A conversation with Noah Bates about “Coffee in Japan”

Q: Hi! How did you come up with the concept for “Coffee in Japan,” and what inspired the song’s unique blend of 80s nostalgia, dreamy vibes, and contemporary pop elements?

A: I came up with the chorus for ‘Coffee in Japan’ a while ago. It was just after my mum’s birthday and I had been playing with the melody and the hook for a while. It originally came from a conversation I had overheard and I just thought that going for coffee overseas seemed like a crazy thing to do, but I found a spot in my mind where I could relate to it a little more and twisted it into a short-lived love story. The 80’s Nostalgia and pop elements came more from my musical influences that I’ve collected over the years and I always liked those sounds. I also thought the nostalgia could play well with the song’s themes, so it was also a musical choice to help tie the song together with the production.

Q: Can you share your experience growing up in The Netherlands and Malaysia, and how it influenced your music?

A:  Growing up in The Netherlands, Malaysia and then spending my last 2 years in school in Australia definitely shaped me into the person I am and influenced my music. I went from being surrounded by different European cultures and music styles, to then being surrounded by different styles of music and Asian cultures whilst I was still young and building my musical taste and interest. It was definitely an aspect of my life that influenced my musical interest, as there wasn’t really a boundary of what I would listen to or hear in terms of language as I’d been around so many that I would look past the lyrics and hear the melodies and productions behind the song and wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t an english speaking artist or band. I think moving to Australia is when I cemented my musical tastes as that is when I was getting more and more involved in the music scene.

Q: What led you to pursue a career in music, and how did you develop your indie-pop sound?

A: I’ve always loved music for as long as I remember, which I know most musicians say but it is true. All the different parts of the music world and performing arts world have always intrigued me. I think being exposed to different cultural celebrations, music and performances really left an impression on me. All the different instruments I saw being used from western cultures to eastern and oriental styles was very exciting as well, because everything had its own sound and purpose but could be rearranged to do anything else. The indie-pop sound I think is a result of my current environment mixed with my musical taste that I have been developing over the last few years. The Australian indie scene is in my opinion one of the best. I think being a part of that for the last few years and listening to it has definitely rubbed off on me and then blending that with the pop elements I’ve loved hearing all my life was an exciting experience.  

Q: How do artists like Harry Styles, Shawn Mendes, and The 1975 inspire your music, and in what ways do you incorporate their influence into your songs?

A: I think they all play different parts of my musical influence. They were all soundtracks to different parts of my life and I think for “Coffee in Japan”, these artists came through the most and inspired me the most. Harry Styles’ different pop sounds have had a big impact on me and my music as he does so many different things and his productions open so many different musical doors that it really helped show me the different styles of pop that can be incorporated into an album. I think Harry, The 1975 and Shawn’s songwriting also has had a big influence on my writing as well. In terms of lyrics and structure they do follow a mostly pop style but they all have their own unique twists that I’ve enjoyed studying. Shawn’s acoustic pop sound was a big inspiration for “Coffee in Japan” and an acoustic guitar was originally the bed of the song apart from the lyrics. The acoustic sound is definitely still there but I went a different route in the end, one that felt more me I think. Finally, The 1975s 80s sound and guitars are a big influence for me. I love the punchy gated drums and chorus guitars and synths they fill their songs with, I think those sounds are great. That sort of  80s music has a massive place in my heart and is definitely something I enjoy exploring.

Q: “Coffee in Japan” is a result of your independent and single-handed creative endeavor. Can you describe your creative process and the challenges you faced while working on the track?

A: The track started out as an acoustic-pop track originally whilst I was writing it. It started with the chord progression and the melody. They sort of went hand in hand as the melody came out when I started playing the chords for the first time. I already had an idea on the words as I had scribbled the first half of the chorus on a post it note so I wouldn’t forget it. The rest of the production came out pretty naturally and it was finished pretty quickly except for the guitar during the bridge and final chorus. That was recorded towards the end of the production phase. It was around that time I replaced the drums for the third time as I wasn’t happy with the sound I was getting from them or the energy they brought to the song. The verses were re-written a few times as well. I had lots of different ideas but didn’t want to end up with a 20 minute song so I chose my favourites.

Q: How do you feel about the reception of “Coffee in Japan” and the review by Illustrate Magazine?

A: It feels a little like a weird dream, I didn’t think it would get this much attention or interaction this quickly or to the scale it has. It also feels a little surreal having my song reviewed by such big magazines and blogs, especially the Illustrate Magazine review. It’s been quite a nice experience to be honest, having lots of people saying all these nice things and leaving good reviews. I always liked the song and thought it was pretty good but having strangers say good things almost legitimises it a little more because it’s not just me or my parents that think it’s good. I would always see magazines and blogs write about artists or even interview them, so it’s a pretty wild and cool experience having it happen to me too.

Q: As a 20-year-old indie-pop artist, what are your goals for the future, and how do you plan to evolve your sound?

A: I am definitely keen on sharing and releasing some more music in the future and getting some visuals done for them as well in the form of music videos. I’m also looking forward to playing some shows and performing live more. I think in terms of my sound, I am still searching for it and I’m just going to keep exploring my influences and making what I think sounds cool and also enjoy making. 

Q: Can you share any upcoming projects or collaborations that your fans can look forward to?

A: I have a music video for “Coffee in Japan” coming out at the start of October that I am really excited to share. I also have some live things planned for the following months and another single coming early next year!!

Q: How do you stay connected with your fans and promote your music on various platforms like TikTok, YouTube, and Bandcamp?

A: I am definitely still trying to figure out social media and promotion and where I sit in that world. It’s a very different time we live in in terms of social media and the way it changes and moves on from things very quickly and I don’t want to get caught up in it all and forget why I am there. At the moment however I am definitely more focused on Instagram and TikTok as I find you can connect with people better on those platforms.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who want to create their own unique sound and navigate the music industry independently?

A: Every one of your favourite songs can teach you something, find out what you like about it most and break it down. Learning as much as you can is another great way to get to your sound faster, as you’ll know the best way to get there. Finding a teacher or a mentor can be a great help if you have access to that or even youtube can be a great place to start. Just stay consistent with learning, listening and enjoying music. I think not being afraid of failure is another big thing and taking every good opportunity that comes your way. So many opportunities come and go, so not taking advantage of that can have a negative effect. I’ll have to get back to you on navigating the music industry as I am still finding my way through this big world, but the main thing would be to trust your instinct and do what feels best to you. If you like a song of yours that would not be considered “Mainstream”, release it anyway if that’s what you want. It is your music and your music world.