Beijing’s international schools and local schools alike have churned out an impressive number of rock bands, with events like Rock-AM Jing, WAB Rocks, and Battle of the Bands providing more opportunities for young musicians to network and perform in. But what does it really mean to be in a band? How does it allow teens from different countries or similar backgrounds to communicate with each other? What do they gain from the experience?
For some, like Redundant Seconds, making music with friends allows teens to bond and create in ways that aren’t otherwise possible. For bands like Mi Ni, being part of a music group has helped them overcome shyness and become more confident. beijingkids sat down with both bands to hear their story and find out their aspirations for the future.
Redundant Seconds was formed in 2009 by a group of friends with similar interests. Members include Nepalese Sid Silwal (guitar, singer, songwriter) and Catalonian Lluc Sitjas (bass, backing, vocals), both 18 and recently graduates from Beijing No. 55 High School. The band is rounded out by 16-year-old Masaki Kobayashi of Japan, who plays drums and provides backing vocals. Silwal and Kobayashi have lived in Beijing for about five years, while Sitjas has been here for 16.
The guys decided to call themselves Redundant Seconds to reflect the repetition of things in life. Citing their main influence as Green Day, the band also finds inspiration in The Vines, Oasis, The Strokes, and The Ramones. “We have a lot of influences, so that’s what makes us Redundant Seconds,” says Silwal.
Silwal and Sitjas first met at No. 55 while studying in the school’s international department – and they’ve come a long way as a band. Redundant Seconds has recorded an independent 10-track studio album, which includes, “World My Way” and “Flying High Again.” They have played gigs at rock festivals, music venues, and birthday parties.
“We started out playing in our friends’ rooms and now we are playing big clubs like Tango and 2 Kolegas,” says Silwal. “We have evolved musically, too. We write better and have a better stage presence.”
While Redundant Seconds is now working towards bigger and better things, it hasn’t always been easy. For one, all the members of the band are self-taught. “[Sitjas and I] used to bring our little amps and guitars to school every day,” says Silwal. “We [practiced during]lunchtime or between classes.” Initially, both Silwal and Sitjas played guitar and covered Green Day songs, but experimented with finding their own sound by playing along to the music. They originally called themselves The Jump Outs, before solidifying their identity when Kobayashi joined. “It was a great experience working with a drummer, because I felt [freer]musically,” says Silwal. Soon after, Sitjas picked up a bass guitar and Redundant Seconds was born.
It’s not easy to form a band, especially in high school, but the trio managed by making all decisions as a group. Silwal writes the songs while Sitjas and Kobayashi work out the arrangements for drums, beats, and bass lines. Sitjas’ father helped out by booking a few shows for them, but Redundant Seconds has never had a manager. Though Silwal and Sitjas have graduated, the band is still active. They are planning a follow-up album now, in hopes of getting signed one day to an independent record label. Ultimately, the most meaningful part of the experience is belonging to something creative. “Being with friends and making art together is a feeling you can’t describe,” says Silwal.
Above a clothing store in Xinjiekou, there’s a practice studio that is home to one of Beijing’s youngest bands. Mi Ni is 10-year-old Zhu Xueqi (rhythm guitar), 8-year-old Li Zhaoxuan (lead guitar), 10-year-old Yin Xiaohan (bass), and 9-year-old Ling Haotian (drums). Both Ling and Zhu attend Yuying Primary School, while Li and Yin attend Beijing No. 1 Experimental School and Cuiwei Primary School respectively.
At the interview, Mi Ni delivered a rousing performance of “Love Rock Music,” a fast-paced rock song that combines Chinese and English. The band’s primary influence is local Chinese band Lingdian Yuedui (also known as “Zero Band”). Lead singer Zhu likes listening to Michael Jackson’s “This Girl is Dangerous” and “Just Beat It,” as well as “Help!” by The Beatles. Drummer Ling has more mainstream tastes, preferring popular artists like Justin Bieber.
Ah Mu, the band’s teacher, has been teaching Li, Yin, and Ling how to play drums since they were in kindergarten. Over time, the members transitioned to other instruments. It wasn’t until two years ago that Li realized he and his classmate Zhu realized they shared an interest in music. Ah Mu helped the kids form a quartet and the band was named Mi Ni to reflect the members’ youth. Driven by his own passion for rock, Ah Mu is instrumental in keeping the young
musicians focused. “It’s about the spirit of rock,” he says. Picture a younger, less hairy version of Jack Black’s character from School of Rock, and you’ve got yourself a basic understanding of the Chinese school of rock epitomized by Mi Ni.
Apart from weekly band practices with Ah Mu, the members of Mi Ni follow intensive music classes for their respective instruments. According to Zhu and Yin’s mothers, the most important aspect of being in a band is the all-around music learning experience. They wanted their kids to learn music at an early age, so they have a hobby to enjoy when they’re older. For now, this extracurricular activity hasn’t affected regular schoolwork. In fact, the opportunity to perform at a number of local events has helped the kids overcome their shyness. Ling’s mother has noticed that with this experience, her son has become more outgoing than other students of the same age.
The members of Mi Ni have high hopes for the future. Mi Ni has already appeared on a show called Kuaile Qintang on CCTV 15. “We have lots of fans at school,” says Zhu. He wants to record an album and enter the music business as a professional singer. But for now, the band members go about their daily lives as elementary school students.