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Babymetal: Death to False Metal

There are two stories about the origins of Babymetal. One is that producer Key Kobayashi formed the band around Suzuka Nakamoto in 2010 alongside Yui Mizuno and Moa Kikuchi to blend sugar-coated pop with the weight of metal after realising that metal, as a genre, was only getting older. The trio was a subgroup of Japanese idol band Sakura Gakuin for a while until Suzuka ‘graduated’ at the age of fifteen and Babymetal branched out alone.

The other story is that many years ago The Fox God blessed three girls with the potential to become heavy metal guardians. Each of the girls, Su-Metal, Yuimetal and Moametal, has their own power to help them achieve this while Kobayashi acts as The Fox God’s messenger. A Power Rangers ‘teenagers with attitude’ sorta deal.

“We challenge so many types of music.”

Whichever one you choose to believe, it’s clear that babymetal are here for a reason. Heck, both stories could be true. What started off as a song you’d share because you couldn’t quite believe what you were hearing quickly developed into something more. There were festival appearances, headline shows and a hyperactive debut album. Curiosity and questions slowly grew into excitement about where they’d go next. Two years on from ‘Babymetal’, the band released ‘Metal Resistance’ and it justified all that talk. Charting on both sides of the Atlantic as well as at home, the band also pulled off a confident headline slot at London’s Wembley Arena to kickstart a world tour that would eventually wind up at the 55,000 capacity Tokyo Dome. More than that though, ‘Metal Resistance’ is a great album. Debates about authenticity don’t mean much when a band is fully committed to entertainment and inspiring a good time. Call them what you like but Babymetal are here to stay, and it’s not their origins that are the big talking point anymore.

“We’ve grown so much and in so many different aspects,” begins Moametal. “We’re taller than before,” she adds with a grin shared by Yuimetal and Su-metal. It’s two days before ‘Metal Resistance’ is released on what the band, and their fans, have dubbed International Fox Day. It’s a day that will also see “the new Babymetal revealed to the world.” But before all that, the trio are sat on a sofa in a West London hotel, calm, collected and in good spirits ahead of the upcoming whirlwind.

“The reaction to the first album was more than we expected,” starts Yuimetal. “People really liked it so obviously we weren’t sure if we could beat that with our second album. We weren’t sure if we could surpass the first album but after listening to ‘Metal Resistance’, I realised that this album is a good one. I’m confident people will like it.”

“Our first album sums up Babymetal,” offers Su-metal. “On ‘Metal Resistance’, we challenge so many types of music.” Their remit widened, Babymetal rolled the dice with their new album. Change is scary, especially when you’re already toeing all sorts of boundaries. “For this album, we really challenged ourselves to try new things and new genres,” explains Yuimetal. “We’ve also grown a lot since our last album. I hope the fans will be able to get that through this album, that they can really understand what has changed with Babymetal.”

“We’ve realised that we are capable of uniting the world.”

But it’s not just Babymetal who have changed. Their scene-straddling stance, though looked at with a raised eyebrow, has kicked open a door to a world normally ruled by the old guard. They’ve become a gateway to the alternative.”

“I’m very happy to hear that Babymetal is a stepping stone for people who have never listened to metal before,” starts Yuimetal. It’s a path all three of them know well. “If I wasn’t in Babymetal, I might not have been exposed to the music that I’ve been exposed to today,” reasons Moametal. “There wouldn’t have been any other way for me to.” It’s an education the band want to share. “The fact we’re able to do this is something we’re very proud of. I hope we can continue to do it in the future.”

In a bid to introduce more people to their world, Babymetal have once again gone against the current. “Metal Resistance is a phrase that symbolises what Babymetal have done since we’ve been around. This album will amplify it even more,” explains Moametal of the band’s decision to fuck with traditional genre lines.

“I’m aware Metal music has a lot of dark elements and people write about things they’re unhappy with or not satisfied about,” starts Su-metal. “Babymetal has a different approach.” The band wants people to, “feel happier and feel like they can overcome anything,” when they listen to their music. “That’s something that’s important to us. That’s probably why Babymetal sounds and appears the way that we do,” Su-Metal offers, giving means to the madness. Going against tradition though also meant the band had to once again step outside of their own comfort zones.

“On this album, we tried a lot of new things so it was difficult at times. There’s a song (‘The One’) that’s recorded all in English, which was a big challenge for us. I realised speaking in English and singing in English are two very different things,” explains Su-metal.

For all the mystery and culture clash that comes with being a Japanese band in Europe, the fact a majority of their lyrics are in another language should present a huge obstacle for Babymetal. But then again, the band have never really been one for barriers.

“When we were younger,” starts Moametal, “much younger than today,” she quickly adds with a laugh. “We’re still young but when we were much younger, for us the world outside of Japan only existed on TV and in films. It was something that was very far out of reach. We didn’t think it would be someplace we would ever be but obviously, we’re here today. Knowing that we have fans so far outside of Japan is an amazing feeling for us but we hope we can reach out to more people across the world.“

“We’re doing something no one else is doing.”

There’s a grand vision to Babymetal and, among songs of time travelling bubblegum and mosh pits on commuter trains, there’s a desire to bring people together with their music. “In the beginning we didn’t think we were capable of doing something like that but going abroad and performing concerts all over the world in front of people who have never seen us before, we realised that language is not a barrier for us,” explains Yuimetal. “It doesn’t matter if we can’t speak the same language. We can interact and communicate through our music. After travelling, we’ve realised that we are capable of uniting the world.”

It sounds lofty but a quick look around Wembley Arena a few days later sees a room full of people allied under the Babymetal flag. There’s an undeniable connection that goes beyond simple curiosity. From queuing for 36 hours and flying halfway around the world for a single headline show to taking kids to their first ever gig, people respond to Babymetal like few bands ever demand. “The only reason would be that we’re doing something no one else is doing,” offers Su-metal. “We’re very proud to be the only artist in the music scene doing what we’re doing and that’s probably the biggest reason people are reacting in the way that they are towards Babymetal.”

Despite the brazen confidence in which they carry themselves, there’s still an uncertainty to Babymetal. Big dreams with a dash of fear. Yes, the band have grown into a movement but there’s a human element within it. “Why we’re doing what we’re doing today is because we hope to be as influential as Metallica or Bring Me The Horizon but we’re not sure if that’s possible. There are a lot of things we’re unsure of. We don’t know whether we can do it but it is something we do hope we can be,” dreams Moametal. “One day.”
“Something we’ve always said from the very beginning is that we want to create a new genre of music that is called Babymetal,” adds Yuimetal. “It’s something we’re still working on right now but hopefully it’s a goal we can achieve.”

“We hope to be as influential as Metallica or Bring Me The Horizon.”

As for what’s next, “only The Fox God knows,” the band chime in unison, smiling, self-aware and in on the joke. Further mentions are met with grins and knowing looks but as for its intentions; Yuimetal has “no idea because we do not dictate what the Fox God does. But I hope one day I’ll meet the Fox God and I’ll ask him or her,” she promises.

“I feel that Babymetal is a band that is doing something very special,” starts Su-metal. “It’s very unique to the genre and to music in general. We’re very confident in what we’re doing and I feel like we’ll continue to do what we’re doing without being influenced by anything else.”

Say what you like, Babymetal aren’t backing down. Their origin isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things when their future, while unwritten and unpredictable, is racked with so much potential. One thing that’s certain though is you can’t manufacture a reaction, and that’s exactly what Babymetal inspire.

Taken from the May issue of Upset, out now – order your copy here. Babymetal’s album ‘Metal Resistance’ is out now.