Most high school students daydream about starting a band and becoming rock stars. But these youngsters have gone ahead and actually followed through, not only forming groups but also preparing to perform at Beijing World Youth Academy’s (BWYA) GreenWolf Rock Festival, which takes place on April 8. Eight bands from several schools across town will join and perform garage rock, metal, indie rock and other genres. Below, members of each group tell us more about their dreams, inspirations and more. To get tickets and to find out more about the event, click here
Band name: IVANBIRD from BWYA
Interviewee: Niu Mao, main bassist and one of the lead vocalists.
Other band members: Rendolm, guitarist/main keyboardist and one of the lead vocalists; Ivan, bass, keyboard and vocals; drummer Mike Meek; and lead guitarist Zeff, whom cannot make it to the event, sadly.
Tell us about some of the songs that you plan to perform at the event.
We are performing all originals from our upcoming album “Tethered.” It will be released on June 25 at 7pm at Mao Livehouse.
“Doom,” is a song composed and arranged by Ivan. Its style is sort of new age, I guess. I don’t know, it’s a very awesome song. Complicated, but awesome. All of Ivan’s songs are complicated. And long.
“Leave it Be,” is composed and arranged by Rendolm, the weird dude in our group. “Leave It Be,” is sort of minimalistic but can also be described as funk fusion. It’s also hard to define (laughs). It’s good and groooovy.
I composed “Anarchy in my School.” It is my most simple song for the album and the most ironic to perform at a school event. The lyrical content is, well, very obvious. And in terms of musical style, it’s garage rock and alt rock.
Who are some of your influences in terms of live performers?
What?(Laughs). We don’t know. We surely like a lot of musicians, but we are not directly influenced by their performance style. I personally admire how Ian Curtis prances around on stage. But, Rendolm already does those things even without knowing his existence. So, we’re not sure. Really not sure.
If your band becomes superstars one day and you win a Grammy, who would be some of the people you’d mention in your acceptance speech?
We’ll start jumping around and burn the whole place down! No, not really, but the Grammys aren’t exactly very honorable, at least for me. Sure, getting one means I’m rich and successful or something, but it doesn’t necessarily mean my music is good. Maybe just popular, but popularity and quality aren’t the same, are they? How do you even define best? Who is judging even?
If we had to give an acceptance speech we’ll probably just thank each other, Zeff, Martin the manager, our old band members (Julian, Johnny & Gary). And David and 徐 sir. And our parents of course.
Band name: CHROMA from Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS)
Interviewee: Liyong, guitarist and co-vocalist.
Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” is on your set list, and it seems like a complex, challenging song to perform. What was the toughest part of learning to play it, and how did it feel to successfully nail that down?
Although it might seem hard to keep a steady rhythm and tempo throughout the “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” because of the wide range of rhythmic patterns, our drummer, Theo, does an amazing job at playing at a steady tempo, thus making it easy for the rest of us to play.
Honestly, the part we found most difficult while learning this song was trying to recreate the gradual crescendo and the gradual changes in dynamics in the original song. Because of how the band only has two guitarists playing for this song, it was pretty tough to create the same grand and strong build up. However, after spending a huge amount of time adjusting the volume of the guitars, as well as practicing to play from as soft as we can to as loud as we can, we were able to nail that down. It felt pretty great to be able to play such a complex song.
Your intro will be Foo Fighters’ “Everlong.” Do you think Dave Grohl has had an overall greater impact on music and culture as the founder of the Foo Fighters, or as a member of Nirvana? Why?
It’s obvious that Nirvana’s impact on music culture overshadows the Foo Fighters’ and having as great of a musician as Dave Grohl in Nirvana, has no doubt helped that newer band become more successful. But I still feel like it’s Kurt Cobain who was the more impactful musician in Nirvana. Even Dave himself has admitted when he was the drummer in Nirvana, that he didn’t want to ‘hog the spotlight’ simply because he had too much respect for Kurt’s work. Because of that, Dave purposely concealed the songs he was writing during that time. However, when Dave started Foo Fighters, he not only became the lead singer and guitarist of the band, but he was their main composer/songwriter and basically led the band. That’s why I feel like Dave Grohl was more impactful on music and culture as the founder of the Foo Fighters.
