We met Morgan Short and Peipei (aka Little Punk) of Boys Climbing Ropes, after several text messages, phones calls, and I should say months of waiting for this album, finally we agreed to meet at YuyinTang, though Squinzi and me thought the old LOgO could have been right too. We met at YuyinTang, but after a a beer, Peipei, Morgan, Squinzi, Ox, and me we had this tremor on our feet, and we decided in less than a second that we were going to Xingfu rd. and Fahuazheng rd. to do the interview and the photos by the old LOgO, spontaneous harmony. That’s a good start.
We are all good talkers and party people, and LOgO people too, suddenly we were again partying by 13 Xingfu rd. First get the beers, have some lamian, hang with a ciggy out by the stairs, go to check how’s Dada, do one or two more light checks, and then the interview.
Since we started Layabozi we have been talking about Boys Climbing Ropes, I believe one of our first reviews of concerts was about their concert at the Dream Factory, Mike and me were impressed with them, but because they sounded pretty bad, they were all over the place. It was one of their first shows with Little Punk. We reviewed that one, and many more of their gigs after this one. I also remember that they kept on playing religiously almost every other week at YuyinTang, if not every week even, they were opening lots of concerts for other bands, they were becoming stronger, and better. And clearly it was because they focused, and practiced practiced practiced practiced, and practiced. So they settled themselves. Then finally they started to be the main dish of the concerts. They totally deserved it. I remember this very well. I was happy to be there. Their persistence was motivating, and it is still, and now it’s also their growth and evolution.
Near to the end of this interview Peipei said Morgan knows too much, to explain he was over analyzing. I said, I think the excess of information actually can cause foolishness in some cases. You know, it’s not about becoming a huge library with tons of data, but about understanding (with our heart, stomach, and mind) the one book we read. Morgan said I should mentioned this on the introduction. I’m very obedient with smart orders, as you can see. Also because it totally fits here. The story of Boys Climbing Ropes is not a just a time line of events, and their music is not only a series of beats one after the other, and by the way, neither a careless reaction to boredom to feed silly egoes. You know, there’s something else behind those bits of information, it’s that thing that gives consistency to their music, and to who they are. Same reason why tonight YuyinTang will be crazy crowded for the release of Summer and Winter Warfare.
Layabozi: The name of the album guys, Summer and Winter Warfare. What’s that about?
Morgan: Yeah, I think it’s my fault. We were working on some other bands before, and one of the bands’ names we had was Summer Warfare, just because we liked the sound of it, so we wanted to say some cool sounding stuff (laughs). It’s something about the connotation of dualism, because of the two bands… (silence) …It’s really no meaning, I guess. Peipei, what do you think? Interpret the album title, and say something meaningful…
Peipei: I think actually that’s not it, because I already have an album by myself call “Summers and Winters”, but it’s just for myself, I don’t release it.
LYBZ: Did you know Peipei’s album?
M: No I didn’t
Pp: No, no, it’s private. I didn’t know he chose this name before, it’s a coincidence.
M: Yes. She has a lot of stuff that doesn’t show me. Plus also you should heard the horrible names that Jordan was coming out with.
Pp: Yeah, and what was Devin’s? “You should have known it before” or something like that.
M: Yeah. Usually we take a lyric of one of the songs and use that. I had this great idea that the first one was called A Pleasure To Be Here, the second was called Except For The Darkness, so I was going to make a sentence with every album title, like an Easter egg thing (laughs) …The meaning of it, it’s just that is a cool phrase.
Pp: Actually the best part is warfare, it’s such a great word.
LYBZ: Why do you like it?
Pp: It’s so awesome. It sounds like you are fighting. Like swords, and stuff.
M: You have to change the way you fight in the summer, versus the way to fight in the winter.
Pp: (Laughs) And also we have two kitties on the CD, maybe summer is just sleeping but in war, and winter is just staring at you. So awesome!
M: Feel free to leave all this out, and later we will come out with a good answer.
Pp: No! The story is the two bands, right? and contrast.
LYBZ: Cool. Okay. So the track list of the album shows three tracks of X is Y, and three tracks of Boys Climbing Ropes. But then I got X is Y album, and there are five tracks. So do you have only these three songs or are there any more?
