Another Round for the Endless Party

Posted by Pete DeMola on 10. Apr 2009

You may have marked Joyside -- kings of this city's beloved brand of passionate, sweaty rock and roll -- for dead after they went on an unexpected hiatus following a blistering performance at last October's Modern Sky Music Festival.

But reconsider.

After six months spent dabbling in side projects, engaging in entrepreneurial pursuits and making sojourns to this country's southwest, the band is back -- not only with their ranks strengthened with the addition of a second guitarist, but also primed to release a DVD/EP package (Maybe Tonight/The Joyside of Europe, Maybe Mars Records) that showcases an increasingly-mature sound; one in which the now-quintet wades deeper into melodic hard rock territory awash in gauzy vocals, resounding guitar riffs and well-placed tremolo flourishes.

That's not to say Joyside have become safe or domesticated since their booze-soaked emergence in early-2001 from a dank northside basement. Rather, it's just that as both a band and as individuals, they seem increasingly well-positioned for the constant introspection, reinvention and adjustment necessary to navigate this city's constantly shifting cultural, ideological and musical landscapes.

We sat down with band founders Bian Yuan (vocals) and Liu Hao (bass/backup vocals) to discuss the addition of new guitarist Yang Yang, how they perceive their roles in this country's rock hierarchy, and what we can expect from their upcoming releases. We've missed you. What has Joyside been doing for the past six months?
Bian Yuan: Thank you: we are much honored. We were all wandering around in different places. I stayed in Dali for about a month, and for the rest of the time, I was aimlessly meandering around and felt like I lost my soul.
Liu Hao: I have a secondhand shop at Gulou Dongdajie called Underground Kidz. During the day, I took care of my shop to make some money, while at night, I drank with friends. Sometimes I went out to see gigs, and felt like to play music again. I also miss you all -- and the stage.

WLIB: How was your trip, Bian Yuan? Any inspiration?
BY: It was comfortable, not like when I'm in Beijing and have a lot of crappy things to do everyday when I wake up in the morning. There, I woke up and felt relaxed. I'd climb to the roof and enjoy the sunshine, go to the fields for a walk, talk to the clouds, play football with new friends, make a campfire at night and drink with friends. It was so happy, and everyday I spent laughing like a fool. The inspiration is that I thought I've lost my heart, but later on actually realized what I've lost was myself. Eventually he's still there -- so we became one again.

WLIB: Describe Joyside in five words.
BY: Daydream, absurd, revelry, the revelry of Judgment Day, explosion.
LH: Hate, love, rum, whiskey, Gang of Gin.

WLIB: How does the addition of Yang Yang as a second guitarist affect the songwriting process?
BY: He has a beautiful guitar. He looks handsome too; one more member and more new ideas.
LH: What I believe is that Yang Yang is always with us... with Joyside. When he plays guitar, he has his own ideas and feelings, so I feel when we practice together, we can make much better songs.

WLIB: Tell us about the DVD and EP.
LH: The new EP is called Maybe Tonight. It has six songs which were all basically written last year. For the recording, I think this one is better than the last one, and it's self-produced. For this EP, we only had one week and a small budget, but we made it. All in all, we're kind of satisfied with it. The DVD is a documentary film about our tour in 2006 through five European countries. Our German partner Fly-Fast produced it. The two bosses of Fly-Fast, George and Susanne, are all very nice to us. They just had a daughter, and we really want to see her: her Chinese name is Mei (Plum).

WLIB: What was touring Europe like?
BY: Super good, and I was in a very great mood. I hope next time, we can go to more places.
LH: Very good, the air is so fresh. And you can see rock music on every TV program.

WLIB: Did you run into any challenges in recording the new EP?
BY: Back then, the four of us were in a very good mood, and we just found the feeling that we wanted. The challenge was if we could find someone who could capture this feeling. Luckily, we found him. Lao Hu, the Sound Engineer, is very young and talented. I hope next time when we record we can find a producer that can capture our feelings just like this time.
LH: The main issue is the budget, then it's the producer. We produced it on our own, but we still wish for a producer who fits us.

WLIB: What does it sound like?
BY: Just listen to it. Everyone will have different feelings. We hope people will not take our songs as those depressive songs. If you listen to them by heart, you'll understand what we want to express is not boring sadness.
LH: Different people will have different feelings. I feel dizzy when I listen to it.

WLIB: What's it like being Beijing's elder rock statesmen?
BY: We don't feel anything about this; we just want to do what we want to do.
LH: We are not Beijing's elder rock statesmen.

WLIB: What kind of advice would you give younger bands struggling for success in China?
BY: Haha. So you think we are very successful? Listen to what your heart says to you -- don't listen to me. It won't work out.
LH: I don't think that I'm the one to judge -- it doesn't make sense to tell what others what they should do. I just want to do my own things well. If it feels good, then great; otherwise just try to find the right way to work it out. If it just couldn't work out, then fuck it: I don't care.

