Interview: The Japanese House takes on America

The Japanese House takes America

From Hoxton to Hollywood, Amber Bain talks touring with The 1975 and Wolf Alice.

Photo: Aysia Marotta

Anonymity rarely exists with a new musician, so it was intriguing when The Japanese House mysteriously burst onto the scene in mid-2015. The only way to identify the at the time unknown artist was through dark, experimental songs. Fast-forward to spring 2016 and a face - Amber Bain’s - has since emerged into the spotlight alongside head-turning EPs, enabling an ever growing fanbase to recognise her on the stage and on the street, even all the way across the pond in America.

Amber just recently wrapped an epic month-and-a-half tour across the US, opening alongside label mates Wolf Alice and for The 1975 – ultimately creating the perfect Dirty Hit records trifecta. While on the road and playing for audiences of no less than 5,000 people, basement venues such as the Courtyard Theatre in the Hoxton district of London have quickly become a thing of the past for Amber.

“It’s really quite bizarre how fast this has all happened,” she explains excitedly from her dressing room backstage at The Mann Center in Philadelphia. It’s just an hour or so before she’s set to hit the stage for a crowd of nearly 10,000 people. However, Bain has learned to adjust, considering audiences this size - and larger - were the norm while on the road with The 1975, whose second album ‘I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful, Yet So Unaware Of It’ topped US charts back in February.

“I used to have terrible panic attacks before my gigs,” she remembers, “and I actually had one right before playing ‘Sugar Pill’ on stage in Oxford, at our first gig as a band. I just had this moment of, ‘Oh, it’s happening.’ But now, I feel so lucky to play these shows, y’know? The nerves aren’t really there as much anymore. At first, on this tour, it was obviously quite nerve-wracking for me. The first big show we played was in Australia, and just seeing thousands of people watching you freaked me out a bit. But I’m definitely getting used to it.”

Her career was born in a bedroom, with the help of programmes such as GarageBand. But Amber recognises that her music is now taking her places, way beyond an initial, confined space. She shot her own album artwork for her EPs in Iceland, made her first music video for ‘Cool Blue’ with a friend in Barcelona and Berlin, recorded some songs for her EP in Los Angeles last spring, and she’s now finally beginning to conquer the rest of the United States.

She’s been working on a lot of new material while on the road in the US, and plans to have an album out next year. “I’m planning on releasing a few more EPs before then,” she laughs, “There will definitely be a full album out next year though.”

How different an experience is touring the States, compared to other places?

Well, I’ve only ever been to the United States one time prior to this tour, whereas I’m pretty familiar with the UK and Europe and whatnot. I went to Los Angeles early last year to get some recording done. So, having this opportunity to come back and being able to play two gigs there was really special. Our show at The Shrine in LA was probably one of the best experiences we’ve had. The fans were going absolutely wild.

Getting to see and do everything we have on this tour has been great. You kind of have this idea of America from what you see on the telly and in films, but getting to see it and experience it first hand has been incredible. Except, Las Vegas wasn’t what I had imagined really, especially being 20 years old – there’s not much fun to be had.

What have been some of your favourite stops on this tour?

I didn’t get to see much of Miami, but that show was super. There was this girl in the crowd that was dancing like crazy during my set, but I couldn’t tell if she was taking the piss? But after like, two or three songs of her just dancing non-stop I could tell she was really getting into it. It hyped me up! I went out after my set and gave her a hug and thanked her for it.

Also, playing Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta was something I’ll never forget. It was our first gig in ages that wasn’t a support, and I’d taken the stage with only a few people watching us. By the end of the first song, I looked out into the crowd and saw people rushing to our stage. At the end of the set, it was packed with people watching and cheering. I would have never expected that to happen. I got a bit emotional after that set – I mean I was quite hungover – but still, it was incredible!

“Being 20 years old in Las Vegas, there’s not much fun to be had.”

Amber Bain

How would you best describe being on the road these past couple of months?

Honestly, this whole experience has been life-changing. Everyone on this tour works so hard to make each show run as smoothly as possible. The fans are immense. I feel really honoured to be a part of it, and to play alongside bands like Wolf Alice and The 1975.

The Japanese House will play Best Kept Secret (17th-19th June) and Positivus (15th-17th July), where DIY is an official media partner. Tickets are on sale now. Visit diymag.com/presents for more information.

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