miho: “My very first encounter with music was actually the theme song of an anime I liked.”
LOVEBITES is a fairly young all-female metal band from Japan and in the meantime they have made quite the name for themselves due to winning the Metal Hammer Golden Gods award for Best New Band and their performance at Wacken Open Air in Germany. At this very moment the ladies are on their very first European tour, and before they started I spoke to bassist and bandleader miho about the story behind the name LOVEBITES, why they chose for R&B and Soul vocalist asami while being four metal lovers, and of course their new album “CLOCKWORK IMMORTALITY” which will be released in Japan on December 5 and will be distributed in Europe through NUCLEAR BLAST.
01. Of course there are people who know you already, either through your music or your recent success overseas through the Metal Hammer award, but if you had to introduce yourselves to new fans, how would you describe LOVEBITES?
miho: LOVEBITES is a power metal band consisting of five Japanese women. While retaining the feminine aspect I play heavy metal with full power. Although we are still a relatively young band in this genre (as it has only been two years since we formed) I am striving to be able to play as an active part in the metal field every single day, regardless if it is in Japan or abroad.
02. The word “LOVEBITES” is a rather interesting choice for a name. Can you tell me what the story about this is? Like, why did you decide to name yourselves (as a group) LOVEBITES?
miho: The name of the band is based on the song “LOVE BITES (So do I)” by Halestorm. The first time we got together in the studio to play as a group we did a cover of this song, and asami’s voice matched really well so I remember it like it was yesterday. When deciding on what we’d name our band I decided to make a name out of this song, and the others agreed immediately. We thought it would be easier to remember our name if it was like a song title. Def Leppard and Judas Priest also have well-known songs with the same name, so we thought it would be an impressive name for us.
03. The heavy metal genre is still mostly dominated by male musicians, but there are also quite a few female fronted or all-female bands out there. Including you! What was your reason to pursue a career in heavy metal instead of an “easier” genre for females like idol or pop?
miho: Originally I love listening to heavy metal, and I thought I wanted to play it too. I never thought about playing pop- or idol music. The more I listened to metal the more I learned that there were only very few bands that consisted of only women, both domestically and internationally. So I decided that I wanted to create a band like that. Because there are so many men-only bands I think that there can be more bands with just women. I am very pleased that I am active in the field of metal now, regardless of all the male bands and the female bands that I was aiming for.
04. Despite choosing a genre as powerful as heavy metal, you still keep a very feminine vibe in your visual performance and of course the vocals (because I can imagine it would be incredibly hard to put up a manly voice all the time). Do you feel like the feminine presentation helps you in this genre opposed to a more “metal-style” of appearance like leather outfits for example?
miho: Men can’t be like us, and we don’t want to become a male band. We value femininity very much and you can see that in our costumes as well. We choose the ones that we thought would be most attractive to the eyes of our audience, thinking it would be impressive for both the ones that think it’s good and the ones who don’t think it is. It’s very important to remain in the impression, and I think it will be helping our activities.
05. Pretty much all of your lyrics (except “Bravehearted”) are in English even though you yourselves state that you do not speak the language fluently. What made you decide to go for this world changing option? Did you intend to reach a wider audience from the start or was it an impulsive decision?
miho: From the very start I wanted the lyrics to be in English, because there is a strong desire to deliver to a wide range of audience, not just in Japan. We also believe that English is a more beautiful language in music, especially in the metal genre. This is what we have decided together to pursue the best in heavy metal.
06. Like I mentioned earlier, you’ve gained quite some fame here in Europe due to the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards for Best New Band you’ve won. Were you surprised that you were nominated for this prize, and even won it? Did you ever expect that the concept of your band would bring you this kind of success in Europe?
miho: It was truly surprising that we were able to receive such an honorable prize, even though we were born in Japan and that’s very far away from Europe. We are greatly influenced by European music and it makes me very happy that it was accepted at home as well.
07. After winning the award a lot of stuff suddenly came your way. You played at the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany as the very first all-female metal band from Japan and the Bloodstock Open Air festival only days later. Shortly before that you’ve also played at the Japanese leg of Warped Tour. How did all of this make you feel? Because those are some big event names to add to your resume!
miho: To be able to play at Wacken Open Air was one of our goals from the very beginning, so I was really happy when the performance was scheduled and would actually happen. I would like to play at more large metal festivals in the future as well. I feel like this summer has been a very big step forward for us.
