25 in 2009: Aska Matsumiya

Born: 03/31/84 In: Ashiya, Japan Is: Musician/Performance artist

If there's a main character in the mini-movie -- directed by Spike Jonze and Crystal Moselle, so it's a bit too artful to simply be a "video" -- for the duo AsDSSka's song "Hold On," it's not Aska Matsumiya or her musical partner David Scott Stone. Instead, it's a wilting Mylar balloon, a sort of morning-after version of one of Warhol's favorite party tricks, drifting through an elegant but empty house to a lonely piano-synthesizer piece that sounds something like an Eno outtake built around Erik Satie. That song is out now on an independent vinyl single called "25," released by the Family bookstore in L.A. to mark Matsumiya's 25th year -- "It's like a stamp in time of me at twenty-five," she says, and that confused balloon (which ultimately escapes into the night) isn't suggesting any sort of quarterlife crisis. If there's sadness, there's hope, too.

"One time my daughter Bebel got a balloon at the store, and it escaped from her hand and flew away and from then she refused to accept balloons," Matsumiya says now. "She would say, 'They're only going to fly away.' To me, that was very tragic. [But] I like showing the life in things that traditionally aren't given personal characteristics. I like the juxtaposition between the common object and its secret life -- there's a sort of silliness and charm there that I love."

Matsumiya has lived in Los Angeles for three years now and (besides being a full-time mom to Bebel) she's got at least four musical projects -- the spare and spooky AsDSSka with Stone, the experimental pop group the Sads with Stone and Aaron Rose, the roaring indie rock trio Moonrats with Bebel's father and ex-Pretty Girls Make Graves member Nathan Thelen and then the L.A. Ladies Choir, an ever-expanding a cappella ensemble co-founded by Matsumiya and Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark. If there's a link, she says, it might come in the AsDSSka song "We Feel It More Than They Do," in part about how passionate Matsumiya the Aries with a Scorpio moon needs to always push farther to find what she's looking for. "Each project is a different form of expression, but the core of each always remains the same for me," she says. "There are different types of love -- for your family or your friends or your lover -- but it's all love."

She was born in Ashiya, Japan, where her parents arranged early on for young Matsumiya to take extremely serious piano lessons with a French tutor who'd slap her back (for posture) and her hands (for technique) whenever she'd slip. This proved to be good training, she says now: "[The teacher] was very harsh with me, it's true, but I also desperately wanted to please her. I suppose this taught me my first taste of dysfunctional relationships." After six to eight hours a day playing in the conservatory, she finally cracked out of classical when she heard the krautrock band Can. "I was so fully satisfied with it," she says. "That's pretty much all I listened to for a long time." (Only recently -- and thanks to her daughter -- has she come to the Beatles.)

Right now Matsumiya's got a Moonrats full-length ready and is looking for a label, as well as the debut EP of the Ladies Choir waiting. She's on tour as she does this interview and when she comes home, she plans to score more movies at the Silent Movie Theater (she scored The Red Balloon last May with Stone and avant-art duo the Lucky Dragons) just a block and a half away from the bookstore that put out her "25" single. ''And she'll be DJing five nights a week for a month in Tokyo, too. It's almost too much -- which is how she likes it. "What inspires me to keep creating is that the future is always a mystery," she says. "To me, the beauty isn't in the answer, but in the question that is forever unsolved."
Chris Ziegler

Wears: Shirt by Boy by Band of Outsiders, pants by 3.1 Phillip Lim, shoes by Brian Atwood, and vintage suspenders from Screaming Mimi's

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