Homesickness when you’re ‘living the dream’

It’s getting colder in the UK now and I wish I was hungover in London.

Not too hungover you understand. Just that kind of grogginess that is almost pleasant because it comes from having a really great night out with your friends. If the friends have stayed on your sofa and none of you have much to do that day then so much the better.

I want an English Breakfast with real bacon, a sofa and hot drinks, and the promise of hours of chatting about nothing much. Maybe we’ll venture into the cold air to go out to lunch and chat some more or go for a walk in the park. The leaves will be changing colour and the autumn wind will freshen me out of my sleepiness.

I saw a view of a grey, redbrick London buildings via Skype today and I almost teared up. I miss old buildings. I miss the crisp feeling of an autumn morning. Hell, I miss the grey, all these sunny days can get kind of oppressive. I always feel guilty that I’m inside working instead of out enjoying it and this sounds weird but I sometimes feel that the sky in Japan is boring.

I really should not feel this way. I know for perhaps the first time in my life I am exactly where I want to be pursuing what I really want to do. I am so so lucky to be able to make music and write in Tokyo.

And yet and yet my ‘To Do’ list is horrendous, the stakes are high and the pressure gets to me sometimes. I am trying so hard to achieve my goals but I’m aware it may not be hard enough. Sometimes I get three rejections a day for jobs and the acceptances I do get often clash and I have to work out how to be in two places at once. Editors can be mean. Speaking in Japanese can be exhausting. My skin is also awful this week for some reason.

I guess homesickness pangs will come even when you’re ‘living the dream.’ In a way I’m glad they do. It reminds me that I’m a human being instead of a productivity machine. It’s also reassuring to know that, god, I do love my country. A stupid part of me sometimes associates moving back home with ‘life being over’ so it’s nice to think of British things I can look forward to, when and if the time to 帰宅  comes.

Hyde Park
About four years ago when I lived with in walking distance of Hyde Park

 

 

NEW EP ‘In Distance, Everything is Poetry’ to be released 10 November 2017

I’ve got a new EP coming out and it’s title will be ‘In Distance, Everything is Poetry.’

The release date is Friday 10 November 2017 and I am SO FRICKIN EXCITED.

As the title suggests, this one is influenced by my life in Japan. Lyrics explore culture shock, long distance relationships and being young and broke in the two most exciting, alienating and expensive cities in the world (which are Tokyo and London duh, no arguing).

This blog is Tokyo Harp but my identity as the song-writer Julia Mascetti is slightly broader, which is why I tried to make this a Japan influenced EP instead of a ‘Japan EP.’ I think I’ve succeeded. I don’t think ‘distance’ is a subject matter only relevant to those of us crazy enough to uproot to the other side of the world. These days very few of us live our entire lives in the area we are born. We study and work far from our families, make connections online that compete with people we see every day and our loyalties and priorities are blurred in ways that can be confusing and painful but also interesting to write about. So I hope most of you can find something to relate to in my lyrics, and if not, everyone likes harp music right?

I’m working with some amazing people to bring this thing to life and the first I’d like to introduce is the fantastic London based photographer Emily Valentine. Nature and romance are two big themes of the EP and I feel she captured both perfectly during our shoot in Greenwich park.

I have never been this excited about anything I made in my life and I truly can’t wait to share this EP with you.

Julia
xxx

Julia Mascetti harp Emily Valentine
My harp in Greenwich park. Photo credit: Emily Valentine

 

Die Milch – gig review

Die milch cover

What is it with Lolita ladies and hot beverages? Comprising of Mocha on violin and Coco on keyboards and vocals, the Japanese duo Die Milch put a spell on the crowd at The Islington on Sunday night.

As far as I could make out with my shaky Japanese, I learned from their website that Coco is actually a doll made by a magician, who is allowed to become animated for a limited time to perform… Along with a description of the band as ‘gothic baroque pop’ by the friend from the Lolita community I went along with, that was all I knew about Die Milch. It turns out, the duo characterise most good things that I associate with Lolita fashion – an eclectic but stylish mixture of old and new, a sense of irony and just a splash of magic. The stage is a visual treat with the keyboard decked in roses and white lace and two impeccable gothic Lolita ‘coords.’ Sonically, Mocha’s soaring violin solos over industrial style beats suggests a more tasteful Emilie Autumn, though Coco’s harpsichord keyboard gymnastics also bring to mind Malice Mizer.

An unfortunate by-product of doing a music degree is that I have become snobby about string players in pop. All too often it seems that all it takes is the bassist dusting off the violin he hasn’t played since he was 14 and shoving in some long notes in a couple of songs for a mediocre band to get their ‘classy classical’ points. Thanks to my snobbishness, I was nervous when Mocha, clad in a little-bo-peep style white dress, picked up her bow. Please, please be good.

Image credit: Aliki Arkomani

I needn’t have worried. It couldn’t be clearer from the moment her bow touches her strings that she can  play. Really play, with classical flair and technical mastery. Though she doesn’t feel the need to jump around the stage a la Lindsay Stirling, her bowing is extrovert and expressive in manner which belies her diminutive statue and adorable bonnet.

To be sure, there is nothing unique about Coco’s understated vocals, but there is a lot to be said for a clear soprano who doesn’t fluff a single note, which is pretty rare in touring pop musicians. Moreover, a more conspicuous vocalist would draw attention from the complex instrumental parts. What Coco lacks in vocal individuality she makes up for in stage presence. Instead of letting her limited English restrict her, Coco’s stage chat was knowing and often hilarious. “It is hot here. But if you go to Japan in summer, you will die.” As a recovering Essex girl, I appreciated her nod to estuary English: “I know real Engrish. Bread an bu-er. Wa-er.” Both performers use rigid, stylised dance moves to maintain their clockwork doll persona. The overall choreography of the set was slick and seemed impeccably rehearsed, leaving me in no doubt as to the clarity of Die Milch’s creative vision.

Support Scarlett Young, whose singing and dancing won her the title ‘UK Kawaii Star for HYPER JAPAN,’ gave an energetic performance. Indeed, it’s difficult to believe that so much kawaii  can fit into one person. Though her syrupy, unironic cuteness seemed a little incongruous to Die Milch’s gothic tones and complex musicality, there can be no doubt that her programme of J-Pop favourites was a crowd-pleaser for the Japanophile audience. Young’s choreography was tight and her vocals strong but I felt that her reliance on karaoke style backing tracks held back her obvious musicality – though this is probably less of an issue on the convention stage, which is where she usually performs. I would be interested to see how she fares with a live band.

Promoted by the music journalism website and J-Pop club night J-Pop Go, the evening was a thoroughly enjoyable celebration of Japanese music and the Lolita community in London and beyond.

You can get yourself a copy of Die Milch’s latest album IMPERIAL here.

Julia Mascetti featured on Twisted Jazz’s debut album ‘Jazz Pressure’

Recording at Miloco Studios
Recording at Miloco Studios

Whilst living in London last year, I had the pleasure of recording with Nel Kabas for her project Twisted Jazz at Miloco Studios. I am excited to share that Twisted Jazz’s debut album Jazz Pressure is out now and available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon.

Jazz Pressure is perhaps best described as a jazz-electro album, but with an idiosyncratic mix of influences. Personal bias aside, I would recommend the album to anyone who likes music which is both unusual and the accessible – a combination I aspire to in my own music. Check out www.twisted-jazz.com to find out more or get yourself a copy.

I really enjoyed working with Nel K and Twisted Jazz. If any musicians are interested in future collaborations, please feel free to contact me.

jazz pressure