“I feel like I’ve always been making music…it’s just something that I’ve always been doing.”
How did you start making music as Japanese Wallpaper?
I feel like I’ve always been making music. I started piano lessons when I was really young, so between piano lessons and being in heaps of different bands at school, it’s just something that I’ve always been doing. The Japanese Wallpaper thing came about when I started playing around with Garage Band on my Macbook. That’s when I started to explore the possibilities of electronic production. But I wasn’t really listening to that kind of music before that, it was more like one person trying to make a record and that was how it could work.
Do you listen to lots of electronic stuff now?
I reckon more often than not I’m in to guitar bands. I guess I started finding more electronic stuff when I started hearing comparisons to what I was doing. People would say, “oh you sound like this band, you must be inspired by them.” I’d always sheepishly nod at them and run home to listen to whatever they’d mentioned.
Is it weird having people make comparisons?
Yeah, it’s strange. People love doing that though, they love making comparisons. I don’t know if it’s laziness or familiarity, but people love being able to go, “oh you sound like this, this, and this.”
When did it go from playing around to releasing music?
I kind of always, maybe stupidly, was putting stuff online. I was fairly sure that no one was listening though. Then one day a few people come across some songs and then wrote about it on a blog. From there I just kept going and did more songs. I never really put much thought in to it until a year and a half ago when it started picking up a bit on radio.
Is that around the time you won Unearthed High?
I had a single out before that, which then got added to some big movie or something. Then radio started taking notice, just before Unearthed High. It started to feel like something I could do more seriously, like maybe it could be a job.
“I always feel really uncomfortable on stage on my own. I’m not really one for the spotlight.”
You’ve just finished High School, how did you balance Year 12 with music?
Up until around Splendour this year I was doing both pretty consistently, but I haven’t done any shows since then. I hadn’t really done any writing since then either, until last week actually.
You must get sick of people always talking about your age?
It happens a lot. It’s pretty weird. You kind of get in to this place where you think, “am I in this position because of the songs or because people are cutting me some slack because I’m younger?” It’s pretty great to be on the tail end of that now.
How do you feel about performing live?
It’s been weird getting used to it. I always feel really uncomfortable on stage on my own. I’m not really one for the spotlight. For this next tour I’m playing with a band and I think that’ll be easier. The solo shows are fun and people like them, and I like doing them. But I never feel as comfortable as I do when I play in a band.
What’s the leap like from working on music in your bedroom to performing in front of a crowd?
The preconception that every producer is going to have a great live show and is going to really comfortable with a live show—doesn’t really make sense to me. Especially when so much of that bedroom producer stereotype is sitting in isolation and experimenting. That doesn’t necessarily translate well in to a stage presence. I feel like a lot of producers get unfair amounts of shit for that.
How did you develop your music in to a performance?
At the start it was out of necessity, I had shows to do and I had to play. For me it was about treating it like I was a member in a band. I ended up playing keys, singing, triggering, and stuff. I tried to make it as relatable from an audience sense as possible.
What’s the biggest show that you’ve played?
It was definitely Splendour in the Grass. It was pretty overwhelming; I definitely didn’t expect such a big crowd. Walking on stage to that many people, that many loud people, and guys who knew the words—that’s pretty incredible. I’ve never felt like that before. So much of what musicians do is judged online—how many plays you get and stuff like that—it gets really easy to separate that from actual people. Walking on stage to that many people makes it real and tangible.
It must be weird to have fans now?
So weird. I’m such a fanboy of every band that I ever see so it’s weird to be on the receiving end of that.
What have you got coming up in 2016?
I just started writing for an album, we’ll see how that goes. Then I’ve got Laneway Festival in February and then a bunch of stuff I probably can’t talk about.
Words: Mitch Parker of Acclaim Magazine
Photography: Dan Soderstrom
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