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Japanese Wallpaper On Graduating Into The Coolest Job In The World

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Japanese Wallpaper has been thrown into an unusual position for someone who has just graduated high school. He’s already done the ground work to establish himself in the Australian music scene and is eyeing a debut album while still in his teens. He’s played Splendour In The Grass, toured with Laneway festival and is currently on a national tour, selling out a number of dates.

His latest single Cocoon shows a developing artist who know has the confidence to sing but is also settling into his own style and finding an aesthetic that is uniquely his. Ahead of the tour we had a chat with Gab Strum about the forthcoming record and tour as well as his journey from high school to now.

What’s the setlist for the tour looking like, is there heaps of new music on there?
Yeah, there’s like five new songs i think. I’m just starting to play some new stuff because it’s so different playing it on your own and playing in front of people. Or working on it on your own and then taking it to a rehearsal room and everyone playing it, there’s immediately a bunch of new ideas. From the rehearsals from this tour, it’s going a long way to finishing the record.

The record’s still an open book at this stage yeah?
I dunno. It’s all written. I know what all the songs are on it but as far as the sound of it and the production and all of that, it’s very much an open book. I’m still tryna figure out how I would like it to feel. I guess, it would be really easy for me to make the same record as the last time but I guess, I’d just find it a little bit boring now.

What differs from how you approached the EP to how you’re approaching the album?
I feel like the approach to the album is a lot more thought through and a lot more intentional than the appraoch to the EP which was just like, “I’ve accumulated a bunch of singles over the last couple of years and we should do an EP”. This was definitely like…taking a year to make a record and figuring out exactly what I want it to be and stuff.

Was an album always a goal for you because often artists want to put it off?
The idea of getting stuck into it was very exciting for me because the last few years I was in high school and didn’t have the time to getting stuck into a record. It was kind of like, now I have all the time in the world let’s do it.

Do you think it’s good you get to do it now because you’ve had a chance to tour and experience success through releasing music?
Definitely. I kind of think that with everything I do, everything I’ve done before has such a big part in informing how I go about future stuff. Even since playing with a live band, we started doing that at Laneway, a lot of my thought processes when writing has been wondering how it’s going to work with a band and taking the show into consideration a lot more.

Do you think you would ever write with a full band?

I don’t know. I guess now I’m used to sharing ideas but I love my band and I think they’re going to be a big part of the record as well.

That’s cool to have found that and only since Laneway?
Yeah. I guess I just got lucky.

What was the setup before that?
It was just me and a couple of keyboard and a laptop.

That’s quite daunting particularly when you’re starting out. What was the first live experience like?

My first live show was at this really little festival in Ballarat called Inca Roads. It was the guy who runs Paradise Festival before it became Paradise. I played at 11am on the Sunday and it was pretty nice actually. My show was awful but a bunch of people were there and were really nice about it. It wasn’t a scary or incriminating time at all. It was really, really nice and pressure free. Since then those shows became a little bit rarer. Once you end up doing Splendour with however many thousand people watching and it’s just you and a laptop, it’s a little bit scary. That was the point where I thought we need to figure out something else.

What’s it like stepping into the spotlight straight after finishing school?

Yeah, I dunno how scary it is just because once you’re in it, it’s like, “this is what’s happening”. There’s not very much room for second guessing it. The biggest thing for me, doing this full time and making it an actual thing, was figuring out if it is what I want to be doing it. Since all my friends are at uni right now, it’s kind of a little bit…often around uni exams I’ll think, “shit, what am I doing?” but I just have the best time doing this and I have the coolest job in the world and I think I want to do it forever.

Did you know music was exactly what you wanted to do or did the ball start rolling and you went with it?
At the start it wasn’t something I expected. Especially with Unearthed High and that whole thing. Even like a couple months before it happened, I thought there was no chance I would ever be in the running. I never expected as much as I would’ve love it to happen. A couple of things really fell into place and it was like, “ok, time to do it”.

