Japanese Breakfast

On Psychopomp, the debut full-length for Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner romanticizes need, knowing precisely how futile it can be, as she howls on the record's final song, to "cling to your sleeves 'til they're like lacerated sails." She drew from the masters of the form—Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn—for "the way they sing with over-exaggerated longing, wail on the inability to go on without someone." Originally, recorded as a straight forward rock record, indebted to country and folk lineages, Michelle co-produced Psychopomp with Ned Eisenberg to give it what she calls "a psychotic pop sound."

"Psychotic" doesn't feel quite like the right word. Psychopomp is by no means unhinged, but it unspools with an otherworldly rush—it's sky-sized dream-pop with substance, moving from the gorgeous euphoric rush of "In Heaven" through the pinwheeling "Rugged Country" and "Everybody Wants to Love You," into the painful longing of "Jane Cum" and "Heft," and the relief of "Triple 7". Imagine Bat for Lashes or Tango in the Night-era Christine McVie working in the New York indie-pop scene populated by the likes of Frankie Cosmos and Porches; it's a far cry from Michelle's previous band, Little Big League, who released two brilliant (but underrated) albums of complex, knotty indie rock.

"With that band, there was more of a desire to be tough," she says. "I really liked the idea of playing in a rock band, and I was playing with three dudes that grew up on punk and hardcore, then you had me and my Pacific Northwest indie-rock background, like Death Cab for Cutie, Built to Spill. I was like, I can charge it up, this is really fun." When it came to Psychopomp, she chose to embrace the natural briskness of her writing; not overthinking things, and embracing the pop music she loved as a kid.

For a while, Japanese Breakfast and Little Big League coexisted. Michelle released her first tape under the name in 2013: June was a writing exercise where she wrote a song a day for the month of June, the kind of process that informs much of her music. "That was such a helpful thing for me," she says. "I needed some kind of structure to learn how to manage art as work. You can't sit around waiting for it to happen — you need to figure out how you're going to work it. For me, it has nothing to do with a long process – it starts really manically. There was another night where I took a bunch of Adderall and I wanted to write a whole album in 24 hours. After that I went to a trailer in the woods with a couple of friends, and we tried to write an album in 48 hours."

That’s how much of Psychopomp started out, with 4 now revamped tracks appearing on previously available Japanese Breakfast releases June, Where is My Great Big Feeling and American Sound, all of which Michelle released to Bandcamp in summer 2014. About that time, Michelle’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, and she had to leave Little Big League behind to care for her in Oregon. The illness was brief and unsparing. Two weeks before she died, Michelle married her husband Peter, "because I didn't want things to end that way," she wrote in a beautiful contemplation of her 2014 for the website Heartbreaking Bravery. "I wanted it to end with flowers and macaroons and my mom watching her only kid get married."

After her mum passed away, Michelle stayed on the west coast to help her dad. The family had always lived out in the woods of Eugene, Oregon—the same place that Sufjan Stevens' Carrie and Lowell is based, "which sounds kind of like the landscape," says Michelle. "It's very quiet and grey and grainy, but also beautiful and majestic." With time on her hands, she wrote a few new songs, and culled from the archives of her writing exercises to find older material to update. She wrote "Rugged Country," about becoming the person who had to love and nurture her father after he had lost the woman who had been in his life for 32 years: "It's a heavy hand where I wear your death as a wedding ring in the rugged country," she sings—two weeks after her wedding, she started wearing her mother's wedding band.

"In Heaven" too was written in the wake of her death, and the ensuing assurances that she was "in a better place now," Michelle recalls. "Oh do you believe in heaven like you believed in me?" she sings, a light beam surrounded by strings and sparkle. Unable to believe in the afterlife, the commonplace consolations of loss frustrated her, and she began investigating other frameworks to deal with her grief. In an essay by Carl Jung, she stumbled across the word 'psychopomp', a mythological guide to the afterlife who forgoes judgement on the life of its charge. The figure echoed the role she felt she had played in her parents' lives: not judging her mum when she decided to end chemotherapy after only two sessions, having seen her own sister endure dozens of treatments that ultimately proved unsuccessful. (That's a photo of her mother on Psychopomp's cover.) "I was there to support her and help her through that time, and in some ways I feel like I was there to help her die," says Michelle. "For Jung, the psychopomp is also a mediator between the conscious and unconscious. When I was having a lot of dreams about my mother, the idea brought me comfort that I could continue to connect with her."

