Interview – Lovebites’ international metal ambitions


Within Japan, but certainly also outside of the country, Lovebites has been doing well recently. After a couple of one-offs at festivals in England and Germany, the all-female metal band is about to embark on their first European tour. Not long after that, on December 5th to be exact, their second album ‘Clockwork Immortality’ will be released. Plenty of reason to catch up with guitarist Midori.

Performing outside of Japan has always been an ambition for Lovebites. Part of the reason for that is the European-tinged sound of the band. “We would like to play at places our style of metal originates from and is beloved at“, Midori explains. “Besides, there are many places in the world where metal is much more accepted than in Japan. We want to play at those places. These days, metal is not as big in Japan as some people think it is. We hope that our shows abroad will contribute to other bands from the Japanese scene being introduced to a more international audience.

We hope that metal fans all over the world want to listen to our music, regardless of if they have some special interest in Japanese culture or not. That is usually the type of audience you have to limit yourself to when your lyrics are all in Japanese. That’s why we thought it would be a better idea to write our lyrics in English. All our English lyrics are checked and corrected by native speakers or people who lived in English-speaking countries for a long time. They do not just pay attention to our choice of words and our grammar, but also the way the words are supposed to be pronounced. We want to do anything to improve and enhance our lyrics.

Prejudice

When I had just started playing guitar, my influences were mainly Japanese non-metal bands. Later on, I went to a music school and got involved with bands that played covers of modern metal bands, such as Pantera and Avenged Sevenfold. That created the basis for my current guitar style.

That guitar style is notably different than that of her fellow guitarist Miyako, though Midori points out that they are a bit looser with that than they used to be: “Generally, I play flashy and aggressive solos, while Miyako plays slower, more melodic solos. That division is not that strict though. Sometimes we switch if it feels right. When we had just started, we thought it was very important that the two of us had a completely different style or technique, but these days, we don’t really care about that anymore.

Midori is not the only Lovebites member that once started out playing different music. While she has been playing fairly aggressive metal for a while now, singer Asami never sang metal at all before joining Lovebites. “The best thing about that is that she had zero prejudice about which vocal lines were metal or not“, says Midori. “Her vocal lines are very natural and rooted in her own background, which is R&B and gospel. Her delicate, but powerful singing style really enhances the music of Lovebites. Her vocals have provided us with extra opportunities.

Confidence

And yet, Lovebites’ music is deeply rooted in the European heavy and power metal tradition of the likes of Helloween and Iron Maiden. With all the high tempos and technical antics that come along with that. “Lovebites’ songs are fairly difficult to play“, Midori admits. “Most of them are pretty close to the edges of our capacities. If we practice one of the more difficult songs, we always start playing them at a slightly lower tempo. After that, we gradually raise the tempo bit by bit, so we can play them at the normal tempo confidently. That is something I do when I practice by myself, but also when we all play together.

My favorite artists have a lot of songs that I would love to play, but that are a little difficult for me. Those songs, I also practice by first playing them slowly and increasing the tempo as I go along. I am always looking for new songs that I would like to play. Sometimes, I keep the live situation in the back of my mind when I’m arranging guitar parts for Lovebites. But whenever it is necessary, I don’t have any problems with altering the phrasing of certain pieces a little.

As for myself, I am always working on new ideas for licks and phrases. When the production of our albums starts up, we always write the type of song we need at that particular moment. For instance, when we already have a bunch of fast songs, we could decide that it is time for a slower one. We work with several production teams and for the compositions, we frequently work together with Mao, Light Bringer’s keyboard player. All the guitar solos are written by Miyako and myself.

Female-friendly

Save for their debut ‘The Lovebites EP’ (2017), all artworks of Lovebites’ releases have something in common. ‘Awakening From Abyss’ (2017), ‘Battle Against Damnation’ (2018) and the upcoming release ‘Clockwork Immortality’ all prominently feature a wolf on their covers. “Since metal is not a mainstream genre, the wolf symbolizes us being a ‘lone wolf’ in the music scene“, Midori explains. “We are planning to use the wolf on all of our releases. This way, he can become a character that belongs to the band, like Eddie from Iron Maiden, Vic Rattlehead from Megadeth or Johnny from Riot. That is why we are considering giving him a name.

That is not the only visual aspect that makes Lovebites stand out. Not only is the quintet an all-female band in a scene where male musicians have long been the norm, they also dress in white. “Most metal bands dress in black“, Midori smiles. “That is why we thought it would be a good idea to dress in white to give the band something unique. Male musicians are still the majority in Japan, but a lot of great female musicians have come to prominence in recent years. We have the feeling that the current generation of metal fans really gives the music a chance rather than just watching how the band members look. I think the scene has become a lot more female-friendly.

It is a trend among Japanese all-female metal bands to gradually drop metal elements from their sound and aim for something more pop-oriented. Midori reassures that this is not something to worry about in this case: “Our fan base consists of metal fans. They have supported us from day one. We are not planning to get off-track and have faith in the fact that we will continue to be a metal band.

Variation

As said before, there is a new Lovebites album about to be released. What can we expect from ‘Clockwork Immortality’? “The album will largely feature the same sound that we had on ‘Awakening From Abyss’ and ‘Battle Against Damnation’“, Midori promises. “Our sound will still be rooted in power metal and feature notable influences from thrash metal and speed metal. However, we did experiment with the use of acoustic guitars. In addition, we tried to adopt a different approach than we usually do for some songs. This way, we still try to add a little variation to our sound.

Remarkably, an international release date is yet to be announced for ‘Clockwork Immortality’. “We hope to be able to give this album an international release as well“, Midori says carefully. “Of course we are aware of the fact that hardcore fans import our cd’s from Japan, but we would at least like to offer the opportunity to buy the cd for a normal price. Fortunately, we have already received some positive feedback from a couple of labels outside of Japan.

Differences between Japanese and European shows are largely practical, says the guitarist: “When we tour in Japan, we always have a big group of roadies with us. Because of that, all we have to do is play. Everything else is done for us. When we go to Europe, we have to do everything ourselves. In terms of the audience, there is not much of a difference. Both of the audiences are very warm and welcoming. One thing I do notice is that people in Europe sing along to our choruses louder. Sometimes the audience sings louder than the band. That never happens in Japan.

We use the exact same equipment in Japan as abroad. I’m using a Kemper digital amplifier, but when we play outside of Japan, I unmount it, so I can travel lighter, but still have the same sound. For this European tour, we will also leave our wireless systems at home. Furthermore, I have an endorsement with E-II Guitars, of which I will bring two. Both of them will have a Floyd Rose tremolo system, but I use them for different tunings. If there ever is a Kemper at the venue already, I will just have to bring a USB stick with the data. That would be even better.

Lovebites will tour Europe in mid-November:

13 November: Haarlem, Netherlands – Patronaat
14 November: Essen, Germany – Zeche Carl
16 November: Hamburg, Germany – Logo
19 November: Aschaffenburg, Germany – Colos-Saal
20 November: Paris, France – Nouveau Casino
21 November: London, UK – O2 Academy Islington


There are two people who deserve extensive gratitude for this interview. First of all, Arlequin Photography for helping me set up the interview with Joël Heijda from the Patronaat crew. Also, a major “domo arigato” to Fubito Endo for translating Midori’s answers for me. This article is largely an English translation of the article published on The Sushi Times, albeit enhanced with some of the technical information on the Gitarist website.

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