The Japanese House

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The Japanese House
Amber Bain of The Japanese House.jpg
Bain performing in Los Angeles in December 2016
Background information
Birth nameAmber Mary Bain
Born (1995-07-13) 13 July 1995 (age 24)
OriginBuckinghamshire, England
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • synthesizer
  • sampler
  • keyboard
  • guitar
  • bass
  • drums
Years active2012-present
LabelsDirty Hit
Associated acts
Websitethejapanesehouse.co.uk

The Japanese House is an English indie pop act from Buckinghamshire consisting of solo artist Amber Bain (born July 13, 1995). Her style, which is rooted in indie pop and synth-pop, incorporates many elements from genres such as dream pop, folktronica, and electropop. Bain contributes vocals and plays guitar, synthesizer and keyboard for her music. Bain's androgynous vocals, heavy use of production, and elusive media presence led to early fan speculation that The Japanese House was a solo project of Matt Healy of The 1975.

Bain's first single, "Still" was a critical success and premiered on BBC Radio 1 on March 2, 2015, presented by Zane Lowe. Bain released four EPs through Dirty Hit, beginning with Pools to Bathe In (2015) and the follow up EP Clean which was released later that same year. Bain toured with labelmates The 1975 and Wolf Alice before headlining tours of her own. Swim Against the Tide (2016), and Saw You in a Dream (2017) were also critical successes. Bain co-produced her first full-length LP Good at Falling (2019) with George Daniel and American record producer BJ Burton.

Early life[edit]

Bain is from Buckinghamshire, England and was first taught music at the age of eleven by her father, who was also a musician.[1][2] She continued practicing and recording music throughout her childhood. As a teenager Bain decided to pursue a career in music rather than going to university, a decision which her father supported as he felt she had "a clear opportunity".[3]

Career[edit]

2012 - 2015: Early career, Pools to Bathe In and Clean[edit]

In 2012 Bain was introduced to singer Matt Healy of The 1975 by Healy's girlfriend.[4] Bain began working closely with The 1975,[5] and signed to their label Dirty Hit. Bain settled on the stagename The Japanese House because she did not feel ready to reveal her name or gender.[6] As a result, very little was known about The Japanese House when her debut single "Still" was premiered on BBC Radio 1 with Zane Lowe on March 2, 2015.[7] Bain's androgynous voice and avoidance of press photography fueled speculation about her gender and identity.[8] In 2015, there was speculation that the singer behind The Japanese House was a man, and users on Instagram even speculated that it was a side project of Matt Healy of The 1975.[9] Bain went on her first tour as an opening act for The 1975 in 2015.[10]

Bain subsequently released three more singles. "Pools to Bathe In" which was released on March 25, 2015 and "Teeth", released on April 8, 2015. The Ep's third single, "Sister" was released on April 21, 2015.[11] Bain's first EP Pools to Bathe In, a compilation of her four previous singles, was released on April 27, 2015 to favourable reviews.[12][13]

The titular single from the EP Clean was released on September 7, 2015 and premiered on BBC Radio 1 that same day.[14] The EP's second single, "Cool Blue" was released September 15, followed by "Letter by the Water" on October 27, 2015.[15] The final single, "Sugar Pill" was released on November 3, 2015.[16]The full EP Clean was released on November 6, 2015, and received positive reviews from critics.[17]

Bain performing at Echo Park, Los Angeles on December 2, 2016

2016 - 2017: Swim Against the Tide and Saw You in a Dream[edit]

On September 26, 2016 Bain released "Face Like Thunder", the first single from her upcoming EP Swim Against the Tide.[18] Bain stated that the EP's title was inspired by the feeling of falling in love and losing someone, saying "[it] feels like you’re swimming against the tide. In a sense it’s a struggle".[19] The track received favourable reviews for its emotional subject matter and melodic beat.[20] Bain released Swim Against the Tide on November 11, 2016.[21] She supported The 1975 on their 2016 North American tour to promote their sophomore album, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It.[22] The Japanese House headlined a North American tour beginning on February 21, 2017 and ending on March 28.[23]

On April 26, 2017 Bain released the single "Saw You in a Dream".[24] The single was noted for utilizing fewer layered tracks, and having a starker, less production heavy sound than many of Bain's previous songs.[25] The full EP Saw You in a Dream was originally scheduled for release on June 16, 2017 but was released on June 30.[26] The EP was praised for showcasing the evolution of Bain's dreamy style, with strong vocals and a more reserved use of production effects.[27]

Bain performing at The Wiltern on October 12, 2019.

2018 - present: Good at Falling and Something Has to Change[edit]

Bain released the single "Lilo" on September 27, 2018.[28] After the release of "Lilo", The Japanese House announced a North American tour in December, 2019.[29] On November 12, 2018 Billboard announced that The Japanese House's debut album Good at Falling was to be released on 1 March 2019.[30] The same day, Bain released "Follow My Girl", as the second single from Good at Falling after "Lilo".[30] Good at Falling was released on March 1, 2019 to positive reviews, with Megan Buerger of Pitchfork calling it "confident and intoxicating".[31] Bain co-produced the album with George Daniel (of The 1975) and BJ Burton[32]. She announced her second Good at Falling tour in the US for October and November 2019.[33]

