I first heard of Band Maid in April, of this year, through the TMRZoo.com forums. Somebody posted their official video (for the song Thrill) and, like many others, what first caught my eye was a group of younger Japanese women standing in maid costumes holding instruments and I was wary about playing the song, but I did anyway.
I was expecting this to be a corporate put together band, playing on the popularity of Maid Café’s, (a currently popular trend originating in Tokyo) and J Pop (Japanese Pop).
Basically I was ready for a squeaky, cutsey girl band pretending to play instruments.
The video itself was a fairly clean, uncluttered, largely black and white (albeit professional) production. And what I heard was a straight-ahead catchy rock song that the girls actually seemed to be playing; and playing well. While the song was mostly in Japanese, there were a few English lines in it that made sense to their placement; anyone who has watched anime knows that often the theme songs have (seemingly) randomly placed English words in them; this was not the case with Band Maid’s song Thrill.
Over the next few months I would randomly play the song, (it genuinely is very a catchy tune) and find myself humming bits of the pre chorus and chorus; while I kept an eye on the video feed to see what else (if anything) would come from this band.
More videos did follow; at first the few videos that surfaced were of the drummer Akane and guitarist Kanami each playing in studio settings; perhaps to show that they really could play.
Then, recently, two more official videos for the songs Don’t Let Me Down and Real Existence, from their latest release New Beginning (the follow up to their 2013 release Maid in Japan), have appeared.
Live videos of the band playing have surfaced, but have been removed. While people who have seen these videos say that they don’t understand why as the band’s performances are solid, no official reason has been issued.
The newer videos feature tighter sounding, harder edged songs with more English content to the lyrics while still remaining straight ahead, catchy rock songs.
This is probably a good indication that the record company has every intention of launching Band Maid in the west, when they believe they have enough of a following.
So, the girls really can (and do) play their instruments as well as write solid songs, but are they a corporate put together band with a gimmicky image? Not really, in fact the band was put together in a pretty standard manner.
Singer Miku was working in a Maid Café when she decided to put together a band and approached guitarist Kanami who brought her friend (drummer) Akane; who in turn contacted Misa who played bass. (at current the girls only use their first names in promotion). Second singer Saiki was later added through auditions. It was from working in the Maid Café where Miku had the idea for the name and the image. Tried and true rock and roll formula for starting a band – contact people you know who play, and see what happens.
From there the girls started playing local gigs until the release of their 2013 disc Maid in Japan with the lead off song Thrill catching attention world wide, leading up to the release of New Beginning, which came out in the first week of November this year.
While the music has gotten tighter their image, of wearing maid outfits, is still in place; and why not? Even if it is a gimmick, it worked and is what first drew a lot of people to check the band out. I mean really, it’s not the most outrageous image gimmick we’ve seen in rock and roll that bands use to draw attention to themselves.
Will the image stay? That is hard to say, but my money is the image will eventually fade (or become less dominate) as the band gains popularity for their music, which they have from both fans and other bands alike. Currently, rising band Baby Metal, (like them or not the fact is that Baby Metal’s world wide popularity is growing faster than an American diva can drop their drawers for press) has put an article about Band Maid on their homepage promoting the bands current release New Beginning. And, given the tens of millions of fans Baby Metal has worldwide, this is will be a giant boost for Band Maid’s visibility.
Currently Band Maid is expanding their English online media, with accounts such as Instagram, having only appeared within the past few weeks and their Facebook has only been active since April. While the band’s official website and Twitter feed still appear in Japanese, they do have a blog in English called Band Maid Fans Cafe which includes information about the band, and oddly enough, their measurements; which are added at the end of each girl’s profiles in the biography section. Why anyone thought that was relevant is completely beyond me.
Band Maid, good or garbage? I’ll leave that up to you. Personally, I like it; it’s different without being weird, (something that is often associated with entertainment from Japan) but they aren’t going to be for everyone.
Many people will have problems with their image, in fact its often how people remember them ‘Oh yeah, that Japanese girl band who wears maid costumes’ but you can’t see an image through headphones so it really doesn’t matter to me. Some will question the girl’s ages, and while there are no official details about that, the girls appear to be late teens to early twenties, based on various comments made in interviews and through their media.
Regardless of these things, I’ll leave you with their two latest videos to check out to decide for yourself.
John Goodale is the author of ‘Johnny Gora’ (available through Amazon.com), and a number of articles here on TMRZoo.com. His monthly column ‘Indy Comics Spotlight’ appears here and through his blog Indy Comics Spotlight