[Interview] NEMOPHILA talk their unique sound, fighting stereotypes, overseas fandom, industry changes, and more

NEMOPHILA caught my attention years ago as an upcoming metalcore band that put their own yurufuwa twist on things, and the five women have only continued to impress since then, culminating in the release of their album EVOLVE earlier this year.

In a pleasant surprise, Asian Junkie recently got the opportunity to talk with NEMOPHILA, where they talked about their sound, pushing back against labels, differences between overseas and Japan, industry changes, and much more.


Asian Junkie: I’m consistently amazed by your staple yurufuwa sound, along with your utilization of various genres of metal. What was the process of developing this sound over the past three albums?

Mayu: Rather than focusing on how the other albums sound, I usually focus on the song at hand. After I finish the demo and put the lyrics to the music, I think about what tone of voice I want in my head before adding to the song. We build it in this way, so you can really hear how the sound of NEMOPHILA becomes the sound of NEMOPHILA when the members’ sounds are added to it. We built this album in the same way, and really thought about what type of songs would be appropriate for this album.

Hazuki: For the third album, we had the idea from the production stage to build upon the previous songs and incorporate electronic and digital elements. The guitar sound itself has not changed since the beginning, but the sound has been made heavier so that Mayu’s vocals can come through. 

Haraguchi: Thank you very much! The first album was an album to introduce ourselves to our listeners, as if to say, “This is us!” The second album was an album in which we delved deeper into ourselves, and the third album expresses a more evolved version of ourselves, and we hope we will gain more listeners through this evolved sound. 

Murata: When we first started working on the 3rd album, the concept was to retain the “hardness” and NEMOPHILA style of the past, while incorporating digital sounds! The songwriting process started with this concept in mind. With no time to spare, [composer/producer] Akiyama [Kensuke], the members, and outside help came up with song ideas every month, and a competition was held to select the best ones to be included in the album.

SAKI: The band worked alongside a team of producers, which enabled us to produce the album without slowing down the pace of production, even with the band’s busy schedule.

Asian Junkie: What has changed about the music industry in Japan from the time you started until now?

Mayu: I think more and more people are making their debut by gaining recognition through SNS and YouTube.

Hazuki: The environment has become much better in many aspects. Software is also evolving rapidly, which is useful for songwriting. With the advent of SNS it is possible to gain tremendous support with a single video. Everything is accessible from your smartphone and this is changing the industry considerably. 

Haraguchi: There are more people using SNS than ever before, and I have the impression that more artists are debuting because their songs are used on TikTok, etc. and become popular! I think there are also more people who listen to music using streaming services rather than CDs! It’s all digital.

Murata: I think the biggest difference is that there are more people who have become famous performers through content on SNS and YouTube. I don’t know if this is the reason, but there is a problem that the number of students at music schools in Japan is decreasing.

As for drummers, the number of girls has increased! I think there are more people with technical skills. Everyone is also very talented! 

SAKI: I feel the rise of SNS and subscription services. Various business models have been changed and created.

Asian Junkie: Recently some Japanese video game developers have gone on record to state their distaste for the term “JRPG” when describing Japanese role playing games, as they feel it’s discriminatory and compartmentalizes them. Do you feel a similar sentiment with how Western culture defines genres or labels you solely as an “all-female Japanese heavy metal band” rather than just a heavy metal band?

Mayu: I do. Would you say, “all-male rock band”? I have never heard anyone say that. I don’t think people are easily surprised in this era. Subdivisions are simply a pain in the ass and hard to understand. Are you cool or not? I think the answer to that question is enough.

Hazuki: We often talk about this amongst ourselves. We have never called ourselves that, but it means that there are people who see us in that way. I’d like for people to look at us for who we are rather than subdividing us into smaller groups. 

Haraguchi: I don’t think that the words “Japan” and “women” are all used in a negative sense, but there are times when I feel uncomfortable. I don’t think gender has anything to do with the sound we make, and if a band with only women is called a girl band, then a band with only men is a boy band. I have been told that “metal is for men,” but I don’t really care! I don’t really care if people define a genre. But even if you define a genre, everyone by themselves thinks “this genre is this genre” as they listen. I find it stimulating that there are so many people with different opinions. First of all, I want to love myself, fill my heart, and connect with others on a deeper level. I want to be free in music and in my heart!

