It’s that time of the month! Local Chengdu indie-rock band the Hormones 荷尔蒙小姐乐队 will kick off their first ever national tour tonight at Little Bar 小酒馆.
Bassist and lyricist Ming Ming 明明 invited me over for dinner to talk about vengeful elephants in Yunnan, menstrual cycles on tour and the new EP.
The Hormones 荷尔蒙小姐乐队, are a five-piece indie-rock band from the land of abundant greenery Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan.
Keyboardist Xiao Lijing 小李静 and guitarist (plus amazing cheesecake-baker) Xiao Xue 小雪 first had dreams to start a band as kids at primary school. The conglomeration of Juan Juan 娟娟 on drums, Ming Ming 明明 on bass and finally Zhu Meng Die 朱梦蝶 as lead vocalist, the Hormones entered the bloodstream of the local Chengdu music scene in 2011.
The band are about to embark on a fifteen date tour of China to promote the release of their debut EP ‘Elephant’ 《象》 starting tonight at Little Bar, Chengdu and concluding down at VOX, Wuhan on 11 November. You can check them out on Douban.
KIWESE: Hey Ming Ming! How did the Hormones start out?
MING MING: We formed back in 2011. People in China hear a lot of Chinese pop music growing up, ya know? So when we first started the band, we did Chinese pop music, but it had absolutely no meaning whatsoever.
2011年开始成立了。向中国人，他就是听很多中国pop music 长大的，你知道吗？所以你就会去搞，然后我们刚开始我们就去做Chinese pop music 但是一点意思都没有。
The singer we had before worked at a serious bank job and had no way of continuing in the band. So we searched for a new lead singer and found Zhu Meng Die! When we heard her sing and play acoustic guitar, she did Rolling in the Deep by Adele and changed it from 4/4 to 3/3. We could tell she had a unique feeling, and all completely agreed on her. She just gets it – she understands the music and has a feeling for it.
然后主唱因为她work for bank, 很正常很严谨很serious, 所以她没有办法搞乐队。然后我们就再找主唱，search search。。。朱梦蝶, 可以！虽然当时我们听她弹木吉唱歌的时候，她唱的是Adele, 《Rolling in the Deep》, 是四拍, 但是她自己把它改变了三拍。我们听她有一种不一样的感觉, 所以真的觉得她可以。她会懂这种音乐，她会了解，她会感受到。她想干什么就干什么，他觉得没有关系.
How do you compose songs as a band?
I write all of our lyrics. So often it’s the lyrics first, then we will create the music around them. The keyboard could run a loop, then the bass and drums, guitar, and vocals will join in.
How do you write the lyrics?
The ideas just come from everyday life. For example, you are having to stand on the bus and there are no seats, you can imagine the bus is like a skateboard! Chinese society can be kind of depressing sometimes, you know? People eating smelly food on the bus or whatever, it’s kind of dirty and gross – but if you keep thinking about how uncomfortable it is then it will be worse. So you may as well make it interesting for yourself!
你去感受你生活，你就会有idea，你就会有感觉。比如说：你做公交车，没有座位了，standing, 你可以把那个公交车它想像是一个skateboard. 中国的那种社会就是很压抑的，你不得不做一辆巴士，然后有可能那个车上的人他可能吃东西很丑，或者很怎么样，很dirty 你很难受，但是如果你想你自己难受你会更难受，你还不如把它有趣一点.
When did you first start getting into music and playing guitar?
Junior high school. I played guitar, then moved to Chengdu [from Leshan] to play guitar at Sichuan School of Music during high school. But I thought the exams were meaningless and I didn’t really like to play the stuff they gave me. I wanted to do my own thing. Like Tan Dun. He uses a violin to make erhu sounds. He uses water and paper. It’s very cool.
初中。我弹木吉他。然后我到了高中我住在成都，四川音乐学院的一个 high school, play guitar. 但是我考的时候不考怎么样。。。我觉得没意思。因为你去copy 没有用。我想做自己的东西。比如说谭盾. He uses a violin to make erhu sounds. He uses water and paper. It’s very cool.
Some of your songs are written in English, tell me about that.
I think that within a song, English pronunciation is easier than Chinese. There can be strange melodies when you sing Chinese in a song. But eventually I want all our songs to be in Chinese. It’s not a pride thing, it’s that Chinese is our mother tongue – I feel I am in complete control of the language. So I don’t think our songs in English are written that well. Using your mother tongue gets you closer the the meaning you want to convey. I think Chinese is a lot more direct.
我觉得英文的要字儿比较easy，不象Chinese很难。放到歌曲里面有可能这个melody 不好，还是很奇怪。我决定以后所有的歌都用中文。我不是为此感到proud of this，很骄傲。中文是我们的母语。我觉得I can control this language. 完全知道。所以我们的英文歌词写得不好。用你的母语更能接近你想表达的意思。我觉得中文更直接一点。
Why is the new EP called ‘Elephant’?
An elephant can remember everything, if you hurt him, he can remember your smell. 在中国，在云南只有一次，一个村庄 [in Yunnan, China, out in the countryside] people killed a little elephant.
Yes, bingo! Xishuangbanna. This baby elephant got lost in the countryside and walked into a village and trampled the maize and wheat crops, so the villagers beat it to death. After some time, a big group of elephants returned and destroyed the countryside.
