August 27 2014

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Beauty And The Beat: Who Needs Austin? Catching Up With Japan’s The Suzan At The Savannah Stopover


For the music lovers of the world, this week marks the much-awaited return of Austin’s annual South by Southwest festival, where the few, the proud, the bearded turn out en masse for a little rock ‘n’ roll, Texas-style. While indie darlings like Brooklyn’s Bear in Heaven and Light Asylum still stand out at the synth-laden showcase, its extreme spike in popularity over the past few years means that headliners now include mainstream acts like Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen, and John Mayer—which has caused smaller bands to seek refuge elsewhere. Enter the Savannah Stopover. A cool 1,166 miles east of Austin, the Georgia capital has become a feeding ground for the caravan of as-yet-unknowns on their way to SXSW to unload their amps for a more intimate meeting of musical minds. One such band is Tokyo’s The Suzan, an all-girl foursome that may be cute, but still knows how to control a crowd. Last Saturday, we had the pleasure of watching them take a listless audience and turn them into a rowdy, dancing mob that, by the end of the set, was cheering for an encore. Singer and guitarist Saori, drummer Nico, keyboardist Rie, and bassist Ikue boast a singular mash-up of garage rock, tribal beats, and part scat, part crooning vocals, which plays a big part in the undeniable appeal that attracted Björn Yttling (of the hit-happy pop band Peter Bjorn and John), who is credited with discovering them. But much of the group’s popularity stems from some serious onstage style. From kelly green face paint to tribal-patterned turbans, these girls know how to put on a show. secured a backstage pass to talk beauty secrets with Japan’s ladies of rock, who dished on homegrown product favorites, the secrets to maintaining a clear complexion on tour, and why everyone should invest in a good BB cream.

You guys are four stylish girls, in one band. Is there a need to coordinate what you’re going to wear to shows so you don’t end up…clashing?

Saori: “We discuss. Today we said, ‘Let’s do rock ‘n’ roll star!’ Yesterday, ‘We should use more bright colors.’ “

Has your look changed a lot since the band started back in 2006?

Nico: “Yes, I think it’s changed. Five years ago, we all wore white and black shirts, like a uniform. But three years ago, we changed our style [to become more] colorful. I’m a drummer, so I need something flexible. So every show I wear leggings—my body isn’t skinny, but I don’t care! I wear them every time.”

What about makeup? That seems to be a big part of your performances.

Ikue: “I always put on bright eye makeup for onstage. Make Up For Ever is the best for eyes. Offstage, I use the Japanese brand Deja Vu—the quality is very high but it’s not so expensive.”

Nico: “My favorite artist is Marilyn Manson—I really love his makeup—so I’m very influenced by him. I like to do black eyeliner—big eyeliner—and face paint.”

Marilyn Manson—an interesting beauty icon. With all the extra face-painting, how long does it usually take for you to get ready for a show?

Nico: “I just need five minutes!”

Not bad! Japan is a treasure trove of amazing beauty brands that don’t exist anywhere else in the world. Is there anything you stock up on when you’re back home?

Saori: “I get BB cream from the Korean cosmetic brand Banila Co, and I also use Shiseido—the toner and moisturizing cream.”

Rie: “Eye color from the Japanese brand Can Make.”

Nico: “Face powder from Skin Food—it’s [also] a Korean brand.”

What’s the key to looking good when you’re constantly on the road?

Ikue: “Good food and good sleep. I try to eat fruit every day—sometimes a venue has bananas or apples, so I always eat a lot of that.”

Saori: “Even if you feel tired or don’t feel good, you should wash your face every day before you go to bed.”

Rie: “Use a face mask. [Ikue] gave me Sabon face masks as a birthday present, and I use it once a week.”

Nico: “Gelatin supplements—it’s good for hair, skin, and nails. After two weeks, I saw a little change.”

Photo: Kristin Eddington

Beauty And The Beat