Layabozi

甜蜜的孩子: A Shanghai Indie Story

甜蜜的孩子 (Tián Mì de Hái Zi) used to be known as The Honeys, but that brought them some misunderstandings when they were abroad, so now they are Tian. These guys have been part of Shanghai’s indie music scene since 1997, and their musical adventure has moved them all over the place.

Their music is a cross between Western and Asian pop rock sounds. Over the years, they have gotten more playful, and in recent years they have added Chinese instruments to their music. They are a tight band live. This, plus the addition of a great manager, has brought them to concerts and festivals all over the Northern Hemisphere.

Their most recent album is Water, from 2008. The single “Yi Jiang Nan” was released in December the year before that, and reached the top ranking on Chinese radio. And last year they were awarded “Best Band – Mainland China” by China National Radio.

Last week, they released a new song as a part of a charity compilation, and they premiered their new nickname Tian. This Wednesday, they will be at MAO Live House Shanghai, as part of the Reeperbahn Festival.

Tian are 於阗 ( Yu Tian) on vocals and guitar, 王哲 (Wang Zhe) on guitar, 戴哲 ( Dai Zhe) on bass, and 何振浩( He Zhenhao) on drums. There’s your introduction, those of you who still haven’t heard them. To those who already know them, check this interview to get to know an indie band living well in China.

Layabozi: You have been playing already 13 years, what is your vision of the evolution of China’s and Shanghai’s music scene?

於阗 ( Yu Tian): We hope that the rock scene can develop and be better in the future. The situation right now is not that good. It is not only about bands and their fans. Normal people don’t seem to need special music these days, they only focus on making money and have no spare time left when they could think about music. But without thinking there can’t be special arts (not music only).

These days even younger people listen to music that is even older than we are – old Chinese pop songs.

The media has a very big influence, but we have no real good music radio or MTV channel. The music they play is not very demanding.

I like to compare the situation of rock music to the one of classical music in China. There they also have no room for new ideas, are afraid nobody can understand them. The artists are poor and that will not change soon.

But it is interesting that rock festivals are becoming more and more popular. We hope those festivals can be better in the future, and we are working with them even if we are not playing there. We try to help to have better sound, better stage management, a better understanding.

LYBZ: What have been the most complicated challenges that you have had to confront on your music career?

於阗: Our most difficult time was when our drummer, He Lao, left the band for personal reasons last year. It is not easy to find brothers like him. There are not too many guys out there who can play and who are also friends. So, we are extremely glad now that He Lao is back on board.

LYBZ: Describe the evolution of your music and your creative process during your career?

於阗: When we started we did only pop-rock and rock covers. We liked 80s rock, especially Guns n’ Roses. Then we discovered Brit Pop and listened to a lot of music by bands like Oasis, Blur, or Suede, and also covered some of their songs. But we were also writing more and more of own music, our first own songs were “Hai de Meng” and “Wo de Linghun”. Since we recorded our second album we don’t play covers at our gigs anymore.

Also, on the second album we didn’t want to be someone else anymore. We were trying to find our own music, Chinese style. But we were not that satisfied with the results. Some of the songs lost their energy, miss a certain “power of heart”. We are now trying to get that back… and it is happening, like in our new song “Ye Xing”.

LYBZ: During these 13 years of music, have you felt the influence of your music in Shanghai or China? How?

於阗: It was not really with our own music that we influenced the music scene in the beginning. It was while we were still in Hangzhou. Back then, people discovered international bands through us and the songs we covered. They first knew The Honeys, then Oasis.

Today we see our influence more on the quality side. Good sound quality at our live shows and on the recordings is essential for us, and now we have quite a few young bands that are turning to us for advice when it comes to sound issues, even if it is just the basics they want to get right.

LYBZ: What is your vision of post-rock and punk music in China? And what do you think of Chinese (or Asian) pop?

於阗: It is getting better in small circles. Post-rock  is now becoming pretty popular among the Chinese youth.

Asian pop: Some of the 80s/90s Taiwanese pop songs had a really good quality, but I am missing this these days.

Today, some music and singers are pushed too much by the media and people just follow without really making up their own mind about music.

LYBZ: If you have to place your music in a style, what style would that be and why?

於阗: If we really have to – Alternative Rock. We like many styles, but don’t always stick to one style. We like to mix and combine things.

LYBZ: What are your favorite Chinese bands?

於阗  (and the rest of the guys of the band agree with him): Cui Jian.

LYBZ: And what bands or music influence Tian?

於阗: Like mentioned before in our early days it was 80s rock and then the Brit Pop bands that influenced our music the most. Now we are listening to a lot of different music across all genres, it would be difficult to name the biggest influences now.

LYBZ: Do yo see yourself stronger in the studio or live performances? And what do you appreciate the most of each experience?

於阗: I think we are stronger in the studio. Now that we have our own studio, we can take our time for the recordings and really get it done the way we want it, especially guitar recordings. I am still not satisfied with our live performances. There is a lot of room for improvement.

戴哲 ( Dai Zhe): For me it is live performances. Then we can share with our fans and let them feel the energy and spirit of the band.

LYBZ: After 13 years together playing rock in China, what would be your advice for younger bands to succeed?

於阗: We are still looking for the same advice that can help us to be really successful!!

But we think it is essential to find good management to look after the band if you want to take it seriously. Then the band can focus on their music.

And never forget to share your success with the team that is behind you.

LYBZ: What are your favorite Tian songs?

於阗  (Yu Tian) & 戴哲 ( Dai Zhe): “Ye Xing”, “Yi Jiang Nan”.

王哲 (Wang Zhe): “Zai Jie Shang”.

何振浩( He Zhenhao): “Shui”.

LYBZ: What projects do you have for the future ( albums, concerts, tours, collaborations)?

於阗: We are spending a lot of time in the studio right now, writing and recording new songs. But we are also planning to re-record some of our old songs in different versions.

Later this year we are planning to release an EP in Europe, together with a small promotional tour.

We also have two collaboration projects pending…but here it is too early to talk about it.

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Mache is a hippie witch that was born under Beltane's full moon. She enjoys talking to ghosts and interdimensional beings, and cooking for her friends and beasts. She has Chilean wine in her veins instead of blood,and at the moment she belongs to China.

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