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Q&A: Asobi Seksu

By Spencer Flanagan and Nazirah Ashari on July 9, 2010

 

Q&A: Asobi Seksu
Creating their own blend of dream-pop and shoegaze rock music,Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna of Brooklyn-based band Asobi Seksu know how to mix Yuki’s beautiful vocals with James’ heavy guitar to fashion something soft yet fierce that is completely their own. The band has been playing music together since 2001 – originally going by the name Sportfuck – releasing its first self-titled EP the same year. Since then the band changed its name to Asobi Seksu (which means “playful sex” in Japanese…notice any patterns?), signed with Polyvinyl, toured, and released four studio albums and several live albums. The duo took some time out of their schedules to answer our questions about the band’s latest acoustic release Rewolf, its forthcoming album and Yuki’s secret passion for drumming.
 
We are excited about the new record! Are you paddling in a new direction for this one? What can we expect from it musically?
 
James Hanna: The idea with the last record was to really limit the guitars and make something a little more restrained. There are definitely a lot of guitars and a bit more rock on this one so far. The only plan we had going in with this one was to not really have a plan and let the songs evolve as naturally as possible.
 
 
Your most recent release, Rewolf, is a beautiful acoustic album that somehow accentuates the sound of Asobi Seksu in way that was previously unheard. Do you think fans were surprised to hear an acoustic album from you? Was it a challenge to create? Do you think people who discovered Rewolf before your previous albums were surprised by your usual shoegaze, dream pop sound?
 
Hanna: Rewolf started out as just a quick little thing we were going to sell at shows, but our labels liked it a lot and wanted to release it here, Japan and Europe. So it came as a surprise. Somehow one acoustic show in NYC turned into a full acoustic tour. The reception on that tour was so positive it was super cool, and we didn’t have to carry any amps! I’m not sure if many people were turned on to the band via Rewolf, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise for us and our fans.
 
 
The band worked with producer Chris Zane (Passion Pit, Mumford and Sons, Tokyo Police Club) for two of your albums. Are you working with Zane on this new one? If so, how does it feel to work with such an experienced producer? What difference does Zane bring to the recording process? 
 
Hanna: We are working with Zane. I'm watching him eat a turkey sandwich right now. I told him the term “experienced producer” made me think of a bald LA guy with a ponytail. I think that's what he wants to be when he grows up. Over the course of a few albums and singles we have built a good report and a fairly bullshit free work flow. It’s been a pleasure so far to make this record... it’s the only time you get to hang out with your studio hermit friends anyway.
 
 
How did the two of you meet? Is the relationship strictly professional? Have you ever been involved (if you don’t mind us asking) and has that affected the songwriting?
 
Hanna: I met Yuki in college...I'm always surprised that we don't get that question more often. Yuki is alright I guess.
 
 
We read in another interview that James said Yuki was the hardest hitting drummer he had ever seen. Yuki, do you ever play the drums live or on any of the recordings? Or do you plan to?
 
Yuki Chikudate: Haha, no. I'm terrible but I have spirit! I think that I have potential, but I would need my own kit to start practicing. I don't think that playing for three minutes a day during a show is enough to get better at it!
 
 
What have been some of your favorite bands to tour with?
 
Hanna: The White Lies tour we just did in the UK was really awesome. It was all massive venues and shit but the whole crew and band were super friendly and down to earth. There something to be said for a bunch of people who know what they are doing, trying to make things go as smoothly as possible and just have a really positive experience.
 
 
Asobi Seksu is a duo project, so how do you go about choosing people to play the other instruments to record albums and to go on tour with you?
 
Hanna: Work ethic and attitude are almost as important as musical ability when it comes to being in a touring band. We have been playing with bassist Billy [Pavone] and drummer Larry [Gorman] for a few years now and it’s been great. We are very fortunate.
 
 
“Asobi Seksu” translated in English means “playful sex” right? Where did you the name come from? Is there any sort of significance behind it?
 
Hanna: We may or may not have been named something a lit bit risqué at one point and asobi just seemed more reasonable.
 
 
Both of you share the songwriting task; how does that process work with the two of you?
 
Hanna: We write, we argue, we write some more and argue some more.
 
 
What is your favorite song to perform live?
 
Hanna: Hmm, probably making all the noise at the end of “Red Sea,” It’s so chaotic and different every night. It’s so cathartic after sitting in van all day to just beat the shit out of yourself and your equipment every  night. F

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