Japan, Man’s recently released debut album follows the path to a London-bound metropolis, paved with profound change and personal growth for front-woman Laeticia Acra. Each track on Metropolis paints a landscape of the artist’s growth. Feature song Shit Scared, an ode to the fear of loneliness, perfectly captures the story of this album, embracing the cathartic result from being brought face to face with your deepest fears. The album details her transformation from life in Lebanon to London and learning to embrace her true self in a city that demanded nothing less.
Japan, Man comprises of Laetitia Acra, child prodigy who has been writing since she was fourteen, and producer, composer, and uncle Julian Cassia to create the dynamic sound of Japan, Man. Drawing inspiration from artists like The Cardigans, Gorillaz, Radiohead, and King Krule, Japan, Man’s music traverses the boundaries of indie, alternative, and pop, to make a sound their own, characterised by enticing melodies, funk-infused basslines, and accomplished songwriting.
Looking ahead, Japan, Man's artistic journey promises to be a thrilling one, with potential collaborations and acoustic offerings on the horizon. But today, we talk dream collabs, culture shock, and artistic process.
Your moniker, Japan, Man–it’s very unique and interesting. Could you tell us a little more behind the name? What’s the story or inspiration behind Japan, Man, or what image do you want the name to conjure up?
Japan, Man just kinda came about after I had shown my first song to Julian. I had written Stop Staring and then sent it to him without ever really expressing much interest in making music, and he was shocked and said it had to be produced, and that I’d had to have a stage name. I was more into the poetry of songwriting so I was shocked the song managed to generate that reaction. Anyways, he said I should come up with a name that was easy to spell, memorable, and provoking – and I just sat and thought and landed in Japan, Man.
Honestly, I love the name so much. I adore it. It’s such a cool name that I love going by. People in my life sometimes even refer to me as Japan, which I love. The image I ideally want associated with it is like this super cool band that makes groovy, mellow music that’s also an uncle/niece duo, which could either amplify the coolness, or maybe not. But I like to think it does. It’s also super quirky that we are uncle/niece. 
You started in the music industry so young, at only 14 in 2019. Can you talk some more about how this came to be? How has your songwriting evolved since?
I was just so shocked when it all happened. I was really unpopular at school, and it just didn’t compute in my brain. I had some crazy imposter syndrome–and still do to be honest. But it was crazy! Suddenly I was communicating with my favourite artists like Clairo and Samia and I was just gobsmacked at all of it. Songwriting wise, it’s definitely gotten more confident and ballsy as my personality has, and as I’ve gotten more comfortable with who I am as I’ve grown up.
The city of London has a rich and diverse music scene. How has living in London impacted your musical style and creativity?
I think it’s just made me very inspired. There’s art in every corner of this city, you don’t even have to look for it, it’s just there. And that can be intimidating sometimes, but also inspiring.
You’ve said most of your songs were written in the first year in London, which is really impressive. Can you talk a little about your creative process? How do you approach writing for songs or to create art? Describe the perfect atmosphere for you to tap into your creativity for us.
I think I write my best songs when I’m back home in Lebanon; maybe not my best songs but my personal favourites. I go back there whenever I can. But yes, the whole album was mostly written here. I think I’ll usually pick up my guitar and start writing after watching a movie or after feeling particularly emotional. And it’s usually at night as I am a very nocturnal person.
Sometimes, I approach the process by having a phrase in my head I really like. My notes app is like the most top-secret thing in the world. It’s filled with little poems and bits that eventually turn into either fully developed poems or songs. A lot of the time though, Julian will have a track he produced a while ago that he likes a lot and he’ll send it to me and ask that I write the lyrics to it. We also work together in fine-tuning lyrics later on in the process, usually in the recording process when we realize other things could work better. 
What was the most surprising culture shock moment you found in moving to London from Lebanon?
Oh, I don’t even know where to begin with that one. I think the individuality people possess. Which can be such a good thing, but also a bad thing. Lebanon is so focused on community and family and traditions, which makes it such a socially warm country but also very suffocating sometimes. London is so free, everyone is subverting some social norm, and everyone is trying to make it for themselves on their own. It’s so freeing to feel like you are your own person, but at the same time, the ‘each man for himself’ mindset kinda slapped me in the face when I first moved here.
