Beijing Noise Rockers Head for Chengdu: Interview with Lonely Leary

Lonely Leary are a Beijing-based three-piece post-punk/noise rock band from Shandong. They incorporate fast drums, muddy baselines and rough guitar noise in a pursuit to create a relatively violent sound. 

NU SPACE has invited them to Chengdu to play a show this Friday 10 June with local favourites Hiperson!

Kiwese caught up with the band members Qiu Chi 邱驰 (bass/vocals) Song Ang 宋昂 (guitar) and Li Baoning 李保宁 (drums) to find out more… 

Lonely Leary photo

Back in 2012, three college students entrenched in boredom were practicing their instruments alone in the secluded district of Changqing, Jinan. Initially the band set about covering a few simple punk songs, as well as post-punk bands such as Joy Division. They adopted the name “Lonely Lili” while playing spontaneous rock shows on campus. Later due to job changes and academic activities, the band was suspended.

In 2014, all three members moved to Beijing and Lonely Leary was reborn, trading ‘Lili’ for ‘Leary,’ a tribute to Timothy Leary, the creator of LSD. With a new name in a new city, the band began rehearsing and writing songs in pursuit of their own punk-oriented style. During the summer of 2014, the band performed prolifically at School Bar, XP and other rock clubs, gradually gaining a small and loyal following within the grungy confines of the Beijing underground.

I took a 19 hour train ride from Chengdu to Beijing last September for two reasons: see the first stop of the Shocking Pinks world tour with Wellington-based independent touring label A Low Hum and pick up Orchestra of Spheres for their epic China tour with Lady Lazer Light.

The Shocking Pinks show took place at the notorious hutong dive School Bar and was supported by two local acts – one of them was Lonely Leary, and they totally kicked ass. Scatty basslines, frantic drumming, possessed vocals, screeching guitar… A week later, I saw them play again at Temple Bar. Again, excellent.

Beijing has provided the Shandong-born trio the perfect environment in which to hone their songs and their live performance, with what seems like endless bars and livehouses to play at on a regular basis.

NU SPACE is proud to present LONELY LEARY, the post-punk/noise-rock trio tipped by critics as the most exciting new band out of Beijing this year.

lonely leary school bass
Playing support for Shocking Pinks. 18 Sept 2015. Photo by Kiwese.

KIWESE: You guys are from Shandong. Can you describe what Jinan is like for those of us who don’t know?

SONG: Changqing is basically a beautiful place. I think it’s more suitable for old people rather than youths to live there.

QIU: There was originally a village or wasteland. You know, the university and college downtown couldn’t take so many students after enrolment expansion over the years, so the government transformed the villages into campuses and sent a large number of students there. The campuses are isolated by mountains and we have to take illegal taxis to go to other places. There is also a commercial center with many low-cost shops, stalls, internet bars and small hotels for lovers.

Music hobbyists can learn to play guitar and drums in some instrument shops. They used to form bands and cover “Beyond”. There were over a hundred Beyond cover bands I think.

LI: The first time I met Song Ang he was playing guitar in a cover band in an instrument shop. He hated the songs they played, so we began to play together while learning our instruments. Qiu Chi joined us after graduating, then we became a trio and began to cover some punk bands. Our playing technique was poor then.

You started out covering punk bands. What were some of the first songs you covered?

Under Baby, Joyside and Ramones. Including some “punk songs” by Hedgehog.

What is up with the drummer situation?

We have some drummer adjustments recently. Wang Jianan played drums for the last half of the year. She is a student at Beijing Film Academy with a good sense of drum playing. She created many amazing drum riffs in new songs. The only problem she has is technique – it’s a little hard for her to play the fast songs perfectly live and in recording, after all, she hasn’t played for that long.

So she will study and practice the basic skills and techniques, and the original drummer Li will take the place of her at present. Li plays fiercely like a drum machine.

Li Baoning on the drums at XP. Image from XP's Douban.
Li Baoning on the drums at XP. Image from XP’s Douban.

You moved to Beijing in 2014, how does the city influence your music?

