Broken By the Scream is one of the most unique, talented and loud acts in alternative idol and, over this past Labor Day weekend, Saboten Con played host to their U.S. debut in Phoenix, Arizona.
Although harsh vocals in chika idol have been normalized over the past few years, most groups still only use death voice elements to provide an occasional emotional emphasis or shock. Broken By the Scream, however, has flipped this norm, embracing harsh vocals for the lead part in the majority of their songs. Having a dedicated screamer (Io) and growler (Kagura) also lends a signature contrast to the vocal delivery, oftentimes in a call-and-response style reminiscent of a collaborative rap. In this harsh environment, it is the entry of the clean vocals of Yae and Ayame that oftentimes serve as a purifying and cathartic shock.
Towards the end of Saboten Con weekend, Team Homicidols was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to sit down and speak with the four talented idols whose singular voices combine to make Broken By the Scream the vocal powerhouse that it is.
Yae: This is a genre that you’ve probably never heard anywhere else in the world.
Interview: DAEMON; Translator: Melissa Goldberg
Homicidols: You have performed overseas before in Korea and Taiwan. Has performing in America been one of your goals?
Io Nozukidaira: Yes, of course. We were really looking forward to it and are really happy we could finally make it happen.
Homicidols: Have you noticed a difference in the crowds when you perform in different countries?
Yae Kumanomida: Every country we’ve gone to we notice that, before the show even starts, the crowd is really into it and gotten excited right away. There is a really big passion wherever we go.
Homicidols: Where else in the world would you like to perform?
Io: All countries
Yae: Our goal is to do a world tour.
Another unique element that sets Broken By the Scream apart from their chika idol peers is their decidedly heavy metal sound. While most underground and alternative idols tend to be genre-fluid or come from a punk or post-punk aesthetic, BBTS is dedicated to a signature sound on the extreme side of the metal spectrum. This seems to have led to an unusually high level of acceptance of the idol unit by traditional metal bands. A quick peak at BBTS current calendar shows far more upcoming taibans with metal bands than idol groups including appearances alongside metalcore stalwarts NOCTURNAL BLOODLUST and Her Name In Blood, and the legendary SEX MACHINEGUNS.
Homicidols: Recently, you seem to perform alongside metal bands more often than with idol groups. Which do you prefer: performing as part of a metal or idol taiban?
Yae: They’re both fun.
Io: The way they’re fun is different.
Yae: They way that they get excited, the metal fans versus idol fans, is a different feeling and experience, so it is really fun to do both of them.
Homicidols: American audiences don’t know MIX or wotagei like Japanese idol fans. Did you miss that kind of fan interaction when you performed here the other night?
Yae: Actually, when we performed here there were some people in the very front row who were doing it for us, so we got to experience it here too.
Io: There’s not a lot of people who do that for BBTS anyway. It’s nice to see how every audience member reacts individually and gets into it.
Homicidols: If you had a Friday night free, and you decide to stay home and relax, would you rather watch TV, listen to music, play a video game or read a book?
Kagura Uriin: I would read a book. I read a lot of different books, but my favorite author right now is Yumeno Kyūsaku.
Ayame Yabusame: I would watch TV. I watch a lot of comedy shows. I don’t watch movies as much.
Yae: I would play video games. Monster Hunter, Idolish 7, PUBG or Maple Story.
Io: I would play a video game while listening to music. Probably Shadowverse.
Homicidols: If you had a Friday night free and you decide to go out, would you rather go see live music, go to a movie, go to a restaurant or go for a walk?
Kagura: Go for a walk. In my home town there is a wagashi (ed. traditional sweets) shop, so I would go walking around there.
Ayame: I would go see a live show. There are a lot of idols I like but recently I have been getting into bands too so maybe if there was a band I liked playing I might want to go see them.
Yae: I would go see a show. Recently I wasn’t able to go see Attila so I would really like to see them since I didn’t get the chance last time.
Io: I would go to a movie. I really, really, really have been wanting to see The Lion King, so probably if I had a free Friday night I would go see The Lion King.
Homicidols: You have a new album coming out in October. What can we look forward to on it?
Io: This album has a lot of different kinds of songs and the members were able to express a lot of different things with their voices. If you compare it to our other albums, it will be different, so I hope you can look forward to that.
