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Japanese Breakfast: A good serving of indie music for Jakarta

Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, May 8, 2019  /  06:01 pm
Japanese Breakfast: A good serving of indie music for Jakarta

Sing along: Michelle Zauner aka Japanese Breakfast performs with Giraffage at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. The musician will play a gig in Jakarta on Monday. (Agence France-Presse/Kyle Grillot)

Live events have given music collective Noisewhore a reputation in the local music scene. Their next big show will certainly make another major wave.

Korean-American musician Michelle Zauner, better known as Japanese Breakfast, will play a gig at Rossi Musik Fatmawati in South Jakarta on Monday.

A popular name in the global indie rock scene, the music of Japanese Breakfast is filled with impactful emotional landscapes projected through dreamy indie pop that is catchy without sacrificing depth.

Japanese Breakfast – which comprises Zauner and her live band – has released two albums so far: Psychopomp in 2016 and Soft Sounds from Another Planet, released the following year on the influential independent label Dead Oceans.

Both records have been well received by fans and critics alike, most of whom praise Zauner's honest lyricism.

Japanese Breakfast's stop-off in Indonesia will be part of an Asian tour that also includes shows in the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

Aside from bringing more challenging artists to the country, the people behind Noisewhore have also found pride in promoting and introducing female-led musical projects to the Indonesian scene.

Their previous major show was a concert of Japanese-American musician Mitski, for which the collective specifically sought out to work with female artists for the concert poster and promotional materials (they worked with the artist Phantasien, known for her striking visual pieces).

Argia Adhidhanendra, one of the collective's co-founders, says “it’s great to see this wave of female-led acts taking off so successfully”. It's something he feels positive about, but also weary.

“I don’t expect this to tangibly change the scene’s perspectives – it really is a slippery slope for me personally. On the one hand, these female-led acts are so great and people can see that for themselves, but on the other hand – which I can tell by experience – a lot of our people love some female-led acts just because of their physical features,” he says with a sigh.

“I can recount countless times I’ve seen this on my own shows alone. So yeah, I don’t believe what I’m doing can tangibly change anything, but at least I’m doing my bit and showing the other guys these acts are good and continue curating a good set of acts for the rest of the year.” 

Noisewhore also finds satisfaction in bringing in musicians they are a fans of themselves. Instead of thinking of their events as a business, Argia said they've survived so far, though always by the neck of it, by being true to themselves and their values.

To make sure things remain as pure as they can be, they work together with fellow creative collectives Studiorama and Pesona for the Japanese Breakfast concert.

“This one is pretty different. It’s a bit more complex than our other shows. To be honest, we've got a lot of other shows coming this year. More than 10 in the works [...] Point is, we are at a point where we cannot be reckless. We want to do a lot of shows – local shows, small shows, any kind of show basically,” Argia explains, noting that staging the show in Ramadan would be extra challenging.

AFP/Suzanne Cordeiro 
Honest lyricism: Korean-American musician Michelle Zauner of the Japanese Breakfast will give a concert in Jakarta on Monday.AFP/Suzanne Cordeiro Honest lyricism: Korean-American musician Michelle Zauner of the Japanese Breakfast will give a concert in Jakarta on Monday. (Agence France-Presse/Suzanne Cordeiro )

“I’m sure Michelle has a lot of fans here and people are eager to see her, even though I feel like there have been so many shows since 2018 – including our own shows – that I wonder sometimes whether we’ll reach the much-dreaded tiring point for the crowd. When that happens, it’ll be very interesting, I must say – though also challenging, of course.”

The gauge of success is well-established, with Noisewhore having declared their own sense of satisfaction the key criterion.

Soft Sounds from Another Planet is such a personal record and it blew up pretty fast. I caught her in late 2017, and although we got a lot of artists that blew up during that time, Michelle stood out, and I’ve been listening to that album ever since.”

The opening act of the concert will be Jakarta band Jirapah, which will also promote its newly released single on Kolibri Records. Argia said he was “pumped” to watch the band as he had been a fan since junior high school.

There will be no winding down after the Japanese Breakfast show, as Noisewhore has a lot more in store.

“We got some downtime after Mitski, but there will be no such thing after this [concert]. We have a lot of shows coming up, almost one a month. So this should be exciting. For you all, the crowd, I think you should expect our personal best, the output of three entities that have been around this game of doing shows for quite some time, and a fun one at that! We’ll be Ramadan friendly, and work-day friendly at the same time.” (ste)