Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner on “Crying in H Mart” Book and Movie

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“Thanks to South by Southwest, I have work to do,” Michelle Zauner said Saturday during the final keynote for the 2022 Austin conference.

Zauner, a native of Eugene, Oregon, credits the music festival for helping her sign with a record label and booking agent in 2016. The feeling is no doubt mutual, as she’s the kind of creative figure that SXSW love.

His band, Japanese Breakfast, released a critically acclaimed third album, “Jubilee,” last year. This record earned two Grammy Award nominations, for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album. Zauner is also a New York Times bestselling author, for her 2021 memoir “Crying in H Mart,” based on a 2018 New Yorker essay of the same title.

And to top it off, she directs her music videos and recently composed the soundtrack for the video game “Sable”. No wonder Zauner joined fellow polymaths Lizzo and Beck in the 2022 SXSW class.

On Saturday, Zauner sat down with Rolling Stone’s Angie Martoccio. Here are three things we learned.

1. Its success is not at all surprising.

“My artistic journey has always felt very slow and fast,” Zauner said. At the age of 5, she wanted to be a pianist, but she hated playing. She just needed time to find her thing; as she got older, she decided to be a person “in” the music. She started with Led Zeppelin CDs, then branched out into alternative music like Elliott Smith, Built to Spill and Modest Mouse.

Women like art-pop singer Kate Bush and anti-folk artist Kimya Dawson also influenced her, as did pop-punk star Avril Lavigne, whom Zauner credits with showing many young women of her age that a woman could play the guitar on a mainstream stage. . The DIY scene in the Pacific Northwest also left a mark: “It feels like anyone can (make music) if you have something to say,” she said. .

But Yeah Yeah Yeahs leader Karen O has been one of the biggest artistic stars in North Zauner, she said. (Even though she’s never seen the group “Maps” live before.) Watching Karen O, she’s also a biracial white-Korean woman like Zauner, lasso cables around her head, and spit oil. water during a rock show dazzled Zauner. Karen O seemed to get away with everything Zauner’s mother told her not to do.

She is also very excited about some of the industry tasks that others hate. When she arrived, Zauner loved to do her own PR and book.

2. She’s enjoying the moment.

First things first: Grammy nods helped Zauner deal with his anger, she said. Now, when people cut her online, she’s like, “Well, you’re a Grammy nominee.”

She calls the past year “the year I have to meet all my idols,” roasting her team a bit for approaching her with celebrity date opportunities: “You love that person, now meet her. !”

Last year, she performed on the Hall of Fame show “Austin City Limits” with Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. She confessed that she thought he was “going to be an asshole”, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth, she quickly added. Tweedy previously covered Japanese Breakfast’s “Kokomo, IN”.

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Zauner was keen to become an artist known primarily for her work on grief and loss, so for her third album she explored joy. She said third albums are a time to think about your catalog and how your new material will relate to previous work.

“You can hear this sickening longing to step into an arena-sized space,” she said of some artists popping on their third album.

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“Jubilee” also meant new music videos. Zauner considers the visuals for his albums to be trilogies, inspired by an obsession with the work of Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. For the video for the track “Savage Good Boy”, Zauner collaborated with actor Michael Imperioli. She was inspired by seeing Charly Bliss musician Spencer Fox repost Imperioli’s content on social media.

“I’m a big ‘Sopranos’ stan,” she said.

And Martoccio asked with a wink if Zauner had a dispute with pop star Olivia Rodrigo, also nominated for Best New Artist Grammy this year.

Not at all: “I think she’s got incredible talent,” she said, adding that she’s still supporting another half-white, half-Asian person.

3. Writing outside of music isn’t just a one-time thing.

The big news: Zauner said she’s finished a draft script for the film adaptation of “Crying in H Mart,” which will be produced by Orion Pictures. The script is currently under review.

Writing stories actually helped free her from her last job with an ad agency, she said. As she began mixing debut album “Psychopomp,” Zauner won a Glamor Essay Contest. It helped her find an agent, just when she first came to SXSW in 2016.

Writing “Crying in H Mart,” which tells how Zauner lived and mourned her late mother, helped her come to terms with the isolation she long felt, she said. She and her mother were in a cross-cultural relationship, and Zauner said she always felt like a difficult girl. Writing has helped her forgive herself, she says.

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She hopes to write a second non-fiction book. A dream: to go to South Korea and learn the language. Finding memories for her first book was difficult, Zauner said, and then she would like to focus on the present and track progress.

Does she prefer songwriting or non-fiction writing?

“They’re all kind of storytelling,” Zauner said. Regardless of the medium, she seeks to tell stories about ordinary life and what makes it “moving and extraordinary”.

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