Going Platinum: Japanese Breakfast

Going Platinum: Japanese Breakfast

For our platinum birthday, we give the gift of girlpower with six standouts from our 20 years of sonic discovery

For our platinum birthday, we give the gift of girlpower with six standouts from our 20 years of sonic discovery

Photography: Ryan Mcginley

Styling: Angelo Desanto

Text: Devin Barrett

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Fine china is the norm, but for V's platinum birthday, we give the gift of girl power. In our week-long series "Going Platinum" we highlight six standouts form our 20 years of sonic discovery.

DEVIN BARRETT: First off, where does the name Japanese Breakfast come from?

JAPANESE BREAKFAST: It has a connotation of being something foreign, beautiful, and neat. I felt like it would be a name people would be curious about. I also think being half Korean, it has always felt like this kind of forbidden thing to me. When I was growing up my mom used to not let me buy Japanese products. Yet there was this sort of desire to relate to Japanese culture I think because it was the most accessible Asian culture in America when I was growing up. It always felt like this forbidden beautiful thing.

 

DB: How would you describe your sound? 

JB: I think that it’s kind of a pop project. I like making music that feels gratifying but has some depth to it. One thing I like to do in my music [is] play with the juxtaposition of something that sounds very upbeat and catchy that reveals itself to have a darker, deeper core. The music I listened to growing up was very dynamic and accessible but had that sort of depth to it.

 

DB: What did you listen to growing up that’s inspired you?

JB: A pop group that has just a great amount of substance is a band like Fleetwood Mac. They have so many talented members in the band and they write these super catchy beautiful pop songs that have a real substance to them. Growing up in Oregon, I listened to a lot of Pacific-Northwest Indie rock­– this kind of really dynamic bands with really confessional honest lyrics.

 

DB: Is that the same approach you have when creating music? How do you want the audience to feel when listening to your music?

JB: I try not to think too much about how other people will listen to it. It’s harder as time goes on, but the project started as a side project. I didn’t have much expectation. I wrote our first album Psychopomp in 2014 about my mom passing away. It was just a very raw, emotional record that I think resonated with a lot of people. I am just trying to keep coming from that honest place because I think the more specific [the music is], the more universal it is.

 

DB: Is the experience cathartic for you?

JB: I have been asked that a lot. It always feels like it’s wrong to say that it’s cathartic because it feels like there needs to be a sense of resolve that comes from [creating music] and there isn’t really. I think it just feels important to do, and it feels like it’s the most engaging thing to pursue. Because I think that the work has resonated the most with me and I think that music is sort of unique in that way that people want it to belong to someone’s real story. That’s always been really special and important to me.

 

DB: Do you consider your music pop?

JB: I think that it has pop elements, but it’s definitely not pop music. I don’t think that anyone would listen to my music and call it pop. I don’t think that I realized, but it was always this idea that I could write pop music if I wanted to. I worked with some other writers in LA in hopes of trying to write for a larger audience for another artist and I just don’t think I maybe have it in me, I think that I don’t even realize how not pop my music is sometimes. I don’t know, pop music doesn’t always have to be formally equipped. I love Charli XCX and I love her work and I wish I could do that. But I don’t feel as connected to that world as I would like to be.

 

What do you consider the biggest challenge of today’s musical landscape?

JB: That no one buys records anymore, so everyone has to be pushed out on tour. It’s changing so rapidly that no one knows what it’s future [will be] and it’s run by tech companies. One thing that’s very new—and sometimes feels kind of gross—is that you have to do a lot of branded content. Sometimes it feels like, in order to make big elaborate art, you have to partner with a giant brand. That’s just the new landscape. It used to be that record labels would back you. All of the money that you are making is from touring, so you have to kind of get these alternative sources of revenue from branded content. I am not anti branded content. It is tough to navigate. Where do you draw the line between a creative partnership and pimping out your fan base?

 

DB: What are you obsessed with musically?

JB: I am really obsessed with two very different things. I love everything that Bjork does like most people and I am a really big fan of The 1975. I think they are the perfect pop band that has this amazing, maximalist style. They can make songs that are so current and important. They have depth and make people think question and feel, but are also just such bops. I find that inspiring. Pop music is so fascinating because it’s at the peak of most universal fandom. It’s literally called pop because it’s the most popular and accessible kind of music. How can you strive to basically be the best? It’s fascinating. 

Ryan McGinley
Ryan McGinley
Ryan McGinley
Credits: Japanese Breakfast wears dress Balenciaga

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