Given the glacial nature of her take on electronic pop, Amber Bain’s year hit warp speed pretty sharpish. A spot as Zane Lowe’s final Radio 1 Hottest Record was the spark that hit the touchpaper, but that was just the start –The Japanese House has been an inferno ever since, baby steps replaced with giant leaps forward with every release as Amber turned heads the world over. “It hasn’t really felt like that,” she smiles in an East London café, “’cause I’ve just been in my room.”
It’s no surprise to hear she’s the retiring type. Both of The Japanese House’s EPs are swathed in the smoky production that defines countless young producers. Taking her bedroom demos to an “amazing studio in Brussels” isn’t the only thing pitching her leagues ahead of her contemporaries though – her dedication is astounding. “I’m probably going to go to the studio after this,” she admits. After that, she’s gearing up to take The Japanese House across the globe - 2016 is set to be a “whole year of touring”, and after a debut UK run that saw numerous dates sell out way in advance, she’s keen to keep the wheels rolling.
“I’m definitely less terrified on stage now – before, it was quite intense.”
“The tour was quite overwhelming cause I’ve never met ‘a fan’ before,” she laughs, “so that was quite intense – in a good way! Meeting people after shows and stuff was a bit like, ‘oop!’”
“I still get really nervous,” she admits. “It’s more like I get a huge adrenaline rush, maybe like three hours before sometimes, which is really annoying. Sometimes I get it at like two o’clock in the afternoon, like ‘WOAH I’M SO EXCITED’, and then I get really shaky. Then when I come off I don’t really remember anything that I did and then just get — ‘woo!’ – like, really pumped up. I’m definitely less terrified on stage now – before, it was quite intense.”
She recalls one Camden gig in particular when she was just 14; “it was one in the afternoon and there was no-one in there apart from this couple, and they think they were having an argument,” she cringes. “The most horrible experience ever” though it may have been, it’s a distant memory – these days things are far more romanic. “There are a lot of couples at the gigs!” she laughs; “Maybe that’s just a coupley thing to do, go to a gig… slow dance.”
Amber admits she’s “basically” made music all her life, thought it’s not a statement she relishes. “I hate that. ‘Ooh I’ve played the guitar since I was three!’” she snorts, “it sounds really cheesy, but I guess it’s true.”
The Japanese House - ‘Clean’
“I’m really lucky to be on a label that want to facilitate being creative.”
Picked up “since I left school” by Dirty Hit, a label synonymous with a slow-and-steady approach to building world beaters like The 1975 and Wolf Alice, Amber’s widescreen take on pop is no flash-in-the-pan moment of inspiration. “I’m really lucky to be on a label that want to facilitate being creative,” she smiles. “Rather than saying, ‘go and be creative’, they’re like ‘okay, let’s help you.’”
“There was a point at which I found… not a genre, but a style of making music, and I think that was when I started producing as well. I was always writing songs on guitar and stuff like that, but as soon as I started actually getting interested in that, they all - even songs from like five or six years ago - they had the same kind of feel. And I think actually, a lot of those songs, I’ll probably re-do as I’d produce them now.”
“Hopefully I’ll take influences from different places.”
Looking forward to globetrotting dates alongside the likes of The 1975 throughout 2016, she’s far more confident than her initial smoke and mirrors approach might have implied. “I think people thought I was trying to be mysterious, but I wasn’t - I just don’t like having my photo taken!” she laughs.
“Hopefully I’ll take influences from different places,” she says of her plans to pack out her passport, admitting that being able to take her personal studio on the road has its benefits. Thinking back to a trip to Iceland at the beginning of the year, there’s fits of giggles; “I did a remix of one of my own songs cause it was the only thing I had on my laptop and I was really bored at the airport - it sounds like Enya, really sad Enya! I was wearing my North Face, getting really emotional.” As she creeps out of her bedroom and packs that North Face for 12 months of travelling, writing and recording that eagerly awaited first full-length, it’s anyone’s guess where the final destination will be.
Guilty by association:
The Japanese House’s earlier works came pinned with one hell of an association – ‘produced by Matty Healy and George Daniel of the 1975’. “I definitely think that’s helped in terms of how many people listen to it and stuff like that,” admits Amber. “It’s weird, ‘cause as soon as you’re associated with someone who’s famous, it has both effects – people who originally dislike them, might dislike you, and people who like them might like you. It’s a weird one, but I do think it’s helped.
“I don’t think it’s been negative – it’s one of those things. At the beginning, most people thought Matty was singing!” she laughs, “And obviously a lot of people think it’s not a co-production and they wrote the songs, but it doesn’t really matter to me.”
Looking to 2016, she’s hitting the road with the recently returned megastars. “I think the 1975 shows will be pretty nuts!” she admits, “But I’m not really that scared for it, ‘cause I feel it’ll probably be quite fun.”
Photos: Mike Massaro. Taken from DIY’s December / January issue, out now.