Olivia Platten sits down with Dirty Hit signee Amber Bain, more commonly known as The Japanese House, to discuss her upcoming album ‘Good at Falling’
Ahead of the release of her first full album in March, Amber Bain (known by fans as The Japanese House) has toured the UK, US, and Europe, released three singles, and got her first dog, Calvin. After a turbulent 2018 filled with a mixture of the highest highs and lowest lows, I caught up with Amber to reflect on the new album Good at Falling, the processes behind it, and Amber’s personal feelings on her upcoming music.
Your first full album comes out in March! Which song are you most excited for us to hear?
That changes daily. I really like ‘You Seemed So Happy.’ I think ‘Everybody Hates Me’ is a banger. ‘f a r a w a y’ is great. To be honest, all of them! I could change my mind a million times. I’m very proud of them all.
Good at Falling is all brand new music apart from an acoustic version of ‘Saw You in A Dream’ which comes at the end – what made you choose to include this different version on the album?
Because it’s my favourite song of all time. I first said that as a joke in an interview a while ago, but to be honest, it’s not. I wrote it – I can’t connect to a song more than one that I wrote. It’s about my first girlfriend who died years ago. It’s the hardest thing I’ve had to write about and the only time I’ve really written about it explicitly. It’s still the one that chokes me up.
What’s the writing process been like for Good at Falling, and what’s been your biggest challenge in making the album?
It was a long process. The hardest thing for me is finishing songs because I have the attention span of a flea. I can’t finish tasks or make decisions so I’m a train wreck when it comes to finishing songs! But, it was a joy to write as I got to do it in so many cool places.
Having now written a full album do you think you’ll ever go back to EPs?
I don’t know. I definitely don’t want to wait another two years to release an album. Making music is the only thing that’s a constant joy to me, my only sure path to happiness. I’ve had a really crazy path. I’m in no way complaining about my life, but I attach myself so much to people and certain situations. I really latch on, and when they inevitably get ripped from my hands and taken away from me, it kills me. I’m being a drama queen! I think every songwriter is. But for now, I’ve given up on everything but my dog and my songs.
Your songs are about very personal experiences of heartbreak and loss. How do you feel when other people relate to them?
I love it when people relate in any way. I wrote a song last night and sent it to my friend, who texted me saying that she’d cried. That’s what I want when I’m making music. I don’t care if people think about their own experiences when they listen to my songs because that’s what I do when I listen to music. Empathy only goes so far. What really kills us is when we connect with something and we can fit it into our own lives. It rips you apart when something’s close to home.
When you first debuted, there was a lot of mystery surrounding your identity. Why the decision to come into the spotlight with this album?
I think the mystery in the beginning was very much overplayed. Hundreds of male bands have released an EP without photos of themselves. I’ve always hated my appearance – when I close my eyes, the face I feel I’m speaking out of doesn’t match the one in the mirror. At first, I couldn’t understand how my face was relevant to my music, but people love latching onto things like that. I’m being very honest here, and hopefully it won’t seem like arrogance as I’m just saying that everyone thinks, but music artists all think they’re special and different from everyone else. Maybe they’re right, and part of me thinks that too, but it leads to people thinking beauty is synonymous with talent. I think if people feel this album is mysterious, they’re wrong or not listening properly: I’m being very blatant. There’s an element of metaphor but I’m not trying to hide anything, because I don’t consciously decide to write songs about things in the first place. It’s always a natural progression. What it actually reflects is a conscious decision to better myself, be honest with myself, and try to love myself.
With the subjects so personal, are you having any regrets about just how raw the feelings you’ve expressed are to you?
Some will be really hard to play, but hopefully I’ll be over it or so numb that it’ll be alright. But definitely no regrets. The things I’m talking about are good things to talk about: health anxiety, bad relationships with alcohol and drugs. I think lesbian relationships should always be spoken about, they need a voice. The lack of sex at the end of a lesbian relationship. Girls are so sexualised so it’s common to think that’s all we’re doing, but you reach a closeness that’s almost familial and it just stops. ‘We Talk all the Time’ is about that.
You touched on health anxiety and mental health struggles – how have these affected your music?
‘You Seemed So Happy’ is basically about my health anxiety. It really does affect my life, but I’m so much better than I was three years ago – I used to carry a blood pressure monitor and a thermometer everywhere, I checked my temperature and my pulse constantly. I used to think I was being drugged all the time. The Salisbury poisoning last year was a really difficult time for me. Sometimes it can be a pointer that I’m not in a good place: the happier I am the less I worry about my health. It’s a separate thing from my music – I can’t write when I’m too anxious or emotional because I physically can’t cope with my emotions. It’s always a natural progression, so I wait for it to come to me.
Lastly, what are your long-term goals and what’s next?
I want be well-known and successful. Anyone who says that isn’t their goal is definitely a liar. I want write an even better album. Most of all I want people to love my music, and a lot of them to do it.
‘Good at Falling’ is available via Dirty Hit Records. Tickets to see The Japanese House perform live are available here.