Sunday, January 12, 2014

HEAR THIS/INTERVIEW: Kota Wade of 'Girl Radical', 'Bad Wolf' talks Music, Style, & Being an *NSYNC Fangirl

Back in September, I posted a nice long ramble on JC Chasez's imminent mega-girl group, Girl Radical -- an eleven-member American gal group inspired by large-and-in-charge groups like AKB48 and Girls' Generation. As a fan of KPOP on a general whole and an advocate for the hallyu initiative truly going worldwide (read: a real breakthrough in the United States), the prospect of a group like Girl Radical was incredibly interesting. (This stream of consciousness also led to a retweet by JC himself -- an overwhelming moment for me as the *NSYNC fangirl you all know me to be.)

The potential of the group really excited me -- while the buzz single, a cover of No Doubt's "Just A Girl", underwhelmed me, their bubbly original single "Don't Get Me Wrong" didn't. (I wasn't the only one -- Jessica at This Must Be Pop! named it as one of the Most Poptastic Songs of the 2013.) As I delved further into the group in wait for more material, I found -- not unlike when discovering and devouring a new, surplus-member KPOP group -- the girls that make up Girl Radical are all downright superwomen in their own right.

Perfect example -- Kota Wade. Not only is she GR's requisite steam-faerie princess, she's also an avid songwriter, charity contributor and has her own steam-punk band, fronting the premo Bad Wolf. Their latest single, "Drowning Beautiful," is lush and rather haunting, a sound that's in stark and surprising contrast to Kota's 'radical' other self. She also owns and operates her own live venue, Amplyfi, in Los Angeles (named the 'Best All-Ages Venue' by the LA Weekly in 2012). Ambitious would be putting it mildly -- try and tell me Kota doesn't totally embody the positive role-model energy Girl Radical is keenly advertising.

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to ask Kota herself a few questions about her career with Bad Wolf and Girl Radical, her unique sense of fashion and style and music in general. We also chatted a bit about being an *NSYNC fangirl (because obviously). Read on to learn all about Kota (including who her fave KPOP gal group is). It's safe to say that if she and her sisters-in-arms aren't already on your radar, they should be by the time you're finished...

MEL: I don't think triple threat is sufficient for your career -- it's more like multi-threat! You're a member of Bad Wolf AND Girl Radical, work closely with charity, and own and operate your own live venue. First question - how do you juggle all this? Do you sleep? ;)

KOTA: I try to sleep as much as possible! Luckily, I run better on little sleep so working all night doesn't bother me! Luckily, everything that I'm involved with comes with amazing teams of people that are all very understanding, so nothing really ever conflicts with each other as long as I keep the balancing act up!

How did Bad Wolf come together?

Tommy and I were each in different bands when we met, when both of our bands were on a bill at the El Rey, and we eventually formed our own project and started writing music together. We played our first show in February of 2012, calling in favors from other musicians to fill out the line up. Soon after that we added Tim Falco as our drummer, who Tommy knew from when they played in a band together in high school! And then in late 2012 we added Alicia Vigil as our bassist and final member! We're all very different as individuals but come together very well, and have formed our own little family!


How did you get involved with the Girl Radical initiative?

A songwriter, Danielle Brisebois [Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten", Kylie Minogue's "Boombox", amongst others], that I've worked with since I was 14, recommended that I talk to JC Chasez and Jimmy Harry [P!NK's "Sober", Kelly Clarkson's "Low"] about their upcoming project, because they were looking for girls to join the group. When I went to meet with them, they were interested in my club, Amplyfi, and wanted me to recommend artists that had passed through Amplyfi and might be interested in the group. When I heard the idea for the group, I KNEW I had to be involved! Luckily, Bad Wolf was playing a show at Amplyfi the night after I met with JC and Jimmy, so Jimmy came by and saw us play and that was technically my "audition" for Girl Radical, and the rest is history!

Total fangirl question -- as an *NSYNC fangirl myself -- what's it like working with JC Chasez? Were you a *NSYNC fan growing up?

I WAS THE WORLD'S BIGGEST *NSYNC FAN! At first it was VERY surreal working with JC, because I idolized him growing up, but the more time we spend with him, the more normal it all becomes, and he's definitely become a friend, mentor, and family to us. We all still try to get him to sing or show us some *NSYNC dance moves all the time though! 

How would you describe your personal musical taste?