M: With Brad (Ferguson) we recorded five songs, and they all turned out really good, but we chose the three best ones in our opinion. And same with X is Y, they recorded maybe around six or seven songs too, but the idea is to keep it kind of short, just because we have plans for next year, so we didn’t, you know…use them all (laughs) Yeah, because it takes like forever to write songs, man!
LYBZ: Well yes that’s one of my questions, how long does it take you to write a song?
M: Our problem is that we are not very good at our instruments (laughs). Well, some songs are very easy to write, and then it can take two or three times. But sometimes it takes us two or three months, and still they are not ready then.
LYBZ: So how does it work the writing process?
M: The music part is all of us collaborating as a group, and the lyrics Peipei writes her own lyrics, I guess, depending on how she is feeling that month. How do you write your lyrics?
Pp: I just improvise when everyone is doing their instrument stuff.
M: But you have a journal of writings?
Pp: Yeah, I write a lot of stuff, and I can pick some ideas from there depending on how the song feels. Or like Jordan asked me, you should write a knitting song, I said, alright, and then they played the instruments, and then we built the song.
M: Is that your deeper meaning to The Knitting Song?
Pp: Is sooo sooo much deep, sooo much deeper, soooo deeeeep. (Laughs)
LYBZ: Is it? In what way?
Pp: In a poetry kind of way. The trick is to use single words to express common feelings for everyone, but do not waste those words, specially when you are not a native speaker, that’s how you appreciate those words. When you are a native, you use them too much and then you don’t understand how beautiful they are, kind of like that.
M: What are you favorite English words?
Pp: (sighs) Uh, ordinary stuff. Like “ordinary” is a good one. Weekends! (laughs) Streets. Taxi. Bus. You can take a picture of those words.
LYBZ: “Ordinary Life” that’s on The Knitting Song, right?
M: That bit where she goes “Or-di-naa-ry-liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-fe”, we told her, you should sing it like “or-din-ah-ry-lifh” because it sounds more depressing. And she was like “fuck you!”
Pp: Yeah! Why does it have to be depressing? We have so much depressive stuff. Everything is so depressive in it! It’s all painful feeling in life! But when you are over it, they are not painful anymore, you can share it, and that helps you to get over it. As he said the other day, good songs help you to go through life, help you to realize life. To make life better.
M: I think we try to be anthemic, because our songs are like, quiet-quiet-quiet-quiet-LOUD-LOUD-LOUD-LOUD!!! It’s kind of style we use. (Laughs)
LYBZ: About X is Y guys. How was that you did come out with this idea of doing an album together?
M: Our band has been around for four, or five years, and we have done a couple of Eps before. So we wanted to try something different. And well, it was my idea, just the way I grew up listening to punk rock, and split albums sort of represents more like a community aspect, rather than just one saying “here is my stuff, you should buy it”, it gives a sense of location in China, and people making music in this city, rather than just one people, one idea. At that time, our two bands were quiet close playing shows together and then…
Pp: No, that’s not how we did it! We do not play shows so often with them. It’s because we are good friends.
LYBZ: But you have more bands that are your friends too, so, why X is Y?
M: That’s true. But their music maybe seems much closer to our music
Pp: G is nicer! (Laughs) I think he is nicer, like I make fun of him all the time and he is okay with it. And that’s how you do it together, because you make fun of each other, and when you do music you do your own thing.
M: It’s kind of a mutual respect thing too. Like when I see X is Y playing or when I hear G’s songs or whatever, I can see he is like honest and fallible. The same way we are sort of honest and fallible with ourselves too.
Pp: And we share our favorite band, Sebadoh.
M: We’d do it with Dan’s (Shapiro) band if Dan would, but Dan has his own ideas. I’d be “Dan let’s do a split CD”, but Dan would go, “oh no bro!, we’ll do our own CD” But anyway, that was the idea, to show more of a community of people, than just one band.
LYBZ: What do you think of the part of the album by X is Y?
M: It’s good. I like it. Because it’s sort of like sloppy nineties indie rock.
Pp: It’s also like we have the same influences, but we are taking different stuff from it. That’s why the two bands sound different, but we like same kind of things.
M: They are emotional…
Pp: Oh my god! G writes such cheesy lyrics! He is so French! But the thing about his cheesy lyrics is that that’s him! He writes so personal things, he writes about his mom, or his ex girlfriend. That’s why it sounds cheesy, because he wrote those lyrics just to speak to them.
