See more photos in Shannon Cottrell's photo gallery, "'Magical Girls: Art Inspired by Shojo Manga' Opens at Meltdown Comics."
In "Shibuya Girls Pop: Cute Rebellion," found in this week's print edition of LA Weekly, I wrote about a Japanese art collective who incorporates kawaii, or cute, images in pieces that frequently reflect the lives of young women in the fashionable Shibuya ward of Tokyo.
When the Shibuya Girls Pop-centric show "Magical Girls: Art Inspired by Shōjo Manga" opened at Meltdown Comics, two bands joined The Girls for the festivities. Both The Aprils and The Lady Spade's work is almost disarmingly cute, dance floor-friendly pop. We had the chance to meet both groups when they played the opening weekend of "Magical Girls." Find out more about them after the jump.
The Aprils have been around since 1999, formed by a trio of college friends, Kentaro Imai, Miho Iguchi and Yuki Shotokuji. They were initially inspired by Shibuya-kei bands-- specifically citing Cornelius and Pizzicato 5-- as well as 8-bit music. Their sound is an amalgamation of both styles, combining the sweet and sophisticated '60s influence of Shibuya-kei with the hyper video game dance sound associated with 8-bit artists.
The band members incorporation of cuteness goes beyond their sound. After releasing their album Pan-Da, they hooked up with Mori Chack, creator of the gory-cute character Gloomy Bear. Chack is a friend of the band who would check out their shows in Osaka and Imai asked the famed designer to create a mascot for them. The result was Gloomy Panda, who made a special appearance at the band's Meltdown Comics show.
More recently, The Aprils have collaborated with Hatsune Miku, the virtual pop star associated with synthetic voice program Vocaloid. Imai said that he had used Vocaloid, but "Hatsune Miku programming is so difficult." They scouted out artists who had been working with the software, which has become something of a phenomenon in Japan, to record their songs. The result is Miku-Ro Adventure!, a compilation of songs by The Aprils sung by Hatsune Miku. The band does perform some of these songs live, with Imai holding up a laptop with the blue-haired viral sensation singing.
Recommended Listening: Space Dream Bathroom
Released in 2005, Space Dream Bathroom is a good indication of what The Aprils can do, running the gamut from twee pop in the vein of Belle and Sebastian to big dance club numbers to strange video game ditties.
Trivia: Roughly seven years ago, The Aprils played Par Avion, the now-defunct L.A. club that helped launch the popularity of "global indie" music in the city.
The Lady Spade
SLF!! (that stands for Shit Lives Forever) was a guitarist in various bands that he describes as being similar to Faith No More or Limp Bizkit, but, he said through a translator, he always liked dance music. So, he started The Lady Spade, which was initially inspired by "spy movie soundtracks." Now, they find more inspiration in anime music. SLF!! says he likes the music from the Neon Genesis Evangelion series. Their music solidly falls in the electronic pop camp.
The Lady Spade has had a revolving cast of female singers and dancers fronting the group. Tiffany, the group's primary dancer, has been a part of the clan for six years. She describes her background in dance with a laugh, saying through the translator that she "would get drunk at the clubs and start dancing." She's a rock n' roll a girl, a big fan of Japanese musician Eikichi Yazawa. At "Magical Girls," she dressed in a maid cosplay for the group's performance.
Alice is The Lady Spade's singer. She joined the group a year ago, when she initially wanted to be a dancer, but was asked to sing. She had been part of other groups prior to that and she cites her musical influences as R&B, hip-hop, dance music and some punk. Alice performs with a cute-meets-sexy vibe. She'll wear tiny dresses with big, brightly colored wigs and cat ears. As far as fashion goes, they're inspired by homemade outfits they see. SLF!! scours online auctions to find the pieces for The Lady Spade's costumes.
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Recommended Listening: The Lady Spade CDR-Series: Mission #0003
These three songs that will get stuck in your head, maybe at the same time and probably while you're trying to fall asleep. It's okay, you might wake up dancing.
Where to find The Lady Spade's music: Unfortunately, you can only get the CDR-Series at live shows. You can, however, get their full-lengths through the band's site.