14 years ago, Japanese rock band QUEEN BEE–also known as Ziyoou-Vachi (女王蜂)–formed in Kobe. Now, the group has made their first U.S. appearance this April, performing to a crowd of fans at anime convention SakuraCon and their own headlining show in Los Angeles. Known for their punk fashion style, QUEEN BEE has performed the opening and ending themes for a number of anime series such as Dororo, Tokyo Ghoul:re, Chainsaw Man, and Oshi no Ko. Prior to the band’s concert at The Regent, APA spoke with vocalist Avu-chan about QUEEN BEE’s origin, creative process, and vision for the future. Outside of QUEEN BEE, Avu-chan is active in various other creative work including musical theater, producing, and voice acting. To Avu-chan, each opportunity provides a new environment and new ways to reach others.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Can you tell us about the name of the band, QUEEN BEE? Why did you choose that as the name? What about the band’s logo, which looks like a honeycomb?
I formed the band about 14 years ago, but up to that point, I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue doing music for. When I was a teenager—which was a time when I wasn’t consciously thinking about making a living from music—I was lying on my bed at home and suddenly the thought, ‘form a band called QUEEN BEE,’ struck me like lightning. I was suddenly inspired by this. My name is Avu or Avu-chan, but in Japan, “abu” is a type of bug, a horse fly. Bees sting, while horse flies bite. It’s said that horse flies mimic, disguise themselves, and live by bees. I’m not sure how true this is in nature. But I took inspiration from those words alone and adopted the name “Avu.” It’s not apples to apples, but similar to the “abu” insect, the story of Avu is one of becoming a queen bee, a real queen.
For the logo, the hexagon or honeycomb contains a lowercase ‘Q’ and ‘B.’ There was a brief period of about one year when QUEEN BEE was on hiatus. During that year, I wanted to create a symbolic logo for QUEEN BEE when we started again. One day, when I was scribbling, I had drawn a honeycomb. The idea came from a stroke of inspiration, but I think it created something very symbolic.
QUEEN BEE will be 14 this year. What is the future of QUEEN BEE? What would you like to accomplish in the next 14 years and beyond?
In the past few days, we’ve come to the U.S. and performed here for the first time. Although we’re doing a solo performance today, I don’t think it’s that different from Japan. The enthusiasm from the audience and the communication we have with them that creates a live performance is what gives me confidence because it’s not that different. For me, going abroad and coming to the U.S. made me want to try more.
Transcending language—the beauty of Japanese and the beauty of English—can be brought onstage. When I realized that I could make everything beautiful, I wondered what it would be like to go out not only to the U.S., but all over the world. After all, I want to achieve as much success as possible through QUEEN BEE. But it’s not just my success. It’s possible that someone, who lives in the countryside and has the same circumstances as me, can see me and think, ‘If that person can do it, I can do it too.’ This is what I want to associate with this.
When was the turning point for you?
Actually, last night was a turning point. Every day is a turning point. Every day, there are moments when various things change in me. Perhaps the big turning point was when I appeared in the Japanese version of Rocky Horror Show, or when I appeared in the Japanese version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Or when I was in INU-OH. In all of my activities outside of QUEEN BEE, I noticed a lot of things that I didn’t notice when I was in the band. Coming to the U.S. recently, and even last night, I had a turning point in myself that I wouldn’t have noticed if I was just performing in Japan. Every time the environment changes, it feels like something is born again.
Was there a time when you were worried or concerned about continuing QUEEN BEE?
I never worried about continuing the band. I’m not really concerned about how to continue living or wanting to die. I wonder if I’m worried about not worrying. I guess it’s just scary when you know that you’re doing something very hard. But that fear is the same as pride. When I think about my legacy, I am speechless from the feeling.
You’ve worked as a producer, singer, lyricist, clothing designer, voice actor, and Broadway actor. Is there anything you haven’t done, or a role that you haven’t acted in, that you’d like to try?
