Aural Vampire

A product both of Tokyo's vibrant goth subculture and the city's underground dance music scene, synth pop duo Aural Vampire make up for their lack of chart success with a flamboyant stage presence that puts even their most image-obsessed J-pop contemporaries to shame. Frontwoman Exo-Chika -- a self-styled "vampire" who flaunts fangs in the band's videos and takes to the stage in Alexander McQueen-inspired haute goth couture -- first met songwriter/producer Raveman in high school, where the two became friends. The two bonded over a shared love of new wave, post-punk, '90s techno, and 1970s-1980s B horror movies. The latter explains Raveman's own outlandish stage wear -- a freaky Friday the 13th-style hockey mask. In 2000, the two formed Aural Vampire and began playing shows and self-releasing CDs. Aural Vampire's debut album proper, Vampire Fantasy, came out in 2004, an independent release that nonetheless went on to shift 2,000 copies.

In 2007, Aural Vampire toured overseas for the first time, playing dates in Germany, where the band had previously been featured on the front cover of goth bible Astan. The European tour also included dates in the Netherlands and Finland. Despite the obvious language barrier, Aural Vampire's exotic twist on gothic chic struck a chord overseas, helping them gain almost 50,000 friends on MySpace, where they also ranked for a period as the most popular Japanese indie artist and among the Top Ten most popular acts in the industrial and new wave categories. The group returned to Europe when the goth/fetish Tokyo Decadence club night toured France and Germany. In September, the duo played to thousands at Germany's three-day inMotion Asian-Pacific music festival. Back at home, Aural Vampire sought to give their credibility in dance music circles a boost by playing at Tokyo club Studio Cube, which had become something of an underground mecca for its regular hosting of psych-trance and hardcore events. Also in 2007, the group signed to Avex Trax, Japan's biggest independent music label. Aural Vampire's first U.S. appearance followed the next year, at Anime Matsuri 2008 in Houston. ~ David Hickey

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