QIU: I simply took playing in a band as pastime in Shandong. At that time, I didn’t know much about making music as an amateur. After graduating and being in Beijing in 2012, I separated from them because they were still in Jinan. I think Lonely Leary was about to dissolve then. However, I saw lots of lives in Beijing and was attracted by its dynamic rock’ n roll atmosphere. There are so many fresh bands who studied and vied with each other – they created the scene together. I was encouraged by them and got the enthusiasm to continue Lonely Leary. Then the other guys came to Beijing soon after, so I had no excuse to stop the band any more.

SONG: I think Beijing is a high-speed city with bad environment and people here are restless. I knew nothing about the city beside music before I came here. I didn’t know what to do then and always felt anxious and confused. In fact, three of us all get this feeling and deeply affected. The violent sound of our music has close connection with the situation. Sometimes the bad moods also get the band into trouble. That’s terrible.

LI: Beijing has more bands and lives than I had ever known in college. You know, most bands in Jinan are metal and pop, as well as some folk singers. However, in Beijing, there are many bands whose temperaments are quite same as us, especially in XP Club. I can learn from them at close range. At the time, I thought I would die without regrets if I could perform in XP, ha-ha!

2015.01.24 China Lonely Daydream Night Lonely Leary in XP. Image from XP's Douban.
2015.01.24 China Lonely Daydream Night Lonely Leary play at XP. Image from XP’s Douban.

Tell us about the new album, how is that coming along? Where are you planning to record it? Will you release it independently or with a label?

Qiu: Making an album has been our dream for a long time. We decided on it at the end of last year as we think we have enough songs now. In fact, we didn’t think too much on writing songs at first, no uniform style or concept was carried through. Many songs didn’t sound the same because they are written in a different period. It really troubled us then! So we tried to preset a theme for the album to keep our creation in a controllable range. It makes the new songs clearer. We also changed some old songs based on our preset concept. Some old songs have been abandoned.

SONG: Some of our songs have been in an indeterminate state for two years before we reached our preset concept. Fortunately, they finally morphed into the shape that we’ve described in our introduction.

LI: Our demo recordings are very simple. We used an iPad to record and mix to get the finished product that you hear on Douban. They have no details or good tones, just a standard of “clear enough to hear.”

Our ignorance towards “real recording” caused this undesirable lo-fi sound. Now we are learning and rehearsing a lot to be ready for the formal recording. Then we probably try to contact labels which are reliable and have interest in us.

You play fairly regularly in Beijing. What are your favourite venues to play?

SONG: We all love XP Club. We can often perform with the bands we like there. I prefer to Old What after XP closed. I feel comfort in its simple and rough environment.

QIU: I would like Old What better if the sound is improved. I like School Bar most now.

LI: We used to play XP a lot because it was close to where we lived. Now we go to School Bar most often.

XP. Image from XP Douban.
XP Club. Image from XP Douban.

Who are some other bands you really like in Beijing at the moment and why?

QIU: We all like P.K.14 and Snapline. Alpine Decline is my recently favorite.

SONG: I like Alpine Decline as well. I also recommend Death Narcissist and Bedstars.

LI: I like Re-TROS and Supermarket, also Dr. Liu and the Human Centipede and Soviet Pop.

Your music reminds me of Joy Division and The B52s, as well as more recent bands like Thee Oh Sees and Re-TROS. What bands have had the biggest influence on you?

QIU: David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, P.K.14 and Sun City Girls have a deep ideological influence on me. SavagesMars, DisconcertsSleaford ModsMika Miko are my favourites recently. I love their basslines.

SONG: I recommend A Place to Bury Strangers for their destructive lives, firm basslines and manic guitar noise. Sonic Youth brings me inspiration on playing guitar, I’ve learned their tuning and tone a lot. I also like the teen spirit sound of Big Black and Spacemen 3’s psychedelic guitar.

LI: Old post-punk bands like Joy Division, Sort Sol, Talking Heads have influenced so many people for their tension of contradiction.

Have you come to Chengdu before? What impressions do you have of this place?

QIU: I went four years ago. I think People’s Park is a funny place and I love “LengGuo ChuanChuan”.

LI: I went last year. I didn’t go to too many places, but I think some temples here are very good.