My personal musical taste is very eclectic. I grew up listening to a lot of older music, and was exposed to a huge amount of music very young, as both of my parents are music lovers. I tend to gravitate towards rock music a lot, but also love more mellow/ethereal music, such as Bjork. A lot of my favorite bands are pretty small indie bands, so I tend to not listen to the radio much, because I know that my iPod has all my favorites! 

While the two styles of Bad Wolf & Girl Radical are pretty drastically different, they do have a few overlapping layers with their allusions to the "fantastic". Bad Wolf leans toward the steampunk pop-rock, while Girl Radical is almost superhero girl-pop. Which "character" best represents the real Kota, or do they both?

Both Girl Radical and Bad Wolf represent different sides of myself extremely well! I've always been a bit schizophrenic, leaning back and forth between pop and rock, so I'm extremely lucky to have two outlets for both of my personalities! Bad Wolf is my baby, where I call most of the shots and guide the style and music more, whereas Girl Radical is JC and Jimmy's baby. We each get a lot of creative freedom within the group, so I try to take every opportunity I can to show my character, but I also try to fit my craziness into the style of the group!

Have you written any material for Girl Radical? Any chance there could be a Bad Wolf/Girl Radical collaboration?

Girl Radical actually [had] a Christmas song being released this [past Decmeber, see below], which I co-wrote with JC, Jimmy, and another girl in the group, Rosie Okumura. I love being able to work with an array of talented musicians, both with Girl Radical and Bad Wolf, and would LOVE to one day combine the efforts into one collaboration! Maybe in the future! 

JC Chasez stated the Girl Radical idea was inspired by "large" girl groups in Japan like AKB48. Are you a fan of Asian musical styles like AKB in Japan and Girls' Generation in South Korea?

I'm definitely a fan of Girls' Generation! Some of the groups are harder for me to relate to because I have such a distinct taste in music and fashion, but I feel like Girls' Generation always nails it!

As a songwriter, what is the process like for Bad Wolf? Do you start with a concept or a lyric and build from there?

Tommy and I usually start the songwriting process, and then we finish it off with drums and bass, and add the "frosting" like piano, bells, synths, etc. when we're in the studio. Tommy usually shows me a guitar part that he's come up with, and I then try to write vocals to match it, while giving the song a structure. Tommy's musical background is mostly experimental and metal, so some times it takes us a while to figure out the structure of a song so that it's relatable to our audience, but we've definitely gotten into a rhythm that works for us! We're all perfectionists, so some times it takes us weeks or even months to finish a song to our liking, but in the end we're always glad we took the extra time to make it right! 

Your unique style is really fun -- I love a good tutu! How would you describe your personal feelings about fashion?

Fashion has always been a HUGE part of my life. My mom is really into fashion as well, so even as a baby I was always wearing crazy, coordinated, fluffy outfits! I started designing clothes in elementary school, so it's safe to say that fashion has always been a part of me. I love experimenting with different styles, all while trying to stay true to the persona that I've created for myself. I've been compared to Gwen Stefani, Cyndi Lauper, and Katy Perry, which I love, but I also feel like I'm very different from them, in the fact that I like to mix a more gothic/steampunk element into my look.

What's the last album that you've bought?

Either Play With Fire by The Reign of Kindo, or Bjork's Greatest Hits! I love buying albums as opposed to singles, because I tend to become a "super fan" of the artists that I like, and love learning every word to every song on the album. 

Given that you do it all -- musician, entrepreneur, fashionista -- what's one thing about you and your personality that fans might be surprised to hear?

Because I dress so crazy, people might be surprised to learn that I am actually quite an introvert. I would much prefer reading a book than going to a club on a Friday night. I'm also REALLY into sci-fi TV/movies/books. 

What's next for you?

Keeping busy, working hard, and producing products that I'm proud of! Bad Wolf will be releasing new music and videos at the start of 2014, and Girl Radical is always busy!

Message for the fans?

THANK YOU for your support! You're the reason I work so hard, you're the inspiration for everything!

For more on Bad Wolf, check out their official website via For more on Girl Radical, check out You can follow Kota via on Twitter via @KotaRadical or on Instagram via @SteamFaerie. Can't get enough of her style? Subscribe to her personal fashion-focused YouTube channel here.

My thanks go to Kota herself for taking the time to answer my questions (and for being so generally kick-ass) and to Amanda and everyone at LaFamous.

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