Maybe You're The Reason: Clash Meets The Japanese House

Maybe You're The Reason: Clash Meets The Japanese House

Amber Bain on heartbreak, creation, and her wonderful debut album...

“The less I have to try, the more honest I feel about what I’m creating. It makes me feel like it’s the truest form of creation,” Amber tells me. Sat watching her German Shepherd Calvin trying to befriend every dog walking past, we comfortably giggle, happily slouched on a bench like two friends having a chat. 

After spending the past few years refining her sound, The Japanese House’s Amber Bain has made a clear artistic vision for what’s to come. With four outstanding EPs, Bain seems to have found her style as The Japanese House without becoming predictable. Tending to conjure subliminal images of intricate indie pop dreamscapes, through the combination of her heavenly vocals with experimental sound effects, and graceful harmonies.

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Steeped in self-reflection and honesty, Amber has finally finished her long-awaited debut album 'Good At Falling', truly revealing a new focus, both musically and lyrically. Surrounded by the sound of birds and the dog softly panting, London Fields became our sweet escape from the flustered buzz London has in the sun.

Sitting with her legs dangling over each other and wearing a long black leather coat, Amber contemplates her writing process. “I never really set out to do anything and to be honest I work song by song. Obviously still thinking about the bigger picture and what the album is going to sound like, but it’s really important to me what the songs individually sound like,” she says.

“I never really sit down and say I want things to sound like this, I just do it all naturally. The best and favourite songs I’ve written, I just haven’t tried at all and it’s been really easy. It’s just a stream of unconscious ideas, like ‘Saw You In A Dream’ I wrote so quickly, and I wasn’t thinking about what I wanted it to be and how people are going to perceive it. I guess if you’re like a songwriter then it shouldn’t be hard to write a song and that’s why I like doing it,” Amber admits. “When I get it right, it’s so easy for me. As soon as I start having to try, that’s when I get bored,” she laughs. 

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Beneath the melancholic sweep of her music, Amber Bain’s lyrics are a powerful, emotive see-saw where she confidently channels her personal insecurities and experiences. This is especially shown on her new album 'Good At Falling' where she seems even more free about sharing emotions.

“I guess it is a lot more personal than most stuff I’ve released in terms of the lyrics being more direct so maybe the response will be different,” she sighs. “I’ve just suddenly become more openly emotional, I mean I’ve always been fucking emotional but I feel honest and open about everything.”

“I feel like something changed and I wanted to talk about everything. As a person I just feel more honest which is reflected in my music,” she shares. “I’m not very good at writing songs if I think about it, it’s still very much a thing I have to wait and take time on. I always have to wait for something to hit me, like sometimes it’s not even me but my subconsciousness will be like right OK we’re going to divulge.”

When looking at her new album, Bain successfully sparks a riveting narrative as she writes a collection of songs that serve as a meditation on romance and escapism. Taking an optimistic approach, it seems to be due to pop influences. “I think it’s just like musically I really like pop-like chords and simplicity. I often try and experiment and be clever, yet if I look at my favourite songs it’s usually like three chords with really strong messages or make you feel something.”

“I love that juxtaposition of really sad lyrics with hope within the music. That’s what I naturally go to, I guess it’s because it’s the most pleasing to my ears.”

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“From the new album I really like ‘Faraway’ because I feel like it’s so different to the sort of thing I’m used to doing. It’s very like stylised and actually I think it’s really pop-like. If it was released in like the 60s/70s it would be a pop song, just because the sentiment of the idea is so simply. I really like ‘Saw You In A Dream’ lyrically. I just think it’s the best song I’ve written, or for a while.”

“I also like the lyrics to ‘Maybe You’re The Reason’ due to the verses being so depressing and then the chorus is ironically pop-like and simple. It sort of discards all of the internal struggle, and turns into an ironic love song. It goes to a sort of situation where I’m talking to myself and saying maybe I’m the reason, because I guess when you’re single you have to learn to be your own reason for existence, which has been a hard thing for me to learn but useful.”

Debating the challenges and difficulties, I watch her puzzle it over as face lightly catches the sun. “Finishing things is the biggest challenge for me!” she emphasises. “I write like half a song then I’m like oh I don’t know what to do with it. I just struggle with committing to anything and finishing something is really hard for me because I’m such a control freak,” she chuckles.

“With lyrics, I struggle to write second verses or the chorus, but going back to a song after a while which I always do is actually really difficult, because you have to somehow find the same mindset you were in before which can sometimes be impossible. But then again sometimes it’s actually really good as you come back with a new and different mind frame. Like ‘Lilo’ was written over such a long period of time, which really narratives a chapter in my life. Lyrics and finishing things are definitely the hardest part for me.”

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Although this was a struggle, hidden away to record such a masterpiece Amber had the treat of working in Bon Ivers cabin. “It was basically like this chic Swedish cabin. It was in the middle of nowhere but I did have phone signal! There was internet, phone signal, a chef, personal trainer, like it was pretty bougie. A bougie cabin in the woods!” we giggle as I look at her in disbelieve. “It was amazing, I loved recording there.”

Drawing from all sorts of influences and being surrounded by such talent, The Japanese House has had a healthy upbringing alongside Dirty Hit mates like The 1975. “It’s true, a lot of my friends inspire me. The 1975 obviously inspire me, especially when being around them. We have very similar tastes and me and Matty have similar ways of thinking. My friends MUNA endlessly inspire me, think they’re really fucking cool. My band mate Cam has his own product called Fake Laugh,” she says.

“When you’re surrounded by really talented people its not competitive but almost spurs you on as it makes you do something cool. I say it’s the same as if your group of friends all started going to the gym and got really health conscious, it makes you want to be the same.”

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Moving on to talk about women in the industry, we both channelled girl power and anger towards recent problems that have recently surfaced. “I’m so bad at remembering artists names but there are so many women at the moment that I’m just like wow you’re so cool!” she nervously laughs.

“But I mean there’s also a lot of crap in music. An album I really love is that Phoebe Bridgers album. I wouldn’t have thought that I would’ve really connected to it that much. I guess the recording and production of it is so like classic and I usually like quite weird shit. There’s something about her voice, not actually her singing voice although that’s incredible, but her writing voice that’s so specific to her. I kind of crave that and I get jealous which spurs me on. That album is fucking incredible by her and also I respect her so much about all this stuff about Ryan Adams.”

As she stops to catch a breathe, I vigorously nod in agreement. “It’s so bad, and it’s such a problem in music and not just with big artists like him. Not that I’ve had personal experiences but my friends have with people in bands where I’m like what do I say, how do you stop it? It’s just fucking incredible that she and other women did that - at long last!”

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Back on the road soon, Amber only seems to be happy about it. Recently being very busy and already completing a UK, American and Europe tour, Amber is keen to not stop. “I really just like touring America. I love touring the UK obviously because I get to see people that I know but America is just still like alien to me in a weird way. It feels like I’m in a film.”

“I really love playing San Francisco show wise, like for some the reason that crowd is always great. Then I love being in L.A. and California. Sounds so cliche but there is a reason so many artists go out there because it’s really nice!” she grins.

Although she has been jet-setting here there and everywhere, somehow Amber has continued to write even more. “I’ve also been doing a lot of writing, and I’m going to do another EP which the songs are already written for, I’ve just got to fucking finish it! I just want to get straight back into it and don’t want to wait this time.”

“The cycle will continue! As long as I can keep doing that, I don’t mind.”

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'Good At Falling' is out now.

Words + Photography: Lauren McDermott
German Shepherd: Model's Own

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