Aili are Belgium-Japanese electro-pop duo Aili Maruyama and Orson Wouters. After a chance meeting at a party in 2019, and time spent bonding over music and synths, they found they had an instant connection, their different personalities and approaches to making music inspiring each other to explore new ideas and sounds.
Starting every studio session with no preset ideas, Aili and Orson instead embraced a more spontaneous and playful way of writing songs. Bouncing sounds, samples and even jokes off each other, they let the music develop in unexpected ways until Aili would feel the words begin to appear. To her own surprise this also led Aili to sing more and more in Japanese, or rather the unique version of Japanese she developed with her father so they could stay connected after she left Japan, aged just seven.
The first result of their partnership was 2021's Dansu EP on Eskimo Recordings, the label Orson had previously worked with under the name Transistorcake. Dansu's mix of underground electronic sounds and sparkling pop was an instant hit, its title track spending 8 consecutive weeks at the top of Radio 1's VOX list and saw the band nominated for that year's Studio Brussel's De Nieuwe Lichting (New Generation) award.
Since that debut the band have cemented their position as one of Belgium's most exciting new bands with new singles praised by the likes of Rolling Stone, a wonderfully strange video that saw the band draped in food, and becoming a regular feature on tastemaker radio stations like KEXP and KCRW in the US and Radio Nova in France. Having found a way to transfer the energy they generate in the studio to the live stage the band have also gone on to perform ecstatic live shows throughout Europe and even appeared as themselves playing live on the hit Belgian TV drama Roomies.
In 2022 the band were invited to Japan where, in between Orson adding to his synth collection and Aili reconnecting with the country of her birth, they played the Inspire Tokyo Festival. Championed by Tokyo's J-Wave radio station the band went on to play their own sold-out solo show in the capital where a strong following was already waiting for them and partnered with Nariaki Obukuro and Yaffle's creative company TOKA to release a special Japanese edition of the Dansu EP.
Returning to Belgium with new ideas, new samples and, yes, new synths Aili have spent the next 6 months working on their hotly anticipated debut album, Nandakke? Set for release in early 2024 on Eskimo Recordings, Nandakke? more than fulfils the band's early promise. Covering everything from the idiosyncratic Japanese relationship to fashion to Aili's father's takoyaki recipe, its ten tracks veer from surreal electro-pop to joyful electronica, house music and beyond and is as a record as unique as Aili themselves.
Photo 2023 © Tina Lewis Herbots