Japanese all-girl rock band Scandal named their new album Hello World for a reason: after a decade in the music scene, they've taken off their high school uniforms and have become international stars. "When I open my eyes, I'll find a brand-new me / I can draw any picture right now," they sing in the album's lead single, Image.
Two weeks ago, they ended their first headlining world tour to the overwhelmingly loud cheers of Hong Kong fans. The five-month tour took them to places they've never visited before - Germany, Mexico, South Korea and Taiwan - and it's opened them up to music around the world. "I really like Cafe Tacuba," says Tomomi Ogawa, referring to the Mexican band.
But out of all their tours, Hong Kong is always a highlight. They have been here five times, and they keep coming back for one thing.
Before every Hong Kong performance, the band offers a suckling pig to the gods for their blessing. "We love suckling pig. It's super delicious," says Haruna Ono. Her band mates - fellow guitarist Mami Sasazaki, bassist Ogawa and drummer Rina Suzuki - nod earnestly beside her.
The girls have come a long way since they met at a vocal and dance school in Osaka back in 2006. They began as regular buskers in Osaka Castle Park, and gradually moved onto bigger stages in clubs and music halls. By 2008, they were performing at anime conventions in Hong Kong, the United States and France. In 2012, just six years after forming their band, they performed at the prestigious Nippon Budokan.
With their high-energy music and kawaii singing, several of their songs have also been featured on popular anime series such as Bleach and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
Sitting comfortably with Young Post in a posh hotel, Scandal fondly recalls their busking days. "It's really good mental training," says Suzuki. "People have no reason to listen to you so you really have to make sure your music is good and keep a positive attitude."
Ono kept that positivity when she decided to straighten her teeth. Not even bothering with Invisalign, she wore old-school braces while filming music videos and appearing on TV. "I had thought it over before I made the decision [to have braces], so I wasn't ashamed to show up in front of cameras wearing them," says Ono, who now boasts a perfect smile. She was inspired by Yuki, lead singer of the '90s band Judy and Mary, to be confident about her braces.
Some fans on Reddit say they miss her crooked teeth, but Ono says fixing them has helped her to become a better singer.
After churning out six studio albums in six years, Scandal decided to make Hello World a more personal record. Each member wrote and sang an original track to show off their individuality. It even gave a chance for Suzuki to get out from behind her drum kit during their concert and play guitar while singing Oyasumi (Goodnight).
The girls are busy writing more songs, and their new single Stamp! will be released on July 22.
A new album is already in the works, and it's a no-brainer that Scandal will soon be back in Hong Kong for another sold-out concert … and more suckling pig, of course.