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all words and photos: Nick Balleza

Asobi Seksu 「アソビ・セクス」… the band name sounds so whimsical in a non-native language. The direct translation is “Play Sex”, with a non-commital nuance. A bit more innocent sounding than their original name “Sportfuck”. As a guy who speaks Japanese and has dated a few Japanese girls over the years, the band and name piqued my interest, and has always got me pondering how sexual language is understood in a language that is not your first.

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Phone sex in English always was a cringeworthy task for me, I couldn’t get through it without feeling really embarrassed for a long time. It took many many years before I could talk dirty without stuttering or flinching. But I never had a problem talking dirty in Japanese to a Japanese girlfriend. But for them it was reverse, talking dirty in English was exciting, but when I said the same things in Japanese it caused self-consciousness!

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So this kind of retrospect sets in whenever I listen to Asobi Seksu, and the fact that Yuki Chikudate writes and sings both Japanese and English lyrics further plays into my thoughts on how meanings are conveyed in different languages.

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It was a full show, and I arrived right as they went on, they started earlier than the show schedule stated. If the show wasn’t sold out, it was pretty close to capacity, and I worked my way forward towards the stage with camera in hand as they were playing songs from the new album, Fluorescence.

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I was able to recognize most of the songs they played, songs from their self titled, and Citrus as well, but I have to admit, I had forgotten to keep up with them when their 2009 album “Hush” came out, so there were a few songs here and there that didn’t quite ring a bell, although Yuki Chikudate’s angelic voice was always hauntingly familiar, amongst a lush carpet comprised of synth and guitar work.

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As I was shooting, it was a bit difficult to maneuver around to get different angles, it was a good turnout. Bathed in an all red stage lighting, I was happy to get shots of the band that convey emotion, vulnerability and sexual connotation. Blinded by the occasional flashing of floor strobes, I wrapped up shooting and stood back and continued pondering how language convey meanings in my head while enjoying a dream pop bilingual soundtrack.

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