Unearthed High entries closed last night. What would your advice be to someone in high school trying to make a go of music?
My advice would be to know yourself before you get into something like that. For some people those kinds of opportunities like Unearthed High are amazing and it’s exactly the right timing and everything is ready to go in terms of their musical identity and songwriting and stage presence and the only thing that’s left is that last little push from radio. There’s other people, I listened to their Unearthed stuff and it’s just going to take some more time for them to develop. Look at Montaigne and how she was a finalist in Unearthed High and the progression from the start to her Montaigne stuff now. I really think that, maybe it’s not so worth putting yourself in that thing if you’re not ready for it. My advice would be know if you’re ready for it or not.

The years after leaving high school are so transformative for someone…

Yeah, totally. You look at a band like Snakadaktal who were amazing but it seems it wasn’t just right for them. They had a go at it and then realised they wanna do other stuff. I don’t know them or their story but it makes a lot of sense to me that a band that young realises they don’t wanna do it anymore.

That’s the benefit of being a one person act because you do have more space to grow without growing away from people. Do you think your album would’ve been entirely different if you jumped into it when you were 17?

I think I would’ve struggled to finish it. The last couple of years I’ve learnt so much about how I write and how I write best as far as the production goes. I’ve figured out a lot of stuff and it’s definitely…I don’t think I would have been able to write an album a year ago or two years ago and made it something that was not terrible.

Do you think you would’ve had the confidence to put your own vocals on a track like you have now?
Definitely not. That took a few years of singing live and then a lot of practice of recording and seeing the best way to make it sound and all of that stuff. I was also just really nervous about singing. It’s always been this big chip on my shoulder. I went to school with all these great singers who never had a singing lesson and were blessed with the most beautiful voices. For me it was always something I had to work on a bit. But I feel like everyone should be allowed to sing and not just those who are blessed with Australian Idol voices.

The response has obviously been really positive. Does that fuel you on? Are there are a number of tracks on the album you’re singing on?
Without making any definitive statements before I’ve finished the record, I feel like this record isn’t going to have any collaborations in a recording sense.

Are there any artists in particular that if you were going to pick up the phone and call anyone you would collaborate with?

Maybe I would love to work with…ahhh, there’s a guy who is opening for us in Melbourne in a couple of weeks. His project is called Braille Face and it’s incredible. It’s some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.

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Japanese Wallpaper is in the midst of his tour. Check out the dates below.
13600362_1106482356091075_7961003261295135821_n

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Japanese Wallpaper has been thrown into an unusual position for someone who has just graduated high school. He’s already done the ground work to establish himself in the Australian music scene and is eyeing a debut album while still in his teens. He’s played Splendour In The Grass, toured with Laneway festival and is currently on a national tour, selling out a number of dates.

His latest single Cocoon shows a developing artist who know has the confidence to sing but is also settling into his own style and finding an aesthetic that is uniquely his. Ahead of the tour we had a chat with Gab Strum about the forthcoming record and tour as well as his journey from high school to now.

What’s the setlist for the tour looking like, is there heaps of new music on there?
Yeah, there’s like five new songs i think. I’m just starting to play some new stuff because it’s so different playing it on your own and playing in front of people. Or working on it on your own and then taking it to a rehearsal room and everyone playing it, there’s immediately a bunch of new ideas. From the rehearsals from this tour, it’s going a long way to finishing the record.

The record’s still an open book at this stage yeah?
I dunno. It’s all written. I know what all the songs are on it but as far as the sound of it and the production and all of that, it’s very much an open book. I’m still tryna figure out how I would like it to feel. I guess, it would be really easy for me to make the same record as the last time but I guess, I’d just find it a little bit boring now.

What differs from how you approached the EP to how you’re approaching the album?
I feel like the approach to the album is a lot more thought through and a lot more intentional than the appraoch to the EP which was just like, “I’ve accumulated a bunch of singles over the last couple of years and we should do an EP”. This was definitely like…taking a year to make a record and figuring out exactly what I want it to be and stuff.

Was an album always a goal for you because often artists want to put it off?
The idea of getting stuck into it was very exciting for me because the last few years I was in high school and didn’t have the time to getting stuck into a record. It was kind of like, now I have all the time in the world let’s do it.

Do you think it’s good you get to do it now because you’ve had a chance to tour and experience success through releasing music?
Definitely. I kind of think that with everything I do, everything I’ve done before has such a big part in informing how I go about future stuff. Even since playing with a live band, we started doing that at Laneway, a lot of my thought processes when writing has been wondering how it’s going to work with a band and taking the show into consideration a lot more.

