Posted by Pete DeMola on 20. Oct 2009
BEIJING, Oct 21 - Pacalolo are a new band who occupy a unique role in Beijing's rapidly-diversifying independent music scene.
They're not soaked in unrestrained distortion like the D-22 gang, oriented in pop rock territory like the denizens of MAO Live House or are nestled in the safe, largely-derivative sonic space like the hundreds of upstarts who float between the city's dozen-or-so live music venues like faceless spectres.
The quartet creates slick clouds of synthpop where cheerful computerized beats swirl behind soulful, introspective lyrics seasoned with social commentary ("KTV Nation" says as much about contemporary Chinese society as, say, "Zhongnanhai").
In contrast to their lush and layered recordings, the band's live performances are a stripped-down affair.
One guitar, a bass and a toolbox of gadgets (a MacBook alongside a Behringer UMX 40 and a Roland SP-606) expose their intuitive knack for songwriting down to its skeleton: sticky hooks, instantly-memorable melodies and the shining vocal cadence of Ma2, who stands out in a nation of singers with natural skill and grace.
Sometimes they utilize visuals, as well.
In addition to possessing the ability to inspire two lethargic Europeans to rise from their shadowy bar perches to busting Elaine Bennis-style dance moves front and center (that was at D-22 last week) they have a good band origination story, too.
They couldn't afford the door charge at a show last winter at MAO Live House, so they discussed (and eventually decided upon) creating their own band while drinking 3 big bottles of Yanjing outside.
Their sonic bloodline combines the aesthetic seriousness of Snapline, melodic songwriting chops of Hedgehog and the dance floor stomp of Pet Conspiracy -- all of whom are successful and influential local acts.
We hope to see more of these two guys and two girls in the future.
Stealing a page from local nightlife blogger Beijing Boyce's "If They Give a Crap Report" playbook, local booking managers would do well in putting the charismatic quartet on their radars and give them an opening slot for one of the above bands, but I digress.
With that said, Ma2 fills us in on their favorite places to play in Beijing, how to combat the Beijing winter and the strengths and weaknesses of her band mates at the computer game Age of Empires.
WLIB: Hello, Pacalolo. Nice to meet you. Tell us something interesting about each of you.
Ma2: Jiang Wei (bass) likes to smile, but he is a very dangerous person. When we have trouble with our landlord, we always get him to go talk to her. No matter what you say, he will believe that and somehow he can make our landlord confused.
Weng Weng (DJ and sampling) and I put sanitary pads in my bag, but he saw that and asked us "What's that?"
We didn't want him to know, so I said that it was our apartment contract and Weng Weng said that was candy. After a while he said "I want to eat some candy." We all laughed, and sent him to meet the landlord and made him promise not to eat that until he got there. He was so happy. The landlord talked with him, became confused with his beauty, and never bothered me again.
Fei Du (visuals) really likes to both drink and learn about tea. He uses a green plastic bucket to drink it. He went to the tea shop once to buy tea, but brought his recorder and wanted to make a song there. Sometimes he goes down to Yunnan to see all the tea trees.
Weng Weng likes to play Age of Empires, but she can only develop the economical part of it. I can only fight. Jiang Wei only eats. Fei Du is dangerous and does crazy things.
I always do some crazy things after I get drunk, like climbing up on trees and scaring bartenders, stealing paoku flowers on the street and sitting on top of the car when it's driving. But that is good too, because people can be too boring. Sometimes they forget they are alive.
WLIB: You have a great "how the band started" story. Which show was it?
Ma2: It was at a Hedgehog show last winter. Beijing's live shows have gotten more expensive. It was around 30 RMB before but since last year, weekend shows are now around 50 RMB. So I made a band to see music for free.
WLIB: Is Pacalolo your first band?
Ma2: I was in a metal band called 9 Bits and a hardcore band called Fang Zhou. Jiang Wei was in two punk bands: RWF and No Name. Wen Wen is like the mother of the band. Fei Du had a band in Texas, but he broke his voice from singing too much, so now he makes pictures.
WLIB: What have you been listening to lately?
Ma2: We listen to a lot different stuff. Jiang Wei likes to listen some punk and electro, Weng Weng likes some Japanese music and electro. I like rock and roll and electro. Fei Du listens to classical. We all listen to the Transplants, Ringo Shiina, Boney M, Ottawan, TV on the Radio, Royksopp, CSS, Imogen Heap, Waldeck, Mozart, Shubert and so on.
WLIB: What inspired you to write "KTV Nation?"
Ma2: Because KTV is 牛B. You can drink beer there. Have girls there. Do business there. Make friends there. Have fun by yourself singing. And also in a separated VIP room. It is very big part of who everybody is today, even if they don't like go there. Nobody can see you - even the toilets are separated for each room.
WLIB: Where is your favorite place to play a gig in Beijing, and why?
Ma2: Weng Weng and I think What Bar is the best place. It's small, underground, rock and nice and everyone there can be friends and dance around screaming. It's like a real punk place. You don't know the people who play the show or the people who watch the show. Jiang Wei likes D-22 best. He can get beers for free there. Fei Du likes us to play where they have a good video setup. Haha.
WLIB: Dream show: which Beijing bands?
Ma2: Hedgehog, and 重塑 Life for drinking. But that's if they don't beat me up. I am not a Beijinger, but they are skinheads. Sometimes I think they don't really know what skinhead means, while other times I think they are very clever.
WLIB: It's getting cold outside. What are your favorite things to do in the Beijing winter?
Ma2: Drink shou pu'er and go home. We like stay at home and play the first generation of Age of Empires while drinking tea. We also like to watch movies, eat hotpot and watch live shows.
WLIB: What's a Pacalolo?
Ma2: Pacalolo is a girl. She smiles like a flower, cries like the moon. Never talks too much, never runs away. Just the girl we all want. You can see that on the video.
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