M: And if you think about it, in Shanghai it’s a bit rare (and I don’t mean to say that one is better than the other) there are more bands who are targeted towards the party, which is cool, party is cool. But X is Y is different.
Pp: I think personal is so good. I think G wants to be perfect, he likes to be perfect, he likes to…
M: He takes it so seriously, maybe doesn’t seem like it but we also take this seriously. It’s been like five years, thinking about it all the time, trying to plan shows, worrying about the shows, trying to make songs, flyers, covers, posters, web pages,
Pp: We are not making web pages like the others…
M: (nods)… And anyway, even though, you know, it’s some rock and roll bullshit music, but we have been taking it seriously for so long
LYBZ: And do you talk about this?
M: No. That’s like personal emotional talk. When you admit that you take it so seriously, you think, fuck now everybody knows how lame we are because we want to make a really cool rock band…
Pp: What?!! I never think about that!
LYBZ: But then what do you talk about this?
M: When we started we didn’t take it very seriously. And right about the time Peipei joined us, we started to take it very seriously, because we saw other bands in China four or five years ago that changed the way you think about things, and then … why am I not taking this seriously?
LYBZ: What bands?
M: Hedgehog, Snapline, The Gar when they played here was like holly shit! No way you should be fucking around with this. If you have the potential to change, to affect people and cause changes, then you should take it seriously. But it’s hard to do it, because you know, you know! You just don’t want to put it out there “I’m this guy that takes his band very seriously”
Pp: But I don’t do that. I don’t think like that. Maybe Jordan and me, we talk about the writing of the songs, and we have the same idea about this band, and we don’t want to write sloppy song, we want to write good songs.
LYBZ: I don’t understand why would be lame taking it too seriously?
M: Because it’s tough. It’s putting yourself out there to a massive amount of people. And you are out there on the stage, you are playing, and okay, this is the best that I can possibly do, and people could say it sucks.
LYBZ: Yeah but not everybody is going to like what you do. That’s how there is people that don’t like The Beattles.
Pp: Too much dignity, Morgan.
M: I’m being excessively Canadian or something.
Pp: To me it’s alright. To me being on the stage is always great. It’s really about letting yourself go. Look at Jordan, he is sweating all the time, he is out there, and he does not care how you judge him.
M: Yeah, he sweats so much on his guitar that the arm of the guitar is rusted.
Pp:Yeah, he comes to play to the keyboard, and he sweats on the keyboard, and later I can not play it well, because it’s all sticky
LYBZ: For the Halloween shows you were all dressed up like world famous bands, rock star for one night, other rock stars, but because you were on customs, it seemed like you gave permission to go nuts and give all you have to give as rockers without feeling shy about it….
M: Yeah, when we did The Misfits, with Jordan we said yes! We can be tough now! We can be a fucking punk band!!!
LYBZ: Yes. I’s your music and you can go however you feel with your music, just I think don’t get enslaved by it, let yourself be what you are
Pp: Yes! We are dominators! (laughs)
LYBZ: Okay guys tell me how has been the path from Except For The Darkness to Summer and Winter Warfare?
M: It’s been actually the best time to be in our band (so far). Because that album was well received, and many people really like it, and that was heartening to hear. And then we took what we can do well and expand on it, and hopefully that goes the way we want it to go, so I think since then we managed to expand on our strengths, and I guess we play more synthesizer too. We are getting more like just our own band, opposed to being the combination of the influences we grew up with. So we sounded like the combination of people that we were not totally, and now we are doing our own kind of music, so we are doing more Boys Climbing Ropes songs, and instead of taking influences from other bands, we look back to our own songs.
LYBZ: Is that what you did with “Social Awkward”? Because that one sounds a lot like Except For The Darkness
Pp: Yeah, that song is from many months ago. We wrote it around that time of Except For The Darkness, but we didn’t record it. So it didn’t go then. That song is beautiful to me, it’s a lot of sadness in it. It’s really the burden of life.
M: Is about being uncomfortable with different people?
Pp: No! It reads like that, but actually it’s uncomfortable of living. Being alone although you have friends. Alone like totally relying in people, because there’s a line, and when you are vulnerable, when I’m vulnerable, how do you link to them? That’s it. …Do you really like this song?
