Michelle Zauner, who formed Japanese Breakfast in 2015, and Melina Duarte, who began recording as Jay Som in 2012, performed at the Glass House in Pomona on Saturday, the last show of their short-lived 2018 tour together. Since the two headliners toured along with Mitski in 2016, they have garnered a passionate, dedicated group of fans who seem to trek out to their shows, again and again, becoming a group that seems as close-knit of friends as Zauner and Duarte appear to be.
Mentioning the names Japanese Breakfast or Jay Som to a general group of people won’t garner much recognition, yet it was obvious that they have their own cult fellowship that seems willing to follow them out to each and every one of their shows. The doors only opened at 8 PM, yet when I arrived at 7:30, there was already a line of a hundred people waiting – inside, a pair of girls joked loudly that they wished they could have been closer to the stage because it was “the one time two Asian American women are the headliners at a show.”
What Zauner, who is half-Korean, and Duarte, who is Filipino-American, have in common, along with their other frequent tour mates and friends, Mitski, and Sasami Ashworth (previously of Cherry Glazerr), is that their unintended yet obvious representation of Asian women in the indie music scene, which until recently was majorly dominated by white men, attracts a certain crowd. Along with myself, the friends I attended the show with, and others I recognized from attending other Japanese Breakfast and Jay Som performances in LA, I noticed that the crowd was filled with young, excited, Asian American kids who saw themselves represented on stage and found within the music some kind of profound relatability.
After Meg Duffy of Hand Habits opened the show with a moving set, Jay Som performed as a five-piece band, who displayed a rare chemistry and closeness as a group by improvising surreal, flawless instrumental transitions between each song. Not a moment passed where Duarte or her bandmates had to pause and consider what would come next – when the group’s 2017 single “The Bus Song” began, whose music video was directed by the other headliner, Michelle Zauner, the crowd became extremely overwhelmed, exclaiming the signature line, without planning or hesitation, “BUT I LIKE THE BUS” at the top of their lungs, to which Duarte just muttered, “Oh my god…”
Japanese Breakfast closed out the show in her iconic, all-white outfit and light up sneakers, an ensemble she has worn at each of her performances in the past year, almost as if “JBrekkie” is an alter ego of Zauner in which she vocalizes in autotune and sings songs about “falling in love with a robot” (her closer, “Machinist”). She faces the crowd, holds out her hand to the audience, and jumps excitedly to each one of her self-proclaimed bangers – yet she also expressed that she felt her music, lyrically, is filled with her own complex emotion, saying she felt “it’s so special when a large group of people come together and feel something together”. This really came to light during a song she wrote while grieving for her late mother, “Till Death”, when the audience stayed silent in respect for her vulnerability and authenticity in her performance.
Japanese Breakfast herself struck up a conversation with the security guard at the front of the stage mid-performance, introducing him as Christian. He advised her against her attempt to crowd surf during the final song, so instead, she wailed her final notes in her dreamy, high pitched voice as she fell into his arms, off the stage and alongside the crowd who screamed and cheered her on. The adrenaline, spontaneity, and passion for that performance, at that moment, was found somewhere within everyone in the room. We were in complete support of each other – which is why I’ll continue to follow Jay Som and Japanese Breakfast as musicians and role models wholeheartedly, along with, I presume, every other hyped up Asian kid in the crowd that night.
London-based electro pop group Kero Kero Bonito, characterized by vocalist Sarah Midori Perry and backed by producers Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, created a deviation from their previous material with the release of their EP, TOTEP, on February 20th.
KKB’s 2014 mixtape Intro Bonito and 2016 album Bonito Generation featured upbeat synths and many verses of Perry singing about nonsensical topics in Japanese; the group’s image was, up until now, one of bright, bubblegum bit pop that lacked much sincere meaning other than carelessness and fun music to dance to.
Taking a darker and completely separate direction, the new EP’s central track “Only Acting” begins with a predictable sound, yet shockingly degenerates into distorted noise rock during its final chorus and ends in complete static. “Only Acting”, which was released alongside an analog camcorder-inspired and similarly distorted music video, proves to be TOTEP’s most interesting track that abruptly displays KKB’s intent to explore a new image and sound, instigating a change in their signature discography.
The other three tracks each take on their own equally deviated personas; the opening track, “One True Path”, lays flat for its entirety and struggles to offer any climactic or ear-catching elements. “Cinema” exudes bedroom-poppy notes, a melancholy tale with more insignia of KKB’s sonic redesign, as Perry sings, “While the adverts might’ve changed / The popcorn tastes the same”. Finally, “You Know How It Is” is garage rock-esque, completely transitioning Kero Kero Bonito from a synth-pop group once only accompanied by turntables, to one that may now perform alongside a band.
Kero Kero Bonito’s loyal fanbase may have trouble adjusting to the group’s abandonment of its own signature elements that made it recognizable; not a single line from TOTEP, for example, is sung in Japanese. Yet the release proves KKB’s attempt to try their hand at not just one new sound but many. The group’s ability to rebrand itself yet maintain its core elements of creating music that lies out of the box, alongside its visually appealing image, seems intriguing, yet its full trajectory of success lies in the dark until a full album is released.
Hi everyone!!!! Back back back with another episode, I'm joined by my friend Min who talked about her experiences going to school abroad and living in three different countries. We also listened to some fun tunes, find the playlist and listen to the podcast! >>>>
A playlist of love songs by my favorite Asian artists that includes representations of the different kinds of love we have: for ourselves, for our homes, for our friends, and the kinds of love we experience: selfish, unhealthy, overwhelming, and long lasting. Love is one of the things everyone knows in some form, which is why I think it's important to listen to the interpretations of it through music as told by people with diverse backgrounds and identities.
My favorite way to recall lightheartedly traumatic, ultimately insignificant moments in the past year of this frightening existence is through thinking back to what I spent my time listening to. New releases this year gave me ways to selfishly channel my tumultuous emotions and I could not be more grateful, because I don’t think I’d remember an entire year of time month-to-month if I didn't have certain tracks on repeat for the past few seasons of my life. But speaking from a more general perspective, it seems as if 2017 was the follow up year. Maybe music has been around since before my birth or whatever, but I don’t think this generation of indie music really solidified into the minds of millennial listeners until last year. This year, then, was the follow up to that. The artists we came to love established themselves as more high profile musicians, coming to be known larger circles, being featured in widely followed publications, receiving critical acclaim, and soon opening for mainstream, stadium selling acts. I think, in time, they might be filling those stadiums themselves. So my favorite records of the year are those that have suggested the birth of a new type of youth-oriented, widely appealing music that is ultimately still personal, low-fidelity, and bedroom-esque, as we like it.
Sushi Sound is now a podcast. After a while of making my monthly playlists I decided to compile them into podcasts AND have shorter playlists to go along with them.
This ep is just me talkin about my fave artists. Future eps will hopefully feature guests & diff genres.
Please listen!!!!! Thank you <333