Interview by Becky Wong and Vivian Yeung
With all the talk lately of a shoegaze revival, you’d think that Hong Kong didn’t already have a flourishing shoegaze scene – but she does, and the scene has always existed despite being overlooked by the mainstream. From Slowdive to Dinosaur Jr. to The Jesus and Mary Chain, indie promoter Songs for Children has brought countless shoegaze and indie pop acts to the Hong Kong stage and even started their own record label. Vivian and Becky were intrigued by the people who were bringing their favorite bands to Hong Kong, so they spoke to Jane from Songs for Children to find out how the shows are put together, what they think of the local indie scene, and their future plans for the record label.
Q: Why did you first start Songs for Children?
Jane: Mike and I moved from London to Hong Kong almost seven years ago, and everywhere I went I couldn’t find music that I liked or much of an alternative scene. So I decided to put on an indie night, play music and promote it, and Mike would do the advertising and design. We were so surprised that 200 people turned up on the first night – it was really busy, and we found all these people, all these misfits and weirdos who were into the same stuff as us, who crawled out of the woodworks.
Q: What was your first impression of music in Hong Kong?
Jane: We were living in the Sheung Wan area and we’d go to the usual places like Soho but it was hard to find the indie scene. I think there was a vibrant scene there but it was more underground.
Q: There aren’t many indie clubs in Hong Kong.
Jane: That’s the thing we were thinking – where are the indie clubs? Where are the indie people? I ended up meeting a lot of people from doing the indie night, who were also into DJ-ing and indie music. It was just really fun. We hadn’t expected it to be so busy, so it just kind of snowballed from there.
Q: You’ve brought a lot of indie pop and shoegaze bands here. In addition to a liking for the music, was there any reason why you chose those bands and why you thought they might work in HK?
Jane: We’d never done it for the money, we kind of just chose bands that we loved and could invite here and not lose money. When we started there were bands we definitely really wanted to bring – The Drums, Jesus and Mary Chain, Dinosaur Jr., Slowdive, Craft Spells, Yuck. And we knew there was a shoegaze scene here, and it’s fun to see all the young people influenced by these bands.
Q: Have you ever been surprised by the size or demographic of the audience at your shows?
Jane: We were really surprised about the Jesus and Mary Chain – it was a young local audience and the band absolutely loved it. It was like the 80s again. It got really crazy and we had a lot of security that night – the moshpit got so crazy when the band was doing the Psychocandy encore.
Q: What’s the biggest difference between shows in Scotland and in Hong Kong?
Jane: I’m from Edinburgh, and there’a s huge indie scene in Scotland. Like Hong Kong, it’s small, but it’s got an infrastructure of indie cafes, gigs and labels, there’s so much going on. In Hong Kong it’s hard to find that kind of mid-sized venue, whereas in Scotland they have lots of converted cinemas, churches, random places turned into venues where they can get a licence for a bar so that they can make money. The UK indie scene is also linked to the club scene. It’s just harder to get an entertainment or drinks licence here, and there are concerns about noise. There’s definitely more stuff happening now, like vinyl fairs, but many venues here aren’t really set up for indie rock bands and we’re not really into big stadiums.
Q: The upcoming Yuck show on 1st April will be held at the Hangout. How do you decide on which venue to showcase which band?
Jane: Capacity; some venues hold more people and are more expensive than others. There’s the band’s fee, their setup (shoegaze bands need bigger setups), the backline, how many people they’re bringing along. Then there’s transport, PAs, lighting, hotels, visas, etc. There’s always a risk; we need to think about how to breakeven.
Q: What do you think of the increasing number of shows here?
Jane: I think it’s reached the saturation point in Hong Kong. It’s always been expensive to put on bands here because of the venues, but back then there were fewer shows. Now people really have to make decisions about which bands to see, and they end up picking the big shows so the smaller shows suffer. Like when bands come to Asia for festivals like Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic, they do their Asian tours around the same time so they might all play in Hong Kong a few nights in a row. It’s getting harder for the smaller shows to survive.
