Montreal band Atsuko Chiba is fuelled by fascination

We reached out to the genreless band ahead of their Taverne Tour show this weekend.

An interview with Atsuko Chiba bassist David Palumbo.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the sleepy start to the year, readers, because it’s about to get a whole lot louder and more fun up in this motherfucker. Taverne Tour 2020, kicking off tonight at venues across this fine burg of ours, is arriving just in time to rouse your resolution-quitting spirits with a panoply of acts that you just won’t find anywhere else in January because, well, other cities aren’t this one (though they desperately wish to be).

Montreal’s Atsuko Chiba, on the other hand, wish to be nothing but themselves. And, in an age where algorithms and Instagram influencers dictate how millions of people discover a given band, the way they resist classification feels noteworthy and special. 

(You should still follow them on Spotify, though, so they can put your spins’ shillings towards making more music that idiots like me can write amorphous and head-scratching things about and so David Palumbo can buy a new bass in 107 years.) 

Dave Jaffer: Your band is genreless, and not in a way that I find that a lot of other bands are genreless, like, “we don’t want to be confined by a genre.” So, a two-part question: 1. What do you call yourselves in terms of genre? And 2: What is the point of being genreless to you, and to the band?

David Palumbo: We tend to go with the genre of “progressive rock” or “experimental.” We’re not really a full-on prog rock band but I guess it’s the easiest way to describe what we’re doing. But we don’t really like to use labels like that [even though] it’s kind of important to help people to digest and understand your music, especially if they’re not aware of who you are. I think the reason why we sound the way we do comes from the way we listen to music. We’re all really into many different things, and over the course of [the] number of years that we first started playing up to now, we’ve always been open to a bunch of different styles of music. 

DJ: Is it a choice, though?

DP: It’s not a real conscious decision. It’s based, in part, in our fascination with song structure, pedal effects, synthesizers, and just trying different shit. Trying to keep it interesting for us is the main thing.

DJ: I kind of gathered that because, and I hope this doesn’t offend, if you guys wanted to get big by playing to a trend, you wouldn’t be playing this music. There is something very accessible about this music because it’s genreless, and there’s something very inaccessible about this music because it is genreless. How did this all get started?

DP: We played in bands together and we kind of grew up together and jammed together, and at some point in 2012, I guess the five of us ended up without a steady project, and we wanted to do something. We’d been planning on doing something together for a little while, and it just kind of lined up. We wanted to start a project that was a bit more free and open than the other stuff we were doing at the time, when we were younger, and it spiralled from there. The type of stuff we do isn’t always accessible or understood right away, but we prefer to just let whatever comes out of our sessions at the studio — like, whatever happens happens. We let the music kind of take us.

DJ: What’s Atsuko Chiba’s goal, generally? World domination or just, like, private satisfaction?

DP: We want to grow as musicians, and go on that ride of learning how to write with each other, and always keep things interesting. We’ve been lucky enough that people have been paying attention, and we’ve been awarded the opportunity to do really interesting things, albeit on a smaller scale than maybe most bands. It’s a bit of a slow rise, but we’re keen to ride it out. ■

Atsuko Chiba perform as part of Taverne Tour alongside King Buffalo and Whoop-szo at le Ministère (4521 St-Laurent) on Friday, Jan. 31, 9:30 p.m., $16.82