Ever heard of lo-fi?
Do you love it? Do you absolutely love every second of it?
I do. Anything to save me from the commercially crisp bullshit that serves as music nowadays is a rare and wonderful thing. Beijing-based band Arrows Made Of Desire is doing its part to join the ranks of musicians that are setting a strong foundation for original music here in China. Since the release a few years ago of their first album Songs That Sell Fish— recorded by music savant Joewi Verhoeven and released on Tag Team Records—this band has received some piqued interest including a spread in Time Out magazine and a handsome City Weekend cover photo for Verhoeven. He has been playing a score of shows in Beijing and with the release of date for his new album Songs That Sell Out set for May 29th, the forward momentum of this band doesn’t seem to be slowing.
“It’s been a natural development,” says Verhoeven. “I got an electric guitar when I was 15 or 16-years-old and started playing with a band. Almost immediately we were in a studio, but I felt really dissatisfied with the result. I had ideas for songs that I wanted to work on so I bought a recorder and started recording myself. I started recording the music that I liked and that’s how it rolled out.”
After graduating from high school and coming to China to study film in Beijing, Verhoeven joined up with the well-known Beijing-based band Casino Demon. Again, he encountered problems. “I was playing with them, but I wanted to do work on my own. With them, I was just a guitarist. I couldn’t fully use my abilities. I had my recorder with me and I was recording my own songs for pure enjoyment. After three months I had recorded a bunch of songs—original demos.”
Verhoeven’s dissatisfaction with his experience in a band led him to record Arrows Made Of Desire’s first album completely by himself on an 8-track. Originally, Verhoeven had 15 songs for an album, but Tag Team Records picked it up and made a “selection” of 10 tracks for the album. “They mastered the songs, but it didn’t help. I prefer lo-fi,” commented Joewi.
The reception of Arrows Made Of Desire’s debut was remarkable especially considering that Verhoeven was only 19-years-old at the time of its release. This first album verges on rare genius not only because of the quality of the music itself, but also for the fact the Verhoeven did the whole thing on his own.
For Arrows Made Of Desire’s next album, Verhoeven finds himself working with a band again. “The first album was all electric drums, but the new album is different. I still wanted to keep that lo-fi sound so we recorded in a studio on analog equipment. It has a mid-fi kind of feel. For the first album, I was more of a singer and songwriter, but this one sounds more like a band playing together. I did all of the songs at home and then we recorded them in the studio.” After two failed attempts working with bands, what made Verhoeven go back to the fold once again? “There were new things that I couldn’t do,” he responds, somewhat despondently.
Verhoeven still seems to vacillate about playing with a band however. On the new album drummer Huang He Da joined in for one track with drummer Xiao Dou filling in on the rest. Keyboardist Yuli Chen and singer/guitarist Verhoeven himself took on the keyboards together. Finally, bassist Gao Feng, who plays with Arrows Made Of Desire on the stage, didn’t play on the album at all.
For Verhoeven the thought seems to linger that sometimes if you want something done right, you do it yourself. Now, with a second album set for release, Arrows Made Of Desire’s audience can decide for themselves whether Verhoeven should stick to what he knows best or if those “new things” are really worth it.
From the new album Songs that Sell Out, listen in advance…
Photos by by Gamal Istiyanto