YOASOBI: When a Side Project Takes Flight

The Japanese music super group YOASOBI took the world by storm with their viral debut single, “Yoru ni Kakeru” during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, they’ve released a slew of hits, including “Kaibutsu,” “Gunjo,” and most recently, “Idol,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Global Excl. U.S. Chart. While YOASOBI may have seemed like a brand new group that burst onto the scene, suddenly earning the attention of worldwide listeners, both producer Ayase and singer Ikura have been active in their own individual music careers, and YOASOBI began as a serendipitous side project. Ayase and Ikura initially came together to form YOASOBI to turn “novels into music” by creating songs inspired by short stories. It seemed like a fun idea at the time, so both artists decided to give it a try. The group has expanded since then to draw inspiration from other sources like books and letters.

“When the project first started, we were really busy [with our own activities], and we didn’t even exchange messaging app info. For the first year, we were really just like business partners,” said Ayase, to which Ikura nodded and laughed. “But after a year of working together, we developed a goal that we’re running toward together now.”

Both Ayase and Ikura have well-defined roles within YOASOBI, with Ayase producing all the music and Ikura offering her bright vocals. Part of the magic behind why YOASOBI works so well as a unit is that both Ayase and Ikura are able to fully explore their own personal passions in their solo careers, so they can push their own boundaries, think outside of themselves and develop a sound and style unique to YOASOBI. “To be honest, if we both only had YOASOBI, we probably would get stuck,” mused Ayase. “Because we can express our individual selves in our own individual careers, YOASOBI becomes a place that we can play and take on new challenges.”

While YOASOBI began as a duo, Ayase and Ikura’s vision for YOASOBI has evolved, which has also led to their team growing. “It’s only been four years since YOASOBI began, and there’s so much I want to do,” Ikura excitedly shared. Some of these aspirations include spreading J-pop across the world, holding a world tour, performing at Coachella, and winning a Grammy. “Just as we always have been, we want to continue working hard on our music for our fans and keep growing,” Ayase declared.

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Telling stories through music has been core to YOASOBI from the beginning, but what does YOASOBI have to say about their own story? Ayase started, “The story of YOASOBI is one of dramatic adventure. One that’ll move you to tears or laughter.” Ikura added, “As our team has grown from two to four people, including our managers, our story is about our growth. It’ll be like we’re all getting on a spaceship to embark on a journey together, where we perform music and give wonderful experiences to our listeners.”

Mai Nguyen

Editor-in-Chief at Asia Pacific Arts.
Feel free to send me a note on Twitter to @hellomailee.

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