Japanese Funk Band BRADIO on Their First Global Gig and First Major Album

Known for their dynamic shows (which are more like giant parties) and their saucy lyrics, Japanese funk band BRADIO plays their first global gig this month at A-Kon, one of the top-rated anime conventions in the US, held in Texas. The band’s name is short for Break the Rule and Do Image On, which – if a little enigmatically – sums up their philosophy: break the rules society thrusts on us and add a dose of good times while you’re at it.

While being a little cheesy is part of their shtick, they are serious about their work and their love for their fans. The band gained international recognition in early 2015 when their single “Flyers” featured as the opening theme song for the anime Death Parade. The official video has to date over nine million views. That was the world’s first taste of the band, and it looks like they want more.

The band went major in April last year, which in Japan means getting a larger team and more resources – although the work itself, and its intensity, remain the same. In July, they’ll release their first major album, called YES. TW spoke to members Shingyoji Takaaki (vocals), Soichi Ohyama (guitar), and Ryosuke Sakai (bass) just before they jetted off to America.

What changed when “Flyers” came out?

Takaaki: We got a huge international response when “Flyers” came out. It was like a love call. I’m so happy our song could cross the ocean like that. I was so surprised how positive the reaction was – I still am now.

Ohyama: “Flyers” was the first time we ever did a tie-up with a show. Of course we were excited to see how people would react – as we are with any song – but it was fascinating to see people comment not just from Japan, but from all over the world. Some people have actually timed their vacations to Japan so that they can see one of our shows.

Takaaki: One time when I was in Shinjuku, someone walked up to me and said, “I went to see your show the other day.” They had come to Tokyo for a visit, but traveled all the way to Osaka to see us perform. I was so happy, but also realized we have to work harder to meet everyone’s expectations.

Why is your new album called YES?

Takaaki: It’s kind of like “Yossha!” [“Yeah! We did it! Let’s do it!”]. Every time we release something new we want to do better than we did the last time. We want to show that we’ve made an album that we’re proud of. It’s a big “Yes!” in the sense that we’ve thought up an idea and it finally comes together just the way we wanted it to. It was especially significant this time because Yuki [Tanabe, the band’s former drummer] left in January, so I’m sure we worried our fans. We wanted to create something that our fans would say “Yes!” to when they hear it.

Any song you record becomes an “old” song eventually, and it’s dependent on the time and age it was produced, as well as your feelings at the time, but we feel that can change at live shows. We don’t want people to experience that feeling of “Oh, it sounds exactly like the CD.” We want to give a unique experience on that stage and at that time. I want people to feel “Yes!” and feel happy to be at the show. The “Yes!” has quite a broad definition. [Laughs]

What about the album cover?

Sakai: To follow on from that “Yes!” feeling, I felt that there were so many aspects to this album that we can’t ever recreate. I wanted to visualize that feeling, and thought about how oil paintings can never be redone in the exact same way. I asked Shunki Baba [a designer the band usually works with] to paint it for us. And of course, I hope our fans enjoy the cover art as well as the music.

How do you feel about your first overseas show at A-Kon?

Ohyama: We’re so excited. We’ve gotten so many comments on social media and on our videos asking us to go to the US, but until now we couldn’t go. [The band was invited to perform at Akihabara Convention in Anaheim in 2015, but the event was cancelled.] This time we’ll finally make it – I hope, if we can actually get there! But in terms of performing, I think it’ll be the same – I hope we can have a good time with people who enjoy our music. A while back we hung out with Ray Parker Jr and Paul Jackson Jr when they were in Japan, and they said, ‘It doesn’t matter where people are from, their love of music is the same.’ I think that’s true.”

Takaaki: I’m excited to see how people will react to our show since it’s our first time performing abroad. Performing anywhere for the first time – even in Japan – is always exciting, so I’m looking forward to that aspect of it. It’s more exciting because it’s a new place, not necessarily because it’s abroad. What kind of people will we meet? What will we talk about? This time we’ll have the language issue of course, but I always wonder how we’ll communicate with people.

Is it the first time you’ll be visiting the States?

Takaaki: I’ve never been there. Or anywhere! Everything I know is from photos and movies. All I’ve seen is, like, really big cities or really long highways. Oh, and the hamburgers are huge! I can’t wait.

Sakai: I went over 10 years ago. I went to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, Utah, Grand Canyon – I toured around for about a month.

Ohyama: About 14 years ago, I went to California and Ohio. We had relatives living in Ohio at the time. But I haven’t been since then and I’ve never been to Texas, so … I have this feeling that maybe something from The Walking Dead will come out of nowhere.What will you do if a zombie does appear?

Ohyama: I’m done for. [Laughs]

By the way, how is your English?

Takaaki: Awful! I’m not studying, either. I know how to say “Are you ready?” and that’s about it. Oh, and “Come on!” I don’t feel confident about doing the meet and greet at all. Maybe I’ll just go with Japanese.

Ohyama: I’m sure it’ll be fine. Everyone is so kind, right? It’s all about feeling, as long as you can communicate that.

Sakai [in English]: Me too.

BRADIO’s new album, YES, is out on July 4. The YES album tour across Japan kicks off in September, but you can catch them in Tokyo on July 17 at Liquidroom, or November 22 at NHK Hall. More info at bradio.jp

Photograph by Sybilla Patrizia

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