08. A lot of your work is influenced by British New Wave Heavy Metal, giving the band’s music a sound that’s more familiar to the overseas audience, but how does that work in Japan? When you first started with the band, did you aim for Japanese success primarily, or rather overseas?
miho: In Japan NWOBHM is a genre that’s very popular among the “metalheads”, but recently there have not been any bands who really use this formula. I think there is a market that calls for them and that’s where our music matched.
At the beginning of our formation we wanted to be active not only with the success of another, but also at home and abroad. Many metalheads in Japan prefer the overseas bands over the domestic ones in Japan and success abroad also leads to success in our home country, so I was aiming for both.
09. All the members have been playing music for quite some years already, but what was your first encounter (as individuals, not as a group) with music? What made you decide that you wanted to play music yourselves?
miho: My very first encounter with music was actually the theme song of an anime I liked, I liked the classical elements in the song and at that time I was learning how to play the piano as well. When I came across heavy metal for the first time the impact was about the same as it was with that one song back then. The music at that time was Nightwish, Evanescence and Metallica. I think I want to do whatever I like, and I started playing heavy metal with that mindset.
10. asami has a completely different background with R&B and Soul opposed to the other members, does that ever lead to problems during writing and composing, or is her influence a breath of fresh air between all the different metal influence from the other members?
miho: In the early days it was a bit of a problem because we had to figure out how she would sing a trash metal song, but I do think that the singing voice of asami, with her different background, is one of the secret weapons of LOVEBITES. I try to balance it so it becomes a strong form of metal while taking advantage of her character as well. asami seems to have a lot of fun when she sings the trash metal songs of LOVEBITES like “The Hammer of Wrath” and so on. As for the influence of different forms of metal like my NWOBHM and Miyako’s and Midori’s modern metal, I think it gives a very good chemical reaction to the music.
11. I heard that miho traveled the world in order to see her favorite artists play, and I’m sure that’s quite a difference opposed to traveling the world with a band to play music together. Do you miss the ability to go by yourself and watch a band play, or would you still do this in the time you’re not touring with LOVEBITES?
miho: Going abroad to see the performances of your favorite artists is something that comes after the tour of LOVEBITES. I have never been overseas to see a live before, but I have seen them from Japan. To see them live abroad can be a great way to study and improve yourself. From now on I would like to visit shows abroad other than the tour of LOVEBITES as well!
12. You’re about to start on your first European tour, and you’re also visiting The Netherlands, which is my home country, but also Germany, France and the UK. I’m sure you have an idea of what Europe looks like already, but is there anything you expect to see, or would like to do while you’re here in Europe? Aside from playing shows, of course!
miho: I would like to drink local delicious alcohols in the countries we’re visiting. I think that drinking the alcohol in the country of origin is the most delicious for the alcohol in that country.
13. On December 5 you will release your second album “CLOCKWORK IMMORTALITY” in Japan, of which the limited edition will include a DVD or Blu-ray of your very first concert video Battle in the East. What made you decide to include this footage instead of for instance Warped Tour or Wacken Open Air? Does it have something to do with the name of the album perhaps?
miho: It wasn’t possible for us to shoot any footage at Warped Tour because it wasn’t allowed, and it was very difficult to arrange something for Wacken Open Air because of the schedule we had. So that’s why we decided to include footage of the Japanese performance we did in June.
14. What more can you already tell me about the album? Like, what can the fans expect in terms of musical influences, and what story are you going to tell through the album for example?
miho: “CLOCKWORK IMMORTALITY” was created by combining the strongest elements of the second EP “BATTLE AGAINST DAMNATION” and the first album “AWAKENING FROM ABYSS”, and it turned out sublime in terms of melody. Without changing our path we created the evolution of LOVEBITES and it would make me very happy if you can feel the power that overflows from each song. Melodious songs sound more melodic and the stronger songs are faster. Compared to our past works the technical play has also improved. Even though we have been influenced by various different kinds of music, you should listen to it and try to imagine it for yourself.
15. And finally, is there a message you would like to share with the readers of this interview?
miho: LOVEBITES was born in Japan, where the culture is very different opposed to Europe. We have been heavily influenced by European metal however, and I am very happy to be in the middle while producing music. It’s a great honor to tour in the main place of metal (which is Europe) and I am very much looking forward to deliver such songs raw to everyone.