The ’90s revival has been going on for a couple of years now, and it’s hard to imagine a trendier time to be a food-obsessive. Surely there is no better time for a Cibo Matto reunion? Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda’s 1994 debut Viva La Woman! still feels like a singular slice of 1990s culture, a playful record that blended trip-hop leanings with unexpectedly affecting melodies, a Beastie Boys-like sense of wonder at the possibilities of New York’s melting pot, and—most strategically— the liberating possibilities of focusing lyrics on food. Cibo Matto recorded two albums, worked on individual solo careers and recently reunited for a benefit concert for Japan; they’ve played a handful of shows since and will headline Brooklyn Bowl tonight.
I spoke with Miho Hatori over the phone on July 4, a few hours before she would meet Yuka Honda to celebrate Independence Day.
On getting back together to perform a benefit concert in the wake of the Japanese earthquake:
That was, I would say, a major inspiration to play again, because of those two benefit concerts in New York City, and we were very happy to be a part of it. It was a very organic flow, and I feel like it happened in a very organic, natural way, but at the same time, it was very in a positive reaction to this distraught time for all of us…
Still, we have the aftershocks in our minds, and we need to deal with it.
I remember right after that, Yuka and I talked, and we had a weakened view from here. And good actions actually helped a lot, to feel a little bit better… So I think in those kind of difficult times, actions kind of helped us. I do feel like we want to do more, you know, for our sake as well, actually.
On the recently completed tour of the west coast:
I think the Cibo Matt-ness is still there… The taste of Cibo Matto is definitely there. Our chemistry is still there. But we have new working members, new to the Cibo Matto band. This time we have Yuko Araki, [who] played drums for Cornelius. And Jesse Murphy, he plays bass, and he’s from Brazilian Girls.
On the audience’s reaction:
Oh, fantastic! We really felt—amazing. From the first song, it’s like “OH!” [emulates audience yelling]. Screaming! Some people were like, “I was waiting for 11 years!” because they were little in the early ’90s, and couldn’t go to the show. Yeah, it was really amazing to see the reaction, and that they can sing with us, all those old songs!
On recording new material for the first time in years:
Yeah, it’s really fun. I’m doing other work, those new projects, and Yuka has been doing her projects as well, with Petra Haden and Sean [Lennon] or other people. So right now we are bringing some new knowledge, and that is really fantastic, to feel that. We feel more strong with each other, to give some new ideas, and what we’ve been thinking about music. Plus, you know… every time I make music with Yuka, for me, it’s a very unexpected thing, and I think she feels the same way too. I feel like we make something, we create something very common but at the same time unexpected, which is a trade-off. It’s like having a kid, for example, you know? Between man and woman, creating a baby, you still don’t have any control over what kind of kid it will be, and what kind of personality or future view or vision for this kid. It’s kind of like that.
On food as an inspiration:
Yuka and I both grew up in Japan and Japan is like that, we just love food. Especially Yuka, I feel like, wow, she is really into food! But me as well. It is almost precious, for both of us. Food and music. And I think food is such an ultimate desire of human beings, and in a more physical way. We need to eat, to survive. It’s such a kind of primitive idea, of life. But the other side, music, is very sophisticated. It’s primitive, but more kind of like—more than evolution, like, I don’t know how to say the word! Function of human beings…
I feel like at the same time, you know. I feel a little bit awkward saying love! They make songs, about love stories. And that’s beautiful! But at the same time, maybe, you know, we are a little bit over that. We are involving more things to be in this world. Of course love as well. But everything together. I feel like we had a fun time to create that situation of life, with food for this [unclear] of life.
And I love making [music] with Yuka because we get to share a lot, like the music and the food. And a lot of fun conversation. That’s what we love to do, we have no spirit to make serious music, really. [laughs] Of course we are serious in the profession. We want to make people fun, escape from moments from daily life. Like, we show that, you know, wow, let’s have fun together! [laughs]. [unclear] It’s just our way. We’re not here to be a professor, you know.
On music she’s enjoyed recently that aims for a similarly fun approach:
I enjoyed, not an album, but a DVD of R. Kelly.
“Trapped in the Closet?”
Yeah, that’s it! I thought it was so good.