by Jillian Fliedner
While standing in a puddle of bathroom sink water at Great Scott in Allston, I got the chance to interview Amber Bain, mostly known as The Japanese House right before the start of her first US headlining tour.
So, how are you doing?
I’m very, very sleepy. *laughs*
I bet. How did the UK and Euro tour go for you?
Yeah! They were really fun.
This is your first US headlining tour, so are you nervous or are you excited?
I’m excited, I’m not nervous.
How does it feel playing so many sold out shows? I mean, tonight is sold out, and so are your next two shows in New York.
Yeah! It’s pretty cool. I played a show not too far from where I actually live, so it’s nice to play there. People in the U.S. dig it, and Camden, obviously.
How does it feel being in the US considering everything that’s going on?
I haven’t felt any impacts of the Donald Trump presidency yet, but I’m sure things will seep in. Just the same as I don’t really feel anything from Brexit… But it sucks.
So you previously stated how you planned to release two more EPs before releasing a full length, so now with the release of Swim Against the Tide, do you have a timeline in mind for the full length?
Going into making this EP, were you at all stressed because you had all these new fans who were anxiously waiting for new music, or were you just chill about it and wanted to make whatever?
Just kind of the same as usual. I don’t really think about that. I just think about finishing stuff, because that’s what I’m really bad at doing: finishing songs. So I guess the stress kind of came from having to do stuff till the end and not procrastinate. But yeah, I don’t really think about that whole fan thing.
In the past, you had mentioned how you didn’t want all of your success to come from The 1975 and your association with them. Going into 2017, do you feel like you’ve achieved this, or do you feel like it hasn’t turned out how you wanted it to?
I don’t know. I don’t think anyone ever really goes ‘Oh. Done it. Yep.’ I don’t know. Obviously, I have, in a certain way, goals in terms of where I want to be, but actually I’d rather just not focus on that at all. I don’t think it’s healthy to as an artist, because that’s not for you to really think about. Obviously, it’s good to have goals and want to do well. I think as soon as you reach that goal, you’ll have a different goal, so I kind of don’t really think about that.
Did Swim Against the Tide involve as much input from George and Matty [of The 1975] as Clean and Pools to Bathe In?
Matty isn’t… It’s just me and George. But yeah, it’s just the same as usual. I’ll basically produce the tracks to a certain point, and finish them in the studio with George on the mixer.
Have you learned anything from recording the previous two EPs?
Yeah, definitely. I think you’re always improving. Definitely just got better at producing. There’s only so much time with the band, and I’ve just been doing it on my laptop.
With the song “Pools to Bathe in”, every time I’ve listened to it, I’ve always wondered why did you put the dog barking in it?
It’s actually not a dog barking.
Yeah, it’s someone screaming. I just thought it was funny. I don’t know. The same reason I put anything else in there.
Did you do it just because you could do it?
Uhm, it’s the same reason I put any sound in it, because I thought it sounded good. I think it does. I think it sounds cool.
It wasn’t like ‘Oh, let’s put a dog barking’, because it’ll sound good. That’s just in there.
How does it feel seeing fans react to the new EP?
Yeah! Pretty good. People are singing along at shows and stuff, which is really good.
Do you have a new favorite song to perform, or is it still ‘Still’?
Uhm, I like playing… Oh, I don’t know. I like playing ‘Good Side In’, because it’s really hard.
Before you were The Japanese House, you were known as CUBS and Léon, right? And ‘Leon’ [off Swim Against the Tide] was actually a song you wrote before The Japanese House, right?
Do you have other songs from when you were known as CUBS and Léon that you plan to re-release?
Maybe. I don’t know. I wrote ‘Leon’ just before ‘Still’. And then… I don’t know. I’m not sure. I mean, I don’t really count CUBS and Léon as really a thing, because I was kind of like 16 and doing my G16, so I don’t really feel like that was an actual thing. To me, they’re just old band names. I’m not sure. Maybe.
I don’t mean to pry at all, but with songs like ‘Good Side In’ and ‘Teeth’, how does it feel playing those songs now given where you are in life compared to where you were then?
Why specifically those?
I don’t know. I thought ‘Good Side In’ and ‘Teeth’ were about the same person.
Yeah… I don’t know, because I wrote those songs so long ago that by the time I finished them, my feelings had already changed. I don’t know, they just feel the same as all of my other songs do.
I know that ‘Leon’ was inspired by [the movie] Leon: The Professional, so what inspired you about that movie to write a song semi-inspired by it?
I think because I just really love that film. I don’t really write songs about anyone else, so I kind of just decided to write a song about Matilda when she had got older and he had died. But it kind of turned into about me, because I’m just actually using it as a metaphor for myself, again.
Yeah, I heard it was about a high-school break-up.
Yeah, it was.
That’s amusing. So, you take all of these photos for your EPs. Do you have any places you want to go to in mind for your next EP and the full length?
I’d like to go to Russia.
Or, uhm, I don’t know…Croatia.
Why those two?
Cause… I really want to go there. *laughs* Also, I just think, you can get some… There’s this specific bus stop in Russia, can’t remember where it is, but I really want to take a photo of it. And Croatia cause… I just thought of that. I probably don’t… Or maybe I do. I’d love to go to Croatia, but I don’t know. Where else could I go… I don’t know. I just decide when I have to do it, and that makes it more natural. And also, after the EPs are completely finished, then I kind of decide how I want people to interpret it.
Do you have a methodology for picking which pictures you want to use? Or do you just pick whatever suits you at the time?
I usually just pick the best ones. And, *chuckles*, also some certain songs just look like certain photos. When I’m going through them, I go ‘Oh! That looks like ____, so that would fit.’ I don’t know why a certain image fits with a certain song. It’s really weird. They just do. I guess it’s the same reason why certain songs soundtrack certain movies. That kind of thing.
That makes sense. So the music video for ‘Face Like Thunder’ was a lot higher production than your previous videos, so how did it feel doing a higher production video in a place you have yet to reveal?
Yeah, I’m never going to tell *laughs*. Yeah, it was really cool. It was kind of nerve-wracking, because I’m not really good in front of cameras. But also amazing, because I go to see that side of things. And also, it was really cool the place we were at. It was just tiring, but also really amazing at the same time. I saw two of the best sunrises and sunsets that I’ve ever seen in my life.
So have you just been tired these past few months with the release of a new EP and being on tour?
I’m not this tired all the time. I’m just jetlagged, because we got in yesterday.
How was your flight?
Uhm, horrible. *laughs*
Was just really bumpy at the end. The actual flight was fine; it was just the landing. But now we’re on the ground, and I don’t want to think about flying for awhile.
Are you just bussing around for these US shows?
Yeah, we’re driving… *tour manager is shaking her head*. We’re driving on the east coast, and then flying to the west coast. Doing both coasts basically and then flying. I don’t know. Right? *at tour manager*. I don’t know what I’m saying.
Lastly, my girlfriend wanted me to ask you: What is your third favorite flower?
*Thinks for awhile* I’m trying to think of my first and my second….
You can totally say your first, and I can just say you said it was your third.
I don’t know. I’m not that big in the flower game. A bird of paradise? *laughs*
*laughs* Okay, awesome. Thanks for answering my questions. I appreciate you.
Thanks to Amber for answering my questions, despite being completely dead from travel. You were a gem despite all of it.