Pairs are guitarist F and drummer/vocalist Xiao Zhong. They are known around various Chinese commercial centers for their energetic and fun live show, as well as their no-nonsense (OK, there’s some nonsense) approach to making music. They have a show coming up on August 7th at Not Me. Check the Layabozi Gig Calendar for more details on that one. The band got together to answer some questions over email recently and Xiao Zhong relayed both members’ answers.
Layabozi: What are the band members’ backgrounds—creation myths, influences, gang affiliations, etc.?
PAIRS: F lives in Pudong, and I live in Yangpu. Both pretty far away from the music happenings. But we rats dream of some new shit out in the sticks. F majored in psychology during her college years and I was made an honourary ‘blood’ after one of their members caught me eating his sandwich which now makes all Crips my enemy.
LYBZ: How did the band come together, how long have you been at it, and what’s in store for you guys?
P: F told me to say ‘got food in stomach, shit in arsehole’ but I have a pretty small stomach and don’t care much for good food. The band came together after we met whilst watching some people go up and down a half pipe on their foot wheels. We’ve been making our awful noise since around August and did our first show in April this year.
Not sure what’s in store. I know I’m off to Qipu Lu later and I have to message my Aunty to see when I can call my Grandma as she doesn’t have mobile coverage 24 hours a day; that’s about it for today.
LYBZ: Pairs seems to be making a splash recently. How do you guys feel about the newfound acclaim, and what did you do to Andy Best? He’s smitten.
P: There’s acclaim? I haven’t heard any of it. We’re in our own bubble most of the time. Very few people come up and say anything after the shows. Some of my friends are picking up girls at the shows, and I’m only getting told my voice sounds shit by guys who work at the EXPO.
I’m not sure what we did to Andy. I guess he’s really easily impressed. I would hate to see him if we ever write a song about Dungeons and Dragons.
LYBZ: Tell us about your recent recording session at Yuyintang. How did it go and what came out of it?
P: It went down pretty ok. I diva’d out a little at the end, but we used the first take of every song. Actually, think we only did one take of every song, except one of them.
Adam from Luwan Rock is the sound dog, and mp3’s are getting sent back and fourth before he heads out on his National Lampoon’s trip to Burma.
LYBZ: We know that part of your ethos has been the lo-fi aesthetic. Will this recording be a departure from the fuzz? Will it actually “sound good”?
P: Wouldn’t we have to write good songs first? We like dirty and fuzzy sounds. Suits our misshapen ears. So fair bet the recording will be of higher quality but still sound like wasted time.
Lo-fi is a lover of Pairs. They will never part.
LYBZ: What can you tell us about your plans for a new indie label?
P: We’re working with Andy and Sophia now. Just feeling around, scratching our collective groin and seeing what will happen. I think the CD pressing plant will be my lounge room and the distro side will be done wherever there is an internet connection to check our email and through China Post.
LYBZ: You guys seem to have your own vision for Shanghai’s music scene: a more informal, DIY approach. How do you envision this new musical landscape?
P: We can only do what we do. Can’t really think about what other suckers are doing. Fuck, we don’t even know what we’re doing.
All I think Shanghai needs is more places to play. More places for bands to cut their teeth and cut their lines. It will be rough going as it is in every city, but it could get there. A few more heads and places popping up never hurts. Gives people some different options to go see and hear some things.
LYBZ: What is your favorite venue to play at, Shanghai and/or otherwise, and why?
P: We played at Salabim which was cool because it’s just a restaurant. They bought a kit and we just rocked up and played. It was cool. We cleared out quite a few people eating their pasta, but other than that it was fun.
Yuyintang is an obvious choice as we have played there a bunch and the people there are super nice and friendly and the beer garden slash park is pretty nice.
I think LOgO is pretty fun as well. Generally a place is just a place. It’s about the people there and the bands themselves.
LYBZ: A huge part of your popularity is the intensity of your live show. How much do you think about that before and during the performance? Can you explain at all what comes over you during those times?
P: I don’t really think much about anything, ever. I’m an idiot. There isn’t much thinking going on on stage, which is part of the reason I like it. You just do some stuff, try some stuff out, have fun. I feel people can see when you force shit or when it’s planned. Have to entertain yourself first, before you can entertain other people.
LYBZ: Pairs seems to be defined by duality: fire and ice. Do you agree with this assessment? And what do you have to say for yourselves?
P: Yeah, I’ll agree with whatever anyone says about us. F and I both have fiery sides to our personality, and then some ice needs to creep in. It’s all abut balance.
That’s how nature makes it, different backgrounds, different experiences, different characters.
LYBZ: What are some of the bands in Shanghai you’re feeling right now?
P: We both really liked Ann last week at YYT. I got a guy’s number who I thought was the drummer and I messaged him the next day saying ‘we should do some shows together blah blah’. Turns out he wasn’t the drummer. Not sure who he is. I think he was wearing the same shirt as the drummer, or he’s lying.
LYBZ: Things seem to be happening around Pairs. Are you spearheading a movement? Just what do you have up your sleeves?
P: I think things are happening because we send a lot of emails out and harass people, and we’re easy to organise. We’re just two people. I don’t know how Slipknot ever started touring.
We aren’t spearheading anything, and it’s Summer time so we don’t have very long sleeves.
It’s more about just writing some simple songs, keeping ourselves busy, meeting some nice people and helping my friends get touched.