BAND MOTTO: "No reason."
Cibo Matto is quite frankly, the most fruity, strangeling band. The name itself means "food madness" in Italian, and is pronounced "chee-bo mott-oh" or "chee-bo mah-toh" depending on your accent. It comes from the girls' obsession with a seventies B-grade erotic comedy, named Seso Matto ("sex madness").
With little exception, their songs are about food! (and love). "Food is something you can't escape," says Yuka Honda. "It's there every day." But believe it or not, it could be worse.. of their previous band Leitoh Lychee (translation: "Frozen Lychee Nut"), Miho says, "You won't believe how many food songs we had in that punk band."
Their CD cover reads like a menu, and when they went on tour in Europe, they "ate like pigs" and gained ten pounds each. The girls themselves come across quite odd but appear to be rather normal all the same. Although Miho says she was born on the planet Venus; she claims to be the illegitimate daughter of Sun Ra.
The producers for Viva! La Woman came about in purely Cibo Matto style. Mitchell Froom, after seeing one of their early performances, begged to produce the group. Miho, who had no idea who he was, shooed him away. He kept coming back of course, like a sneak, a stalker..
The other producer is Tchad Blake (Los Lobos, Latin Playboys, Tom Waits, Suzanne Vega, Soul Coughing).
Their music is a "supermarket" of samples looped and pieced together in quirky combinations, with delicious layers, stratums. Honda creates futuristic and urban atmospheres almost impossibly with horns, jazz, shimmery asian music, organs, oboes. Their bilingual pop songs are sticky and sweet. ("Sticky" in that they catch in your brain, and "sweet" as in charming and weird). They tell ridiculous stories in irresistably accented english, such as baking a moldy birthday cake for one's thirty year old son, and telling him to "Shut up and eat! Too bad no bon appetit!" and adding far too much sugar, salt, and MSG. The songs at time get curiously poetic, and are always vivid. They like to try to fuse everything into their music, bossa nova, '40s swing, polka, hip hop, steel drums. They pull off wild riot grrl rap, dreamy pop, bittersweet ballads, mutated jazz and madcap covers, such as "The Candy Man" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Their songs have very tactile and delirious imagery. Their metaphors seem awesomely strong: Ice cream, sugar water, clouds, cakes, Moby, Sunday mornings.
Despite their eclecticism, they are stereotyped unabashedly. Primarily by likening them to other j-pop like Shonen Knife and Pizzicato Five, merely because they are japanese, and also by labelling them "the food band". To this Miho says:
We do not think about food all the time. We are using food names as a theme. Everything is important to us, those are just words. We just think people should know their food. The next album will be called Casa Matta, it'll be about interior design, the next album will be a double album -- one side is about car and the other about house. Fifth album will be nature. For the song titles we did not think, let's do food, it was just really natural."
These very stereotypes are what gave birth to the name of their latest album, Stereotype A. Cibo Matto do not like to be labelled cute (although they are, undeniably. As sure as they are the height of "cool", and panache). "We are friendly, but also from New York, so a little mean." They are often dismissed as a novelty act, just bubblegum with a microphone, but the girls insist "have you ever heard of metaphor? ..Cibo Matto is not about food. Cibo Matto is about life". In fact, they hate stereotypes on all levels. For example, it bothers them that Memoirs of a Geisha hit the bestseller list in the US. They say it is like a book titled A Texas Whore selling hugely over in Asia.
Cibo Matto are very very pop culture, but it is more pastiche than serious. I seriously recommend them.