SONG: I have never been to Chengdu. I think it may be a wet place.

Anything you want to say to people coming to the show in Chengdu?

QIU: All I want to say are painted on the poster. Really fantastic design ha-ha!

LI: Hi, Person!

SONG: We are three plain dealers from Shandong. Welcome to come and see us!

Lonely Leary’s alcohol of choice?

QIU & SONG: Jingjiu. Absolutely!

Li: I prefer pineapple beer.

Welcome to Chengdu, thanks guys!

We’ve never been out so far for a live show before. Thanks NU SPACE for inviting us!

Hiperson Lonely Leary poster

WHEN:
Friday 10 June 2016
Doors: 8pm
Lonely Leary: 8:30pm
Hiperson: 9:30pm

WHERE:
明堂创意工作区·NU SPACE
成都市青羊区奎星楼街55号
NU SPACE, MiNTOWN Studio Community
55 Kuixinglou St, Qingyang, Chengdu

TICKETS:
Pre-sale: 60RMB
Door: 100RMB
http://www.zaomengshe.com/c/325233

们可以给我们介绍济长清是一个什么样的地方吗?

宋:长清是一个山清水秀、环境优雅的地方。适合养老,不大适合青年人居住。

邱:其实这里原本是村庄或荒地。前几年大学扩招后,市区里的学校装不下那么多学生,于是偏僻的村庄就被改造成校园,大学生们都被送到了这里。大学被山隔开,各自孤立,出行要靠黑出租。中心地带有唯一的一个商业区,非常热闹,分布着许多商店、地摊、网吧和家庭旅馆,都特别便宜。这里也有几个琴行,教音乐爱好者们弹吉他或打鼓;他们其中有的学成了就开始组乐队,以翻唱Beyond乐队为主。大学城里应该有过上百支Beyond翻唱乐队。

李:我第一次遇见宋昂就是在这里,他当时正在一个琴行给某个乐队弹吉他,他不喜欢他们当时翻唱的歌。我们认识了之后就开始一边学乐器一边玩。邱驰快毕业的时候才加入进来,这才凑齐了三大件正式排练。我们当时技术有限,就翻唱一些朋克乐队。

你们一开始翻唱那些朋克乐队的歌?

地下婴儿、Joyside以及Ramones。还有刺猬,我们翻过他们一些比较朋克的歌。

们现在的鼓手情况怎么样

鼓手目前有一些调动。最近半年在打鼓的是王迦南,她还在电影学院上学。虽然打鼓时间不久,但是她的意识很不错,在新歌里编排了很多有趣的段落,带来了新的节奏。只是她目前基本功要欠缺一些,应付现在快速的歌的演出和录音有点吃力。所以她现在会先去练习基本功和技术。现在在打鼓的是我们最初的鼓手李保宁。他打得比较凶狠,像鼓机一样。

2014年从山搬到北京去。北京的音格有什么样的影响?

邱:在山东的时候,我玩乐队的心态其实还是自娱自乐的成分多一些:当时一方面对做音乐不是很懂,比较业余,再加上我2012年就毕业来到北京,和仍在济南上学的他俩两地相隔、没法排练,所以本以为之后乐队差不多就解散了。不过到了北京之后我经常去看演出,才知道这里的摇滚乐气氛是多么活跃:这里有很多年轻的好乐队,大家互相学习、竞争,共同创造了这个场景。我很受鼓舞,就重燃了做乐队的热情。正好他俩很快也毕业来到了北京,再也没有什么不继续玩下去的理由了。

宋:我觉得北京的生活节奏很快,城市挺脏,人们也都挺躁动。刚来到北京的时候,对这里我除了音乐之外一无所知,也不知道要做什么,经常会感到无所适从和迷茫。这种情绪其实我们三人一直都有,也在一直都在影响我们的创作。音乐中暴躁、焦虑的成分都和这些有关。但一些时候颓丧的情绪也会让乐队陷入困境,这就比较糟糕了。

李:北京有更多的乐队和演出,让我了解到很多上大学的时候未曾了解的东西。在济南的时候大部分乐队是金属或流行摇滚,还有民谣,而北京和我们气质相同的乐队就要多很多,尤其是在XP,可以近距离学习很多东西。我当时觉得要是可以在XP演出一次就一生无悔了,哈哈。

们开始创造一张全长专辑,可以给我们介绍一下这个过程吗你们安排在哪里录音?要独立发布或者跟一个厂牌在一起?