LYBZ: Yeah, I do. And that, what you just said, you know, there’s the chance that you actually have people that you can actually rely on.
Pp: Yeah! That’s how I feel now. I’m great!
M: I can tell you about the bass line of the song, I was playing this one note, and then I went to this next song, I was dada-ra-dada, and then dada-ra-dadah! (high pitched) and then the end! That’s where I come from. (Laughs)
LYBZ: So this song is from months ago, and the other songs?
M: They are newer, “Grow Up” is from a couple of months ago, I think, I can’t really tell. And “The Knitting Song”, is the newest. It’s hard to tell because we practice a lot and play them, and we have the shows and play them too, so they are old to us now.
LYBZ: About the cover of the album…
Pp: Where is it? Let’s see it! (going to get it)
M: She got into knitting
Pp: Yes. That’s because I don’t have a job now.
LYBZ: How has that affected your life?
M: It’s good, man. I got like three mittens, and seven scarfs, and a sweater.
LYBZ: Have you learned to knit?
M: No, I wanted to, but you got to keep like eight rules in your head and keep on counting, and … (laughs) … Well, a friend of her took the picture and she is sitting at YuyinTang,
Pp: (With the album on her hands) …on the second floor, on those chairs, you know, actually I’m at the desk in between two of those chairs
M: It’s a really good picture, because even though you can’t see the face, with the positions of the hands, and the lights, it looks very personal.
Pp: Look at the power between her hands.
LYBZ: Who took the photo?
M: It was actually a night we were out to see a show, at YuyinTang, me and my friend, Yaging the bassist of X is Y. I told her how to knit last May, and we became knitting friends, now we meet to knit and talk about that. We were hanging out that night at YuyinTang. There was this guy taking photos and he took this photo of me. I was working on a piece, and this guy asked me to show him how to do it. The photo is actually not digital, it’s like a Polaroid, but much better quality. So the guy who took this photo took several pictures of us, and also of the show. X is Y, they were playing that night too. I think it was the show of a band from Australia, Bone.
LYBZ: Going back to the songs of the album “Grow Up”. It says “grow up, stop fucking around”? Has someone said that to you?
Pp: I think Morgan likes to say stuff like “stop fucking around!!!” because it makes the song less serious or less poetic
M: It’s like someone says some kind of criticism of your life, I find that if you take the criticism and repeat it eight times in a row to music that constantly builds, you can turn it around as like not a criticism anymore, to some kind of weird anthem, like “you will always be a looser”
Pp: yeah! Totally influenced by that one. They repeat it like ten times.
M: That one of Titus Andronicus. So he takes the criticism and spins it back, and you turn it into an anthem then it’s okay to be a looser, or it’s okay to not grow up, it’s empowering. Then grow up, stop being an idiot get your life together, stop being an idiot and get your life together, you take that and you know, you turn it into your own little thing.
LYBZ: But has someone told you that?
M: Well, you know Mache, I’m not a young man, I have a big beard, and I’m younger than what I look, you know… I’m thirty, and … grow up stop fucking around, and I don’t have a bank account in the entire world. So we ourselves tell this things. I should get a career or something. I’ve been living in Shanghai for seven years. Maybe should figure something out. But maybe I don’t have to figure anything out.
Pp: …A gentle reminder.
M: Anyway, the point is to be a good person. Just don’t be a dick! (laughs)
LYBZ: And about “The Knitting Song”, we talked already about the ordinary life phrase. Also I like the beginning…
Pp: Yeah, keep down, up down, up up twist, down down twist. It’s the entry label of knitting. The basic thing of knitting. After we did this song, I thought it was a genius song (laughs), the rhythm of the words are beautiful, but really, it helped me to see how great some songs are, because of the up up down down, up up down down, up up down down, then that’s no good, that’s ordinary, okay, but if you do up up down, down up up, and you go changing, then it becomes more interesting stuff. And music is only beats, but if you move the beats then it becomes something different. Interesting.
M: It’s call defamiliarization, you take an ordinary thing, twist it a bit, and it becomes a completely different picture. I’m getting a little hammered, sorry. I’m also thinking “who’s the most funny guy in the world?”, yeah, don’t say that, say it! Don’t. Yes! (laughs)
LYBZ: Well you know you have been described as a punk band, I find cool that punks are knitting.
