The Japanese House
Jeremy Williams-Chalmers, Arts Correspondent
The Japanese House is the on-stage alter ego of Amber Bain.
Having debuted in 2015 with the still impressive Pools To Bathe In EP, Amber has spent the last four years building an impressive fanbase while on the road supporting label mates The 1975 and Wolf Alice.
Having seen her four EPs to date bathed in positive reviews, Bain is finally ready to release her debut album, Good At Falling, on the 1st March.
We caught up with Amber to find out more.
It has been nearly two years since you released your last EP, Saw You In A Dream. How does it feel to be finally approaching the release of your debut album?
It's good. It's been a long time coming. It's something I have been doing for months and months, in fact years and years, I guess. It feels really exciting to have such a big body of work in comparison to the EPs.
It is also scary as there is more for me to be judged on. It is a lot harder to arrange an album. You have to think about what goes where. There is a lot more decision making involved. Committing to those decisions is something I struggle with.
Was it a conscious decision to pause between the EP releases and the album?
I have always been working on an album. The reason I didn't release an album earlier was because I wanted to keep releasing music, but I was also always touring. An EP was just logistically a good decision at that time. It kept the ball rolling, as it made sense time wise and ensured I was always making new music.
As soon as a break came in touring, I thought let's do this. It took quite a while to finish as I am such a control freak. I just find it hard to finalise decisions. With music there are lots of decisions about mixing and song structure. They just take forever for me. I am not a perfectionist in everything, but I am in music.
How did you decide the album was finished? Or did you leave that decision to those around you?
It was me who said it was ready, but I was helped along the way to do that. Until I've released it, I never see it as finished. However, I was prompted by those around me who told me I was changing things that nobody else can hear. They are the same song after each change and only I could heard the differences. The people around me gave me the gift of acceptance. They allowed me to say 'this is it'.
Given that songs can be changed for a live setting, does touring help with allowing a close to the recording process?
It does me help me out a bit that when I get to play the song live, I get to do what I want with it. I have a lot of fun doing live stuff. I have already played a few songs in shows from the album that haven't been released yet. Before that it had been a long time since I had played songs to an audience who didn't already know the song.
It was a weird experience. The response was really good.
I have such lovely fans, and it was great to have a free survey of how the new songs would be received. It was terrifying but what makes it all the more surreal is how the fuck they seem to know the lyrics I am singing already. By the second chorus the front row were all singing along.
Are there any songs from the album that you are nervous to play live for the first time?
There isn't one I am scared of playing. All the lyrics are frank and honest. It is all weird personal stuff. But in order to be able to write that stuff, I have to become much more honest in my person. I just lost the desire for privacy.
I don't care about hiding stuff. I am black and white in my songs.
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In the feedback in my ear I heard the autotuned vocal, so when I have to sing the next line without autotune it is hard to know if I am going to be on pitch as what I am hearing is different to what I am singing. I just have to have blind faith.
Saw You In A Dream is also very different live. We play an acoustic, stripped back version.
I often burst into tears during that one. It is a 3-part harmony in the live setup.
My best friend Cicely is in the band and I think she always cries. It is about a friend of ours who died four years ago, so it is a really emotional song for us. It is the only one that repeatedly gets to me. Usually live I can detach from the meaning behind the song, but I can't for that song.
It is the reason I have it on the record. It is a different version to the one released before.
Having taken two years to work on your debut, have you already started planning your sophomore?
I am in the studio right now. I am not taking taking a break. I don't want to take another 2 years before releasing another album. I had 2 weeks off before the tour, and I just didn't want to be at home doing nothing. I just can't function properly in between tours if I am just at home. I guess it is because I have spent my whole adult life on tour, or rehearsing and recording.
I don't feel healthy mentally if I am doing nothing. I also can't just be at home writing songs. It becomes a very vague idea as it doesn't work like that. Writing is a very unstructured lifestyle.
Just doing nothing makes me feel crazy. I used to fight against it, and it may sound like the lamest thing, but making music is the most important thing to me. It is the only thing that drives me - other than fleeting obsessions with people.
I used to fight against it and try to see music as just a job. I used to think I had to have a separate life to live. I guess it was a fear of failing, as when you put your everything into something it is even more terrifying if that doesn't work out. But I just know that this is all I want to do, there is not alternative.
Do you ever panic that you might leave it too long between releases and lose the attention of your audience in such an instant industry?
I am not an expert in audiences or streaming numbers. I have no idea if it would effect it. I don't really thing about it, songwriting is more selfish for me. I am not making music to keep listeners happy, that is bi-product and one that in turn makes me happy.
My main reason for being in music is that I don't know what else I would be doing. If I wasn't at the studio now, I would be at home having an existential crisis. I am probably a drama queen, but that is what makes me good at songwriting.
People who write songs are obsessed with themselves and their own voice - not their singing voice but metaphorically. It isn't that I don't care about success, but the main fuel to my fire is that it is what I want to be doing.
Obviously there is a lot of doubt that comes with everything. I do actually question everything. The world we live in is a really crazy place and I should be doing things to change that, but then someone will come up to me and tell me that a song I wrote helped them come out to their parents, or stopped them killing themselves or allowed them to make friends, and those are huge stories for me and my world.
The Japanese House, 10th January 2019, 9:25 AM