Asobi Seksu’s Yuki Chikudate discusses Woodstock, the Pop Montreal Festival, and awkward group hugs


With a brand new music video and massive U.S. tour ahead of them, Yuri Chikudate, lead singer of  shoegaze/dreampop band Asobi Seksu, took a few minutes to sit down with me just before her band’s gig at the Brooklyn Bowl.  We discussed the band’s recent trip to Woodstock, their performance at the Pop Montreal Festival, and awkward group hugs.

How was your summer?  Were you in the city for most of it or did you get away at all

It was good!  We were in the city, just relaxing, writing, had some odd jobs here and there, and just taking time to ourselves.

You recently played the Pop Montreal Festival.  How did you enjoy that?  Did you get to see many other bands play? 

Yeah, it was fun. It’s similar to CMJ where the festival is at a bunch of venues all over the city.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any other bands play. It was a long drive to Montreal.  With the border crossing, it takes about 10 hours, so by the time we got there we just wanted to play and then find a hotel room.  It was a fun show though.

Can you tell us a bit about the new album?  Did you feel it was a departure for you at all?

I don’t think of it as a departure, but more as just a natural progression.  It sounds more like us than ever.  All the elements that we’ve explored before were brought together here.

You recently recorded two songs up at Woodstock.  How was that?

We met this guy up there named Mike Tudor. His nickname is “Mama,” I guess because he’s kinda like a mama bear.  He cooked for us a bit too.  He has a house in Woodstock with a home studio so we just recorded with him. We were just there for two days one night.  It was fun to record though.  One of his neighbors is actually [jazz guitarist] Pat Metheny.  It was great to spend our Labor Day weekend there.

One of the songs that you recorded there was “Never Understand” by the Jesus and Mary Chain.  How influential has their music been to you guys?

We love the searing, painful guitars they were known for.  They’re surlier than we are.  We have a bit more sweetness. But their sound is definitely an influence.

I understand that you moved from California to New York by yourself when you were 16.  What was that like? 

I wouldn’t re-live it and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  But I was a very head-strong person.  I think it’s something that served me well though.  I’m glad that I have that resilience in me, but at the same time I’m glad that I know when to give it up now.

What role did music play in your life growing up?

I grew up playing piano and that was a big part of my life. I really loved classical music and that’s how I got into music in the first place. Over the years that evolved and I started to feel a little bit trapped by being in the classical world.  It’s just such an academic world.  It doesn’t have to be, but it tends to lean that way.  And so when I saw my opportunity to leave, I just kind of took it.

What new music have you been listing to lately?

I really like our opening band tonight, White Birds. I had never heard them before, but they’re really great.  Jim’s voice is just really beautiful and powerful.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

I don’t, really.  I try to make sure I’m warmed up. But I have to admit that I’m not so disciplined with that.  We tried to group hug once and it was kinda awkward.  But that was us trying to be a little more positive and encouraging of each other. But I don’t know if we’re a group hug kind of band [laughs].

How do you occupy yourself when you’re on tour?

We don’t tend to get a lot of free time on the road.  But when we do get it, we just do what we can with it.  The other day we just went bowling.  But we’re all terrible bowlers [laughs].  We’re all pretty bad.  Our sound guy won, and his score was abysmal, so that kind of gives you a clue there of how good we are.

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