Thud, first band on SFC’s record label.
Q: You recently launched SFC management and record label, with Thud as your first band. What are you trying to achieve with the label?
Jane: Now that we’ve been in Hong Kong longer and understand the local band scene better, I think it’s the right time to help local bands go overseas. All these years bringing international bands to Hong Kong – now I’ve seen a lot of local bands that I love, and I want to introduce Thud to overseas audiences.
Q: Has there been a surge of overseas interest in Hong Kong music?
Jane: Things like the Umbrella Revolution have highlighted Hong Kong – back home Scotland is trying to gain independence, and there’s a lot more interest in Hong Kong. People know there’s a shoegaze scene here; there are a lot more younger bands coming out here, it’s all very exciting.
Q: What’s the “Hong Kong sound” to you?
Jane: Hong Kong shoegaze has a shoegaze element to it, but it’s also quite post-punky as well. I’m not really too worried about genres, though the shoegaze label is sometimes overused, I understand it’s a way of promoting and introducing themselves to people. It’s good to stick to what you’re good at and not be a band that sticks to one genre. All the great bands are like that – if you hear them on the radio, you’ll instantly know it’s them.
The first band on SFC’s record label, Thud, will be opening for Yuck this Wednesday, 8pm at The Hangout. If you missed Yuck the first time round, don’t make the same mistake; if you saw them back in 2012, well, then you already know they’re a great live band and should see them again.
採訪：Becky Wong, Vivian Yeung
近年瞪鞋風潮漸漸復興，你或許以為香港瞪鞋圈子仍然沉寂－事實上於主流而言十分陌生的瞪鞋已在本地漸冒頭角。由Slowdive、Dinosaur Jr.至The Jesus and Mary Chain，獨立音樂推廣團體Songs for Children (SFC)一直致力為本地樂迷帶來海外瞪鞋及indie pop樂隊演出，最近更宣佈設立自己的唱片廠牌。今次我們很高興找來Songs for Children負責人Jane，暢談籌組演出的背後故事、對本地獨立樂界的看法及SFC未來的發展方向。
問：成立Songs for Children的契機是？
Jane：這正是當初令我感到疑惑的地方－indie clubs都去哪了？獨立樂迷在哪？透過舉辦indie night，我認識了很多朋友，他們都十分沉迷DJ及獨立音樂，實在有趣極了。我們完全沒有預計會如此忙碌，就像滾雪球般越滾越大。
Jane：我們舉辦演出從來都不是為了賺錢。我們選擇喜愛的樂隊，衡量過邀請他們來港演出，能達至收支平衡後便會實行。剛開始時有一個樂隊名單－The Drums、Jesus and Mary Chain、Dinosaur Jr.、Slowdive、Craft Spells、Yuck，是我們絕對想帶來香港的樂隊。香港的瞪鞋樂界的確存在，我們亦樂見這些樂隊為年輕人帶來正面影響。
Jane：Jesus and Mary Chain演出現場的確令我們十分驚訝－入場觀賞的年輕樂迷為數不少，樂隊亦十分享受與樂迷的互動，有如回到八十年代。當晚非常瘋狂，我們請來了不少保安－終曲Psychocandy時台下的moshpit的瘋狂程度實在難得一見。
Jane：我覺得差不多到了飽和點。即使幾年前演出較少，因場租問題要舉辦一場演出仍然所費不菲。現在演出數目增多，觀眾自然會更認真選擇想看的樂隊；往往較知名的樂隊會更受歡迎，而規模稍細的則無可避免受到影響。例如樂隊到亞洲地區出席Fuji Rock、Summer Sonic等大型音樂節，他們會順道來港作巡迴演出，結果幾晚內可能會有幾個知名樂隊訪港，小型演出自然較難生存。
Thud － SFC廠牌首隊樂隊。