Do you think you would ever write with a full band?

I don’t know. I guess now I’m used to sharing ideas but I love my band and I think they’re going to be a big part of the record as well.

That’s cool to have found that and only since Laneway?
Yeah. I guess I just got lucky.

What was the setup before that?
It was just me and a couple of keyboard and a laptop.

That’s quite daunting particularly when you’re starting out. What was the first live experience like?

My first live show was at this really little festival in Ballarat called Inca Roads. It was the guy who runs Paradise Festival before it became Paradise. I played at 11am on the Sunday and it was pretty nice actually. My show was awful but a bunch of people were there and were really nice about it. It wasn’t a scary or incriminating time at all. It was really, really nice and pressure free. Since then those shows became a little bit rarer. Once you end up doing Splendour with however many thousand people watching and it’s just you and a laptop, it’s a little bit scary. That was the point where I thought we need to figure out something else.

What’s it like stepping into the spotlight straight after finishing school?

Yeah, I dunno how scary it is just because once you’re in it, it’s like, “this is what’s happening”. There’s not very much room for second guessing it. The biggest thing for me, doing this full time and making it an actual thing, was figuring out if it is what I want to be doing it. Since all my friends are at uni right now, it’s kind of a little bit…often around uni exams I’ll think, “shit, what am I doing?” but I just have the best time doing this and I have the coolest job in the world and I think I want to do it forever.

Did you know music was exactly what you wanted to do or did the ball start rolling and you went with it?
At the start it wasn’t something I expected. Especially with Unearthed High and that whole thing. Even like a couple months before it happened, I thought there was no chance I would ever be in the running. I never expected as much as I would’ve love it to happen. A couple of things really fell into place and it was like, “ok, time to do it”.

Unearthed High entries closed last night. What would your advice be to someone in high school trying to make a go of music?
My advice would be to know yourself before you get into something like that. For some people those kinds of opportunities like Unearthed High are amazing and it’s exactly the right timing and everything is ready to go in terms of their musical identity and songwriting and stage presence and the only thing that’s left is that last little push from radio. There’s other people, I listened to their Unearthed stuff and it’s just going to take some more time for them to develop. Look at Montaigne and how she was a finalist in Unearthed High and the progression from the start to her Montaigne stuff now. I really think that, maybe it’s not so worth putting yourself in that thing if you’re not ready for it. My advice would be know if you’re ready for it or not.

The years after leaving high school are so transformative for someone…

Yeah, totally. You look at a band like Snakadaktal who were amazing but it seems it wasn’t just right for them. They had a go at it and then realised they wanna do other stuff. I don’t know them or their story but it makes a lot of sense to me that a band that young realises they don’t wanna do it anymore.

That’s the benefit of being a one person act because you do have more space to grow without growing away from people. Do you think your album would’ve been entirely different if you jumped into it when you were 17?

I think I would’ve struggled to finish it. The last couple of years I’ve learnt so much about how I write and how I write best as far as the production goes. I’ve figured out a lot of stuff and it’s definitely…I don’t think I would have been able to write an album a year ago or two years ago and made it something that was not terrible.

Do you think you would’ve had the confidence to put your own vocals on a track like you have now?
Definitely not. That took a few years of singing live and then a lot of practice of recording and seeing the best way to make it sound and all of that stuff. I was also just really nervous about singing. It’s always been this big chip on my shoulder. I went to school with all these great singers who never had a singing lesson and were blessed with the most beautiful voices. For me it was always something I had to work on a bit. But I feel like everyone should be allowed to sing and not just those who are blessed with Australian Idol voices.

The response has obviously been really positive. Does that fuel you on? Are there are a number of tracks on the album you’re singing on?
Without making any definitive statements before I’ve finished the record, I feel like this record isn’t going to have any collaborations in a recording sense.

Are there any artists in particular that if you were going to pick up the phone and call anyone you would collaborate with?

Maybe I would love to work with…ahhh, there’s a guy who is opening for us in Melbourne in a couple of weeks. His project is called Braille Face and it’s incredible. It’s some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.

Japanese Wallpaper is in the midst of his tour. Check out the dates below.
13600362_1106482356091075_7961003261295135821_n

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