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January 19, 2022

Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner recalls working coat check at Union Transfer on 'The Late Late Show'

The Philly indie pop band performed 'Slide Tackle' from the group's Grammy-nominated album, 'Jubilee,' on Tuesday night's show

Music Japanese Breakfast
Japanese Breakfast Michelle Zauner Daniel DeSlover/SIPA USA

Michelle Zauner checked coats at Union Transfer in Philadelphia before becoming a Grammy-nominated musician. Above, Zauner and Japanese Breakfast perform in Lexington, Kentucky last August.

Japanese Breakfast helped reopen Union Transfer from the COVID-19 pandemic with five sellout shows last August.

But before the indie pop band's lead vocalist Michelle Zauner was selling out performances at the Philadelphia concert hall, she worked in its coat check room to help make ends meet and break into the music industry. 

Zauner's experience taking coats, and an awkward encounter that occurred when she worked at Union Transfer, led to a special moment during summer's shows, the singer-songwriter explained on "The Late Late Show with James Corden" Tuesday night.

"While I was working in the coat check, I took a fake $100 bill and I gave someone like $99 of change," Zauner told Corden. "And the management was like, 'You're going to have to pay for that.' And my boss, Sean Agnew, stepped up and was like, 'I'll cover it. You don't have any money. I'll take care of it.' So, on the last night of the shows, I was like, 'Sean, come up. I have $100 for you. I can afford to pay it back now.' And then at the end of the show, they took me out and they hand-painted a sign that read, 'Michelle Zauner's Coat Check.' And on the plaque it says, 'May everyone who works here go on to sell out five nights at Union Transfer.'"

Union Transfer also can boast that a Grammy-nominated artist once checked coats. Japanese Breakfast received its first two Grammy Award nominations this year for best new artist and best alternative album for "Jubilee."

"I was in my apartment in Brooklyn and I screamed a lot and ran around and my neighbors probably thought I was a crazy person," Zauner said when she found out about the band's Grammy nominations.

"I was with my husband, and I think that my manager might've known beforehand and was like, 'You should film her reaction,'" Zauner continued. "And my husband is not the most savvy person and so he mostly just filmed the TV when the announcement came and then kind of flashed over to me to get my reaction and wanted to make sure to get the TV."

Japanese Breakfast performed "Slide Tackle" from the band's third studio album, "Jubilee," on Tuesday night's show. The 10-track album was released last June and was considered among the 50 best of 2021 by outlets such as NPR, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.

Along with the debut of "Jubilee," Zauner released her memoir, "Crying in M Hart," last April. The book tells the story of Zauner's childhood growing up in Seoul, South Korea and Eugene, Oregon, her relationship with her Korean heritage, the beginnings of her music career in Philadelphia and how she coped with losing her mother to cancer.

The Bryn Mawr College graduate's memoir has been on the New York Times Bestsellers List for 25 weeks. Zauner is currently working on the screenplay for the film adaptation. The film's soundtrack will be composed by Japanese Breakfast.

Japanese Breakfast will take part in a Yoko Ono tribute album, "Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono," which will be released Feb. 18. Zauner will record "No One Sees Me Like You Do" for the album, with proceeds going to the nonprofit WhyHunger in honor of Ono. 

The band will embark on a global tour that runs from March through August. Among Japanese Breakfast's notable U.S. stops this year include Coachella in Indio, California and Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee.


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