You could call it dream pop. Or shoegazing. Music you could fall asleep to. Asobi Seksu lead singer Yuki Chikudate’s soft-soprano voice transcends time and space, channeling tones that compel you “to turn off all the lights, put some candles on, and drift into heaven.” Layer that with the ebb and flow of rolling drums, heavy guitar riffs, and adorn it with the jingles of a tamborine, and you get what drummer Larry Gorman calls “a big sonic expression.” If supernovas made noise, this would come pretty close.
Asobi Seksu (Japanese for “playful sex”) doesn’t fit squarely into a single genre, and so it ends up being described by phrases rather than single adjectives: “a hyper-stylized and glitzy graphic design sense,” for example. And despite the band’s name, Chikudate’s lineage, and her tendency to sing in Japanese, Asobi Seksu isn’t quite the Shibuya import that some like to label it. Many of the band’s biggest influences hail from places closer to its Brooklyn home, from Yo La Tengo (Hoboken, NJ) and Sonic Youth (NYC) to Tom Waits (Pomona) and The Beach Boys (So. Cal.). Which makes sense, considering Chikudate grew up in Los Angeles and has lived in the Big Apple since she was 16—not to mention Gorman’s lifelong affection for the late punk-and-blues haven, CBGB.
Tonight, the band returns to San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill for an encore show as it tours in support of its latest (well-received) album, Fluorescence. In the clip below, Chikudate (with Gorman) tells me about learning to sing, moving to New York, and why you should never say “asobi seksu” to a Japanese person.
Click here for more music features from Mother Jones.