对！Bingo, 真的在西双版纳。他们傻了一头baby elephant, 因为那个baby elephant 迷路了，它走到了一篇村庄里面去。野生的. 它踩到那些村庄那些麦子，粮食，然后那些村民就把它打死了。打死了过后，过了一段时间，然后那片野生的elephant destroyed the countryside.
The person who killed the baby elephant went to jail, but his wife still had his scent. So one day when his wife was out in the fields, a group of elephants came and trampled her to death. They could smell the man’s scent on her. She was with her sister at the time, but they only attacked the wife, not the sister.
他去监狱了过后，但是他的妻子有他的气味。他的wife 有一天。。。一群大象就把她踩死了。因为他们闻到这个气味。而且他的wife 和她的sister在一起, 它们没有攻击她的sister, 只攻击wife.
REALLY. I’m still not finished. After that, 在墓地 [at the cemetery], the elephants came and trampled over where she was buried.
Wow. Why does ‘Elephant’ only have three songs, seems a bit short?
I want to do a surprise when our tour ends, I will put all the songs on the internet. It’s actually six, like on the CD.
What expectations do you have of the tour?
When I write lyrics, I hope they will resonate with people. Like when I watch Foals live videos, I am so moved – they make me want to pursue my dreams and never give up. I want [our music] to touch people in the same way, and to have them remember this feeling. I think this is more important than people knowing who you are. I don’t care if people like us or not, if I cared, we’d just play pop music.
我期盼能够。。。因为我写很多歌词，我期盼很多人能够有共鸣。 For example when I see Foals live, 我就会觉得我被感染了，我想我应该有一个梦想，我应该去这样做，我不应该放弃。我要让别人被打动。I think this is more important than people knowing who you are. 他可能记住了这种感觉。我不在乎别人喜不喜欢。如果我在乎别人喜欢的话我就做pop music。
Tell me about the Hormones’ new songs.
One of our new songs is called ‘Red Teardrops.’ You are a red tear drop, turning young hearts red. I think this song is interesting, every person is a red tear drop.
我们有一个新歌，我觉得非常感人的那首歌,《Red Teardrops, 红色的眼泪》 “你是一滴红颜泪，染红青年人的心脏。” 而且Red Teardrops这首歌很有意思，就是我觉得每一个人是一滴红颜泪.
What do you mean by ‘red tear drop’?
At the School of Music, there was a teacher who accused a cleaner of stealing 1000RMB. The cleaner denied it, but obviously the college sided with the teacher. The cleaner was in a helpless position, cleaning toilets for a living, and had no way of paying the money back. So she jumped from a building. When someone accuses you of doing something you did not do and you have no way out. All you want to do is cry. This is red tear drops.
好，我先给你讲。 四川音乐学院有一个工人, a cleaner, 然后有一个teacher 说这个清洁工偷了我一千块，那个清洁工说我没有，然后这个学院肯定需要更爱这个teacher一点，所以这个cleaner 就到了一个不好的一个去打扫卫生，她就很生气，其实这个前的数目不多，然后他就跳楼了。她就为了证明她。 This is unfair. It is not human. For 1000RMB. People pushed her to her death. So I wrote some lyrics about this. 冤枉了你，就说你做你没有做的事情有吗？从小到现在，有吗？ 那个时候就是你红色的眼泪。你没有办法说出来，你很生气只要哭。就是这个意思。
Any cities you are particularly looking forward to?
I’ve heard VOX Livehouse in Wuhan is very good. I’ve been friends with Liangyi, the singer from Stolen 秘密心动, since we were classmates in high school. He told me the sound techs at VOX are very quick and professional.
What is the connection with New Noise?
Jeff from New Noise has helped us a lot with contacting livehouses, he sent me the information and let me contact them.
“Yes, we are girls – but it’s not a style!”
How do you feel you are received as an all-girl band?
A lot of stuff comes up. Like a lot of venues have booked girl bands as the warm up act just because they are girls. It’s really strange. Why have they got a heavy metal band opening for us? It’s like when Lydia (Zaomengshe) was working at that company. She’s a foreign woman. Then they sat her with another department because they are all foreigners. WHY??
Some people are stupid but you don’t have to talk to them. Someone on Weibo said “show us your underwear!” It is very stupid.
But an all guys band could go on tour and not have to worry about five girls having their period [laughs].
Who are some of your favourite bands at the moment?
Thanks, Ming Ming!
The Hormones 荷尔蒙小姐 National Tour:
Fri 17 Oct 成都 Chengdu, 小酒馆 Little Bar
Sat 18 Oct 重庆Chongqing, 坚果 NUTS Live House
Fri 24 Oct 西安 Xi’an, 光圈 Aperture
Sat 25 Oct 兰州 Lanzhou, 葵 Kui Live House
Wed 29 Oct 郑州 Zhengzhou, 7 Live House
Thur 30 Oct 北京 Beijing, Temple
Fri 31 Oct 北京 Beijing, XP
Sun 2 Nov 天津 Tianjin, 13 Club
Tues 4 Nov 上海 Shanghai, 育音堂 Yuyintang
Wed 5 Nov 杭州 Suzhou, 酒球会
Thur 6 Nov 厦门 Xiamen, Real
Fri 7 Nov 广州 Guangzhou, TU凸空间 T-UNION
Sat 8 Nov 深圳 Shenzhen, B10现场
Sun 9 Nov 长沙 Changsha, 46 Livehouse
Tues 11 Nov 武汉 Wuhan, VOX
You can buy tickets and merchandise on Zaomengshe! Support independent music!
The latest episode of the Sound Stage features the Hormones!