By: Shayla Lee
Creating an immersive universe of lush soundscapes, Melbourne-born musician Japanese Wallpaper (Gab Strum) has been making a name for himself in the world of electronic music since he began producing at the age of 15. Although it can be difficult to find electronic music with a deeper meaning beyond build-ups and bass drops, Japanese Wallpaper does it effortlessly.
His first release in over two years, ‘Fooling Around’ is a beautiful blend of synths and melodies nestled in a layered, downtempo production. The new single is our first look at the vibe we should expect from his upcoming album which will be released in 2019.
We chatted with the man behind the project, Gab, about his new single ‘Fooling Around,’ how touring with Shallou is going, and what we can expect from his upcoming music!
Femme Riot: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to become a musician?
Japanese Wallpaper: I don’t remember ever thinking about wanting to become a musician to be honest! I think it kind of just ~happened~ while I was thinking about other things. Despite being quite a shy person and feeling kinda out of my element on tour I couldn’t think of a better way to be.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
I usually describe it as electronic music for people who don’t like going to the club (i.e. myself)
Where do you draw inspiration for your music? Do you have any musical influences?
My biggest musical influences are The Postal Service, Tycho and M83.
You grew up in Melbourne, Australia (my favorite city!) and now you are in North America embarking on a tour with Shallou. How did growing up in Australia influence your music? Have you noticed any differences between the music scene in North America compared to the music scene back home?
Melbourne is my favourite city too! I think growing up in such a close-knit and supportive music community would have an influence on anyone’s work. I feel like there is more of an opportunity in Australia to ‘learn on the job’ and grow as an artist in the public eye, rather than feeling pressured to have everything figured out before your first release.
Australian artists are known to be extremely supportive of one another. Flume and Chet Faker are a few fellow Aussies who are huge fans of your work. How does it feel to have this strong support network?
It’s awesome – I’ve learned so much from my friends in music and feel very grateful to have a support network.
I’m loving your new single ‘Fooling Around.’ The production is beautiful and really layered. Can you tell us more about this track and the inspiration behind it?
Thank you! It has been in the works for so long that it feels surreal to have it out in the world. I wrote Fooling Around towards the end of 2016, and spent the following two years figuring out how to make it sound the way I heard it in my head. Around the time I wrote it I had just made the switch from performing solo to performing with a band, and I was really fascinated by the idea of bringing the ambient and soundscape-y elements of my compositional style into a world that felt more engaging in a live context and that incorporated more real instruments.
‘Fooling Around’ is your first release in over two years. How have you grown and developed as an artist during this time?
I was still in high school when my last release happened, so more than anything else just having the time every day to write and experiment has helped me grow as an artist and feel more confident about my work.
Mental health is something that is really important to us at Femme Riot and we love hearing about how others maintain balance in their lives. As a busy musician who has just embarked on a North American tour alongside Shallou, what practices do you implement to ensure your health and well-being are taken care of? Is it difficult to maintain balance while touring?
Mental health is really important to me too. It can be hard to remember to prioritise your wellbeing on a tour like this, especially as the support act where there is an additional pressure to ‘win over’ an audience on the other side of the world who might not be familiar with your work. Eating properly and getting enough sleep go a long way towards self-care on tour, and both my crew and Shallou’s are some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered which makes for a really supportive environment on the road.
What can fans expect from your upcoming music?
An album in 2019! I played it to a friend the other day who remarked that they could tell I had been listening to lots of Death Cab For Cutie, so there’s that I guess….
What songs are currently listening to?
I’m writing this from the tour van somewhere between Atlanta and Houston, and our tour manager Callum put on the new Kurt Vile album while driving, which I hadn’t listened to before but I’m really loving. Additionally my Melbourne friends Camp Cope put out a really special and important album this year which has really stuck with me.