I want to play a terrible, vicious role. Somewhat insane like Joker or Harley Quinn. A role whose existence deviates and is ostracized from society. But I think that the fact that I didn’t give up on connecting with others is what led me to where I am now, so I want to see what I would be like if I didn’t make those connections. But if you do that in the real world, you would likely be arrested. I want to play a cruel character in the performing arts, whether in film or in artwork. Other than that, in the end, what would I want to be? Maybe someone like Mother Teresa? Ultimately, I would like to be a person who can impact others.
I read that the band’s stage outfits are all handmade. How do you get started with brainstorming the outfits?
I always draw the design first. Before, I would design everything for everyone. Then I would present my ideas to everyone, and then I worked with the costume designer. We’d get everyone’s measurements, and so on. And it was in the form of doing what I could at the time. Now, I write my ideas, hand them over, and work with the designer to expand on the designs. But the very first process was really similar to what cosplayers would do. We went to American Apparel ourselves, and I think it’s now called Los Angeles Apparel now? In any case, we went to American Apparel, bought a lot of clothes, and put rhinestones and sequins on ourselves. It all started with wearing the clothes at live performances like you would for a Halloween cosplay show.
Hmm, I wonder which it is. I had a conversation with the authors of Oshi no Ko the other day. Although it was an interview, the authors shared what they envisioned for the final episode of Oshi no Ko to be and told me that they would like a song written by me. When I heard that, I thought, ‘Huh?’. I think about my work on anime songs, and the legacy of the work is amazing. Within that greatness of the original work, I pull out its essence, and it becomes a writing passion for each song I create, which I think is important.
In January, director Masaaki Yuasa was in Los Angeles to screen “Inu-Oh” ahead of the Golden Globes, and during the Q&A, there were fans who asked about your performance as Inu-Oh. Director Yuasa mentioned you put in a lot of effort and added elements to your performances. In QUEEN BEE’s music, I noticed there’s also a lot of vocal ad-libs. Do those ad-libs and extra elements come naturally? Or do you experiment with different methods until you get to the perfect result?
I’m very happy when people think the results are perfect, but I certainly think it’s beautiful to have a lot of results that are 100% perfect. For example, in this room, there are things made by various people, and it seems that someone arranged them or designed them. I think it’s beautiful that everyone is doing everything with 100% when creating things. Perhaps the reason people think my songs are perfect is because it’s a combination of perfect inputs. In order to have the end result, various things were input to make it. And of course, with ad-libbing, there are 100% perfect ad-libs, but there are other 100% results born again from them. It’s not about the calculations, but the many inputs that create the result.
During SakuraCon, you mentioned QUEEN BEE’s goal is to change the world by social reform. What does that change look like to you? How do you know you succeeded?
I think you will only find the answer to whether you changed the world or not is after you’re gone. I don’t think there’s a single thing that I think I was able to do while I was doing it. I’m sure you’ll be able to feel it during a live performance or in an environment that’s different from your usual one. I think it’s a tremendous challenge. I’m sure when we’re gone and the next generation is gone, and so on and so forth, that what we’ve been able to do will probably shine.
Why did you choose to perform in Los Angeles after Sakuracon?
We made our first appearance at an anime convention at SakuraCon, and it was also our first time in the U.S. It may look like we’ve done a lot of anime related work so far, but for me, it’s a miracle because I’ve done each one carefully and miraculously. It was a bit strange to think of us as an anime band. I don’t think we are an anisong band. But in the end, even though we performed songs that weren’t anime songs at SakuraCon, everyone was very emotionally moved, and it was exciting. We were thankful to have played there. With those feelings and that flow in mind, I chose Los Angeles because I wanted to give an opportunity for people to come see us from a non-anime perspective.
What would you like to do while you’re in Los Angeles?
There’s not enough time to do everything! I took a short walk yesterday, but it’s a very wide place. I went to an organic supermarket and bought a lot of my favorite herbal tea. We ate dinner and then came back. I really want to do more shopping and meet more people. After all, it’s a tour and not a personal vacation. I’m looking forward to the next time I can come visit. I want to do more next time!