M: Yeah, but I’m a firm believer that there isn’t any punk left anymore in us.
Pp: He knows too much! (laughs)
LYBZ: You were joking about the bass line on the knitting song being like knitting, do you do that thing, building music like that?
M: To be completely honest, there’s not a lot of technical ability residing here.
Pp: No. It’s the rhythm section, the drums and bass.
M: The drums are always way too serious, Devin is always abusing them. So I figured if there are good drums and good singing, then Jordan and me can be just like jack asses on the back.
LYBZ: Do you push Devin a lot?
M: Yeah. A lot. I’m always like, “Stop playing that” “Do that!”
Pp: He has a very provoking character, when Morgan tells him to change his lines, he does it well.
M: Yeah because he is very good, he has his own technical style. He is our major part besides the singing.
LYBZ: Let’s talk about more people, Brad Ferguson, the producer of Summer And Winter Warfare, who also produced Except For The Darkness. How has been the relation between you and him?
Pp: He is so nice. He is always very helpful, and we fucked up so much in this one, because we were supposed to have the album out maybe on the first half of this year. But on the first recordings we did, we did the same mistake that we did before, our rhythm speeds up and then it doesn’t follow the tempo. And when we actually try to fix it, we couldn’t, it was so hard we spent eight hours in studio playing these two songs, but it didn’t happen, and studio hours are expensive, so we lost that money. So Brad came out with ideas to fix it, while Jordan was busy on the summer too, and it was difficult to find the right time. But at the end of September we recorded live at YuyinTang.
M: To record in a proper recording studio we needed lot of money, and we couldn’t spend more money, so we just did it live. Which means that the tempos are speeding up, and that’s not supposed to happen like that, but they go that way because we are live. But…well. We went to YYT at three on the afternoon and we played each song twice, and he took the better takes.
Pp: Yeah, and then we put the vocals
M: Yeah, which makes the sound even better. We are quiet happy with this songs.
Pp: Yes. So finally we got it done at the end of September.
LYBZ: And who else has been part of the album?
M: Well the album is under Pause: Music label, which is Michael Ohlsson and Gaz Williams. They are starting to do this label with Shanghai’s music, more orientated to dance music, drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep, hip hop, but they want to have a city base thing, and they want to have some rock bands too, and because I know them for a while, they asked me, and yeah we should, because they have the right idea about it. You know they are trying to start a legit record label, so they are giving their money to record their CDs, and they handle the promotion. For this particular album, their label involvement has been dictated by me, this one is one we had to do ourselves, and they offered to give us money, and I know they have spent a lot with the other albums they have released, so I told them to forget that, to save their cash for our next album, because we’ll come for your cash next year (laughs). And they will help us promoting it. And you know, Michael is our band manager too, not the typical one because I do stuff too. You know. They are really great.
LYBZ: You are thinking already about an album for next year. What are your projects then?
M: We just spent the last two weeks recording with this guy from Los Angeles, Manny, he also recorded Pairs, and then in Beijing Snapline and other bands there. We got hooked up with him through Abe (Deyo), and he came to check the bands here, and he has done really cool things. Now we recorded six songs, and he will comeback in few months, so then we can record more. Also we are planning tours for next year after Chinese New Year, so we are figuring out tours in Hong Kong, Korea, Canada, the States. Michael is also very good at doing tours around south Asia.
LYBZ: Now, the concert. This Wednesday at YuyinTang. You and X is Y. Promote it.
M: It’s us and X is Y. We promise will play well, Mache! You know, use your best judgment, come if you want. It’s cheap. 40 yuan plus the album. Some new songs and shit.
Pp: And plus, we are better than at least five bands! (laughs)
LYBZ: What bands?!
M: Sepultura! Lamb of God! … (laughs)
LYBZ: Last question, Peipei why are you not Little Punk anymore?
Pp: Little Punk became a solo artist name, and I might do it sometimes, but other times I’m Peipei, that’s my real name. I’m getting older.
M: I’m guilty of that because I was introducing her like that.
Pp: I feel very good about it.
M: Getting older can be nice.
Pp: Yeah very nice.