The Japanese group Chai does a lot of things at the same time.
In 2020, the quartet – consisting of identical twins Mana (lead vocals and keyboards) and Kana (guitar), drummer Yuna and bassist-lyricist Yuuki – watched Black Lives Matter protests unfold halfway around the world . Yuuki crafted a set of blunt vocals, dynamic calls to action, and the rest of the band filled the song with heart-pounding electro-inspired music. Then the band took the track “Action” and created a bright, frenetic, personal, one-take video to go along with the song – check it out on YouTube or at chai-band.com/global/
“That was the whole ‘Action shot’ of Chai in one take,” Mana said through a translator. “It was super fun with tons of moments ranging from screams to laughs. … We wanted to convey the ‘interesting’ and ‘fun’ behind the meaning of the word ‘Action.’ ‘Action’ is more than words.
The video says a lot about the band. Chai will tackle serious issues while being true to his craft. This translates into meaningful songs and videos and choppy dance hooks, chromatic flashes, joy, frenzy, and a DIY aesthetic devoid of industry trends. The mix can be dizzying (take a dose when Chai performs at Sinclair on Friday).
Like the “Action” video, Chai exists on many levels. The band is for people who want to dance and scream like they’re listening to a 22nd century version of Toni Basil’s “Mickey”. The band also works if you want to go up or down those levels and explore how and why the art works. For example, Chai’s obsession with color gives women a distinct look and also dissects how cultures use color.
“In Japan, we often wear pink at a young age, but gradually stop as we grow up,” Mana said. “It’s strong, bright and stands out, so it becomes a difficult color to wear. But for us, pink is a special color.
“I never want to forget that feeling I had as a kid when mom would ask me, ‘What color did I like?’ and without hesitation answering, ‘Pink.’
“Even if it’s a different color for you, I want people to confidently wear the color they love,” she added.
The music echoes the messages of the images.
Listening to “In Pink,” from Chai’s 2021 album “Wink,” the track evokes innocent childhood pleasures and complex ideas. The locked groove and dreamy melody could be from a children’s cartoon or a Spanish disco (or a lost P-Funk album). The simple chorus of “I know you said pink is too young / But I know you love this beat so much” says it all.
A great way to fall in love with the band is to go from the video of “Action” to the beats, buzzes and intricate hooks of “Wink” (really genreless, the album is pop, disco, synthwave and art rock). But if you need one more video, try “Nobody Knows We’re Funny”, which means exactly what it says.
“For those who find society difficult to manage, it will be a waste if you don’t know how much fun we are,” Mana said. “(That was) the feeling behind creating this song.”