A sold-out crowd warmly welcomed New York City-based dream-pop duo Asobi Seksu to Richmond last night for their show at Strange Matter. The band — named for a Tokyo-based slang term meaning "playful sex" — is influenced by Shibuya-kei, a jazzy sub-genre of Japanese pop, as well as the music of shoegazing pioneers My Bloody Valentine. They are perhaps best recognized for their synth-heavy sound, which is garnished with singer Yuki Chikudate's mesmerizing lyrics that drift between Japanese and English. Their songs have been featured in various television shows, including Ugly Betty, The L Word and the British television series Skins . We sat down with Chikudate and guitarist James Hanna before they took the stage to talk about musical influences, their recent experiences at the Austin, Texas, music and film festival South by Southwest and Chikudate's thoughts on the current situation in Japan.
AD: How was South by Southwest?
YC: It was great. It was really fun. It was hot and sunny this year, which is nice, and playing outside is always fun.
AD: Who was your favorite band there?
JH: You know, it's funny, we almost didn't see anything. It was so hard to get into anything. Everything was really crowded, anything you would want to go see was like, lines out the door.
YC: We didn't see them at South By, but we toured a little bit with Braids before South By, and we really, really liked them. We got to see Wu-Tang, which was fun for a little bit. But it was just, like, it was supposed to start at 11:45 [p.m.], it didn't start till 1:30 [a.m.]. It was total insanity. The security guards were total d---s and were getting aggressive for no reason, so in that sense it was unpleasant, but the show was fun.
AD: You've been described as shoegaze and dream pop. How would you all define your sound?
YC: We've been saying psychedelic dream pop for a while. It's silly, but I think it fits.
AD: Why is that?
YC: I think we're psychedelic and dreamy and trancy, but still poppy.
AD: Is your music influenced more by Japanese pop or Shibuya-kei?
YC: Shibuya-kei, sure, but Japanese pop is slightly different than that. It's more mainstream pop music, which no, I don't really listen to mainstream Japanese pop music, but more like, the ‘90s, like indie-rock stuff that came out of Japan was really cool.
AD: With all the synths and reverbs that you use during live shows, is it a challenge to re-create the same sound every time? Can people expect to hear the same music from your album at your live shows?
YC: I don't know if you can really grab that kind of detail during a live show.
JH: You don't need to, anyway.
YC: I mean, certain things, you want to highlight and you try to build it as best as possible, so there are some synth lines that come out and create a nice shape, I suppose. But mostly I think it's a natural effect when it's live.
AD: So people can expect something different when they come out to live shows?
YC: Yeah, I think so.
AD: Yuki, you moved here from Japan when you were a kid. Considering everything that's going on in Japan, are you concerned? Do you have family there?
YC: I do have family there. Everybody in my family lives in Japan aside from my parents, my brother and myself. So, yeah, I was absolutely devastated and heartbroken. It was very, very hard to see. But it's been great seeing the outpouring of support and the relief efforts — it's great to see that people see Japan as a special place. So that's been really moving, but regardless, it's just so awful.