Japanese Breakfast’s “Paprika” sent magnificent waves through an eager crowd on Friday night at Boston’s Royale Nightclub as lead musician Michelle Zauner effortlessly hit a shining gong without missing a note in her smooth vocals. The indie-rock band was opened by Toronto-based artist Luna Li, who set the tone early in the night with incredible guitar solos and complex rhythms.
The name “Japanese Breakfast” is slightly confusing, as multi-instrumentalist Zauner is actually Korean-American. She remembers many of her peers mistaking her for Japanese while growing up in Oregon, where she was forbidden to play the guitar until she was 16. She credits her early creativity to her time spent in nature, entertaining herself and originally hoping to become a writer. As for the name, she explained in an interview with Teen Vogue, “I wanted something that sounded kind of curious, like something that sounded really American and well-known… and combining it with something that I think American people associate with something exotic or foreign (2017).”
The band’s first album, Psychopomp, was created back in Oregon where Zauner had returned home to care for her mother, who passed away in 2014. Next came Soft Sounds From Another Planet, which reflected on the artist’s grief, and was a mix of melancholic and alien-like sounds. Zauner also recently became a New York Times bestselling author for her memoir, Crying in H-Mart (2021) in which she recalls visiting the supermarket after her mother’s death.
The focus of Friday night’s show, however, was the latest album Jubilee: an awesome combination of synth, guitar, pop, slow jams, and funky vocals. The energy on stage was infectious – the faces of Zauner, Craig Hendrix, Deven Craige, and Peter Bradley (Zauner’s husband) showed nothing short of pure enjoyment throughout the set. Fans were bouncing with excitement during “Savage Good Boy” and “Be Sweet,” and staring in awe during the slow encore of “Posing for Cars.”
Japanese Breakfast is worth the listen – they will continue on tour into the new year, and are sure to turn many heads along their way.
Photographs and review by Lily Walsh