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Restlessness is at the heart of Whitney’s resonant and stunning sophomore album Forever Turned Around. As Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek realized over the past three years, life can change drastically. Priorities shift, relationships evolve, home can become far away, and even when luck momentarily works out, there’s still that underlying search for something better.
While the success of their 2016 debut Light Upon The Lake uprooted them away from Chicago to seemingly endless tours across the world, Ehrlich’s and Kakacek’s partnership only strengthened. “Our friendship has kept us going even though so much has happened in the years since we started the band,” says Ehrlich. Their bond has been the one constant as they’ve weathered the transitional period of their mid-twenties, supporting each other through bouts of heartache, loss, and uncertainty. But lately, as they’ve found home through themselves, their romantic relationships, and their friends, there’s an uneasiness that comes from stability. When Ehrlich sings on “Valleys (My Love),” “There’s fire burning in the trees / Maybe life is the way it seems” it’s a mission statement of the existential questions raised throughout.
Japanese four-piece CHAI may worship at the altar of kawaii – their homeland’s culture of cute– but they’re not about to be pushed around by the idle bosses and the ignorant patriarchy. The ultra-concise pop of their debut LP PINK is about to be overhauled on their new album. CHAI are ready to light the fuse; CHAI are PUNK.
“’PUNK’ for us, of course, is not the genre of music,” say the band. “‘PUNK’ to us is to overturn the worn-out values associated with ‘kawaii’ or ‘cute’ created up to this point. ‘PUNK’ is a word that expresses a strong sense of self. To be yourself more, to become the person you truly want to be, to believe in yourself in every instance!”
First single ‘Fashionista’ is a rebellious demand for self-acceptance in the face of society’s pressures: “Even if you don’t dress or do your makeup like how society expects you too, you’re still a “Fashionista” by expressing yourself how you want to. You decide what you want to wear, how you want to look, what you don’t want to wear, and that is what makes you a Fashionista!”
At the core of their music is the concept of “Neo-Kawaii.” They outlined to concept in several interviews in 2018. In Pitchfork’s Rising interview, it’s described as “a move towards the embrace and celebration of human imperfection. ‘Neo-Kawaii’ is properly summarized on the single ‘N.E.O.’ from Pink, which directly comments on oppressive beauty standards, offering a list of supposed imperfections that translate to ‘Small eyes/Flat nose/No shape/Fat legs!’ Chai seek to reclaim them as perfect.”
Late last year, the band also shared the delightfully insane video for “GREAT JOB,” another song off the forthcoming album, where CHAI compare house work to ridding yourself from all negativity. “Some people look at house work as a negative duty but it’s actually a positive duty that represents a refreshed, new you.” Yuuki picks up on this: “Of course we want to continue show our style of positivity-meets-pop but in life there’s definitely times of sadness, times of frustration and even irritating moments that with ‘PUNK’, we want everyone to know can be used as energy to fuel the positivity from the negativity”.
Their inner strength comes out in the music. If PINK was a plastic, hyper-bright introduction, then PUNK is a deeper, more impactful graduation. It’s the movement from vivid orange to radiating red. Drummer Yuna adds:“Compared with our first album, PUNK represents a more concentrated version of our individualities.”
Yuuki crafted the irrepressible album sleeve, with a laughing girl bursting through a shell. The message, they say, is clear: “Hello, New Me!”