The record stands as a testament to that connection, across the gulf of life and death, and across the more specific cultural bridge between Michelle’s Korean mother and her own biracial identity. "It was a very natural part of my grieving process to find therapy in connecting with that culture," she says. "I grew up in a super white community, and, as I think a lot of half-Asian kids in America do, I hated being Asian and denied that part of my identity for many years. This was the first time I wanted to connect with it, and felt more comfortable with it."

Since Psychopomp was released in America in March by Maryland indie Yellow K, it's become one of the year's most beloved indie-pop records, receiving plaudits from the likes of Pitchfork and NPR. In August, Dead Oceans will release it properly in the Europe, and Michelle will be making her debut UK live appearances to coincide. "It's been really overwhelming the amount of support, and people that have come up to me saying they've lost a parent. Honestly that makes me feel like my work is worthwhile. I was so surprised that there's a lot of other mixed-race girls that come up to me and feel so connected to what I do."

Psychopomp has allowed her to embrace parts of herself that she used to hide. The video for "In Heaven" is set in the giant Koreatown of Flushing, Queens, Michelle's favourite place to shop for groceries. "It gets to be much more a part of my life now," she says of the record and her heritage. "People are interested in this really personal aspect of the record in a way that I didn't anticipate. It makes me think, maybe I can do it more. I feel like it's allowed me to be really comfortable with being who I am."

Japanese Breakfast Releases “Everybody Wants To Love You” Video

How about a slice of Friday night for your Tuesday morning? Today Japanese Breakfast has shared a brand-new music video for “Everybody Wants To Love You.” The third installment co-directed by Michelle Zauner (principal songwriter) and Adam Kolodny, the video follows a bar-hopping Zauner through NYC, multiple games of Pac Man, and to the top of a semi. Styled by Celeste Welch, Zauner is wearing a hanbok, a traditional Korean dress, that her mother wore to her wedding.

It’s a party you don’t wanna miss out on. As is their forthcoming European tour! Japanese Breakfast is currently on the road with Porches in North America and will tour Europe later in the autumn. All dates below.

Japanese Breakfast’s critically acclaimed debut album, Psychopomp, is out now via Yellow K Records in North America and via Dead Oceans in the rest of the world. You can purchase your copy of Psychopomp via Pledge Music, iTunes, Amazon, or at your local record shop!
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Japanese Breakfast’s ‘Psychopomp’ Out Now

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Japanese Breakfast‘s critically acclaimed album, Psychopomp, taps into a timeless and evasive pop tradition – where drawing on the personal turns universal. The record explores life’s inherent juxtapositions – life, death; love, pain; the present, the afterlife – through the lens of principal songwriter, Michelle Zauner. Today we’re elated to share Psychopomp with territories outside of North America (where it was released by Yellow K Records).

You can purchase your copy of Psychopomp via Pledge Music, iTunes, Amazon, or at your local record shop! Get to know Michelle a little better with this fantastic interview over at Noisey. Still on the fence? Don’t take our word for it:


“…deeply reflective, and consistently compelling”
Loud and Quiet

“You’ll want to laugh five seconds after wanting to cry; and then you’ll just want to dance.”
London in Stereo

“A collection of smart, steamy pop with intelligence and bite”
The Line of Best Fit

“Self-aware and unapologetic, the foundations of Psychopomp are built on needs – emotional, physical, spiritual”
Noisey UK

“Michelle Zauner’s ‘Psychopomp’ album is one of the year’s most deeply personal debuts”
DIY

This fall Japanese Breakfast will tour extensively with Porches in North America, returning to the UK in October. Check out all the dates here.

