If someone was to tell you they wrote an album centreing around an ex-partner, you’d probably tell them to seek therapy. Amber Bain leaned into it instead.
This sentiment was the driving force behind Good at Falling, the debut album released by The Japanese House, Bain’s solo project. While there are certainly strings tying many of the 13 tracks together, she says it’s by no means a concept album, but nor is it melodrama. It’s just a snapshot of the mindset she was immersed in.
“For me, I tried as hard as I [could] to not think about a reaction or perception because I don’t think that makes good music,” says Bain. “Maybe considering the perception of what you’re creating doesn’t make you create the most honest thing.”
Bain writes what she knows and the titles are simple and straight to the point: ‘Everybody Hates Me’, ‘You Seemed So Happy’, you get the idea. Everyone has songs they feel they can imprint themselves upon and find themselves within, but maybe this album isn’t one. Bain’s embedded an extraordinarily personal quality in her debut, to the degree that her ex-girlfriend is named in a song title.
That being said, it’s one thing to make a statement through your song names, but it could just be because naming songs isn’t your strong suit. Bain confesses it’s the latter. While ‘Marika Is Sleeping’ is a direct reference to her ex-girlfriend, it also happened to be the first thing that came to mind when she experienced a rush of inspiration and had to save the project on the laptop. Marika Hackman was literally in bed beside her, fast asleep with an illness. Nevertheless, it summed up the sentiment nicely.
“I wanted to create something that’s purest in its form. The reason she’s in the title is because I’m terrible at song titles.”
Hackman also features in the music video of The Japanese House’s hit single ‘Lilo’. Again, not something you’d ask an ex-partner to do alongside you. It was in for a penny, in for a pound. Bare all to the world, or don’t even bother at all.
“Well I’ve already been this honest, and admitting stuff to yourself is way harder than telling people about it,” Bain says.
The music clip to ‘Lilo’ is fairly explicit in its themes, with Bain and Hackman both in the shower together during one scene. With everything else that’s going on in the album, one might miss the fact it’s an album centered around queer love. Bain certainly did.
“To be honest I thought about it a lot more after having written those songs,” she says. “When I’m writing those songs, I’m too busy thinking about a relationship ending … or whatever is going on.
“With the ‘Lilo’ video, I was so busy thinking ‘oh my god people are going to see my ex in the video’ to even think about the fact she’s a girl.”
With Good at Falling, each song is deliberately and noticeably different, and Bain has taken a ‘been there, done that’ approach to songwriting. Her standout 2015 single ‘Still’ is slow and pulsing, whereas ‘Everybody Hates Me’ is, at times, an unforgiving wall of electronic noise.
“I wouldn’t see the point of creating the same thing twice. It’s evolution in a way but it’s also because I just want to write songs that sound different to one another,” Bain says.
Maybe that’s all you need. It’s clear for The Japanese House’s debut album, Bain has taken a string of personal whims and spun them into a patchwork of individual tracks that prove simplicity is not inversely proportional to quality. When you hear that cliche often regurgitated by musicians about how their songwriting comes from the heart, it can be hard to swallow at times. With The Japanese House, her hyper-personal touch proves there’s nothing it could be except that.
The Japanese House’s debut album Good at Falling is out now via Dirty Hit.