STARKIDS is a multinational crew consisting of six members: Space boy, espeon, BENXNI, TAHITI, levi, and ROAR. The songs are influenced by Japanese anime, game music, and drain gang, and are not bound by genre, with powerful beats and verses that run through the listener’s body.
While not only musicality but also individual characters are gaining popularity, espeon, from Honolulu, Hawaii and is in charge of “esper type kawaii” espeon is bisexual and transfeminous (People whose sex assigned at birth is male and who perceive themselves as more feminine than masculine.) It completely changed from the masculine attire seen in the beginning of the carrier and established self-expression in a feminine attire.
For her who was worried about her own way of being, what did she find about moving to Japan and meeting STARKIDS?
ーー“I gave up on getting my mother to understand.” Espeon was raised by parents with strict values. What she got when she moved to Japan was the freedom to enjoy expression.
ーーHave you ever had doubts about your gender and sexuality in your life in Hawaii until you graduated from high school?
I started thinking that I might be bisexual and transfeminine when I was in middle school. I used my mother’s makeup tools to apply makeup when no one was home, and tried to be someone I wasn’t. However, because my family had strict values, there was an atmosphere in which men wanted to be more masculine. As I got older, I began to feel this kind of pressure from my friends, and I spent my time acting like the people around me wanted me to fit in.
Among them, my girlfriend I was dating at that time was the only one who respected me. In the end, I couldn’t maintain a healthy mental health because I often had a toxic relationship. I also went to therapy, but the thought of “when will I be happy” was just growing, and my mental state became more unstable.
ーーWhat kind of changes did moving from Hawaii to Japan bring to you?
I think moving to Japan on the occasion of entering university was a turning point to change my life greatly. I’m more open and colorful than before… You’ll know when you see my hairstyle now(laughs)?
Living alone apart from my parents brought me a lot of freedom. It may be thanks to getting a free environment that I can be interviewed like this. Expressing my feminine and fashionable self and being myself is the happiest moment in my life so far.
On the other hand, my parents still don’t understand that I’m a member of STARKIDS or that I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community.
My mother is a former figure skater, and it seems that there were many LGBTQ+ people around her for a long time, but she never imagined that her child would be one of them. I was once told, “Your current state is temporary.” So I’ve given up on trying to convince my mother.
ーーA family called “STARKIDS” that Espeon met in order to meet. Making music forever with the members who accepted her as she is.
ーーEncounter with music, are there any artists influenced you?
At first, I started it as part of psychotherapy, but now it is essential not only mentally but also for building a career. The Internet culture that I have spent together since I was young is closely related to my current creative activities and myself.
The artist I was influenced is the American hyperpop duo “100 gecs”. The member Laura Les is a transgender I knew for the first time in the hyperpop and Internet music scenes. In addition, I sometimes write lyrics inspired by “NANA” “Pokemon” “Resident Evil” and so on.
ーーWaren’t you afraid to open up your gender identity and sexual orientation to your members?
I was scared. I told my partner I was dating at that time that I was afraid to come out to the members. So at first, I came out to Steffen YOSHIKI, a manager and back DJ. Because he was older and took good care of people. Then, Steffen accepted me and told the members that he wanted them to call me using the pronoun “Effie (the nickname of the espeon)” “She” “They” instead of “He” .
Since then, the members have been calling me the way I want with respect for me. I can’t thank Steffen and my partner at that time for supporting me to take the first step to break my shell.
To change the subject a little, two years ago, when my relationship with the partner I was dating at that time didn’t go well and I did overdose, Space boy and BENXNI rushed to my apartment with their friends. He stayed by my side until I was told that there was no life-threatening. Accept me as a person and as an artist, and make me feel that I’m not alone. There is no blood connection, but STARKIDS is like a family to me.
ーーWas there any reaction from the fans?
I’ve never made it clear about my sexuality, but it seems to know it naturally. For example, in the SNS community, when a fan of us mis-gendered me, the another fan corrected about me, so I was surprised that such an environment was created.
And also, in the documentary that followed STARKIDS, I mentioned a little about my sexuality, but it left an impression that the fan who saw it told me, “I was worried about my identity, so I was very brave.”
ーーWhat do you want to do as STARKIDS in the future?
When STARKIDS was first formed, it started by performing at a club event in Shibuya, and it was a non-paid job. But now, the connection has gradually expanded, and it has become possible to operate not only in Japan but also overseas. From now on, I would be happy if we could grow together while building a community with artists through our own label “guntai9”.
STARKIDS is a group of members with completely different origins and nationalities, but no one can stop us. We will continue to make music from now on. Forever, like a KID.
STARKIDS – DOPAMINE (Prod. BENXNI) [Official Music Video]
Members of the multinational rap group “STARKIDS” formed in 2020 by Space boy, espeon, BENXNI, TAHITI, levi, and ROAR. Her favorite manga is “NANA” and her favorite Pokémon is “espeon”. As a group, the appearance at Japan’s largest hip-hop festival “POP YOURS” held last year became a hot topic. In September 2023, she formed the independent label “guntai9” and received a lot of attention from the media and fashion industry as a supernova responsible for the Japanese hip-hop and club scene.
Interview, interpretation, translation, sentence / Honoka Yamasaki
English translation / Lady-J
Photo / EISUKE
Editing / Takashi Haga
Shooting location: DESIGN FESTA GALLERY (http://www.designfestagallery.com/)
Article production / newTOKYO