Interview: Japanese Wallpaper talks all things collaborating, turning 18, and what he's listening to now

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gab Strum aka Japanese Wallpaper (thanks again band name generator) is presently busier than a Brit Awards censor during a Kanye performance.  He won Triple J’s Unearthed High competition last year while at school camp, had his song ‘Breathe In’ featuring Wafia appear on a Hollywood film soundtrack as well as in the finale of the hit TV show Offspring.  He has fans in Gotye, Chet Faker and Bombay Bicycle Club and has sold out shows that most of his mates can’t legally attend - because they’re underage.  Yep that’s right.  This barely 18-year-old dude is already better at life than you.  Listening to his chill music, ironically, can help you feel better about it. Check out what he had to say below.

I believe you just turned 18 a few weeks ago - apparently on World Naked Gardening Day according to your Facebook - is it nice to be able to perform in clubs without your parents chaperoning? 

I haven’t played any shows since turning 18 but certainly being able to go and see bands in clubs is awesome! Last week I caught Courtney Barnett and Teeth & Tongue at the Forum which was pretty incredible.

You’re probably over everyone harping on about your age (my bad) and that you want your music to stand up on its own & not just be good for someone your age (and it totally does BTW) but it’s genuinely interesting to see you kind of living a double life.  School kid by day, touring producer by night – is it hard to juggle everything? 

Hehe, for ages the answer to that question has been no but as the school year progresses and gets more intense it’s becoming increasingly hard to juggle everything. After my tour in July I’m going to be taking a bit of a break from the Japanese Wallpaper stuff until exams are over in November. I can’t wait for this not to be a problem anymore though!

Your latest offering ‘Forces’ features the remarkable vocal skills of Brissie songstress Airling, how did that collaboration come about?

It originated online - I loved Hannah’s EP a lot and just sent her a Facebook message asking if she would be up for doing some writing together. My label flew her and our friend Graham (from Holy Holy) down to Melbourne and we got to work on it in the same room, which is something I had never done before.

Who would your ideal co-collaborator be?

I get asked this a lot and I think I answer it differently in every interview! At the moment it would be Sufjan Stevens though, I’m constantly inspired by his work.

How instrumental (pardon the pun) have Triple J been in getting you where you are today with your music career?

It’s been incredible and pretty surreal to have their support - they’re all amazing guys with a very genuine passion for sharing music and I’m really lucky they liked mine enough to help me spread it. Not to diminish the awesome initial support from community radio though - stations like RRR in Melbourne and FBI in Sydney have also played a huge part I think.

You’ve previously stated that your music can be awkward to dance to due to the tempo and some crowds have actually sat down on the floor while watching.  Sounds like a perfect vibe for a chilled out festival set (plug: not unlike the one you’ll play at Splendour), but this might seem odd in a club.  Tell us about what goes through your mind when performing live.

I try not to think about anything other than the music when I’m playing! But I certainly don’t mind when people sit down and listen - some of the most engaged crowds have been the ones who stop attempting to dance and decide just to listen.

Can we expect any special guests to appear with you on stage at Splendour?

Definitely! A few surprises are in the works that I don’t want to say anything about just yet but it’s looking like it will be a special one.

What was the last song you had on repeat/couldn’t get enough of?

I Go Out by Ella Thompson is pretty incredible - I can’t stop listening to that whole album. 

Can you tell us what’s next for Japanese Wallpaper?

I’m not sure! I’m really looking forward to being able to focus on it full time and devote everything to this next batch of songs. I’m really excited. 

Written by Kate Carnell