Yae: For the first time Ayame and I and the clean vocals have the main part of songs and are more of the focus. So that is something different for us on this album.
Homicidols: What would you say to someone who had never heard your music before to convince them to buy your new album?
Io: First off the jacket art is really cute.
Yae: Yes the jacket is very cute.
【2nd Full Album「Noisy Night Fever」本日より予約開始!!】本日12時よりCDショップ各店舗にてNewアルバムの予約受付開始!! ジャケットデザインは前回に引き続き横田瑞貴-mzk-様が担当。
PS4『お姉チャンバラORIGIN』テーマソング 「アイハキミノモノ」Full Ver.も本日19時公開!! お見逃しなく!! pic.twitter.com/YnV8SBcWvI
— Broken By The Scream (@BBTS_koushiki) August 10, 2019
Io: So you open it up and listen to the music it’s like, “Whoa! What’s this? This is death voice. What is going on!” But then there’s also really cute voices too and, oh! There’s lots of things on the album that will surprise you so you should check it out!
Yae: Basically, the temptation of the CD is that this is a genre that you’ve probably never heard anywhere else in the world so you should definitely check it out.
Homicidols: Do any of you think you have changed or grown as a person since joining BBTS?
Ayame: My dancing has gotten better and my singing voice has gotten stronger since joining.
Kagura: My clean vocals have obviously improved, but also my death voice. Working together with Io, I feel I’ve learned how to express emotion inside the death voice more than I have before.
Yae: My ability to express emotion. My emotions, my facial expressions and my voice are more expressive now. I also think as a group now, we have a deep, powerful bond. That’s definitely something that has developed.
Io: Obviously my screaming has improved, but I also used to be really, really shy and it was hard for me to talk to people while looking them in the eyes. But having gone on stage and doing all this stuff with BBTS I’ve gotten over that shyness. That is a personal growth for me for sure.
Homicidols: Which BBTS song is your favorite to perform?
Kagura: Koi Ha Otome No Nakidokoro
Io: Oh My ME・GA・MI Mi Koishiteru
Homicidols: Most metal acts wear Doc Martens or other leather boots, but your signature footwear is sneakers. Is there any reason or story behind that?
Ayame: (Laughs) The main reason is that it’s just a lot easier to dance with sneakers on.
Yae: Also, our looks onstage aren’t really a super metally appearance anyway, so it just goes along with the look that we have.
Homicidols: What do you think you will remember most about your visit to America?
Ayame: The show that we put on here.
The first performance in America was a great success! Everything was great!
Thank you America!! pic.twitter.com/xWiV0OPjUk
— Broken By The Scream (@BBTS_koushiki) August 31, 2019
Io: It’s more of a general impression, but I noticed that just walking around the street and stuff, people kinda wave and smile at you and they’re really friendly. So coming to America just makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside because everyone is just so nice and kind. That’s something I’ll remember.
Yae: It was really easy to talk to people. Even with the language barrier the communication was actually easy. So that’s something I’ll definitely remember.
Kagura: The people in America were really friendly and I noticed that too. But here in America was the first time I ever went to the gym.
I had a lot of fun.🤘 pic.twitter.com/Dql7Omxxcw
— 雲林院カグラ@BBTS (@kagura_BBTS) August 31, 2019
Thus did Labor Day weekend with Broken By the Scream come to an end, leaving a huge impression here stateside. Someone launched a new, English language, BBTS fan group on Facebook just as Saboten Con was winding down. BBTS have since returned to Japan to prepare for the upcoming one man live at Veats Shibuya on October 26, following the release of their second full album, Noisy Night Fever on October 9 (available for pre-order right now).
In the meantime, Saboten Con has become an annual pilgrimage for a small group of chika idol fans, primarily from the U.S. Southwest. Through the efforts of Chaotic Harmony Imports and con management, for the second year in a row, Labor Day weekend saw the Western debut of an alternative Japanese idol unit in Phoenix, Arizona. At the end of the convention this year we were stopped by an individual responsible for booking talent who wanted our opinion on some of the acts they were thinking of targeting for next year’s con. It was exciting to see Saboten Con expressing an ongoing commitment to bringing chika idol units to the States. If you happen to have an idol unit you want to see them bring over for 2020, you can let them know on the Saboten Con Facebook page.