Japanese indie-rock quartet CHAI will make their Sub Pop debut this spring, releasing their third album WINK via their esteemed new label on May 21. Synth-driven, Black Lives Matter protests-inspired (more on that in a bit) lead single “ACTION” arrived with news of the LP on Tuesday, alongside a charming one-take-style music video.
Of their new record’s title, CHAI explain, “A person who winks is a person with a pure heart, who lives with flexibility, who does what they want. A person who winks is a person who is free.” The quartet consists of identical twins MANA (lead vocals, keys) and KANA (guitar), drummer YUNA, and bassist and lyricist YUUKI, who notes, “With this album, we’re winking at you. We’re living freely and we hope that when you listen, you can wink and live freely, too.”
The “ACTION” video finds CHAI “performing” the song through deft choreography, with the quartet displaying its lyrics written on their bodies in both Japanese and English. “It’s OK / It’s OK / Everything is OK / Because I believe in you and me,” sings MANA over bubbly synths, squelching bass and a bouncy beat. The song alone is irresistible enough on its own, but CHAI’s fun-loving energy also comes through quite well in the video, particularly via their spontaneous celebration at the end once they realize they’ve nailed the take.
Though it may sound carefree, “ACTION” is anything but, a celebration of stepping up that connects back to 2020’s turbulent summer of protests in support of racial justice and equality. “Seeing how the world came together during the protests really moved me,” says YUUKI. “I wanted to dedicate that song to the year of action.”
CHAI add of the single’s inspiration:
The world as we know it has changed, but even with that, it’s still a world where nothing really changes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there [were] more ACTION rooted in happiness? Be the change that you want to see! ... I’m going to be the pioneer in seeing the world I want to see, meeting the people I want to meet! We start off by expressing the fun in ACTION with this music video. Why don’t you join us?! It’s that type of song.
WINK follows CHAI’s 2019 LP PUNK and their 2017 debut PINK. Though “ACTION” is billed as its lead single, it’s actually the second advance track from the album—“Donuts Mind If I Do” was released upon their signing to Sub Pop in October 2020. CHAI first charmed Paste at SXSW 2019, where their high-energy live show won us over with ease.
The band recorded their new record at home, for obvious reasons, using the pandemic’s music industry shakeup as an opportunity to expand their sonic palette. A press release describes WINK as “CHAI’s mellowest and most minimal music, and also their most affecting and exciting songwriting by far. WINK is a fitting title then: a subtle but bold gesture.” It’s the first CHAI record to feature outside producers, with appearances by Mndsgn and YMCK, as well as another artist, Chicago’s Ric Wilson, who contributes to a track called “Maybe Chocolate Chips.” As a result, the record incorporates more R&B, hip-hop and dance-punk sounds—a mischievous wink at easy classification, if you will.
Watch the “ACTION” video below and find the details of WINK further down. You can preorder the record right here.
01. Donuts Mind If I Do
02. Maybe Chocolate Chips (feat. Ric Wilson)
05. PING PONG! (feat. YMCK)
06. Nobody Knows We Are Fun
07. It’s Vitamin C
08. IN PINK (feat. Mndsgn)
11. Wish Upon a Star
WINK Album Art: