Atarashii Gakko! On Their Coachella 2024 Performance, Distinct Style, & Musical Inspiration

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The four young women wore military helmets and very serious expressions. His fingers, encased in custom-made white gloves, fluttered over loose wrists. To a hard-hitting taiko drum beat, they skittered and bounced across the soundstage, with screamed lyrics that, according to the closed caption translation, describe a domestic dystopia: “Dad is stuck in routine, the taken from work is scary / the mother escapes reality, addicted to idols” was the explosive American television debut of Atarashii Gakko! Jimmy Kimmel Live! At the end of last year, you may have asked yourself: where did these women come from?

One answer is that Atarashii Gakko! formed in Japan in 2015 and are managed by talent agency Asobisystem, also responsible for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Some Japanese media claim that they met in the aisle of a supermarket. In a telephone interview, the women, who are in their twenties, tell me that they have known each other since they were in school. “The official story is that we were called for the era and the era,” says Suzuka, who sports a rocker-curly haircut and round wire-rimmed glasses. “When the time calls for us, we will appear. The four of us get together.”

Adding to the aura of mystery is the group's singular and unplaceable style. Unlike other J-pop idols, Atarashii Gakko's retro sailor school uniforms! they have the fitted cut of the 1980s. The sci-fi outfits they wore to perform “Tokyo Calling.” Kimmel! were inspired by a 1960s tokusatsu show, ultraman. For their recent single, “Toryanse,” they added traditional haori robes, remixed with quilted fabrics and chain closures, over their standard uniforms.

When asked why the current moment called for the formation of Atarashii Gakko!, they are open: the mental health crisis facing Japan (and the world), where a culture of overwork, academics of high pressure and rigid social expectations can make teenagers feel hopeless. about growing up They want to be role models to pass. Their name translates to “new school” and they wear red armbands that connote their status as student council president.

“A lot of the message comes down to how we can move forward [school or societal] rules, but be free within those limitations,” says Suzuka. “And I think everyone will express their own style, their own set of values ​​that help them be themselves while following the rules.”

This also applies to them as artists, says Suzuka. In matching outfits, they have different haircuts and hope, as a group, to “multiply” the genres that individually inspire them, such as jazz, funk and hip-hop. His whip-lash-inducing choreography is aggressive, often unpretty, and wholly original. Influenced by classical butoh theater and hip-hop, there is a determination not to be objectified or pigeonholed.

Rin, who has curly bangs and an undercut ponytail, says the choreography is a product of her upbringing. “We danced since we were very young and we all grew up in different regions of Japan.” Kanon, who wears her hair down, adds that the early days of TikTok were an ideal incubator for them to develop their group style. “In 2019, TikTok was still a place where really hot guys or girls were doing these dances, and we were like, 'How do we participate in that but still have our own identity and brand?'” he says.

In 2020, Atarashii Gakko! signed to 88rising, a hybrid record label and music collective promoting Asian artists in the United States. The company has successfully introduced a number of East Asian acts to the Western market, including Hong Kong hip-hop star Jackson Wang, Japanese-Australian lo-fi musician Joji and Indonesian rapper Rich Brian . “This was before we were big in Japan,” says Mizyu, who has thick bangs and long pigtails. “With no expectations, we listened to our instincts and decided to go to the United States to see what would happen.”

Success at home found them anyway in early 2023, when their '70s-inspired single 'OTONABLUE', originally released three years earlier, went viral on Japan's TikTok. “Suddenly they were all over Japan,” says Tokyo music writer Patrick St. Michel. “They've appeared on TV shows, coffee commercials, various YouTube videos. I've seen my 70-year-old mother-in-law go into 'OTONABLUE' because it's based on the music she grew up listening to, albeit with a modern twist.”

The group has been pleasantly surprised and galvanized by the reception they have had at festivals in New York and LA. They especially enjoyed seeing fans of all ages and genders in sea school uniforms. “Seeing this from the stage makes us very, very happy,” says Mizyu.

On stage and off, Atarashii Gakko! they radiate a chaotic energy, ping-ponging with each other like kids who've had too much sugar, especially when I ask about their reaction to being asked to play Coachella. The women erupted in a cacophony of upbeat sound that their interpreter can only describe as “a huge, resounding yes, for sure.”

“I saw a Beyoncé documentary at Coachella,” Suzuka adds, laughing. “There's a part of me that thinks participating in Coachella will bring me one step closer to Beyoncé.”

Photographs by Toshio Ohno

Styling by Masato (fantastic!)

Hair and Makeup: Youca

Talent reserves: Special projects

Contributing Style Director: Jan-Michael Quammie

Cinematographer: Alex Pollack

Editor-in-Chief: Lauren McCarthy

SVP Fashion: Tiffany Reid

SVP Creative: Karen Hibbert



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