BABYMETAL recently returned to music after a two-year hiatus and is set to release its much-anticipated new album THE OTHER ONE on Friday (March 24). The duo’s first new project since METAL GALAXY from 2019 revolves around the concept of “restored BABYMETAL music that was previously unknown.” The overall tone of their comeback is entirely dark and serious, and the project may be remembered as the most unconventional and mysterious in BABYMETAL’s history.
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But while SU-METAL and MOAMETAL elaborate on the album’s enigmatic concept in this brand-new interview, they also offer different perspectives on this project. SU-METAL’s deep reflection that includes a synesthetic sensitivity and MOAMETAL’s interpretation filled with physicality and tenderness will surely provide a number of hints and insights for those who are perplexed by this work and serve as a companion piece to THE OTHER ONE.
In your BABYMETAL RETURNS – THE OTHER ONE – comeback concert back in January and this new album, there are two major keywords: “METALVERSE” and “previously unknown BABYMETAL.” Could you explain to us how you two interpret these concepts?
SU-METAL: BABYMETAL is fiction, but it’s also something that’s happening simultaneously in reality. The two of us were growing in the world of BABYMETAL and the audience enjoyed that. But as times changed and we have access to a variety of information, I think everyone now has their own reality or way of looking at the world. So the phrase “previously unknown BABYMETAL” raises a certain question: “Is the BABYMETAL you know really BABYMETAL?”
And since our last album METAL GALAXY in 2019, we’ve been working to destroy the “stereotype of BABYMETAL” in order to continue taking on new challenges as the group. So I think that also leads to the “different universe” that is THE OTHER ONE.
MOAMETAL: When I first heard the words “METALVERSE” and “previously unknown BABYMETAL,” I was like, “Seriously, what are they talking about?” [Laughs] But I really love Disney and after sensing something similar to the movie Doctor Strange, I got more and more excited while working on the project. So I’d like everyone to think about BABYMETAL by connecting what they’ve gained from various other works of art.
Since this album is based on concepts depicting other possibilities for BABYMETAL, it’s an album that expands the way we think about the group, including where it’ll be headed in the future. How do you want your fans to enjoy this work?
SU-METAL: I consider this album to be a BABYMETAL spin-off while also being like an art museum. There’s a phrase in the lyrics of “Mirror Mirror” that means, “The real me / doesn’t exist.” I think the songs on this album are like that in a way and it’s also what art is all about. Of course, I’m sure there will be those who want to pinpoint what each song is about, and that’s fine, but there’s no real right answer and discussing it is also part of the fun. THE OTHER ONE has lots of songs that have strong messages even for BABYMETAL, so I’d be happy if people could feel them out and use these songs as an opportunity to take another look at themselves.
MOAMETAL: When I first heard the songs, I thought there weren’t any elements that made them typically like our previous numbers, so I think many of our fans may initially feel the same way. But after seeing these songs live with our dance choreography and discussing them with other people, I think you’ll find things about them that remind you of past BABYMETAL songs and find parts you like. So, if you find a song (on the new album) that you like, I’d be glad if you listen to it multiple times and think about the things you value, and also about that feeling of valuing something itself.
Since your new album is based on the concept of “another BABYMETAL,” the question a lot of fans will probably have is, “Where did the original BABYMETAL go?”
SU-METAL: First of all, THE OTHER ONE isn’t the main story of BABYMETAL. It was made during the time we took a break from doing concerts after our ten-year METAL RESISTANCE saga, so the album is about “an alternate BABYMETAL.” At the same time, we’re sometimes called “Kawaii Metal” but don’t think that’s the only thing we’re about. We want to make new music, so we don’t want to be tied down by that image. We want to show another side like this and hope people will enjoy this, too. On top of that, BABYMETAL’s new main story will begin again, so please look forward to that as well.
Can you tell us anything about what you have planned for your fans outside of Japan?
MOAMETAL: For now, we’ve announced plans to tour Europe from April to May with the Swedish band Sabaton. We think 2023 has only just begun and have no intention of stopping. We hope to create opportunities to visit not only Europe but also various countries to meet people we haven’t been able to see recently. So please look forward to seeing us.
SU-METAL: BABYMETAL has a ten-year history, and speaking for myself, I gave that decade everything I had and crossed the finish line once. I actually stepped away from music for a while during our hiatus.
But I came back because I still genuinely felt that I love BABYMETAL and that I love music. I feel like I’m in a new band right now, and my current mode is, “I want to purely enjoy the music.” So while I do want to bring back the kind of concerts that we did up until our break with our overseas fans, I also want to create new BABYMETAL shows.
You stepped away from music? I’d imagined you were forced to delay the start of your next phase after your tenth anniversary because the pandemic began around that time.
SU-METAL: Actually, we’d already decided about five years ago that we would make the tenth anniversary our goal. When we became a two-member group in 2018, we weren’t sure how to proceed, and even wondered if it was right to keep going but decided to carry on until the tenth anniversary. We received some tough feedback from fans at the time, which I’m sure came from a place of love for our group. I think it made us stronger, and we gained a lot of confidence knowing that most people appreciated our music even though our appearance had changed. We took a break because we felt we’d reached our goal, including going through such experiences.
That’s interesting to know.
SU-METAL: So during my time away from music, at first I was like, “Nope, not gonna listen to metal anymore.” But before I knew it, I was back and singing again. [Laughs] Probably like how a teenager takes up playing guitar, I found myself singing, and before we realized it, MOAMETAL and I were getting together and dancing again.
So I really enjoyed our first lesson in a while. Before then, I used to think things like, “I’m a little off pitch here,” or “I should have done this rhythm better” whenever I sang, and when I listened to other artists’ music, I’d study the way people sang from a professional perspective. But now, music really feels like a hobby to me.
Like a teenager, as you mentioned earlier. So that must be why you feel like you’re in a new band.
SU-METAL: Right. Of course, a part of us wants to expand on what we’ve accumulated over the decade as BABYMETAL, but at the same time, we also just want to have fun again. BABYMETAL started off as a group that did interesting stuff that made people go, “What the heck is this?” We’re trying to get back to that basic feeling.
It must have been important for you to take that break to recover those feelings.
MOAMETAL: SU-METAL and I always had each other’s backs, but in some vague way we also felt that something was missing. So there were times when things were pretty tough, and we had to force ourselves to be like, “We got this!” But now, we’re still a duo but we want to deliver our music because we love what we do. We needed to take some time off to reaffirm that feeling.
When you returned to music, did you discuss it and decide to come back, or did it happen naturally?
MOAMETAL: We did discuss it, but my feeling was that if SU-METAL was going to be there, then I’d be willing to give it a shot again, so for me it was like I came back without much thought.
SU-METAL: It wasn’t like we’d promised each other that we’d definitely get back together when we said our goodbyes. We sort of came back before we knew it. It feels strange even to us. [Laughs]
That shows how strong you two connected over the ten years you worked together.
SU-METAL: Especially since we spent our important teenage years together. During our tours, we’re together for two to three months, so we feel like a family. It’s natural for us to be together. So even when we were apart, it wasn’t like I wanted to see her every day, but I still wondered what she was doing in the corner of my mind. It’s a strange feeling like that.
—This interview by Kenta Terunuma first appeared on Billboard Japan