Should you ever find yourself in Hong Kong and in need of seeing an original good live band, try Hidden Agenda*. Many have been lost on the way to this venue and some have even never found it but whoever finds this hidden warehouse turned livehouse, is up for a rocking good night!
Hidden Agenda is one of the leading venues of Hong Kong ‘underground’ music. Located in the lonely Tai Yip Street, an industrial zone with no people around, your first challenge will be to listen for sounds coming from one of the buildings and hoping to hear the music coming from above, in order to know which small, metal door you should enter. Once you've found the elevator and gained access, you'll find a stage that’s seen many local and international acts.
October the 19th, 2014 was one of those nights, with three local Hong Kong bands Oh!Nullah, Ni.Ne.Mo and The White Wave supporting the Chinese indie-rockers DaBang. The alternative band from Beijing, have so far released one album and two EP’s and they came to Hong Kong on their ‘Present is the best Present’ tour with three new recorded songs.
When I first heard their single ‘Cut Cut Cut’ I had to check them out. When I watched the video to the song, I had to get up and start jumping around. It’s a tune full of energy, punkness and the video shows a rocking, guitar loaded blonde hair Chinese lead singer Ying Wang with ‘Endure’ tattooed on her neck, along with some strange fighting scenes going on between two lovers…. It was very hard to find any information on the band as they were only mostly posting on Chinese websites so I decided to interview the band and find out more about who and what is behind this impressive band.
The first time I met lead singer Ying Wang, it was hard to imagine that this so softly spoken and kind girl can turn the world upside down when she steps onto the stage. Her energy and stage presence are truly stunning. The songs ‘Cut Cut Cut’, ‘Sixteen’ and the Chinese song’ 冰心’ stand out on the records and when played live. You can see and hear she's inspired by Karen O from the NYC band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
While their debut EP ‚The Bigger Bang’ (2009) was more dance rock, their debut album Bone Hug (2011) sounded more like a punk album as their sound got replaced by guitars and hammering beats all the way to their more slicker sound of 2012 EP Celebrate. You can hear the band’s development since they formed in 2008.
What really makes this band and the singer special, though is their live energetic gigs, led by the front woman Wang, who is known for her wild on stage character. They are a band that likes to experiment and gets the crowd pumping during their gigs. The Hidden Agenda gig was no different, their sound going from dance to punk while Wang danced and jumped around the stage while the dance floor erupted. The room was shaking and the walls were vibrating when ‚Cut Cut Cut’ came on, the song that sounded even better live and played just before the band settled into their encore and finished their set. As the band was leaving the stage, they left the crowd wanting more...
I spoke to Wang Ying, the lead singer, before their set on the Hong Kong leg of their ‘Present is the best Present’ tour.
How would you describe your band?
Wang: We don’t like to be put in the box of a music genre so I am going to say we are different, maybe independent would describe us best.
How did your sound form and how did you start DaBang?
Wang: Everyone made an impact in the band to what we sound like. I am originally from Guangzhou (south China) and I went to Beijing from Guangzhou because I really liked the band Yeah Yeah Yeahs (NYC) and they played on a festival in Beijing, so I went over to see them and fell in love with Beijing the moment I got there…so I decided to stay there and to form a band…I used to play in bands before. I met the drummer and the bassist before on that same music festival, so we all kind of knew each other. Our guitarist used to play in the band called ‘TooKoo’.
What’s behind the independent and underground music scene of Beijing?
Wang: I think Beijing has the biggest music scene for underground music and independent music in China…10 years ago, everything was underground and very new and everything was much more fun, nowadays it’s getting quite commercial…when I was in school, I used to follow and read about underground music scene in the underground magazine. Right now more and more bands are getting into it and the market is growing really fast, so this kind of music has almost become more commercial and popular but nevertheless there are many great smaller bands forming in China.
What are some of the Chinese bands you like and worth checking out?
Wang: Well, I am a big fan of Nova Heart, Re-Tros, TooKoo and P.K.14 just to name a few.
Where can people from outside of China go and listen to your music and buy your songs?
Wang: This is a problem as many websites in China are blocked and it’s really hard and slow when you put music up and try to share it. Many times the websites such as Facebook or YouTube don’t even work in China…We have some Chinese websites like Douban that work and that’s where we have our stuff as of right now. Few songs and videos are on YouTube as well as on Bandcamp but most of our stuff is on sites like Douban. You can buy our songs from iTunes, I hope our label put some songs there but if you want to buy CD’s then it would only be possible to buy it in stores in China…
How do you write the lyrics and what are they about?
Wang: Well most of the time we just end up jamming then I would put lyrics inside and write about it…most of the stuff is from deep inside, things that happen in life…
You mean kind of like your ‘Endure’ tattooed on your neck?
Wang: (laughs) how do I say this? Well, I got this tattoo when I was really young; many years ago…it was like a stain when I was that age. I went through a difficult time and I marked it that way. If you ask me now, would I do it again? Hmm, most likely not, as I am not going through that phase again. That was a specific time and I marked it that way.
What is DABANG's plans for the future?
Wang: We are planning on touring Europe next year, we’ve never toured outside of China and that’s the next step we would like to take. Saying that, we want to live in the moment, which is also the name of this tour, ‘Present is the best Present’. We just recorded three new songs and posted it online and we are currently touring 14 cities in China but of course going over to Europe or getting exposure outside of China would be the next step.
Wang Jing (汪婧) aka Pupi synthesizer / vocal
Li Yu (李羽) bass / harmony
Yan Shuai (阎帅) guitar / harmony
Li Nan (李楠) drums
*Hidden Agenda is located at 2A, Wing Fu Industrial Bldg, 15-17 Tai Yip Street, Kwun Tong, Hong Kong
*You can hear Da Bang on China Calling Episodes.