Artist Spotlight: Japanese Breakfast Gives Indie Pop a New Name

Michelle Zauner and her band, Japanese Breakfast, have recently been in the spotlight as the music world returns to a more normal life. Japanese Breakfast was nominated for two Grammys this year. One was a new artist nomination, the other a best album nomination for his album, Jubilee.

The band are also set to play Bonnaroo and Coachella, as well as speak at South by Southwest this summer as music festivals return. It’s huge for the group. As a small band, they were thrust into the limelight, giving the band a large following and a listener base capable of exploring new sounds. This band has grown tremendously as the lead singer of the band, Zauner, has also grown as an artist.

Zauner was born in Seoul, South Korea, which she says helped her get into the music industry. Her mother was adamantly against her entering the music business, which only made her more attached to music as she could never escape the passion that came with it. After her mother’s death, she turned to music as an outlet for her grief and began to become more in touch with the craft. She often used music as a way to find out about the world. This led her to start her musical career and this curiosity is reflected in her music, especially in the beginning.

Zauner was recently on campus for the Ohio University Music Industry Summit, alongside artists Saba, Caamp and Noelle Scaggs. She read an excerpt from her latest book, a memoir, followed by a Q&A. If you haven’t had a chance to see her, or if you have and are curious about the type of music she makes, look no further.

Early in their career, Japanese Breakfast started out with a grungy new-wave punk sound that only reflected early projects. Japanese Breakfast’s debut album is the most representative of this, as it’s the most guitar-heavy, which isn’t saying much as the band uses very alternative sounds. That fact is that it’s something he hasn’t strayed from throughout their growth as a band. Japanese Breakfast uses a lot of alternative sounds that go along with their independent aesthetic.

In many ways, the band is the epitome of indie pop-rock. They have the sound that accompanies this track, usually led by an impressive vocal performance from Zauner. Often Zauner’s vocals are highlighted and the other components of the song are left in the background. It might be intentional, but it’s probably because Zauner has such an impressive and intriguing vocal style and stands out in every song.

In the duo’s latest release, the two completely changed their sound to a more revised and mature sound than previously displayed in other albums. The songs sound a lot more together in Jubilee through the use of more compatible sounds and mastering songs for easier listening. This is similar to their previous projects in that the sounds are still very abstract. Additionally, Zauner’s vocals remain at the forefront of every song, but sound more intentional in Jubilee.

Japanese Breakfast have successfully evolved from a shoegaze and indie-pop band to a more unique and polished band. They took the things that made them an intriguing band, like the new wave sounds and melodies they used in previous projects and kind of grew them.

Zauner and his band are set to build on their recent success and expand even further with performances at some major music festivals this summer, which are sure to attract a bigger listener base. This group can only rise from here and they are finally starting to reach the upper echelons of their musical career. Seeing this band, especially Zauner, reach their full potential is redeeming because they come from such small roots, starting out as a small indie-pop band. It can make any fan proud to see the band enter the independent scene and become one of the biggest names.


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