Revisited: Michelle Zauner (Japanese Breakfast) Talks with Rostam on the Talkhouse Podcast

Tennis, track listings, and ethnic representation are bandied about.

Hello Talkhouse listeners; this week we’re resurfacing a talk featuring a frequent Talkhouse contributor who seems to be having yet another career moment: Michelle Zauner, aka. Japanese Breakfast. You may have caught Zauner and her band on the season finale of SNL, or playing your local theater, or on every playlist worth a dang. This talk, which originally ran on June 3, 2021—around the time the latest Japanese Breakfast album, Jubilee, came out—features Zauner in conversation with Rostam, the musician and producer best known as part of Vampire Weekend. If you like what you hear, there are two more Zauner-led Talkhouse Podcasts in the archives, one with Alex Cameron, and the other with Rachel Goswell of Slowdive.


Today’s Talkhouse Podcast started with a little bit of serendipity in the form of album release dates: Both of our guests, Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast and producer/musician/former Vampire Weekend guy Rostam, have excellent records coming out on June 4. They’re also fans of each other’s work, so we figured it made plenty of sense to put them together.

Zauner’s album, her third under the Japanese Breakfast name, is called Jubilee, and as you’ll hear in this conversation, it took a deliberate turn toward slightly happier themes than her first two. It comes hot on the heels of Zauner’s first book, a heartbreaking memoir called Crying In H Mart, that deals with her mother’s death—also a theme in her early music—and food, lots of food. It’s a really touching read, and an ideal companion to her musical catalog, which grew in really compelling ways with Jubilee.

Rostam is best known as a founding member of Vampire Weekend, and even though he officially left the band a few years ago, he still contributes some songwriting and production work. He’s kept plenty busy otherwise, producing records and writing songs with an incredible array of other artists, from Hamilton Leithauser to HAIM to Clairo. His first proper solo album is the gentle, string-filled, fantastic Half-Light, which came out in 2017, and now he’s releasing Changephobia, which as you’ll hear ditches the string section and brings in a sax, among other things.

These two jump right into a conversation that flits around from silly to deep: On one hand, they talk about childhood loves of chess and fencing and the importance of song five on an album. On the other, Zauner gets rightfully annoyed at interview questions she gets that other people don’t, and Rostam talks about being Persian in a band that was sometimes pegged as particularly white. It’s a funny, smart chat. Enjoy.

This episode was produced by Melissa Kaplan. The Talkhouse theme was composed and performed by The Range.

(Photo Credit: left, Peter Ash Lee; right, Olivia Bee; Edited by: Keenan Kush.)

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