Indie pop band Japanese Breakfast made its debut as musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” on May 21, performing two singles from its latest album, “Jubilee.”
The band’s lead singer, Michelle Zauner, belted out “Be Sweet” and “Paprika,” two popular songs from the acclaimed 2021 record which earned the band its first Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album earlier this year. She performed along with host Natasha Lyonne, who also made her debut on the long-running NBC variety show.
The upbeat, ethereal-sounding live performances may also be some viewers’ introduction to Zauner and Japanese Breakfast, who has made the rounds on late night television throughout the last several months as the Bryn Mawr college graduate continues to promote the album along with her best-selling memoir, “Crying in H-Mart.”
While Zauner was in rehearsals for her “SNL” performance at NBC Studios in New York City, she made a quick pit stop at “The Tonight Show,” where she spoke with Jimmy Fallon about her experience at the Grammy Awards and the inspiration behind “Crying in H-Mart.”
“I’m half-Korean and my mom is Korean and so in a way it felt like I was losing a part of my culture on top of losing my mother,” Zauner said in the episode, which aired on Thursday. “I started going to H-Mart and learning how to cook Korean dishes and every time I came home, it was a way of me remembering my mom and staying connected to my culture.”
Following a personal essay titled “Crying in H-Mart” being published in The New Yorker in 2018, Zauner decided to continue writing about the grief following her mother’s death. She is currently working on writing the screenplay for the film adaptation of the book, which has been on the New York Times Bestsellers List for 30 weeks since it was released in April 2021.
On Thursday, City Councilmember Helen Gym introduced a resolution to recognize Zauner’s work in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In the resolution, Gym noted Zauner’s early 20’s gig working the coat check at Union Transfer before selling the venue out five times as part of Japanese Breakfast.
The music venue named its coat check after Zauner, which she celebrated in an Instagram post last year.
Gym also noted the significance of “Crying in H-Mart,” both as a personal essay-turned-memoir for Zauner but also as a celebration of Korean food as a way to honor her late mother, who was the primary inspiration for the book.
“Through her music and writing, Zauner has created a unique voice for Asian America. Her work has deeply explored themes of belonging, motherhood, grief, renewal, and cultural reclamation and preservation,” the resolution reads. “Her words-whether on the page or reverberating through a concert venue-remind us that through grief and joy, conscious acts of cultural reclamation, oral histories and storytelling, and the power of artistic expression pay homage to the relationships we have with those closest to us, and with those who have passed.”
Japanese Breakfast returns for a show in Philadelphia on July 23 as part of their North American Tour, performing at the Dell Music Center in North Philadelphia.