Upon first listen, you may not realize that the dreamy indie-pop music of Philadelphia-based Japanese Breakfast was inspired by grief.
Michelle Zauner, the woman behind the songs, began the project while navigating her mother's battle with cancer, and mourning her death. Both of Japanese Breakfast's albums — 2016's Psychopomp and 2017's Soft Sounds From Another Planet — were an exploration of that pain and sadness. That does not mean the albums sound morose, though.
"I personally really love pop music," Zauner said. "I love bands like Motown bands, and, you know, I love Fleetwood Mac. For me, a lot of those songs are these really upbeat, catchy numbers that have kind of these darker sentiments. And I like that duality of having music that sounds really happy and accessible and upbeat and then, when you revisit it, you realize that it has this sort of darker seriousness in the lyrical content and it's like discovering another song."
And music is just one part of her dazzling creative output. The New Yorker published Zauner's essay, "Crying in H Mart" last autumn. It's part of an upcoming memoir of the same name, exploring her grief in a different way. And, on top of that, Zauner also directs music videos, and makes and scores video games.
Zauner will take the stage as Japanese Breakfast on Day 2 of Shaky Knees Music Festival this weekend. She joined On Second Thought to talk about how art helped Zauner process her grief, and how the upcoming book will help her move forward.
Check out the music video for "Everybody Wants to Love You":
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