Cibo Matto on Returning to Music, Its Unorthodox Sound, and the Joys of Food
After a decade apart, Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori, founders of art-pop outfit Cibo Matto, are reuniting for a minitour that includes at stop at Bimbo's this Saturday. The Japanese expats began playing concerts together again under less than ideal circumstances -- tsunami benefits -- but now that they're officially back, they're ready for it all: tours, albums, "the whole shebang."
Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori of Cibo Matto
Cibo Matto initially came of age in New York's underground art scene in the early '90s, making electronic beat-filled pop songs that defied traditional genres. Bossa nova trip-hop? Samba-infused art pop? Brooklyn-via-Tokyo hip-hop? Why, of course -- but all you really need to know is that the music is danceable and the lyrics are all about food. As Honda explained via telephone from New York City last week, Cibo Matto never got why that was considered unique. We spoke to her about the recent reunion, their long-running love of food, and what to expect from this week's S.F. show.
So what have you been up to since Cibo Matto disbanded 10 years ago?
Many things. Part of it was I that I wanted to spend time with my mother -- she was ill at the time and lived in Japan. So I spent a few years with her, and then she passed away. This sounds kind of sad, but it happened to be what I was doing. I also made a few solo albums and I toured with Sean Lennon and started a label with Sean -- I was just really exploring life. I'm very happy for us to be doing this now after all the time apart. It feels like we had to take the time to grow apart from each other to be able to come back. It feels really good.
How did you end up making music and touring with Sean Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band?
I've spent a lot of time with the family, so when they decided to make the Plastic Ono Band album, I got involved on keyboard and sampler. Also, it was because they decided to work with [Japanese musician] Cornelius, and one of my dreams living in the U.S. as a Japanese person is to make a bridge between American and Japanese culture. For Yoko to be working with so many Japanese musicians was very exciting for me.
Is Cibo Matto in the process of recording a new album or did you just want to play some live shows together?
We want to do the whole shebang! We really want to get back together. We've been writing songs, we're making an album. I think the normal procedure would be to make an album then tour. But tour offers came in. We played some tsunami benefits and it felt really good, so we thought we should tour first. We had a feeling we wanted to get back together a few months before the benefits and got back in touch and casually wrote a few songs. So when the tsunami happened and I was talking about benefit concerts with friends, it just seemed like the best thing we could do was play some Cibo Matto songs.
When Cibo Matto first began, why did you decide to include so many food references, including the name itself (Cibo Matto translates to "crazy food" in Italian)?
We were really into food but not just in a way that we like to eat and it tastes good but the entirety of food, the philosophies behind it, and all the cultural differences. For us it seemed very naturally connected to everything else we do in life, including music or love. Food is something that can be very mundane or something that we can really think a lot about. Also we are Japanese, so in Japan it's a little more natural for us to be so obsessed with food. Since we were kids we learned about food and how it affects your spiritual stance in life. Honestly we didn't know that it was a weird thing until we put out the [first] record. We were surprised. We were like, "What? Is it different?" We didn't understand!