Murata: I think it is important to respect the diversity of individual works and creators and appreciate their uniqueness without labeling them. So to honor that diversity in thought, even if there are people who label that has to be okay. I want to perform better! I make daily efforts to live positively, and the labels attached by others have nothing to do with that.

SAKI: I don’t really think about it. I’m aware that I am Japanese and a woman, so I don’t feel anything in particular about labels. However, I am sure there are people who do not like it. 


Asian Junkie: Can you talk about the challenges of writing and producing music during the pandemic and how the band dealt with it?

Mayu: During the pandemic, we didn’t have an audience so I had to imagine what it would be like to perform in front of them and hear their voices. I imagined this while making the music. Now, we can hear many voices and perform in front of fans while singing together.

Hazuki: The pandemic occurred right after the band was formed, so we had to write songs by ourselves and arrange them. There was even a time when we rehearsed remotely. It was not laborious, but I felt frustrated at not being able to perform live, so I am thankful that normal life has returned.

Haraguchi: When I write songs or record guitar and bass, I am always at home alone, so I didn’t have many challenges during the pandemic, but when I record vocals and drums, it was frustrating to not be able to go to the studio. I also missed the members.

Murata: Basically, we were not in the same place to write songs in real time, because we were exchanging files and emails instead of face to face. Since Mr. Akiyama was there to oversee the process, we were able to work on the songs as a united team without any major differences of opinion.

SAKI: I didn’t feel there were any major differences. Each of us could work at home most of the time, so I did not think there was any impact of the pandemic.

Asian Junkie: While NEMOPHILA was formed pre-pandemic, during the pandemic we saw the rise of virtual concerts and how much they’ve shown foreign artists how strong their Western fanbases are. Was the group shocked at all upon seeing the amount of support they received overseas?

Mayu: I was surprised. I had a feeling we would have more listeners overseas than in Japan, so I made sure to include English lyrics. I wasn’t expecting such a good response from our overseas fans, though. It felt like we were able to turn the Corona disaster into an opportunity to connect with our fans. 

Hazuki: I was also quite surprised. The comments and encouraging messages from overseas fans have motivated me in pursuing current activities. 

Haraguchi: I was genuinely happy! I was also surprised at the sheer amount of people who know NEMOPHILA and listen to our songs. Because we received so much support from overseas fans, I have a strong feeling of wanting to go abroad to see them. 

Murata: I was very happy. Reading comments from various foreign languages and watching them increase overtime inspired me to read them and see if I could understand what they were saying. It was really fun, and because of that I can understand a bit of English now, lol.

SAKI: I didn’t expect such a reaction from overseas fans. I was surprised, receiving comments from all around the world, I was elated. 

Asian Junkie: How would you describe the different touring culture between the US and Japan? How do the crowds differ? Do the staff operate differently?

Mayu: I thought everything was different. In Japan, I can go home even if I’m on tour. My friends would also come visit while I was performing in Japan, but in America we had to do it on our own, and since we took as little people as possible we had to take care of ourselves. Whether it be everyday-things or details related to live shows we had to do it ourselves.

Hazuki: I felt the size difference in countries. It took an entire day to move to a different state. On a good point, I was pleasantly surprised to see how the fans reacted and engaged with artists at live shows in different countries. 

Haraguchi: In Japan, it is usually prohibited to take pictures during live performances, so it was refreshing to see so many people taking pictures with cameras and smartphones in the United States! I was happy to see that all the customers were enjoying the show freely, each in his or her own way of grooving! Each staff member had a strong personality and was very interesting!

Murata: I’ve only done one US tour, so it’s a bit hard to compare. It’s easy to tell the difference between the audience when they are having fun and when they are not! The songs that get the groove going are different (I think the ones that got a good reaction overseas were “ZEN” and “Change The World”). At the Aftershock Festival, I was kind of happy and laughed when the circle mosh happened with “Change The World”! Thank you to our overseas fans who made that possible.

