band, the audience in Canada cheered and danced throughout the set. One overly enthusiastic member of audience even took a stage dive, which was never to be seen in Japan at a rather mild (compared to punk or metal music) show of bands like Regallily.
Regallily liked that high tension very much. As a matter of fact, one of Takabashinonoka’s favorite bands is Red Hot Chili Peppers, the band known for taking their clothes off on stage. Takabashinonoka believed in interactions with fans, but in Regallily’ s case, probably in a natural way.
Regallily has been rising fast among indie bands of similar age. We wanted to know how they felt about the current indie music scene in Japan, particularly those things that she didn’t care much for. To our surprise, they were outspoken and straight-forward.
“To be honest, we don’t like how bands are all writing very simple lyrics these days. They are not so great. A lot of them are shallow and old-fashioned, in our opinion.”
Members of Regallily prefer sophisticated songwriting, at least to some degree. In their songs, they still focus on their daily life, but dig deep enough to the painful core, twist it into a different shape, and escalate it to man-made fantasies. Although abstract, they enhance the music with intricate meanings.
Regallily were also not so pleased with the lack of creativity of current Japanese bands. “Some of them are just copy cats. They simply take western music and make it their own. In contrast, most traditional Japanese music had awesome aesthetics – take Enka for example – it is beautiful and creative. But now, we have to say, we are disappointed at modern Japanese music.”
Photos by: Yves Elizalde