You’ll also play one of your own songs, “On the Way,” at the event. What inspired it?
“On the Way,” was actually a song written by our main bassist, Jun Young. He was inspired by a date he had with his girlfriend on Christmas Eve. After listening to the demo he had created on GarageBand, the rest of us then added melodies to the song. Although he has composed a number of other songs, he was especially proud of this one simply because this was the first song that he had written lyrics for.He’s also proud of how much more of a personal connection he has with it.
Band name: 光谷/GuangGu from Beijing Royal School
Interviewee: Johnny, guitarist
What are you planning to play at GreenWolf?
We are going to play three original songs. They were all composed by us.They are all about our lives. The songs are not difficult to play,but they have deep meanings within.
Who are some of your biggest mentors, or who has helped you most along the way?
We are going to thank ourselves. On this road we have had too many problems and difficulties, but we never gave up. We stayed together, continued making our music. We’ve been happy together, we’ve fought together. We are just a few guys living in the valley and hoping the morning sunlight at the top of the hill will be visible soon.
Band name: GRAVITY, Beijing No. 55 High School
Interviewee: Moore, guitarist
You’ll perform an Avril Lavigne song at the show. Why do you think she has been so successful and popular in China?
Avril is hot, and her songs are great.
Tell us about the chemistry between you and your bandmates. Why do you guys play well together?
All the members are happy to play together. We are busy this semester, so it’s not easy for us to have rehearsal，but we still squeeze out all the free time we have to rehearse. Maybe this is our chemical reaction. We share zeal and woe. Every cover song we play is different from the original, we rearrange them significantly, hope you guys will like it.
Band name: IX LIVES from Beijing International Bilingual Academy (BIBA)
Interviewee: Himang, vocals
How did you come up with your band name?
Our mentor, Mr. P, thought it’d be a good idea to keep the name in the spirit of our school. BIBA’s mascot is a leopard, so we were trying to come up with a name that relates to that. I can’t take credit for coming up with any of this because, trust me, I come up with the worst names that are so cringe-y, and just… ew. One of our guitarists, Fernando, came up with “Nine Lives”, and we all thought it was a pretty cool and a clever idea since leopards are cats, and cats are thought to have nine lives. A few weeks later, I asked about how we should stylize the “Nine”, and Fio, our drummer back then, came up with the idea of writing it in roman numerals. And that’s how we came up with IX LIVES! Although I’m sure we’ve played far more than nine shows, I sometimes like to joke about it on stage saying “This is the ninth life that we’re on, and we’re about to play with no regrets.” This year, we really need to play every show as if it was our last, since some of our members are graduating in June.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
We like to explore and experiment with diverse genres of music, especially since each of us have such different musical interests. We have members who are into hard rock and metal, people who are into exotic world music, people who are into classic rock and acoustic vibes, and people who are into other alternative styles. I grew up listening to a variety of music, and reggae is something that I listened to as a baby. We find ourselves always ending up jamming to a reggae beat. We will be bringing elements of that at this show too!
We are the only band representing our school at this event, and it is sometimes difficult to make scheduling arrangements that satisfy everyone, especially when there is only one practice room that we fight for against all the other younger bands at our school. Every one of us is active in other areas as well, and the seniors are constantly busy with academic priorities. And of course on top of that, one or two people has to stay home during flu seasons. Although the music ties us together when we play, there is always room to make things tighter,and we can only achieve this through practicing more together.
Tell us about the songs you chose to perform at GreenWolf and why they are well suited for you and your band.
We will be playing “Death” by the White Lies, “House Of The Rising Sun” by The Animals, and “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots. This set list features elements from indie rock, new wave, folk, pop, hip hop, reggae, soul, and country music.
