Double trouble via the Suzuki Twins
Words and Interview by By Robert Michael Poole.
At Thailand’s Big Mountain Music Festival in Khao Yai, a few hours north of Bangkok, thousands of locals perch on a hillside at the foot of the enormous Cow Stage. Amongst a lineup of just about every cool rock band in the country, a smattering of international acts are now turning SouthEast Asia’s biggest festival into the Glastonbury of the region. But while Thailand’s music scene is as vibrant as ever, these music fans are here to witness two girls’ attempt to revolutionize a fading cultural phenomenon with a new injection of style, panache and Japanese smarts.
Amiaya, 22 year-old twin models from Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, prance on stage like they’ve beamed in from another dimension. They are hear to pronounce that J-Pop is dead – long live Tokyo Pop! With a huge transforming cow’s face and rolling green fields behind them, their waist-length blonde locks, heavy metal t-shirts, pink ballet skirts and white thigh stockings couldn’t provide any more of a contrast. Yet they quickly whip out two vintage, red electric guitars to prove that they are more than just pretty faces.
Ami and Aya Suzuki came to Tokyo at age 15 to pursue their dream of changing the concept of the meaning of ‘artist’ in Japan. Tired of the repetitive and lackluster J-Pop, they began in once-hip youth district Harajuku, modeling for hair salons and magazines like Zipper and CUTiE. In 2010 their AYA AMI BOOK, showcasing their innovative takes on fashion they termed as “fashion freedom”, sold 40,000 copies.
Two years on and with their own brand, jouetie, already available in six stores in Tokyo, the dynamic duo have been honing their DJ and music skills in order to lead their own new movement. Speaking as one voice, this was the day that the twins and Tokyo Pop came to Thailand…
What is Tokyo Pop?
We’d like to send out from Japan to the world a new genre. We call it “Tokyo Pop” and it mixes in many elements – especially fashion which we love! Tokyo Pop is created with our desire to make a new culture that integrates style, music and aspects of Japanese subcultures, all through us as its filter. We’d like to show off it to the whole world.
What’s the difference between J-Pop and Tokyo Pop?
J-Pop music has existed for a long time and now it has an old-fashioned image. Tokyo Pop is a new pop music where people can feel “stylish” with Tokyo’s latest ‘kakkoii’ and ‘kawaii’ culture. We are the first to create this ‘Tokyo Pop’ scene.
J-Pop will continue as a key element of Japanese culture but we’d like to add this new, cutting edge image to emphasize Amiaya to the world. In Japan, there is no cultural field that is connected directly to fashion. But in the world, there are a lot of artists that we can enjoy both watching and listening to, such as Lady Gaga, so that’s the field we are creating in Japan.
You have made a career as models, how did you get involved in music?
Our activities are not just as fashion models, but include producing our own clothing brand. It’s one of the ways to show we are creative artists, and because of that we came to Tokyo from Hamamatsu, Shizuoka where we grew up.
Which artists inspire you?
We long to be an artist like Puffy… but we often listen to rock music like Brazilian act CSS, and we love the combined style of club and rock music.
You often wear heavy metal shirts, like the KISS and Metallica ones you have on now. Are you fans?
It’s cool, but we don’t often listen to it because it’s too loud, haha!
What are your international ambitions?
We’d like to visit all around Asia, especially Singapore, and of course Europe, like France, Germany and The Netherlands. We’ve performed in Taiwan before, but to participate in a big music festival like this… it’s our first time. We have visited London and Paris personally before because we love traveling!
What is the difference between your own show and your festival performance today?
We combined fashion elements in our own shows so that we can entertain the audience, rather than just [with] the music. At this festival, we slightly changed it to extend our DJ time to be a little bit longer!
What can we expect to hear from Amiaya in 2013?
We will release our album Tokyo Pop on the 23 of Jan 2013. It’s our first release and a major debut for us, so we are really excited.
The six tracks each has its own different style. You will understand that Tokyo Pop has a mixture of various genres. The fashion is also different for each song, so people can enjoy both. Today we performed three of the songs, the first is “Planet Rock” and [it] has an image like being from the cosmos, then the second song is kind of girlish. For the third one, we expressed a mix of sporty and feminine taste with hats and leotards. This song, “Play That Music,” is what really expresses our life!
Want more music from Japan? Check out these bands that are currently on MTV Iggy’s radar.