Asobi Seksu Hushed Today
It’s been almost three years since the Brooklyn duo Asobi Seksu (aka Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna) released their sophomore album, Citrus (2006)—which, I realized this morning, means that I have now been listening to it on repeat for three years straight without having played it into the ground. Maybe it’s just one of those miraculous albums you never get sick of. That’s not a theory I really want to test, though, and luckily, I don’t have to: Hush, the band’s third full-length, is out today on Polyvinyl, and it’s characteristically bursting with those dreamy, gauzy melodies, the shoegazey blur of “a million guitars,” and Chikudate’s high, clear voice—which sweetly (but not that innocently) cuts through a density of sound that has garnered the group endless comparisons to My Bloody Valentine. We caught up with Chikudate, who told us everything we wanted to know about Hush and the evolution of Asobi Seksu, bed bugs, and why she and Hanna are almost sick of being likened to one of the most revered bands of all time.
LUCY MADISON: How long in the making was Hush?
YUKI CHIKUDATE: We started writing it in the spring and then we went into the studio for three months over the summer.
LM: I read that the studio where you guys made Citrus was infested with bed bugs… Did you upgrade for this album?
YC: The studio wasn’t infested! Now they’re never going to live this down. They’ll really, really hate me for this.
LM: Maybe they should have gotten rid of the bed bugs then!
YC: [LAUGHS] It wasn’t their studio actually; the apartments in the building on other floors had bed bugs, but now the story has turned into, “the studio itself has bed bugs.” So they’re mad at me. But it was just horrible, even to have to just think about that—we noticed everybody just throwing everything they owned out onto the street. We were like, “Oh god.”
LM: Bed bugs are terrifying.
YC: They are. I have no idea what the fuck they look like and I never want to know.
LM: After Citrus was released, Asobi Seksu got a new sort of recognition: a lot of really positive national press, then a new label. Did you find that it was very different going back to the studio in the wake of these newfound expectations?
YC: There was a different kind of pressure that we hadn’t felt before. A feeling of, ‘What next?’ Like, ‘Are people going to like this new one? And should we care?’ And, you know, of course we care. But to be an artist you’ve got to put that aside and just do what you want to do and do what you’re going to do. So that’s what we did.
LM: How would you characterize the differences between Citrus and Hush?
YC: We had more confidence this time around, as far as our writing goes. Not that we were hiding with Citrus, but we really didn’t want to cloud a lot of the things that we wrote with, you know, a million guitars, a million things going on in one line, blurring everything. So we went in with the intention of making something a little more restrained. And then of course we built the back up from there. There is still some texture, there is still some blurring, just not as much as I think as there is in Hush.
LM: How do you and James Hanna divide the song-writing responsibilities?
YC: We tend to split things up a lot. We give each other homework assignments. Then we convene, you know, several times a week to see how we’ve progressed, and how we can combine some of the ideas that we’ve had on our own. Sometimes it turns into a good rehearsal and sometimes it gets frustrating and we decide to scrap it. Hopefully we’ll get better and argue less. [LAUGHS] I mean, one of the first songs that we wrote I was like “I don’t want this on the album.” But in the end James won. I was out-voted.
LM: Well, you guys have known each other for a long time at this point, right?
YC: It’s been about ten years.
LM: So basically you want to kill each other most of the time?
YC: On tour, yeah. People that come on the road with us are like, ‘What the…?’ You know what I mean? Because we do know each other so well. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes that’s a really terrible thing. And sometimes it’s just an, ‘Ok I’ll accept it,’ kind of thing. [LAUGHS]
LM: Are you guys totally sick of all the MBV comparisons by now?
YC: Um, yes. Well, yes and no—I mean, I love them, so it’s like, how much is that going to annoy me? Not too much. I do love them a lot. But with this album I think that finally somebody will see something else.
LM: The album does feel like a departure in that sense. Plus, ultimately, how far can you really go with a single comparison?
YC: Right, that’s how I feel. That was a jumping off point and everybody needs a frame of reference, but at a certain point it’s too much.
LM: So are you guys looking forward to South By Southwest?
YC: Yeah, sure. We didn’t go last year so it’ll be good to jump right back in. And it’s always nice to be able to see friends on tour. Although it’s a little weird to be like, “Oh! All of Williamsburg is here!” [LAUGHS] But that’s also fun. That, and the warm weather.
Hush (Polyvinyl) comes out today.