ANNOUNCE // Japanese Breakfast Signs To Dead Oceans | Shares “Jane Cum” Video from Debut Album ‘Psychopomp’ | On Tour Now With Mitski

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“One of the Best Records of the Year” – FACT
“Cosmically huge and acutely personal” – Pitchfork

We’re over the moon to announce that Japanese Breakfast has signed to Dead Oceans. On August 19th, we will be releasing the critically acclaimed Psychopomp outside of North America. Today Japanese Breakfast has shared a video for “Jane Cum” off Psychopomp. Rookie, who premiered the House of Nod produced “Jane Cum” video, are saying it’s “sometimes light as a feather, other times dark as night.”


Watch the video for “Jane Cum” here:
VEVO: http://vevo.ly/HuKdw6
YT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqa-v9A3Ecw

Since Psychopomp was released in America in March by Yellow K, it’s become one of the year’s most beloved indie-pop records, receiving plaudits from the likes of Pitchfork, NPR and FACT.

The record is acutely tactile and raw. It’s this skill that Michelle Zauner learned while playing in a number of bands but has honed for Japanese Breakfast. Perhaps it’s to do with the inherent connectivity that links all pop music together, or perhaps it’s the fact that the album is incredibly personal (it deals with her mother’s death, who is the woman in the album art work) and explores life’s inherent juxtapositions – life, death; love, pain; the present, the afterlife – while realizing that those things aren’t binary at all.

The Jungian term “psychopomp” would become so fundamental to exploring tangled ways of the world and beyond, that it became the title of the album.

Psychopomp: ‘the mediator between the conscious and the unconscious’, ‘a mythological guide to the afterlife who forgoes judgment on the life of its charge.’ The album is such a spiritual exploration that it becomes deeper and perhaps less fatalistic than what we’ve been taught about life and what it means to live.

“It’s been really overwhelming the amount of support, the people that have come up to me saying they’ve lost a parent, or how many mixed race girls that come up to me and feel so connected to what I do. Honestly that makes me feel like my work is worthwhile.”

Japanese Breakfast is currently on tour in the US with Mitski and Jay Som. On August 19th, Dead Oceans will release Psychopomp outside of Northern America which will coincide with Japanese Breakfast’s debut UK performances. Full dates & pre-order links listed below.


Japanese Breakfast Tour Dates:
6/22 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall *
6/23 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle *
6/24 – Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMoca *
6/25 – Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel *
6/26 – Durham, NC @ The Pinhook *
6/28 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade (Purgatory) *
6/29 – Birmingham, AL @ The Syndicate Lounge *
7/1 – Houston, TX @ Walter’s Downtown *
7/2 – Austin, TX @ The Sidewinder *
7/3 – Dallas, TX @ Three Links *
7/5 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Rebel Lounge *
7/6 – Santa Ana, CA @ The Constellation Room *
7/7 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo *
7/8 – Oakland, CA @ Starline Social Club *
7/9 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill *
7/11 – Portland, OR @ Analog Theater *
7/12 – Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt *
7/13 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile *
7/15 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court *
7/16 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge *
7/19 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry *
7/20 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall *
7/22 – Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern *
7/23 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz *
7/24 – Burlington, VT @ Monkey House
7/25 – Portland, ME @ SPACE Gallery *
7/26 – Providence, RI @ AS220
7/27 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg *
8/04 – London, UK @ Rough Trade (In-store)
8/06 – London, UK @ Visions Festival
8/07 – Brighton, UK @ The Green Door Store
8/08 – Kingston, UK @ Banquet Records In-store
* w/ Mitski and Jay Som

 


Pre-order:
ITunes – smarturl.it/japanesebreak_it
Amazon – smarturl.it/japanesebreak_amz
Indies – smarturl.it/japanesebreak_ind
Pledge Music – http://smarturl.it/jbrekkie

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tour dates

04/07/17

New London, CT - Connecticut College

04/08/17

Storrs, CT - UConn Student Union - Spring Fling

04/19/17

Rochester, NY - The Bug Jar

04/20/17

Toronto, ON - The Silver Dollar - CMW

04/21/17

Toronto, ON - The Silver Dollar - CMW

04/22/17

Toronto, ON - The Silver Dollar - CMW

04/23/17

Buffalo, NY - The Mohawk Place
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video

Everybody Wants To Love You
by Japanese Breakfast
Jane Cum
by Japanese Breakfast