Ask an Insider: Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner on Her Tour Essentials and Fender’s New Meteora Electric Guitar

Ask an Insider: Japanese Breakfast
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From sound engineers and screenwriters to celebrity makeup artists and stylists, Variety’s new series “Ask an Insider” will ask top professionals within the entertainment industry to share their must-have essentials, for work… and for play. In this installment, Michelle Zauner, the lead singer and songwriter behind the indie rock band Japanese Breakfast, shares her love for the Fender electric guitars she plays on stage, as well as her other tour essentials.

Japanese Breakfast’s third studio album “Jubilee,” as the name would suggest, is about joy — a thematic departure from Michelle Zauner’s distinctly somber, melancholic music that lends itself to an entirely new sonic landscape.

The tone of the new album, which came out last June, may have come as a surprise to longtime fans accustomed to the gloomy chords of 2016’s “Pyschopomp” and 2017’s “Soft Sounds from Another Planet,” both deeply informed by Zauner’s grief following her mother’s death in 2014. But after releasing “Crying in H Mart,” a moving memoir that sees Zauner revisit this same grief in a different medium, it makes sense that she saw her next album as an opportunity to finally start anew, to break free from these emotional confines to start a fresh chapter.

“Paprika,” the album’s opening track, serves as the perfect reintroduction to Japanese Breakfast’s new sound, packed with sustained synthesizers and steady drumming that evoke a carnival-like feeling that threads its way through the entire album, all the way to a minutes-long guitar solo in “Posing for Cars.”

“It’s like a plate of color on the palette,” Zauner says about the guitar’s role in her newest songs. “We use the guitar a lot. I mean, it’s like 50% just guitar feedback. My most comfortable songwriting anchor is the guitar, but I knew I had to be a little spicier this time around… It’s the first time we’ve had a very long guitar solo.”

Zauner has already been performing those solos live while on tour over the past year, using her tried-and-true Fender Jazzmaster to bring each song’s layered orchestration to life. But recently, she’s begun trying out Fender’s new Player Plus Meteora, which she says has been helpful in picking up more intricate picking patterns and high-speed melodies.

“It did feel extremely comfortable for me to the play the solo parts that I sometimes feel like I struggle with, going from the Jazzmaster,” she says. “I had a real sense of control over the feedback I was able to get out of it.”

In fact, Zauner is one of the faces of Fender’s brand new lineup of Player Plus models, which includes the Meteora HH Guitar and Active Meteora Bass, explaining her recent switch-up. While the rocker admits she’s “still married” to her Jazzmaster, she adds that she could definitely see the Meteora “entering the rotation and deserving a spot on the iconic lineup.”

It makes sense that Zauner has a hard time changing things up while on stage. For any musician, it’s important to be able to turn to certain rituals and products while on tour to feel at home while on the road. Aside from her trusty Fender axes, Zauner spoke with Variety about some of her other tour must-haves that she can’t hit the road without.

While on Stage:

Fender Player Plus Meteora

Courtesy of Fender Courtesy of Fender

“The main difference with the Meteora is that there are the humbucking pickups, and the body and controls of the guitar are very minimalist, which I really like. It had a really nice feel when I played it for the videos that we’re about to put out. And I don’t know what could have contributed to this aside from the humbucking pickup, but we put it on for ‘Posing for Cars,’ which has a very long solo, and it did feel extremely comfortable for me to play going from the Jazzmaster. I also had a real sense of control over the feedback I was able to get out of it for the solo parts that I sometimes feel like I struggle with, from a personal level, on the Jazzmaster.”

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Tour Bus Snack:

Microwave Popcorn

Courtesy of Amazon

“This was the first time we’ve ever been on a tour bus, so we have a microwave and we eat microwave popcorn with nutritional yeast big time,” Zauner says. “After a show we would watch either ‘Squid Game’ or ‘The Great British Bake Off’ like losers.”

The Original Popco Silicone Popcorn Popper $16.99  $15.99

Salt n’ Vinegar Chips

Courtesy of Amazon

“I have a soft spot in my heart for salt and vinegar Kettle chips.”

Kettle Salt n Vinegar Chips $19.49  $17.78

Skincare Routine:

Courtesy of Amazon

“CeraVe, baby. I use their moisturizing cream.”

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream $19.49  $17.78

MD Solarsciences SPF

Courtesy of Amazon

“My dermatologist recommended this MD SolarSciences SPF,” Zauner says. The light-weight water-resistant sunscreen smooths over the skin with an invisible matte finish, packed with SPF 50. Plus, it’s currently 25% off with the code “colorescience” on Dermstore’s website.

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