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.
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. Savages, Mars, Disconcerts, Sleaford Mods, Mika 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!
Friday 10 June 2016
Lonely Leary: 8:30pm
NU SPACE, MiNTOWN Studio Community
55 Kuixinglou St, Qingyang, Chengdu
宋：我也喜欢Alpine Decline，还有Death Narcissist和Bedstars
你们的音乐让我想起来Joy Division, Television和The B52s, 还有比较现代的乐队Thee Oh Sees和重塑雕像的权利 。给你们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。
你们想对来看Hiperson x Lonely Leary NU SPACE演出的人说什么？