Saying YOASOBI were the main event of the opening night of Hong Kong’s Clockenflap would be an understatement. Fans of the J-pop duo fought to secure front row space hours prior to their December 1st performance, and even queued for up to three hours to buy merch. This enthusiasm is still a surprise for Ayase and Ikura, respectively the Vocaloid producer and the singer-songwriter of YOASOBI.
“When we first started as a unit, we definitely didn’t think we would meet so much enthusiasm from the public,” Ayase tells Consequence a day prior to the concert. “We started during the pandemic, right? So going from the recording studio to a stage with such big audiences was just unthinkable to us.”
Ikura and Ayase have been continuously interviewed for eight hours by the time they get to our questions. Armed with a kindness that only they have the secret to, they manage to keep the atmosphere warm and welcoming. In a suite in a hotel in downtown Hong Kong, the duo take turns giving responses — a balance that must have been agreed on to support each other after such a long day while still acknowledging each other’s contribution to the duo. But quite early on, Ikura can’t help and peek out of the window.
“Hong Kong is such a shiny city,” she says. “We visited the concert venue last night, and I’m super excited to perform to our audience, and to the night view.”
YOASOBI’s relationship with live performance, and more broadly with being the face of their project, is a unique one — and it’s what probably makes them so fascinating. They barely appear in their music videos, preferring animation. Their fans are encouraged to follow the artists’ personal social accounts rather than the group’s one — the latter being exclusively updated by the duo’s staff.
In a time where parasocial relationships with pop fans can lead to millions of followers and profits, YOASOBI choose to be different. It’s probably partly due to the fact that they debuted in times of global isolation, when performing wasn’t even an option. “As we got more and more listeners, we had to start thinking about performance, and what we wanted to bring on stage,” Ayase says. “We’ve started to add special sound effects, added animation in the background, and tried to translate our songs’ stories in the best physical form.”
This is where their storytelling ability comes into account. Another element YOASOBI’s unique approach to music resides in their creative process: turning novels into music. While the idea is not new, the J-pop duo are truly revolutionizing the artform.