Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast: Love, Loss and Music

By Ezlyh Gutierrez
Music Reviewer

Writer, artist and musician; Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner began her creative journey in the city of Eugene, Oregon after visiting a café at fifteen years old and watching a couple of older kids play a solo performance

“I knew, like, three guitar chords,” Zauner said. “[It was] back when anti-folk was really popular. I went home and I was like, ‘I can do this’ and wrote one of those talky-singy songs about my best friend, Nicole.”

Photo by Ezlyh Gutierrez.
Photo by Ezlyh Gutierrez.

As an artist who studied creative writing throughout college and is inspired by short-fictions, Zauner writes charming and alluring pieces of expression throughout her new record, Psychopomp, that consists of compelling and absorbing messages when looked under a magnifying glass.

Zauner writes for herself. She writes about things she finds interesting and wants to explore, to navigate her own emotions and try to understand them and how they affect her perception as she tries to make since of the world. Our conversation took place in the back patio of Austin’s very own Barracuda. On that sunny day with a light breeze, filled with the faint scent of food trucks and city dwelling, we spoke about her journey as an artist and the support system that has always been there since the beginning.

“My husband is the biggest support system for me,” Zauner said. “I kind of gave up on myself in a lot of ways after my mom past away, the record is largely about that experience. I had decided to move to New York and pursue a career in, like, advertising, business or sales. Anything that wasn’t creative. I had felt like I had tried to pursue music enough, and it never went anywhere… I struggled with how uncreative the job was and my husband was a huge support system who always believe that [music] was what I was suppose to be doing… And then when the record did really well, it was like of like, ‘oh, you’re this person that believed in me all along.'”

Growing up as an only child on five acres of property in the beautiful and majestic woods of the pacific northwest, Zauner had a lonely upbringing and childhood that she believes to be the reason for her creativity.

“I got use to having to entertain myself a lot,” Zauner said.

Today, Zauner is touring the country as she enjoys sci-fi shows and movies, along with playing farming games and Zelda on her DS. Fun loving and full of passion for her music, Zauner has also experience the intangible feeling of losing a loved one to cancer. Wanting to make something productive and creative out of any painful experience, Zauner made the intuitive decision to memorialize her mother in her art. I asked about the recording heard in the song “Psychopomp”.

Photo by Ezlyh Gutierrez.
Photo by Ezlyh Gutierrez.

“I had this recording of a phone conversation that we had right before we were going over to [Korea]. I was breaking down and she was kind of consoling me. I knew that I wanted to have a voice recording of her on there. That’s her on the cover, that’s her voice and a lot of the songs are about her… She is telling me in Korean, “It’s okay.'”

Outside of Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner likes to travel, eat good food, cook, play chess and is currently taking lessons from a Skype tutor on how to speak Korean. Understanding the language and knowing how to read and write it, Zauner opted to take the lessons instead of therapy, feeling that it was more fulfilling for her. The Psychopomp record is an enticing, unique and emotional piece of work that will have you sawing to the beat as Zauner’s lyrics leave you bewildered and breathless.

Holly Henrichsen

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