The London-based songwriter, Amber Bain, is more popularly known as The Japanese House. She defies the gender stereotypes present with many female artists by taking away her identity from the music; Bain said, “By taking away a person’s identity, all you have to focus on is the music, which is kind of cool.” If you’re wondering about the name, Bain at age eight was on a holiday when she spent a week pretending to be a boy. Her portrayal was so convincing that a girl next door began to write her love letters. Bain admitted, “At that age I just genuinely felt really boyish, and didn’t really conform to any of those classic little girl stereotypes.” The cottage she was staying in over the holiday was owned by actress Kate Winslet and was so conveniently named, The Japanese House. The memories and experiences cultivated during this time influenced her creative, musical genius in a profound way.
2016 was the year of The Japanese House. Originally overcome by stage fright, Bain changed this mindset by paving her own path with the EP, Swim Against The Tide. She embraced herself and strutted a newfound sense of vulnerability, which increased faith in her own voice and style; Bain had quite literally “swam against the tide” and we love her and her craft for that reason. Her new style is overflowing with confidence as you hear with the striking of steel pans and other various percussive effects.
The first time you hear her music you might question whether it’s male or female vocals, and that’s Bain’s goal. “I like that my voice is androgynous,” she states. She continues on to explain how she became so proficient at hitting low tones, “I didn’t want my mum to hear me belting out high notes from my bedroom, so I sung quietly. I had no idea I sounded like a boy until Mum told me.” Bain and her production partner, George Daniel (yes, the drummer from The 1975), escalate the music to the next echelon through pioneering every track you hear. Additionally, Matt Healy (yes, the singer from The 1975) worked alongside Bain in her 2015 EP, Pools To Bathe In.
The Japanese House is best described as a mix between lush, dream pop and brooding electronica; the band is like the brainchild of The xx and LANY. The whirring, melodic synths are contrasted with bass wind-downs and a blend of both high and low vocal ranges. And if you’d like to hear prime examples of Bain’s lyrical genius, listen to her two hits, “Still” and “Face Like Thunder”. These two tracks are something you would expect to hear in the soundtrack from the indie movie, Perks Of Being A Wallflower. The music is perfectly suited for a mellow, overcast, weekend night.
Having just completed shows at SXSW, The Japanese House’s next big U.S. showcase is at Lollapalooza in early August. For fans of The 1975, Oh Wonder, and The Neighbourhood, check out The Japanese House.