INTERVIEW: JAPANESE WALLPAPER – A NEW ALBUM, A NATIONAL TOUR AND PLAYING ADELAIDE THIS WEEKEND

It has been a busy few months for Japanese Wallpaper aka Gab Strum, who heads to town on Friday 1 November as part of an extensive national tour on the back of his much anticipated debut album, Glow, released earlier this month.

This comes right on the heels of a US tour with fellow Australian artists and friends, Allday and Mallrat.

“It makes such a difference to be on tour with friends we love,” Gab says.  “So that’s been a lot of fun. And I always really look forward to an opportunity to tour America because I feel like touring at home, the shows are so spread out and there’s not many of them that you can do unless your band is doing a full regional.”

There has been quite a build up to the album with plenty of material coming before that. Gab feels, however, that the new LP has taken his music in new and exciting directions.

“It’s different in a lot of ways. It’s different in the start of the recording and the instrumentation and the arrangement, just like involving a lot more live instruments in the mix and recording things in the room as opposed to everything being digital. That’s been a lot of fun and there’s been a lot of learning involved in making that all happen. And it’s also the first full record that I’m singing on, so that takes a lot of learning and growing involved in doing that as well. I’m considering this as the first album, as opposed to the one before that was an EP. To me this really does feel like the first kind of fully realized proper release, and I’m really proud of it. It was a lot of work, but I’m stoked.”

So, having just released this work, does Gab have a favourite moment on the LP?

“It’ll probably change as time goes on, but at the moment there’s a song that I’ve been obsessed with the most: “Tell Me What You Mean by That”. That was a song that got out and onto the album within the very, very last second, so feels fresh and exciting. Not that the other stuff doesn’t, but I’ve been sitting on a lot of old songs for a while, and it’s really nice to have something to balance it out that feels just really new and fresh.”

As someone who is also produces and carefully crafts his songs in the studio, Gab has found playing the material live to be quite a different kind of beast.

Japanese Wallpaper - studio credit Giulia Giannini McGauran“It’s kind of an ongoing learning process. In terms of figuring out how best to emulate recordings in a live setting, and then how to organize certain recordings. Finding the balance of making it feel live and spontaneous, and expansive and fun, while at the same time not losing the subtleties of the arrangement or losing certain production elements that I feel really define the project and the records. It’s taken a few years of touring to get to a point where I finally kind of feeling like it’s sitting in a good place.”

When he is crafting his material, Gab has found there are different methods that work him, including both solitary and collaborative approaches.

“I like writing songs on my own and in a room with an instrument, and I like writing songs collaboratively with other people, whether that’s other writers, producers or instrumentalists. Often I like writing instrumentals and then revisiting them months later with melodies and lyrics. It really depends. I feel like I’m still fairly early on in my creative life and in my career and I’m trying to make sure that I stay open to the different ways of generating music and not fall into something because I feel like that’s how it should be done, or because it feels familiar and easy. So yeah, I guess the creative process at the moment for me, the emphasis is on experimenting, keeping things feeling exciting, and fresh and new, as opposed to falling into old habits. And I guess that manifests in lots of different ways.

In his relatively brief career to date, Gab has already collaborated with a number of different artists, including Allday,  Wafia and Washington, finding that each project

“They’re all special to me for different reasons, and in different ways, special collaborations. “In Motion” with Allday, that’s always going to be a really special one to me, that was my first golden record, it was a lot of firsts and it felt like a real breakthrough to me in terms of what my creative life could look like outside of Japanese Wallpaper and outside of one project. So and that opened up a lot of doors for me in terms of you production work and other kinds of collaboration outside of Japanese Wallpaper. So yeah, that’s really special for me. Also, something that I’m really excited about at the moment, I’ve been producing along with my friend the new Montgomery EP here. She’s an artist that I’ve loved for ages and she put out this one record about five years ago and then went quiet for a bit and it’s been a really rewarding and special to be able to help her get back into the spotlight and start releasing music again.  So that’s one really close to my heart at the moment, and really exciting.”

Incidentally, you can catch Montgomery opening up the shows on the current Japanese Wallpaper tour.

Glow is out now. Japanese Wallpaper will perform at the Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide on Friday 1 November, with tickets and details available here.

Written by Matthew Trainor

Pictures supplied, photo credit: Giulia Giannini McGauran

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