Interview Date: 7/15/2019
CHAI is performing tonight in Brooklyn. They were kind enough to do an email interview with us:
Anime Herald: The concept of “Neo-Kawaii” is one of body acceptance, not just internally, but culturally. Were you surprised by how quickly and well received it was by your fans?
MANA: I thought it was something super natural! I’m really happy that it’s being well received!
I wouldn’t say surprised because “NEOkawaii” is such an ordinary thing. It’s a word that compliments anyone and everyone’s insecurities or worries!
KANA: “Kawaii” culture in Japan right now is features such as larger eyes, pointier noses, a slimmer body type while the message behind the “kawaii” we want to spread is that there is no such thing as not being cute. “Cute and lovely from the moment you’re born” is the message we want to relay and that’s why we created the word, “NEOkawaii”. There’s people all over the world that have insecurities so we want to tell them, “that’s what’s lovely about you!” I’m so happy people are receiving it so well.
YUUKI: I wasn’t surprised actually! Everyone’s different and everyone’s great. That’s a given!
YUNA: I’m very very happy! Not just in Japan, but all over the world, in any country, there’s people with insecurities right?! Let’s take care of those charm points that only we possess!
Anime Herald: You’ve made multiple trips to America. What have been your favorite experiences in America?
MANA: Visiting America always leaves an impression on me but last year’s SXSW on our last day there at the Burgermania stage! It was also our first time releasing a record from Burger Records, our first time going to hang out at the Burger Records store, meeting the staff, and I just remember it being such a memorable SXSW/March! That last stage, that Burgermania stage where everyone went crazy is when that thought came into my head that maybe, maybe we could make it happen in the states!” I remember hugging Burger Records’ Sean and Lee and crying! I listened to HONNE’s “Good Together” on the plane back home and I still think of that time last year at SXSW when I hear it!
KANA: I think it’d have to be SXSW here in the states for me too! We performed on the Burgermania stage which is home to our record label, Burger Records. It had the greatest scenery, we really appreciate Sean and Lee from Burger Records and are so happy that we met! Everyone’s always so hyped up at the Burgermania stage, even when it was our turn, it made me cry! It was super fun!
YUUKI: America is always shows us love so I’m happy! Right now, we’re recording in the US for the first time! Super exciting!
YUNA: I could never forget that view from last year’s Burgermania stage! Everyone was super amped and I had never experienced performing on a stage where the crowd was overflowed with such enthusiasm! When Sean from Burger Records told us that we were #1, I was so happy from the bottom of my heart that the tears flew out!
Anime Herald: In Choose Go you “played” basketball, football, curling, baseball, and track & field. Are any of you fans of those sports?
MANA: I really love sports!
I’m a fan of soccer! Back in the day, I could’ve told you more about it but I still watch it today! When I was in middle school I did tennis as an extracurricular and basketball when I was in elementary school. I like exercising personally, but also watching others exercise a lot too! They have great bodies right?
KANA: I love sports! I love watching soccer!!!! Actually, anything sports, I love!!!
YUUKI: Love sports! When I was a student I did tennis and badminton but I would like to try all kinds of sports! I love watching sports too! I’d like to watch a basketball game in the states one day!
YUNA: I love sports!! I like badminton! I also want to try tennis! At the hot springs facilities, also known as Ryokan in Japan, there’s always a ping-pong table so I play ping-pong a lot. I like ping-pong! I also want to watch a basketball game!
Anime Herald: You got the chance to tour with Superorganism. What were some of the highlights of the tour?
MANA: Superorganism is my favorite artist! I love everything about them. Their music, their personalities, and of course their live performances. I even love the way they live! The way they express themselves! I think their sound is something new, something fresh, something really amazing! I have so many memories from that tour! From doing jam sessions together, to talking, to doing the encore together and dancing! The vocalist, Orono, is the only Japanese member of the group so I remember having so many talks with her! There were so many surprises with Orono’s performance! She always portrays the human in her…she’s honest and gets angry when she feels like getting angry, says what’s on her mind on any stage, and really is so cool.
KANA: I love and respect Superorganism so much that if I could be reborn again, I’d want to be a part of their group! Getting the opportunity to perform with them was truly a dream! We had so many conversations with Orono and were influenced by her free spirit! I really love them!
