An all-girl pop group based in Vancouver is getting ready to debut at the largest Japanese pop culture convention in North America, but they’re stopping in Richmond first.
Non Sweet is a five-member multicultural group who debuted during the COVID-19 pandemic on Dec. 17, 2020 with their festive single Merry Xmas Kiss ~Under the Mistletoe~.
Comprising of members Jessica, Emily, Stella, Miyu, and Nina, the group aspires to “empower, inspire and bring joy to people all over the world, especially girls” and “lead the way for J-pop style girl groups in North America,” according to their website.
The name “Non Sweet” represents the members’ desire to experiment with a variety of music genres and styles, rather than just being cute and sweet.
“Sometimes we want to look cute, but we also want to look cool. We thought that ‘Non Sweet’ fits really well with that concept,” explained Stella in the group’s introduction video.
Since their debut, Non Sweet has released two singles showcasing their range from the cool girl-crush sound in Timeslip to the sweet and cheerful Mini Game. Their next single, scheduled to debut at Anime Expo in LA, will be an “English-Japanese fusion festival song” with a choreography that everyone can follow along.
The group’s music is written and produced by Japanese producer and radio personality SHUN, and the members translate the lyrics from Japanese to English for their singles. Their fun and catchy choreography is created by member Jessica, who forayed into dance choreography for the first time because of the group.
“It’s definitely a learning process because I don’t think any one of us had been doing this before we got into the group… We’re always learning and growing together,” Jessica told the Richmond News.
“And I also think that’s what makes this group so valuable to us and why we hold it so dearly to our heart is because all five of us are always growing,” she added.
J-pop style – what makes it different from other pop groups?
Jessica, Emily, and Stella came up with the idea for Non Sweet specifically because J-pop groups are hard to come by in North America. True to their concept, the members also draw inspiration from a variety of Japanese artists.
Emily is a fan of idol music, which refers to a genre where performers’ image and talent are marketed to maintain a close and loyal relationship with fans, and her favourite group is ≠ME (Not Equal Me); Stella likes NiziU, a Japanese girl group produced by K-pop label JYP Entertainment; Miyu is a fan of idol group The World Standard (Wa-Suta) who juxtaposes a cute cat-like aesthetic with powerful vocals; Nina is a fan of =LOVE (the sister group of ≠ME); and Jessica is inspired by girl groups such as AKB48 and Fairies, as well as Japanese rock music.
But what exactly are J-pop idols?
“It’s very interactive. Even though you’re the performer on stage, you’re kind of interacting with the crowd to a point that everyone looks like they’re performing together as an act…
“There’s nothing quite like idol music where the fans have such an important role in the performance,” said Jessica.
And a big part of that cohesiveness lies in the special penlights and towels that fans of the group can be seen waving at live performances.
When the group debuted in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to find other ways to incorporate that interactive element by doing livestreams and uploading vlogs and behind-the-scenes videos on Youtube. But it was not enough.
“It was rough. We did online shows, but it’s definitely not the same,” said Emily.
“It’s a successful live when the audience is as excited as you are. Even if we mess up, I feel like if the audience is having a really good time, and we’re all jumping together, I’m like, ‘That was great!’ Not having that during the pandemic… I felt like something was missing,” Miyu explained.
In fact, the group’s first live performance was held at the Richmond Night Market last year, and it was one of the most memorable moments for the members since their debut.
“It does feel really emotional to me. It’s kind of like, okay, we’re finally doing something that…” said Nina.
“…that we’re supposed to do?” Jessica added as the members giggled at the memory.
“Before we went on the stage together we all huddled together and we were hyping each other up and I was like ‘I’m gonna cry but I shouldn’t cry!’” said Miyu.
Since then, Non Sweet has performed at numerous cultural festivals such as Sakura Days Japan Fair, and they’re excited to return to the Richmond Night Market stage tomorrow.
“We’re definitely all super excited about the Night Market because we already know that the crowds are just incredible. First off, because it’s at night so the penlights really show,” said Jessica.
The members are also excited to immerse into the audience and interact with their fans, which they couldn’t do in last year’s performances due to social distancing measures.
What's next for Non Sweet?
As the group approaches their second anniversary at the end of this year, they’re ready to take the world by the storm.
“I would really love to tour with the group someday,” said Jessica.
“Even, like, in Asia or even, like, a U.S. tour… Canada… just travelling. I think another big dream we all have and are really working hard towards one day is having an album,” Emily added.
The members are also hoping to perform with their producer SHUN, who is currently based in Japan and working with them virtually. For now, they’re excited to head to the U.S. next month to perform in the country for the very first time at Anime Expo.
Non Sweet’s summer live party performance at the Richmond Night Market will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday June 17, followed by a Meet & Greet. Fans can reserve spots to take personalized polaroid photos with the group or their favourite members on Ko-fi.
Keep up with Non Sweet’s activities on their social media accounts.