SAKI: I thought that many people in the U.S. behave freely. I think they get excited in a different way from Japanese audiences. Staff are also different from those in Japan, and I thought that the way of the venue and the state is prioritized rather than the way of the band.


Asian Junkie: When did Mayu’s love for the Foo Fighters begin? What was she listening to before that time?

Mayu: It began when I was about 12 years old. I heard my uncle listening to it, and I began to like it myself. Before that, I was listening to pop artists like Amuro Namie and Miley Cyrus since they were easy to dance to. 

Asian Junkie: Mayu has said in the past that the lyrics are always positive or reflect a positive message, which along with the yurufuwa theme, creates the unique sound that we hear in NEMOPHILA songs. Why is this a key part in the writing process? What made this come into effect? Was diverging from Western metal themes something that influenced this?

Mayu: I believe that music has a strong power capable of inspiring certain actions in people who listen to us. Because of this, we have been conscious of the fact that we should smile even when we are playing a difficult piece! That is what we have been working on. If we can convey what makes us happy and cheerful in words, I think we can give our fans a positive energy too! I don’t think that metal needs a certain theme.

Asian Junkie: Haraguchi has said in the past, “I’ll try to use my heavy sounds of the bass guitar to make all your bodily fluids spill out from your butt!” Has this sound been perfected yet?

Haraguchi: I always deliver the sound of the moment! I’m still pursuing the ideal sound for the rest of my life, and I’m still pursuing the worst sound ever!

Asian Junkie: Hazuki, have you found the Steve Vai sound you’ve been hoping to create with your Ibanez? Has the thought ever come across to write instrumental songs for a NEMOPHILA album?

Hazuki: I am no Steve Vai, but I often make riffs that are inspired by him. I don’t make instrumental music in the band because I like it so much that I feel I should not make it unless it has some meaning, but of course I would like to write it if there is an opportunity in the future.

Asian Junkie: Tamu, in the West we have a famous drum YouTube channel that makes famous drummers listen to songs they’ve never heard before without the drum track and then give a playthrough with their interpretation of the song. What song and what drummer would you love to see play a rendition of one of your drum tracks?

Murata: I think I might know that channel! I saw Chad Smith’s performance with Red Hot Chili Peppers, it was great! I would love to see them do all of NEMOPHILA, but I would also love to see them do Dissention, Justice, THE MONSTERS, etc! I would love to see Mike Portnoy play, or Meytal Cohen!

Asian Junkie: SAKI, in the past you’ve talked about how you usually play in a lower tone than Hazuki in NEMOPHILA songs. What other differences are there in the writing process with NEMOPHILA compared to your other projects?

SAKI: Did I say that? (Laughs) One difference may be that we are not a simple band, so I also work with staff on projects at times. Within the writing process in NEMOPHILA I often think more holistically to see the bigger picture. 


Asian Junkie: In the past, groups that are known for their screaming vocals have experimented with albums that are half clean vocals and half scream, eventually moving toward a fully clean, no screaming album. Has the band thought about trying this concept since Mayu has stated she’s wanted to do more slow songs and also doing more fast aggressive songs?

Mayu: Whatever song we play, it is a NEMOPHILA song. If there is an opportunity for us to create something new, of course we would take on the challenge.

Asian Junkie: I’m always impressed by how versatile everyone is in the band, what is one genre that each of you would like to explore more with your songs in the future?

Mayu: I want to play more masculine songs. I want to pursue a sound that is not only metal, but also rock, punk, and loud.

Hazuki: Personally, I think djent, loud rock, and metalcore should also be a part of NEMOPHILA’s sound. I’d like to head towards these kinds of sounds and pursue them in the future.

Haraguchi: There are many things, but right now I want to create a techno and rock sound.

Murata: Since I have trained my hands and feet in technique a lot for NEMOPHILA’s music I’d like to explore more essential aspects of rhythmic groove and the way of pausing to mix it up a bit. 

SAKI: In terms of NEMOPHILA, I would like to create loud music with a more varied approach.


A big thank you to Patrick St. Michel, Vegas PR Group, and, of course, NEMOPHILA for making this all happen.

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