YUUKI: Being able to tour with Superorganism itself made me so happy! Every day was so much fun and so impressionable! I remember us all hugging one another and crying on the last day ~!
YUNA: We toured with Superorganism for about 3 weeks and one of the highlights was hanging out in their tour bus and recording! The lifestyle they live is truly embodied by their music and it’s because the group is made up of specifically those members that the music is amazing as it is!
Anime Herald: Are there any other current artists or bands who you feel are kindred spirits with your punk sensibilities?
KANA: Yes, I have so many musicians that I love! A lot of them are Rock artists so I think a lot of them are “punk”!!! Everyone is super cool!
YUNA: Superorganism’s vocalist, Orono, always expresses exactly she’s feeling at that given moment on stage! I really respect that Orono shows her human-side. She gets angry if need be, cries if need be, it’s that type of ability that I respect a lot! That is super “punk”!
Anime Herald: You’ve become fairly popular overseas. Is there a possibility that you’ll release an album with English lyrics in the future?
MANA: We want to be more known! I’m not sure about an album all in English because we’re Japanese! We’re Japanese born in Japan and from birth we’ve been surrounded by nothing but Japanese. A Japanese lifestyle! The language is stained onto us physically but of course we’d love to be able to communicate in English as well! I’ll probably die trying to get the English language stained on me like Japanese so for now I think it’ll just be Japanese lyrics!
KANA: Our everyday language is Japanese so we want to stick to having our lyrics in Japanese! But! You never know what the future holds and we haven’t thought about it yet! We go by how we feel at that moment! Haha!
YUUKI: English only huh?! I never thought about that but perhaps in the future! We’ll go with Japanglish!
YUNA: We want to become more and more known! We’re Japanese so it’s kind of hard to imagine a song with all English lyrics but perhaps in the future?!
Anime Herald: Touring abroad has given you opportunities to experience international cuisines. Is there anything that stunned you with how good it was?
MANA: The Chicken and Waffles we ate in NYC! It’s a dish where fried chicken and waffles are eaten together! I didn’t realize how good it tastes to mix saltiness with sweetness at the same time! In Japan, we have Japanese BBQ, also known as Yakiniku, where an array of meats is grilled in front of you, but I would always eat chocolate cake with my yakiniku! It brought me to that place! I’m hooked on chicken and waffles!
KANA: The tofu with a stench, also known as “smelly tofu” that I had in Taiwan! It really is exactly how its name is and I was shocked that they had a dish like that! I still can’t eat it! Haha!
YUUKI: The curry restaurant we were recommended in the UK had curry that was so salty, I was shocked! Also, eating Japanese food outside of Japan is rather interesting too! I ate food from all different countries but they’re all good! Especially Thai, Chinese, and Italian cuisine!
YUNA: When we went to a Mexican restaurant in NYC and there was a cricket on the tacos! I was so shocked! That was my first time that I’d ever eaten a bug! It tasted like fried shrimp!
Anime Herald: Beyond your music and lyrics, you’ve put a lot of work into your videos. Are there any ideas that you had to reject because they weren’t feasible?
KANA: Of course we do! There’re times when our opinion doesn’t meet the opinion of those making our music videos. So we let them know! Haha! We don’t want to bend on our creativity!
YUUKI: We probably reject a lot of ideas! Haha! But for the most part, we come up with these ideas together! We don’t want our song waiting around for its visual! We try not to be too “band-ish”!
YUNA: We try not to put too many visuals with us performing!
Anime Herald: Welcome back to NYC. Any chance of a love song to pizza to follow up your love song to dumplings?
MANA: It would be nice to have a pizza song! The pizza song would be cute!
KANA: Ahhhhh….I wonder! We made gyoza (dumplings) growing up in my household so there’s a longstanding love for them you know?! My mom’s gyoza are the tastiest! I haven’t gotten a thorough taste of pizza yet but when that time comes, we’ll probably make a pizza song!
YUUKI: A pizza love song! Sounds good! Also, Japanese BBQ (Yakiniku) song, an avocado love song, and rice love song! Maybe even a cheese love song too! We gotta make these!
YUNA: NYC! We’re back! I love pizza so much! I also love chicken and waffles! Also grilled cheese! I can’t choose!
Anime Herald: If you could play a concert in any venue in the world, where would you want to play?