“Death” was chosen by our other singer, Meena, “House Of The Rising Sun” was requested by our mentors, and “Stressed Out” was requested by our keyboardist, Kelly. Our rendition of “House Of The Rising Sun” features a twist, and we mashed it with a more current song, “Ex’s and Oh’s” by Elle King. This was my idea, but it was inspired by the country rhythm that Fio (our guitarist) was playing around with. We also have some special arrangements planned for “Stressed Out”, one of my favorite songs. We took the song through different stylistic phases, and we all worked together to come up with it. Lyrically, I think “Stressed Out” is so relatable for young, busy, students like us, aspiring to be musicians
Band name: THE BAGUETTE DUDE from the International French School of Beijing
Interviewee: Antoine Zheng, the guitarist and vocalist (due to line-up changes, we change members every year, I sometimes play bass and leave the singing for some other members)
Baguette Dude is an awesome band name, we love it! How did you come up with it?
It all really started off as a joke. We were the last band to have joined the festival and we didn’t have a name (again due to inconsistent band member changes, which prevents us from having time to develop our projects). Being such a dork, I thought it was funny to put “The Baguette Dude” as a temporary band name, but it turns out that when we found our real band name (which was supposed to be ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’), it was too late to change it, so we had to stick with The Baguette Dude *sob*.
But it turns out that it’s not such a bad name, as I will be able to make bad jokes about French people during the performances and funny art works for the band logo or stuff.
On the flipside of our last question, what are some of your favorite other bands with awesome/hilarious band names?
I love one band that is some kind of tribute to the internet meme Harambe. The band’s name is ‘Forest Of Harambe’ and their only album is ‘Under The Sign of Harambe’ with a track that has a very off color joke. Those jokes do go out of control from time to time.
On a more serious note my favorite band with a strange name is OkillyDokilly with their album ‘HowdillyDoodilly,’ it’s a metal band with everyone dressed like Ned Flanders from the Simpsons. It’s highly transcendent music that’s for sure.
You’ll play a Vaccines song at the festival. Tell me about how they’ve influenced you and why you love their music.
The Vaccines’ sound it simple, energetic, catchy and upbeat. It is nothing really special, but that’s why I love their music. They aren’t really an influence on me though.
The big influence here for me is Car Seat Headrest. Will Toredo, the man behind this project, is in my opinion an incredible songwriter. His songs are crude, shameless and intimate. He certainly isn’t the best singer around-his voice cracks and he even sometimes sounds pathetic. But that’s exactly why his music is so expressive. Long story short, his music is trash that makes you feel like trash, but you like feeling like trash, so you like the trashy music. It is introspective, relatable, cathartic, and just plain good.
Band name: RED BABOON from Beijing No. 55 School
Interviewee: Sarah, vocalist and Lena, guitarist
You’ll be playing a song by the Japanese band Radwimps at the event. What do you like most about them and the Japanese indie rock scene in general?
Lena: I didn’t know anything about Radwimps until I watched a Japanese movie called Your Name. I love Radwimps’s lyrics. Most of their songs use metaphors that are meaningful and relatable to us. The style of their songs is very typical, usually coming back to chorus after bridge. However what is special about their choruses is that they change tones or add up the harmonies, creating a prefect climax.
Tell me about the challenge of balancing band practice and school work.
Sarah: We don’t really have any challenges when it comes to balancing practice with performing and other activities, because practice isn’t seen as a chore. It’s more like a hobby, as we get to come together and play as a whole.
If you and the rest of Red Baboon could perform anywhere, where would you choose? Cochella? Strawberry Music Festival? Madison Square Garden?
Sarah: Coachella is definitely a music Festival I would love to perform at. It features a variety of genres that suit my band very well. I also like the fact that it is filled with lots of art installations, allowing our eyes to gaze as our ears sink deep into the music.
Band name: SHADOWSDOWN (members are from multiple schools)
Interviewee: David, guitarist
At GreenWolf you’ll be playing songs by Omnium Gatherum, a death metal band from Finland. When you first began listening to their music, how did your parents react?
My parents did not react to the type of music that I like.
Do you like Finnish death metal in general?
I enjoy listening to this genre. It is exciting.
Tell me about why you’re excited to perform at GreenWolf?
We are the only metal band out of the eight bands that are performing. It will be interesting to see how the audience reacts to our music.
Photos courtesy of YCIS Beijing, BIBA, BWYA, Beijing No. 55 High School, Beijing Royal School, and International French School of Beijing.