Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori: We will definitely do more albums in the future
It's hard to think of Cibo Matto and not get hungry. The NYC duo's name translates as "crazy food" from Italian, and their debut LP Viva! La Woman's song titles read like a Chopped ingredients basket list with tracks like "Jerky," "Artichoke," and "Sugar Water." But Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori are not aiming for digestibility alone; Cibo Matto is about food for thought. For the two Japanese expats, food is embedded with meaning. "Know Your Chicken," a single from their debut, features lyrics that explore queer motifs and class politics in New York.
By contrasting high and low references -- including pastiche lo-fi visuals with high art nods and the general Shibuya aesthetic -- Honda and Hatori are serving up a unique and edible fusion. Sonically with a mélange of art pop and hip hop, Cibo Matto belong to a specific moment in '90s female-centric postmodern pop along with luminaries Stereolab and Portishead. After a 15-year hiatus that birthed notable successors like Grimes, Poliça and Nite Jewel, the duo is back with a new record, Hotel Valentine. Gimme Noise spoke to Miho Hatori before Cibo Matto's Tuesday stop at Turf Club.
It's been 15 years since Cibo Matto's last studio LP. How did these new recordings come to be?
It organically happened. Yuka asked me to create something for her birthday and we started catching up and we were together. We were just gonna eat together and make music together... then we were working on something and I heard this loop -- one of the loops in the song called "Hotel Valentine." And it was a really beautiful loop. I was like, we have to make this into something, you know out of this loop. It started that way, it was very organic.
How is Hotel Valentine different from your previous work?
Yuka was saying a funny thing the other day. I really loved what she said. Basically she explained albums are a kind of marriage. Our first album and second album were like our first marriages. We were just so into [doing] it -- having no plan to have babies or stuff like that (laughs). This time is very different. It's... the second marriage. It is more like we are considering our individual personalities. We know each other much better than before and we are more mature. In this way, a lot of things come together in a better way.
You described this album to Pitchfork as the "cinematic bricolage" of Yuka and yourself. Could you explain what you meant by that?
Many people ask us where this album came from -- the sound, the idea... everything. I feel like the whole entire life of us is made up of little pieces in our brain or something. It's small pieces and when we are making music, we are just using one of those pieces... but when we have an inspiration or something making creations and all the little pieces, somehow [it] starts to come together. It's basically a mixture of Yuka's memory and my memory and our consciousness. Different threads of our history.
I've always thought about Cibo Matto's work in a feminist context. Your first album was called Viva! La Woman, your current album features a non-normative love story and you and Yuka are two women who revel in your artistic bond. Does feminism inform you artistically?
Well, we are women. Sometimes there is this question: what is feminism? That is what I think about. Everyone has different theories about what it's about. It's a little bit hard to describe. We are definitely aware in some sort of a general sense that, for example, there are not that many women in music. Compared with men, there are less women musicians. At the same time, from my experience I am so surrounded by female creators and I feel very free in not having limits as a woman because I think there are so many women here like me, just doing what they feel like. Also, there are so many men who help. So that is the energy we love to have. I am not really sure that's limited to feminism. It's about a human being's happiness.
It seems like Cibo Matto is interested in embracing internationalism. Your name is Italian, your first record was titled in Spanish, and your lyrics are in multiple languages. Knowing that you have a big American following, is that an intentional decision?
I think in New York there are a lot of influences. We see so many people from all over the world, and there are so many different languages on the street. New York is America, but it feels like an independent mindset, or area. It is sometimes just nice to feel free from what we are, and the music reflects this. Sometimes, it's like one day you want to eat Italian food but then the next day you want to eat sushi. Right now we are in this point in 2014, with a whole new generation that thinks that way. And we think that way.
This album was self-produced, can you talk about the production process?
Yeah, this is the first time we did that. We spent a lot of time making our sounds. It took longer than we thought... we found a great engineer, Michael Brauer. It took time...two years to make. We were songwriting, producing and everything together. There was no line between the songwriting and the producing. But at the very end of the process, like days before they mixed it, Yuka was working a lot from China finishing everything. So she was working very hard.
Historically concepts are very central to your work. How did you decide on the haunted Valentine's theme of the album?
I feel like the whole album has lots of stories, but it's really a mystery. I think we all love mysteries, I feel like love and mysteries always come together.
When I saw your video for "MFN," it was amazing to see a visual element so in line with your music. What type of a role do you play in music video production?
We know the artistic group called Georgia in New York and we felt a strong chemistry between us. They have really amazing visuals. It was just this amazing chemistry we have. We made the video pretty quick, we finished after only after one day of shooting, and as they were shooting I could see their vision already. It was this kind of energetic thing happening. We trusted each other throughout the process. It was really fun actually.
You used to play with Sean Lennon, who is involved in Chimera (your current label). Who are you and Yuka playing with on tour?
We have Yuko Araki, she plays drums. And the bassist is Jared Samuels - he played a lot on the album as well.
Does Hotel Valentine indicate that you and Yuka will be doing albums in the future?
Cibo Matto. With Buffalo Daughter. 21+, SOLD OUT, 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 4 at Turf Club. Info.
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