Also, something else was like the social age of people. I think people grow up much slower back in Lebanon since they are so supported by their families. Since moving to London I feel like I’m well into my thirties, again in a good way and a bad way. I do love London so much though. I just know it’s the place for me. I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life here.
Your new album, Metropolis, is described as a coming-of-age moment where each track symbolizes a lesson learned or a person who influenced your path. Can you share an experience or individual that has influenced one of the tracks?
The song The People We Became is so special to me because it captures such a turning point in my life. This song conveys the experience of realising how much another person can change you, for better or for worse. In this case, worse. And along with that how attached you can become to a person despite all the pain and agony they cause you. It becomes a drug, y’know?
This song, or I guess I should say this lesson, this person, taught me a lot about myself, and how I should treat myself if I want to be happy. You can give your absolute all to a person and destroy yourself doing it, but that’s them bringing it out. This song was me reflecting on those sorts of actions and realizing I did not have to do that ever again.
Your songs blend together different sounds and genres that make the ‘alt-pop’ label a little reductive – how would you describe your sound in this new album?
I think the music definitely started at alt-pop, but the more Julian and I explore musical influences we can’t resist not incorporating them into our work. I’d definitely add ‘grunge’ to our label, maybe even ‘funk.’ It’s really hard to put your finger on it because the vibes change from song to song. I think I just say alt-rock whenever anyone asks, and I also say ‘90s-influenced. Which isn’t really a label, but it gets the message across.
How does your new album serve as a love letter to London? What specific experiences of the city are woven into the album's themes and music?
I think the experiences woven into the album are definitely those of me exploring friend groups, and parties, and gigs, and like the social life I created for myself over here that was so drastically different to my life in Lebanon. I also came here when I was 16, so it’s when I started exploring relationships. So, there’s lots of that in the songs.
Shit Scared is notably the feature track of this album, out of the four previously unheard singles on the album. The track is very honest and raw in the lyricism, can you discuss this fear a little more? What was the turning point that led you to embrace and express this vulnerability in such an honest and relatable way?
This song was actually kicked off by Julian! He really wanted to use the hook “And I’m shit scared again,” so we rolled with it. I did lots of work on the verses though, one of my favourite lines is “People come, and people go, you call them friends, but you never know.” I think I decided to open up about all this vulnerability because it was a time in my life where I felt pretty alone. All my friends were off doing their own thing and I just felt left behind. I also recently decided to not be around anyone who made me second guess if they actually wanted me there, which was a lesson that Shit Scared probably covers.
I'm curious about the instrumental composition of the album, as the result is a really nice fusion of strong bass and synth beats and strings. How was this process, and how did you come to this conclusion for your unique sound? What did you find particularly enjoyable or successful in pairing with your vocals?
That is all Julian’s amazing work. But the way we came up with the sound was literally merging the sounds of our favourite artists. We both love The Cardigans, Daft Punk, Serge Gainsbourg… So that’s where lots of the bass lines and guitar licks come from. Julian works really hard on incorporating all our influences in there, and with his multi-instrumentalist skills he manages pretty well.
Your album art, I read that it’s your own. What was the process behind this? What artists do you feel have inspired you in harnessing your own style?
I usually start out in my sketchbook. I almost always have an image in mind before I start the album art. I’ll go in with a sketch and then mix up lots of media. It is usually watercolour, colouring pencils, Posca pens, and fine liner. Then I process the sketch into Procreate and fine-tune the details and create the backdrop. My favourite one is the cover for Metropolis, the album cover. That was an interpretation of my street in London. It’s got my house, and the river Thames, and my favourite little dog park that I’ve created so many overwhelming and amazing memories in.
What’s the ideal listening environment for this album in your opinion?
Either hanging out with friends, on the bus, on the train, in the car, at a party. I think it really depends on the song though (laughs).
Do you have a dream collaboration for Japan, Man in the future?
I would love to collaborate with Sir Chloe, Radiohead, King Krule, Kendrick Lamar, Beabadoobee, or Childish Gambino!
What's next for you after this album release? Are there any upcoming projects or goals you're excited to pursue?
I think we’re gonna reel it back and put out a pretty acoustic song, kinda Adrianne Lenker/Phoebe Bridgers vibes. Which I’m very excited for. We’ve also got a music video for Shit Scared coming out. It is absolutely beautiful, and I cannot wait for it to be out for people to watch and enjoy.
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