CHAI is comprised of twin sisters, a high school friend, and college classmate who have released two super-fun EPs (1st EP, 2016 and 2nd EP, 2017) and two 7″ singles (“Sound and Stomach” b/w “ボーイズ・セコ・メン” and “N.E.O.” b/w “Sayonara Complex” in 2016 and 2017), made bunch of cool videos (too many to list), and even live in a house together. That alone would be living the dream as blueprinted by The Monkees, but now the Japanese band’s first full-length LP (Pink, 2017) has been released by Sony in Japan and Burger Records in the US. Bridging the big time and garage rock, their trajectory is a cool one.
Mana, Kana, Yuna, and Yuuki’s music about food, cats, and other neo-kawaii topics is fully DIY with raw punk energy filtered through mutant dance grooves that will please fans of Tom Tom Club, CSS, and Le Tigre, in addition to younger, fun-loving listeners who have never even heard of those ancient bands.
My household is pretty excited about checking out CHAI’s live show. Looking forward to the upcoming tour, I shot over some questions to find out more about their sound, their scene, and the mass quantities of gross American food they will be eating on their impending tour of California and Texas. My 10-year-old daughter made art to go with their collective answers.
This is a great time for CHAI to come to the US because women’s voices and international culture are more crucial here than ever! What can American audiences expect you to bring to the stage on the upcoming tour?
This will be our second time touring in the US, so we are super excited! We’re bringing you entertainment that you’ve never “seen before” or “felt before” so wait on it!
We’re super excited about your first US release, too. What songs should beginners check out first to understand the CHAI message and vibe?
“Complexes Are Art” is the concept we want to share and we use our music to do so. “N.E.O.” is one track that encompasses this theme. It’s a super cool, major explosive song! “Sayonara Complex” is a totally different, romantic song compared to “N.E.O.” This song is also based on the “Complexes Are Art” theme. Isn’t it great that there are so many different types of music?
Why are you called “CHAI” instead of something more exciting or hectic like milkshake or soda?
It’s simple and we like the feel of the word. It sounds enticing!
Your videos are so fun and cool. Are they as effortless as they seem or do you spend a lot of time planning them out?
As a team, we brainstorm a lot and we’re even involved in choosing our outfits and makeup. We can do what we want to do. We like to do intriguing things, unique things!
It’s awesome that you started the band in high school and are now doing it as adults. Does being in a band keep you young or does getting older make being in a band different?
We felt as if we were going to be artists, then we would have to be CHAI because there are things that only CHAI can express. We will continue to express ourselves on our journey to a Grammy award.
Has your songwriting process or things that inspire you changed since you began?
Our inspirations come from music and artists we personally like: Tom Tom Club, CSS, Justice, The XX, Basement Jaxx, Passion Pit, and many more! We’re influenced by so many types of music that, at any given moment, when we feel like we want to do a certain type of sound or music, we do it. You can’t narrow us down into any one genre!
What do you do when you aren’t making music? Do you all hang out together or do you have separate lives and come together like a giant robot or super hero team when duty calls?
All four of us live together in the CHAI house. On days off, we usually go to the onsen (hot spring) and relax.
The Hong Kong video is cool! What other Asian countries have you played in? Have you found a lot of cool indie friends and scenes out there?
We joined Sultan of the Disco onstage this past January in South Korea. We really want to go to other countries, too!
How did you wind up on Burger Records? Burger is a rad label, and they’re extra perfect because they’re named after food.
We’re so happy that we are able to release our music in the United States! Burger Records reached out to us via our contact forum and we were ultimately included in their Burger World: Japan cassette compilation.
What would you like to do during your second trip to the United States? Is there stuff you’d like to do again or different things you want to check out?
Last year we performed at SXSW as a part of the Japan Nite showcase, but this year we’re excited to be able to take on the challenge of crossing over the “Japan” border. Also, I want to eat something that makes me feel “America!” like steak. A big piece of steak or a large slice of pizza. Enjoy!
Check out CHAI at chai-band.com and catch them on tour now!
Tuesday, March 6 – Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco
Wednesday, March 7 – Amoeba, San Francisco
Thursday, March 8 – The Hi Hat, Los Angeles
Friday, March 9 – Amoeba, Hollywood
Saturday, March 10 – Burger Records, Fullerton
Sunday, March 11 – Alex’s Bar, Long Beach
Monday, March 12- The Casbah, San Diego
Thursday, March 15 – SXSW Showcase at Maggie Mae’s, Austin
Saturday, March 17 – Burgermania VII at Hotel Vegas, Austin