Interview with Japanese Wallpaper

Aussie sensation Japanese Wallpaper with mixed Sephardi/Ashkenazi roots, and a heart beating strong for Israel, recently released his first EP to great critical acclaim, as well as just having concluded a successful month-long tour across Australia.

(Photo credit: Japanese Wallpaper)
(Photo credit: Japanese Wallpaper)

Gab Strum, the talented musician who is Japanese Wallpaper, makes electronic music, and is considered an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer. He is also a Year 12 student at the Yavneh school in Melbourne, Australia, where he has grown up in a family and within a community which laid the foundations to his strong Jewish identity and connection to Israel.

“I first fell in love with music as a six year old learning the piano, but I only started writing my own songs when I was thirteen and discovered the potential for exploration and musical development in Garageband on my laptop. Many false-starts and bad demos eventually gave way to the songs that make up my debut release, the Japanese Wallpaper EP.”

Strum has been praised by the likes of Gotye and Hollywood actor/director Zach Braff, who featured his track ‘Breathe In (ft. Wafia)’ in his latest film Wish I Was Here. The movie, which happens to have a strong underlaying modern Jewish narrative, hit the silver screens last year with a soundtrack beautifully setting the atmosphere of the film — including the superbly smooth track by Japanese Wallpaper, a massive achievement for then 17-year old Gab Strum.

“There’s an interview with Zach Braff where he discusses the soundtrack for Wish I Was Here, and apparently my song ‘Breathe In’ just reached him through word of mouth – his assistant’s friend was into it and posted about it online, and it was sent on from there I guess. It’s super flattering to be included in that release, alongside Bon Iver, The Shins and Paul Simon — some of my favourite artists and biggest inspirations”, explains Strum.

Gab’s streak of success continued shortly thereafter when Japanese Wallpaper was chosen as the 2014 Unearthed High winner after having cleared all other competition from over 600 entries. The prestigious prize is awarded annually by Triple J Unearthed, which aims to discover and nurture new Australian music, including the competition to unearth the very best acts Down Under.

 It kills me that he’s only 17 and has such control of his sound.

Music Director Dave Ruby Howe says “Gab’s been sharing his music through Triple J Unearthed since he was 14 years old and it’s been incredible to watch him develop into an artist that makes clever, bold music. It kills me that he’s only 17 and has such control of his sound. He’s an overachieving superstar and he richly deserves the crown as the winner of Unearthed High 2014.”

Gab Strum has been to Israel twice, both times with his family, staying in an apartment in Jerusalem. “Spending so much time in Jerusalem has certainly made an impression on me — it’s such an interesting, vibrant and beautiful city. It’s pretty inspiring to observe different cultures who are so often at odds seeming to get along and co-exist.”

When asked if he has any Israeli musical inspirations, Strum replied with a resounding yes. “There’s a label in Tel Aviv called BLDG5 which is doing some really special things at the moment – the band Garden City Movement especially, who have a really refined handle on musical textures, drum programming and the use of real instruments (in particular middle eastern ones) within beautiful electronic soundscapes. Also from that label are Helfer and Totemo who are incredible artists too — I really want to try and link up with some of those guys when I next visit. Va’adat Charigim are a great Israel punk band too, they seem to be making some waves overseas and I love their album a lot.”

There’s such an incredible music scene going on in Israel and it would be awesome to perform there.

So what’s next for Japanese Wallpaper? Gab says he hopes a new single and an album in the first half of next year, as well as lots of local touring and performing in Australia and hopefully some overseas shows too. “This whole thing has happened so quickly though so I’m just trying to stay open to the opportunities that present themselves and enjoying the ride.” For those wondering about a possible Japanese Wallpaper performance in Israel anytime soon, Strum says he’s not so sure just yet. “Touring a show is a fairly expensive endeavour and can be hard to justify in a new country where your name isn’t as established. I’d love to one day though – there’s such an incredible music scene going on in Israel and it would be awesome to perform there.”

For those interested, the new Japanese Wallpaper EP, a phenomenal and a true listening pleasure, is for sale on the Israeli iTunes store. You can also follow Japanese Wallpaper on SoundCloud and Facebook.

Japanese Wallpaper EP
Japanese Wallpaper EP
About the Author
David Metzler is the founder of AppleBay Media, Arcadia Consulting and Noon Philanthropy. He has a burning passion for the nonprofit sector and is active with a number of NPOs. Metzler previously held senior positions for major Israeli and Jewish Diaspora institutions before embarking on his current entrepreneurial endeavors. David has lived in California, Sweden, Australia, and calls Israel his home since 2001.