Among the collection of highly anticipated albums to be released this spring includes the debut record from The Japanese House, the solo project of London-based Amber Bain. The dream-pop and electronica signature of The Japanese House is one of the blossoming sounds on dynamic indie label Dirty Hit Records, and Bain took some time to chat to Exeposé about her upcoming release Good at Falling, her European tour and the sounds which inspired hers.
Exeposé: I first became aware of your music when I saw your open for The 1975 on their UK tour in December 2016, how have things changed for you since then, musically or otherwise?
Amber Bain: I guess since then I’ve done a lot more touring, finished an album and released another EP. It’s just grown really, with new material and the fan base.
E: How have you found working with Dirty Hit and their roster?
AB: I love it! I’ve been with Dirty Hit since I left school, so I’ve spent my entire adult life working with them and they’re the best people to work with. I find it really hard to even comprehend being on a label that doesn’t give you freedom, because I just don’t see the point of not being able to do exactly what you want to do. If you don’t have the freedom to express exactly what you want to express, I don’t see how that’s rewarding for anyone.
E: Thinking about your style, it encompasses electronica and dream-pop and seems to have a really contemporary feel to it, and brings to light the likes of MUNA and Shura – who would you say has influenced you, musically?
AB: I’m actually wearing a MUNA top right now, they’re my good friends! I’m not consciously influenced by anyone because I don’t have the thought of ‘I want to sound like THAT’, as I think what I want to sound like is completely different to everyone else, which I think is what most people strive for. Of course, everything I’ve listened to and loved has become a part of me and how I view music, or become part of my metre in the way I judge music as being good or bad. My favourite artists are probably Fleetwood Mac, Kate Bush, Bon Iver, Talking Heads – I’m also really influenced by my friends and music that I’m around. When you care about someone, and they make something, and you love that, that obviously affects you deeply, so MUNA are probably one of my favourite bands, as well as The 1975. Being around people who are special in that way is inspiring.
MUNA are probably one of my favourite bands as well as The 1975
E: I found the story behind your stage name really interesting (the moniker stems from a childhood trip to Devon where Bain posed as a boy for a week and drew the attraction of a local girl, who was later heartbroken to learn of Bain’s identity), particularly the androgyny aspect – what was it about that that was particularly appealing to you?
AB: I don’t think The Japanese House was free of gender. I had to think of a name, and I didn’t want my own name because I don’t think it’s very cool – or maybe I just don’t think my name is very cool! Or I think it’s cooler to have a name – I tried to think of things that had happened to me that had a story behind them, and searching endlessly because it’s a pretty daunting task. In the story, there’s a part of the story where I’m dressed as a boy and the girl in love with me is really upset because I’m a girl, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that The Japanese House is an androgynous project, I identify as female and I get it quite a lot, people assume that I’m transgender or androgynous, and I find it hard to define androgyny. Am I androgynous because I wear jeans? Sometimes I find it very hard to see why people think I’m androgynous and what androgyny is – maybe it’s because I can have a low voice if I want to, and didn’t have a photo at the time and people assumed that because I wasn’t flaunting my femininity in everyone’s face that I wasn’t female, and I think that’s interesting! But The Japanese House is just music – that doesn’t mean I’m genderless; all music is genderless in a way.
all music is genderless in a way
E: Speaking about your album title then, Good at Falling, what was it that inspired that name?
AB: It was a video game I was playing, called Thomas Was Alone, and it’s a pretty depressing video game about a square having an existential crisis and he goes through the game and each level and questions why he’s doing it and his reality whilst he’s going through it. I found that really interesting. There’s a narrator who says at one point, “Thomas was extremely good at falling”, and I just found that line really heart-breaking. It’s literal in the game, this little square is going through these levels and it’s almost like a joke because he doesn’t need to do anything to fall because he’s good at it. Then I started thinking about that and how actually quite sad that is, the oxymoron of being good at falling. I started thinking that to repeatedly fall and be good at it, you have to have kept on getting on. Falling can also mean some many things – falling in love, falling out of love, metaphorically on your face, literally on your face, failure, loss of yourself and loss of control, and to master the art of fucking up basically, and having a lack of control. It’s what I strive in order to learn how to deal with things. I was in a time in my life where everything had fallen and I didn’t know where I was. It’s a sad but optimistic title I guess, and it encapsulates a lot of the feeling of the album.
Falling can also mean some many things: falling in love, falling out of love, metaphorically on your face, literally on your face,
E: How have you found the process of making an album rather than an EP?
AB: It’s longer! It’s been great, I’ve loved making this album. I think it’s been more immersive, it’s a bigger thing to create so it requires more thought. I was away for longer, and had a lot of time to think about what I was doing and be completely immersed in it. With four songs, you can kind of get away with running around London and going to the studio here and there, but with this one I was in the middle of Wisconsin for six weeks, then in Brussels for three weeks, then Oxford for two weeks. So it was intense, but fun.
E: How are you feeling about the album’s release? Is there a track in particular that you’re excited for people to hear, or are you excited for the whole project to be released?
AB: The whole project I think, I can’t pin it down to just one song! Also because two songs have already been released, which is the most daunting part, the first couple of songs. I just can’t wait for it to all be heard, I change my mind about my favourite song on the album all the time. I listened to it for the first time in a couple of months a week ago on a plane, and I’m just really proud of it. I think it’s really good!
E: I really like both tracks so far and the video for ‘Lilo’, which is quite powerful.
AB: Thank you, it was a moving video to shoot really.
E: I bet – so preparations are ongoing for your European tour which kicks off next week – do you find there’s a different response to your music in the rest of Europe?
AB: Yeah, it’s a smaller response. It’s harder to break Europe, in a way, but the fans I do have there are very loyal and lovely. But in comparison to America, it’s not as quick – that’s good. It’s good to have a humbling thing where you do a tour and worry if anyone’s actually going to come!
E: That’s good! I see the pre-sale for your UK tour began this morning, so an exciting few months ahead!
AB: Yeah, there’s lots of touring this year, which good, I used to hate touring!
Good at Falling is out on March 1st, on Dirty Hit Records.