Asobi Seksu - Biography
Asobi Seksu is a New York City-based dream pop band, centered around Japanese singer Yuki Chikudate’s textured (often buried) vocals and keyboards, and James Hanna’s atmospheric drops, spikes and whirs on guitar. Heavily derivative of My Blood Valentine and other mellow shoegaze groups, as well as pocket elements of New York’s noise bands like Sonic Youth, Asobi Seksu’s distinctly stylized and nuanced sound has changed subtly over the years into something their own. Since the band’s inception in 2001, they’ve recorded four full-length albums and have toured extensively.
Asobi Seksu began in 2001 as a four-piece ensemble known as Sportfuck, but changed their name when the chasm between the music and the “juvenile” moniker moved past irony. The name Asobi Seksu—said to be a Tokyo-based colloquialism for “playful sex”—was adopted, which embraced the Japanese feel of the music and kept the underlying edge of the band. Consisting of Chikudate, Hanna, Glenn Waldman (bass) and Keith Hopkin (drums), Asobi Seksu played the first two years of its existence to sparse crowds, often having to beg friends to come out for support, according to Chikudate. They recorded their self-titled debut full-length album in 2002, which was met with little fanfare. However, Friendly Fire Records caught wind of it during the indie-boom of The Strokes and Interpol and signed the band to a deal.
Asobi Seksu (Friendly Fire) was re-released in 2004 with new cover art, and featured the gauzy single “I’m Happy But You Don’t Like Me.” That track received some radio play on college stations and lifted the profile of the band. The Sundance Film Festival special jury prize-winning film In Between Days featured the song, along with two others from the record—“Sooner” and “Walk on the Moon.”
Before getting into the studio to record their next album, the group made roster changes, replacing Waldman and Hopkins with Haji (bass) and Mitch Spivak. The new line-up recorded the 12-song Citrus (2006 Friendly Fire) at New York’s Gigantic Studios with revered indie producer Chris Zane (Ambulance LTD) at the knobs. The album received plenty of positive press, likened to bands such as Moose, Cibo Matto and My Bloody Valentine for its second-wave shoegaze-pushing sound.
A live album called Spaceland Presents: At the Echo October 6th 2006 came out on Kufala Recordings, showcasing the gossamer feel of an Asobi Seksu performance, recorded at the famed Silver Lake haunt. After more time for introspection on the road touring, core member Hanna had an epiphany to lessen the rolling clouds of guitars and effects, in favor of lusher, more minimum arrangements behind Chikudate’s high soprano voice. Using grayer hues, the aptly named Hush (2009 Poylvinyl) exemplified the change, as the band—now performing as a duo—stripped-down the guitar, synths, organ and drums to bring the feathery feel of the tracks gently to the ground.
In late 2009, Asobi Seksu released its fourth LP, the 10-track Rewolf (Polyvinyl), which stripped things down even further from Hush. Recorded at the fabled Olympic Studios in London (which housed sessions by The Beatles and Stones), the tandem of Chikudate and Hanna used acoustic guitars, toy piano, xylophones and glockenspiels to revisit many of the tracks from previous albums, mostly from Hush. The album also contains a cover of Hope Sandoval’s 2002 single, “Suzanne,” and was met with mixed reviews.
Through the course of their career, several Asobi Seksu songs have appeared on televisions shows such as The L Word and the British series, Skins.
In 2011 the band released their fifth record, Fluorescence.