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Yeah, basically, Cibo Matto is back

Japanese pop duo reunites, touching base with old fans and making new ones

Cibo Matto: Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori (with CM sunglasses) are working on new music and plan to release an album early next year. Cibo Matto: Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori (with CM sunglasses) are working on new music and plan to release an album early next year. ()
By James Reed
Globe Staff / July 18, 2011

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Cibo Matto’s “Viva! La Woman’’ was one of the more gonzo records to come out of 1996. It was the debut from the duo of Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda, two Japanese musicians living in New York, and it presented a strange elixir of rock, trip-hop, funk, sampling, and even some semblance of rapping.

Befitting a band whose Italian name loosely translated as “crazy food,’’ their songwriting themes were of the edible variety. Wild, scattershot lyrics reflected a love of food, right down to the song titles: “Know Your Chicken,’’ “Beef Jerky,’’ “Sugar Water,’’ “Artichoke,’’ and so on.

“Viva! La Woman’’ became a minor hit, but five years later Cibo Matto (pronounced CHEE-bo MAH-toe) disbanded, leaving in its wake two full-length albums and a legion of devoted fans.

On the 10th anniversary of the band’s breakup, Honda and Hatori are together again for a surprise Cibo Matto reunion tour, which stops at Brighton Music Hall on Wednesday.

With a new Cibo Matto album expected early next year, we recently caught up with Honda to see how it all came together so quickly - and quietly.

Q. The obvious first question is, why a Cibo Matto reunion now?

A. Well, Hollywood Bowl [a venue in Los Angeles] wanted to do a show called “Big in Japan’’ and contacted us. We thought, OK, if we’re going to rehearse for it, why don’t we do a little tour? It seemed like everything was pointing us to that direction. It’s been nice to get in touch with our old fans again, but we’re also meeting lots of new people who say that while we were touring in the ’90s, they were underage and couldn’t make it to our shows. And then we broke up, so they thought they could never see us.

Q. The name of this new tour, “Yeah Basically Cibo Matto,’’ sounds very tentative, as if we should be excited to have you back but we shouldn’t expect too much.

A. I’m so happy you feel that way, because we really thought that’s exactly how we feel. Miho came up with the phrase when we were making our new website [www.yeahbasicallycibomatto.com]. Some people thought it should have a more striking name, but those are the words that represent us right now.

Q. Why the hesitation?

A. Basically, we made a point of being low-key in the beginning because we didn’t want to put a lot of pressure on us working together again. I wanted to test the water, and I think Miho felt exactly the same. We got together and tried writing together, and it felt good and we liked the song we came up with. It felt like Cibo Matto but also like 2011. We really enjoy each other - who we were and who we are now.

Q. When the band broke up in 2001, how did you know it was time?

A. Cibo Matto originally wasn’t like Miho and I got together and said let’s have a band. It was more like us hanging out because we were friends. People started asking us to do a few shows as a duo, very casually. But then the music part took off very fast, almost like it was running ahead of us and we were always trying to catch up with it. There was a sense that we got rushed into [the band] and didn’t really work out our relationship. We were learning as we went, and we got to the point that we were suffocating. It seemed like the only healthy thing to do was to quit. Now it feels really good that we did that.

Q. “Viva! La Woman’’ seemed like such an odd fit for a major label. Were you surprised back then that Warner Bros. put out your music?

A. Everything was surprising, even the fact that we got any attention for our music. We just did it, and we weren’t thinking about anything [bigger]. Some people thought maybe that’s why we were good. It allowed us to be unique and crazy and ourselves.

Q. This tour is giving fans a sneak preview of the new music you’re working on. What does the upcoming Cibo Matto album sound like?

A. It has the identity of us, which hasn’t really changed from the beginning. It’s crazy to say your own name in the third person, but there’s something very Cibo Matto about it. Cibo Matto is this thing that happens when Miho and I are together. It’s our chemistry, and it’s something that’s almost beyond us. It’s like there’s another entity that we become when we’re together. We can’t seem to do it when we’re apart, but what we are as individuals has a lot to do with it as well.

Q. After all these years, what do you like about making music with Miho?

A. There’s something I can communicate with her really fast and well. When you’re working on music with another person, everything is abstract and objective. It’s almost like Miho and I sit in an imaginary sandbox and start building these sand castles.

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.

CIBO MATTO At Brighton Music Hall on Wednesday, 9 p.m. Tickets: $20. 800-745-3000. www.ticketmaster.com