Bain released the live EP The LA Sessions on August 8, 2019 which featured reimagined tracks from Good at Falling, recorded live in Los Angeles.[34] On September 27, 2019, Bain released a single titled "Something Has to Change", and announced an upcoming extended play of the same name.[35] The EP was announced to be released in November 2019[36], but was delayed into early 2020.[37] In late November 2019, she released a single titled "Chewing Cotton Wool."[38]

Anonymity and name origin[edit]

The name The Japanese House was inspired by a property in Cornwall, England in which Bain and her family stayed in her childhood. The property had been previously owned by Kate Winslet, with furnishings reminiscent of traditional Japanese tea houses, which inspired the name. During her week-long stay in the cottage, Bain posed as a boy, calling herself Danny. Her experiences there heavily influenced the use of an anonymous label for her music as opposed to the use of her own name.[39] Bain has denied that she deliberately cultivated a stage persona that was "in any way anonymous or mysterious" and commented that she felt the lack of photos of her in her early career caused a false perception of anonymity.[40]

Musical style and influences[edit]

Bain at The Wiltern on October 12, 2019

Bain's musical style has been compared to dream pop, electropop,[13] synth-pop, indie pop,[41] and alt pop.[42] Her androgynous voice has been especially noted by critics, and favorably compared to Victoria Legrand and Imogen Heap.[43] Bain is known for her atmospheric tracks and moody lyrical themes.[44] Max Migowksi, writing for Indie Mag, summarized Bain's musical style as "[an] androgynous voice embedded in ethereal, post-indie pop synths with hints at gentle acoustic guitar".[45]

A distinctive feature of Bain's discography is her use of layered harmonies, often three tracks or more, which simulates the effect of a vocoder.[46] Her use of overlapping harmonies to create "a kind of thick, organic Auto-tune [sic]" has been praised for lending depth to her tracks.[47]

Andy Meek of Billboard described Bain's discography as a combination of experimental electronica and "catchy pop hooks backed by drums and chugging guitars".[48] She has been compared to pop acts with strong melodic styles such as The xx, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys.[49] Bain has cited musicians like Brian Wilson, Blondie, Bon Iver, and Franki Valli & the Four Seasons as influences on her work.[50][51] In a 2019 interview, she described herself as "a modern day, more depressing ABBA".[52]

Many of Bain's songs explore themes such as love, the nuances of lesbian relationships, and Bain's own personal emotional turmoil and growth.[4][3] Her later releases have been favorably compared to her first two EPs, with critics noting the more mature lyrics and refined composition of Swim Against the Tide and Good at Falling. Good at Falling was praised by its critics for its dark, heartfelt lyrics and light, pop melodies.[53]

Personal life[edit]

Bain currently resides in Camden Town,[1] and has a German Shepherd named Calvin. Bain was in a four-year relationship with singer-songwriter Marika Hackman until 2018.[54] Hackman later appeared in the music video for "Lilo".[55] In a 2019 interview, Bain stated that she was in a three-way polyamorous relationship.[52] Bain has stated that she has struggled with alcohol abuse, and became sober after the release of Good at Falling. The song "Maybe You're the Reason" from Good at Falling deals with Bain's past struggles with an eating disorder, and this subject is also depicted in the music video for "Lilo".[56]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions
UK
[57]
Good at Falling 64

Extended plays[edit]

Title Details Notes
Pools to Bathe In
  • Released: 27 April 2015
  • Label: Dirty Hit
  • Formats: 12",[62] digital download[63]
Clean
  • Released: 6 November 2015
  • Label: Dirty Hit
  • Formats: 12",[64] digital download[65]
Swim Against the Tide[66]
  • Released: 11 November 2016
  • Label: Dirty Hit
  • Formats: 12",[67] digital download
Saw You in a Dream[68]
  • Released: 30 June 2017
  • Label: Dirty Hit
  • Formats: 12",[69] digital download
Spotify Singles[70]
  • Released: 26 July 2017
  • Label: Dirty Hit
  • Format: Streaming
The LA Sessions[71]
  • Released: 8 August 2019
  • Label: Dirty Hit
  • Format: Digital download
Something Has to Change[37]
  • Scheduled: Early 2020
  • Label: Dirty Hit
  • Formats: TBA

Singles[edit]

Title Year Album
"Still"[72] 2015 Pools to Bathe In
"Pools to Bathe In"[73]
"Teeth"[74]
"Sister"[75]
"Clean"[76] Clean
"Cool Blue"[77]
"Letter by the Water"[78]
"Sugar Pill"[79]
"Face Like Thunder"[80] 2016 Swim Against the Tide
"Swim Against the Tide"[81]
"Good Side In"[82]
"Saw You in a Dream"[83] 2017 Saw You in a Dream
"Somebody You Found"[84]
"3/3"[85]
"Lilo"[86] 2018 Good at Falling
"Follow My Girl"[87]
"Maybe You're the Reason"[88] 2019
"We Talk All the Time"[89]
"Something Has to Change"[90] Something Has to Change[37]

Music videos[edit]

Title Year Director Ref.
"Clean" 2015 Juliet Bryant [91]
"Cool Blue" [92]
"Letter by the Water" [93]
"Sugar Pill" [94]
"Face Like Thunder" 2016 Gareth Phillips [95]
"Saw You in a Dream" 2017 Lucy Tcherniak [96]
"Lilo" 2018 David East [97][98]
"Maybe You're the Reason" 2019 Harvey Pearson [99]
"Something Has to Change" Nadira Amrani [37]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]