A few lines into the opening song on her sophomore LP, Michelle Zauner croons “I want it all,” her voice drifting into the atmosphere. A few lines into our conversation with her, you can tell she’s dead serious.
The 29-year-old brains behind indie rock outfit Japanese Breakfast has been a bit busy lately. She’s been touring nearly nonstop in support of 2017’s “Soft Sounds From Another Planet” and has been writing the score to a video game, set to be released later this year. In 2018, Zauner penned a searing essay about food and immigrant identity for The New Yorker, has started writing a book spawned by that essay and has seen the release of a self-directed — and stunning — music video.
While she’s not planning on slowing down in 2019 per se, she says this year is all about planting seeds and honing her skills. “I want to put on better shows, I want to make better records, I want to direct better videos,” she says.
Zauner is certainly learning to flex new muscles. Working on the video game “Sable,” a coming-of-age story set on a foreign planet, has allowed her to get comfortable playing the roles of producer and engineer, skills she hopes to take with her in other musical endeavors. And working behind a camera has spurred her desire to direct a short film or feature down the road.
But she’s also in new waters when it comes to Japanese Breakfast. The band’s 2016 debut “Psychopomp” and the critically acclaimed follow-up “Soft Sounds” both deal directly with the pain and grief of Zauner losing her mother to cancer; her ethereal sonic creations regularly plumb the depths of human emotion. Now, as she continues these reflections through other artistic outlets, Zauner is left wondering what her next record should sound like.
“Things are good in my camp, so I don’t really know what to write about right now,” she laughs.
“The idea of writing a record that’s not about grief — it’s been a long time since I’ve done that. It feels unnatural to ban myself from writing about this thing but it also feels like I want to write something jubilant.”
If nothing else, she’s sure that she wants to take her time with this next effort. She wants to do something “bigger,” but what that will sound like is anyone’s guess — including Zauner’s. “I have directions I will want to go in but I immediately start to feel stifled by them,” she says.
Maybe that’s a good thing. The possibilities seem to be endless for Zauner, both inside the studio and out, an artist with the world at her fingertips. And it’s hers for the taking, if she wants it.
If you go: Japanese Breakfast is playing at Brooklyn Steel at 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, 319 Frost St., Williamsburg, bowerypresents.com, $25