Amber Bain is the woman behind The Japanese House. (Courtesy Danny North)

Amber Bain is the woman behind The Japanese House. (Courtesy Danny North)

Despite Japanese House’s melancholy sound, Amber Bain is ‘really very happy’

The Japanese House’s EP “Swim Against the Tide,” with its synthesizer textures and feathery vocals, sounds mysterious. The act is actually is the brainchild of 20-year-old Brit Amber Bain, who imagined she one day would be a politician, until songwriting consumed her. She took the exotic moniker from a childhood vacation spot her family stayed in that was owned by Kate Winslet, dubbed The Japanese House, and used the name to make music anonymously as she moved from acoustic guitar into keyboards.

Didn’t you go through an androgynous period as a kid, where you dressed like a boy?

Yes. But I don’t think I ever wanted to be a boy. I just wanted to wear jeans and a backwards cap. But then you get told, “Oh, that’s what boys like — girls can’t wear any of that.” And then you find yourself thinking, “Oh. Well maybe I want to be a boy, then!” But ever since the age of 3 and I first came back from nursery school, I’ve always dressed the way that I wanted to dress, and I really enjoyed it.

How did you decide to get into music?

Well, music was always a primary element of the picture. I wrote my first song, “My Little Secret,” at 10 or 11, and I always liked writing songs. But it was just that I hadn’t really considered it as a career. The turning point was getting a MacBook and utilizing its GarageBand program. That was the beginning of the sound that I have now. Then I decided to not go to university and spend all my time making music, instead. And oddly enough, my parents were actually kind of pleased.

And then you started experimenting with recording your voice, right?

Yeah. And I now layer all my vocals, sometimes many times over, and I’m absolutely self taught. When I was younger and going on family trips, my dad used to make us all harmonize in the car, singing along to The Beach Boys or The Beatles, or even The Jam sometimes. So that was our car music. And I still love those Beach Boys harmonies. My dad and I just saw Brian Wilson the other night, playing the “Pet Sounds” album. He was amazing.

Your song “Face Like Thunder” doesn’t sound like a compliment. How’s the love life?

That’s a weird song. I’m a very moody girlfriend, very needy, but that’s not about my current relationship. And actually, I’ve been in a relationship for nearly two years, which is a really long time for me, since I’m only 20. But — despite how my songs might sound — I’m actually really very happy.

IF YOU GO
The Japanese House
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Dec. 3
Tickets: $14 (sold out, limited tickets at door)
Contact: (415) 863-2011, www.ticketfly.com
Amber BainFace Like ThunderJapanese HousePop MusicSwim Against the Tide

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A sign about proposed development of the bluff at Thornton State Beach in Daly City on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Retreat center proposed at popular state beach

Daly City residents oppose construction on ocean bluffs

Rev. Roland Gordon shows “The Great Cloud of Witnesses” collage mural at the Ingleside Presbyterian Church, which he began building in 1980.<ins> (</ins>
Rev. Roland Gordon preaches love in action

Pastor promotes peace, hope through art and prayer

Basketball (Shutterstock)
SI alum Begovich gets his moment, but Stanford falls on Senior Day

MAPLES PAVILION — Generally speaking, Stanford’s home finale on Saturday afternoon, a… Continue reading

U.S. Attorney David Anderson announces federal firearms charges against two men for their roles in a March 2019 shooting outside the Fillmore Heritage Center in a news conference alongside SFPD staff at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Departing U.S. attorney predicts corruption probe will continue

David Anderson shook up City Hall as top federal prosecutor

Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, a former school board member, has been asked to help secure an agreement between the school district and teacher’s union. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
 <ins></ins>
Supervisor Walton tapped to mediate teacher contract talks

District and union at odds over hours in-person students should be in the classroom

Most Read