Yu Guo: the only full-time indie band in Shanghai?

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yuguo myspaceA few weeks back I met Mirjam Johansson and her photographer, David. Mirjam is a freelance journalist from Sweden who was touring China working on several stories at the same time. We met each other through the Couchsurfing message board for Shanghai.

As well as writing about Couchsurfing itself, Mirjam and David wanted to do a piece on the Shanghai underground music scene. So, the weekend they arrived in town we went to Yuyintang to see Yu Guo play and after the show Gemnil Lin hooked us up with an interview.

Yu Guo
myspace music

band page

The guys from the band were really nice and Mirjam had a range of good questions to ask them. There was a little confusion. Mirjam speaks no Chinese and we hand Gemnil on hand to translate, however, the band were happy to try doing it in English. Mirjam was especially interested in if the Chinese indie/rock/punk scene mirrored other countries in it's rebellious attitude. The guys skillfully went around those questions but didn't take offense at the mention of politics.

The most insightful answer of the evening was the band's claim that they are the only full time band in the scene. They have no other jobs and make all their money from music. I was hard pressed to come up with another band from Shanghai who do it.

Mirjam's questions made me think about some negative aspects of the scene and we talked about it after we left the show. Back when I first discovered shows here, the whole anti-Japan drive was in full swing. Many bands had songs about it, bashing Japan for the war and big upping their country etc. No one does it much these days but I hope awareness rises in this area.  


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Well, there's Little Nature, but they're too young - two of them in college still - to count. The other is Blue Garden (Lan Hua), who I believe get a living stipend from Universal, and several of their members have incredibly supportive wives. Their guitarist Zhang Wei is now doing some producing at Soma, but that's more hanging out with friends than a job. (The Soma owner used to be in a band called Chan with several current Lanhua members, amongst other overlaps.)

Before 2002, almost all the bands were full-time and living together. Unfortunately prices and pressures have risen so astronomically since then. I can't blame them for wanting conventionally comfortable lives. Only Yuguo has that migrant laborer grit - but after a few years they'll probably become fat lazy urbanites too.

It's rather ridiculous how foriegn journos always think Chinese rock should be political. I've found that Beijing bands are much happier to play along, but here, as friends have griped post interviews, "Why do the foreigners always fucking ask about politics? I'm a musician - what the fuck do I know about politics?!" Plus, this is Shanghai, where no one cares about politics, they just want to be left alone to do their thing. Which is itself very political.

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This page contains a single entry by Andy Best published on June 11, 2008 9:56 PM.

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