WLIB: Is today's rock and roll scene in Beijing lacking anything?
BY: There should be more nice girls coming to listen to rock music. I have no idea about what they like now: a pity for them.
LH: I don't know. I just feel like there are more and more bad guys.

WLIB: Do you miss the Beijing rock scene heyday of the early-‘00s at all?
BY: I got no time to miss the past. There are still a few new things are waiting for us to discover.
LH: Back then, it was lots of fun. We lived at Qinghe at that time. We all lived together, and during the day we would rehearse, and at night, we would drink and play gigs. When the guitars started, the audience would be blown away at once. Sometimes we really miss the old friends and old venues like the old What Bar (across from the University of International Business and Economics), Shanglu and Nameless Highland.

WLIB: What have you guys been listening to lately?
BY: Leonard Cohen. I haven't been able to extricate myself from him.
LH: Recently, I've been listening to the Velvet Underground and Adam Green a lot. And a Chinese band that I listen to a lot is Casino Demon -- they're my buddies, and they're quite good. Recently, they just released their debut album. [Teenage, Modern Sky, 2009.]

WLIB: You're stranded on a desert island with only one record. Which is it, and why?
LH: Beethoven "Symphony No.6 F-dur op.68 Pastorale."
BY: May I bring my guitar?

WLIB: 我们很想念你们。在过去的六个月里Joyside在做些什么?
刘耗:白天看店,我在鼓楼东大街有一家叫UNDERGROUND KIDZ的二手商店,赚点钱谋生。 晚上和朋友喝酒。有时候看看演出,觉得手痒痒。我也很想念你们,想念舞台。

WLIB: 边远,你的大理之行怎么样?是否得到了新的灵感?

WLIB: 用五个词描述一下Joyside。
刘耗:Hate, love, rum, whiskey, Gang of Gin。

WLIB: 阳阳作为另一位吉他手加入乐队之后对乐队的音乐创作有什么影响?
刘耗:我认为阳阳从来就没有离开我们,他一直在Joyside身边。阳阳有自己的一套 弹琴的想法和感觉,我觉得我们在一起会排出更好的歌儿。

WLIB: 可以介绍一下新EP和DVD?
刘耗:新EP叫《Maybe Tonight》,里面总共6首歌,基本上都是去年写的,在录制方面 我感觉要比上一张好,制作方面也都是由Joyside自己完成的。虽然只用了一个 礼拜,制作资金也不是非常充裕,但我们克服了这些有限的条件和情况,总体上 还是比较满意的。DVD是2006年Joyside在欧洲五个国家巡演的纪录片,是我们德国 的公司Fly-Fast制作的,挺有意思。Fly-Fast的两个老板乔治和苏珊娜对我们很好, 我非常想见他们刚出生的女儿,她的中文名字叫梅。

WLIB: 去欧洲巡演感觉如何?

WLIB: 录制新的EP有什么挑战吗?
刘耗:还是资金方面吧,再有就是制作上,虽然是由我们自己制作的,但我们还是希望 能找到适合我们的制作人。

WLIB: 新EP听上去是什么感觉?
边远:大家来听吧,每个人会有不同的感觉吧。希望大家以后不要把我们的歌当成特丧的歌来听就好, 如果你用心感受,你会明白其实我们想要表达的不是那种无聊的悲伤。

WLIB: 作为北京摇滚圈里的老前辈有什么感觉?

WLIB: 你对那些为了成功而打拼的中国青年乐队有什么建议?
边远:哈哈,这么说难道你觉得我们很成功吗? 听从你的心告诉你的吧,别听我的,听我的准成功不了。
刘耗:对于我来说我没有资格评论别人,指手画脚的没意思。我只想做好我的事儿,爽了 就完了,不爽就想办法爽,实在不行就去他妈的。

WLIB: 今天的北京摇滚场景里是否缺失了什么?

WLIB: 你是否思念2000年初期的那段北京摇滚乐的最繁盛的时期?
刘耗:那时候真的很好玩儿,我们那时候住在清河,大家住一起,白天排练晚上喝酒,演出。 演出的时候只要台上吉他失真一响,台下马上全炸了。对外经贸大学对面儿的WHAT,清华西门的路尚,亚运村的无名高地,五道口麦当劳下面的聚点,有时候挺想那些 地方和老看演出的那些朋友的。

WLIB: 你们最近在听些什么?
刘耗:我最近听的比较多的是Velvet Underground和Adam Green。国内的就是Casino Demon,我哥们儿的乐队,他们不错,刚发了他们的第一张专辑。
边远:Leonard Cohen,我已经不能自拔了。

WLIB: 假设你被困在了一片沙漠上身上只有一张CD,那会是哪一张,为什么?

WLIB: 还有什么要补充的吗?

Joyside will perform at Yugong Yishan on Fri, Apr 24; Casino Demon and Steely Heart will support. See the event page for detailed information. And buy them beer.

Photo courtesy of 四维雨相. From left: Yang Yang, Hong Wei, Liu Hao, Bian Yuan, Guan Zheng.

Chang Liu contributed to this report.

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