邱:做一张专辑一直都是我们的愿望。考虑到歌曲数量似乎差不多够了,所以从去年底开始正式计划这件事情。其实最早写歌的时候想得很少,只是比较无意识地从当时零碎的音乐喜好、动机或生活经验出发去写歌,没有考虑太多关于统一风格或概念的问题。这使得不同时期的歌听起来好像差异会比较大,我们也经常陷入苦恼。所以我们之后开始尝试先预设一张专辑应有的主题和概念,给自己一点限定。这样,新歌创作的目标会更加明确,同时旧作也被重新编排,也有一些直接被舍弃掉了。

宋:之前没有明确想法的时候,一首歌可能两年都处于不确定的状态,改个十来种方案也没有结果。还好最近的修改都在基本朝我们所设想的风格发展,就像我们的介绍中描述的那样。

李:我们之前的录音方式多少有点草率,基本是用iPad进行录音和混音,成果就是豆瓣小站上的那些歌。它们顶多能达到“听清”的标准,谈不上细节和质量。之前我们对真正录音知之甚少,对音色的把握也比较欠缺,准备不足。这是一种不得已的Lo-Fi效果。现在我们正通过学习和排练为真正的录音做好准备。当我们准备充分以后,会尝试联系对我们的作品有兴趣,同时也值得信任的厂牌。

们经常在北京演出。你最喜演出的地方是那些?

宋:我们都很喜欢XP,那里好像跟我们的气质比较贴近,也经常能有机会和自己喜欢的乐队同台。XP关门了以后现在喜欢老What多一点,那里原始粗糙的感觉很好。

邱:老What要是声音能好一点我也会更推荐。现在最喜欢去的还是School。

李:XP当时离住的地方近,我们就经常去。现在是School去的最多。

你喜欢的居住在北京的乐队与音乐人有哪些?

邱:P.K.14和Snapine是我们共同喜欢的乐队。Alpine Decline我最近很爱听。

宋:我也喜欢Alpine Decline,还有Death Narcissist和Bedstars

李:我喜欢重塑雕像的权利和超级市场,然后就是人体蜈蚣和苏维埃·波普。

的音乐让我想起来Joy Division, TelevisionThe B52s, 有比较现代的乐队Thee Oh Sees和重塑雕像的 最大的影响的乐队是那些?

邱:David Bowie、The Velvet Underground、Joy Division、P.K.14以及Sun City Girls是在思想上对我影响很大的乐队。Savages、Mars、Disconcerts、Sleaford Mods、Mika Miko是最近影响我比较多乐队。我喜欢这些贝斯声音靠前的歌。

宋:我最近很喜欢A place to bury strangers,他们有破坏力的现场表演、结实的bassline还有狂躁的吉他噪音;然后是Sonic Youth,他们在吉他弹奏上带给我很多灵感,我也研究了很多他们的调弦方式和音色;Big Black傻冲楞的少年心气我也很喜欢!还有Spacemen 3,我喜欢他们厚重的带药味的吉他。

李:Joy Division、Sort Sol、Talking Heads这类老的后朋克吧,他们影响了太多的人。我认为他们的音乐有种矛盾的张力,在内部爆发,在外部控制。

成都?你们对成都有什印象?

邱:四年之前来过一次。我觉得人民公园有趣,冷锅串串很好吃。

李:我去年来过,去的地方不多,有几个寺庙我觉得不错。

宋:我没来过,可能会比较潮湿?

们想对来看Hiperson x Lonely Leary NU SPACE演出的人

邱:想说的都画在海报上了,很棒的设计!哈哈。

李:Hi, Person!

宋:实在山东人乐队,值得来看!

Lonely Leary最喜的酒是那

邱/宋:中国劲酒!

李:我喜欢喝菠萝啤

欢迎你们来成都!谢谢!

我们第一次到这么远的地方来演出。谢谢NU SPACE的邀请!

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