Sen Morimoto’s dreamy self-titled electronic-pop album drops October 23, but many Chicagoans know his name from his politics. In July, Morimoto’s set for the city’s Millennium Park at Home series was pulled when he refused to redact a statement criticizing Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reluctance to defund the Chicago Police Department and support a civilian police accountability council. We talked to the 26-year-old about his new release and butting heads with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
This isn’t your first album, so why name it after yourself? In past projects, I’d be stretching myself to try new things I wasn’t that good at, or making sure one song doesn’t sound too much like another. This is a more cohesive body of work — something that I can point to and be like, “This is what I’m about.” It feels like Sen Morimoto’s Music for Dummies.
You have a very Chicago lineup of artists joining you on the album: Nnamdï and Kaina [Morimoto’s partner] also make appearances. Sometimes people ask me if I have a dream collaborator, and I don’t have an answer. I just like working with my friends. It’s all very natural.
Walk us through what happened with the DCASE concert. I had finished recording the music and the video for it, and the city asked me to include a statement saying, “This show is put on by DCASE and Mayor Lightfoot.” I was like, I can’t bring her up and not talk about what she’s doing. I drafted what I felt was a very chill statement — I figured I should be professional and precise instead of sensational. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do the show in the first place, but I assumed I could donate the money and say what I had to say. Since then, it’s escalated so much — not only the drama around the censorship, but the original message, which was about defunding police and enacting CPAC. I don’t regret talking about police brutality, because it’s only gotten worse. If anything, I wish I’d been harsher.
What’s next? Once we can go listen to music live again, I want to be dancing all the time. If I make sad music, it’d better at least be danceable.