Girl Band Yanakoto Sotto Mute Encourages us to Mute Nasty Things Online

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The four members of Yanakoto Sotto Mute

Tap your smartphone and you get to see an infinite number of posts, both positive and negative, on social media. Haven’t you ever thought, “No, I don’t want to see them anymore” at a certain point? Here is a four-member girl band from Japan whose group name may represent such a sentiment: Yanakoto Sotto Mute — which literally means “quietly mute nasty things.” The girl band, formed in 2016, represents a new breed of idol. These girls sing rock and dance. We spoke with them to find out more about the philosophy behind their idiosyncratic name and new album, “Beyond The Blue,” released at the end of last year.

“Even if there were a magic mute button to silence all the annoying things that happen each day, pressing it wouldn’t really solve anything. But, well, we’ll just sing it with melancholy tunes sung over rock sounds,” says the group concept of Yanakoto Sotto Mute (aka “Yanamyu”).

The four members — Nadeshiko, Mani Mamiya, Ichika Minami and Tsukasa Rin — are all in their early 20s. In social media parlance, to mute someone means that you prevent their posts from appearing on your timeline. This is different, of course, from blocking someone, which involves a more absolute severing of ties. Muting allows you to tenuously preserve the connection, while still effectively erasing someone’s presence from your virtual life. It is a means of preserving one’s mental sanity and emotional health in this age of social media, when you feel worn out by constant exposure to scathing words and opinions different from yours. Many people can surely relate to the word, which is symptomatic of today’s society.

The group’s producer, Hidenori Shin, describes the girls as “live idols” whose focus is performing live at concerts and other events.

“The ‘live idol’ occupies a cultural genre of its own that encompasses a wide spectrum of musical expression,” he said. “I saw possibility and launched Yanakoto Sotto Mute to see what would happen when the idol genre was combined with the ephemeral, lyrical power of alt rock.”


The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yanakoto Sotto Mute in concert

Yanakoto Sotto Mute’s members gathered in the spring of 2016 after an audition. Only at that point were they told the new group’s name and concept.

“I was like, ‘Uh … OK?’ You probably could have seen the giant question mark floating over my head,” said Nadeshiko.

“To be totally honest, I didn’t know what to think at first,” reminisced Mamiya with a laugh.

Despite some initial misgivings, the members gradually warmed up to the idea. In 2017, Yanamyu released their first album on an independent label and participated in a concert tour. Their second album came out the following summer, preceding concerts given in the United States, and in 2019, they held their first solo concert at Zepp DiverCity in Koto Ward, Tokyo. In March 2020, they made their major label debut with “Afterglow / beyond the blue.,” released on Universal Music. As the group’s name grew more and more recognized, so did their confidence and affection for the project.

“I’ve seen people on social media mentioning ‘Yanakoto Sotto Mute’ without realizing it’s the name of an idol act. Maybe the name has been a good hook that’s helped people find us,” said Mamiya.

“I felt there was something different [about Yanamyu] that set it apart from other acts,” said Rin, who joined the girl band in 2019.

“I don’t think people in Japan ever really said, ‘Yanakoto sotto mute,’ until Yanamyu came around,” said Minami. “But I’m sure a lot of people always wished they could silently hit a mute button [on the world]. I hope that our band’s name has helped people by giving them a term to describe something they’ve been feeling for a long time.”

Whole new image of idols

Any conversation about Yanamyu is incomplete without noting their rock sound. Capable vocalists, they belt out powerful tunes with an unmistakable onstage charisma. Their sweet smiles and energetic dancing are certainly attractive enough, but the way they perform intensely with voices that indicate their strong will overturn our preconception of idols.

At concerts, the group is backed by an instrumental band.

“I’m sure our music will resonate with rock fans. Actually, people have told me that they didn’t even know we were supposed to be ‘idols’ or whatever,” said Mamiya. “You know, I’d love to appear in a rock festival someday.”

In the recording studio, each instrumentalist lays down their individual tracks, which are then masterfully layered to create a rich panorama of sound. The thick base line perfectly complements the evanescent yet emotionally charged melodies sung in the members’ crystal-clear voices. This is music you’ll want to blast at full volume.

Surprisingly, the girls say they were never big fans of rock music before joining the band.

“It really opened my eyes to a completely new world. I’m still always blown away to discover the range of sounds that can be created on the guitar or drums,” said Nadeshiko.

“I really love the aggressive drumbeats, the ones that get your heart racing,” revealed Rin. “It turns out that energy is what I had been looking for when I joined this group.”

Their natural musicality is on full display on their album, “Beyond The Blue,” which was released in December.

“I feel pretty confident about the album,” said Minami. “It has a lot of up-tempo tracks, the sort of thing that really gets the party going at concerts. If it’s your first time listening to Yanamyu, you’re going to be shocked, [in a good way].”

“But our vibe isn’t super in your face, it’s not like a crazy gung-ho energy. Most of the songs on this album suit our style, gradually and steadily moving forward,” said Rin. “I really gave these songs my all. They were a way to vent my frustration at being unable to perform live nowadays.”

Waiting for time after COVID-19

Yanamyu had an uncharacteristically lean calendar last year as a result of COVID-19. Now that 2021 is underway, the four are eager to make up for lost time.

“We still need to make more of a name for ourselves in order to survive in this industry over the long run. In order to sell, we need to earn more fans. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but as long as we keep plugging away, I think we’ll get there,” said Mamiya.

“It’s important to always keep thinking about what you can do in the present. You have to face each challenge as it comes,” concurred Nadeshiko.

For now, the members are awaiting the day when they can make their return to the stage in front of a packed audience.

“Then what do we have to do now? I guess we’ll just have to try to improve ourselves as performers,” said Minami.

“I don’t know how the world is going to change, but for now, I’ll simply be happy if people have been listening to our music, and if we can continue to reach even more [fans] from all walks of life,” concluded Rin with a smile.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The cover of their new album “Beyond The Blue,” which was released in December last year