Interview: CHAI Talk The Importance of Self-Love and New LP ‘WINK’

“I think winking is equivalent to the biggest, most amazing smile,” exclaims lead vocalist Mana of Japan’s CHAI. “It’s beautiful, not easy to do, your face gets sort of distorted when you do it, but it also allows your heart, the inner you, to communicate with everyone!”  

CHAI’s second LP, WINK, is out now on Sub Pop Records, and like their past releases, the music carries with it a message which emboldens bravery and inner strength, often with small acts of subtle defiance and spirit. In the past, their inspirational message and music encouraged fans to think of themselves as cute, or rather, to understand themselves as worthy of love and respect. An exercise that required the audience to look to themselves and meditate on their own experiences, gifts, and abilities in order to grasp what makes them unique and irresistible.  


The message of positive self-affirmation is still a central part of the continuing dialog that they have with their fans, but on their latest album, CHAI have offered something more. A firm suggestion to move behind themselves. To venture beyond one’s self and invite others into your world, as well as to respectfully ask to enter the world of others. What is this act you might ask? Well, it’s in the title! WINK

Vocalist and drummer Yuna explains: “I realized, during the stay-at-home time, how important it is to accept yourself for who you are and to love yourself, even if at times it may seem hard!  To be able to wink at any and everyone, not only wraps you but others, with love! That right there is amazing to me!” 

It’s a message that is timely as the world begins to shake off the slumber of quarantine and many of us begin to take steps toward returning to public life. Returning to a world of in-person gatherings, direct eye contact, and casual handshakes, is going to feel like diving headfirst into white-water rapids after more than a year of experiencing our social lives primarily through our electronic devices. CHAI hopes that their music can help provide some companionship through this reintegration back into an analog reality.  

“Up until 2019, we had been creating our albums in between tours, and also imagined what our songs would sound like live on stage when creating them,” vocalist and guitarist Kana recalls. “This was the first time we created an album without thinking about live shows, but instead with a focus on what we wanted to hear while at home, what kind of songs are the soundtrack to your life. Ultimately, we felt that was an album that is your ‘friend.’  That’s why, for 2021, we want WINK to be your ‘friend.’” 

CHAI’s philosophy is the same today as it was when they got their start back in 2012. However, COVID has forced the band to think of new ways to inspire and encourage their audience— lofty goals that they hope their new album WINK will be able to further.  

“It’s because of what inspired us and the creative process behind these songs that expresses our overall message of ‘self-love,’” bassist Yuuki relates. “A message we all need to hear in 2021 and at any time.”

So, don’t forget to practice your wink in the mirror a couple of times before you head out to the store or to get a cup of coffee in the next few days. Maybe if you get really good at it, you might even make some new friends. If you’re still not ready for the real thing though, you can always fire off some winking emojis at the New Noise Twitter or Facebook account. We’re always open to making friends in cyberspace!

Listen to WINK below, and pick up a copy on CD or vinyl, and some merch, here.

Follow CHAI: Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

Images courtesy of CHAI. Featured image credit: Yoshio Nakaiso.

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