MANA: I would love to perform at a zoo! Anywhere that sound can be heard, is where I want to perform! One day, I’d like to build a candy house and perform there! The customers can take the candy from the walls and watch us perform as they nibble on their candy! The best! We have to perform somewhere cold too!
KANA: Anywhere! The largest place! The widest place!
YUUKI: Overall, the biggest place! With stage direction that includes flying from the sky and coming out of from a spaceship!
YUNA: There’s so many places we want to perform that I can’t pick one! I want to step foot on to a stage from a spaceship! I want to fly around the sky with a stage wire while performing!
Anime Herald: Do any of you read manga or watch anime? If so what were some of your favorites growing up? What are you watching or reading lately?
MANA: I’ve actually never read a manga before but I watch tons of anime! As of now I watch Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time”, for Japanese animation, I watch Pokemon, Detective Conan, One Piece, and back in the day I used to watch Sailor Moon. Also there’s Ojamajo Doremi or Magical DoReMi that I watched a lot! Crayon Shin-chan, Doraemon, Chibi Maruko, Japanese anime is very interesting! I watched a lot of Hayao Miyazaki directed movies! I love all of his!
KANA: I watch a lot of Disney and Studio Ghibli! I love them!
YUUKI: When I was a kid I really loved Sailor Moon! I always watched it! Like MANA, I also watched Ojamajo Doremi!
YUNA: I too haven’t read that many manga but for anime I watched a lot of Disney and Studio Ghibli. I love the soundtracks to Studio Ghibli’s “Princess Mononoke” and “Spirited Away”! They are the best! Also, I love the live action film for Gintama!
Anime Herald: What led to the decision to shoot for the international market? Most Japanese bands don’t, while you’ve successfully pushed hard for international recognition.
MANA: Most of the artists we love are from overseas and if we’re going to do music, I thought that it can’t just be in Japan, it has to be worldwide. It was super natural! Most Japanese artists only succeed within Japan and I thought perhaps more can be done! Isn’t that strange?!
KANA: From the moment we started CHAI, we always had this dream of winning a Grammy. That’s why we wanted to be heard worldwide. We want to relay our message of “NEOkawaii” through music, win a Grammy as a Japanese band, and become the face of Asia! It’s then that I think tons of Japanese people will realize a lot of things and Japan will change!
YUUKI: We thought about expanding overseas from the beginning! As a matter of fact, it should be normal to have your music be known worldwide, but there aren’t that many Japanese bands, as you mentioned, whom have crossed the borders. I think performing at SXSW was one of the biggest platforms! It all started from there!
YUNA: Our first time performing overseas was at SXSW~! The type of music we love is mostly overseas music, many of which have won Grammy’s, so were confident and conscious about debutting overseas! Our dream is to win a Grammy!
Anime Herald: Finally, is there anything you’d like to say directly to your American fans?
MANA: Eat a lot! Don’t lose! Love you!
KANA: America! Can’t wait to see you all! I want you all to start by watching one of our shows! We’ll be waiting for you! Everyone is kawaii!
YUUKI: America! Thank you for always being so energetic and so pretty! Please keep a look out for the ever-changing CHAI! Love you guys!
YUNA: I want to keep going to America more! The food is good, the climate always feels good, and it’s one of the places that I love! We’ll keep coming so come hang out with us! LOVE!
You can find CHAI online:
If you miss CHAI in Brooklyn, you can catch them in Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Ana, San Diego, or Vegas Baby, Vegas:
- 7/15/2019 (Mon) Brooklyn NY-Music Hall of Williamsburg
- 7/18/2019 (Thu) Washington DC- Kennedy Center
- 7/19/2019 (Fri) Chicago IL- Empty Bottle
- 7/20/2019 (Sat) Chicago IL- Pitchfork Music Festival
- 7/23/2019 (Tuesday) Los Angeles CA- Troubadour
- 7/25/2019 (Thu) San Francisco CA -August Hall (OA The Drums)
- 7/26/2019 (Fri) San Francisco CA-August Hall (OA The Drums)
- 7/27/2019 (Sat) Los Angeles CA-Hollywood Palladium (OA The Drums)
- 7/29/2019 (Mon) Santa Ana CA-Constellation Room
- 7/30/2019 (Tuesday) San Diego CA-The Observatory North Park (OA The Drums)
- 7/31/2019 (Wed) Las Vegas NV-Brooklyn Bowl (OA The Drums)