Beijing post-punk trio Re-TROS visits Songbyrd tonight (with Xiu Xiu!) in support of its very recently released album Before the Applause. Harnessing the power of the internet, Johnny Fantastic (of Stronger Sex) sent some questions to the band earlier this week.
How have your shows here in the US been so far? What are some of your favorite places to play?
I was very happy to perform here in the US. It’s not our first time to play/tour here, but it’s been always making me feel very excited. I like all the places where we’ve played. It’s fun to perform in front of different people and drive them into our music. Also, we are pretty looking forward to more places where we haven’t been there yet.
What bands and styles of music have influenced you as artists?
I’ve been super fan of the 70’s and 80’s Post Punk / New Wave bands, Joy Division, Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Birthday Party, Devo, Talking Heads, Television… These musicians influenced me a lot, not just for our music style, also for how to understand music. They made me build my own aesthetic idea. And I’m loving Battles, TV on The Radio, Einstürzende Neubauten, Steve Reich, King Crimson… Since last ten years, I personally think that our new album is more inspired by these guys: based on Post Punk/ New Wave, but developing and progressing because of these bands.
What is the scene like in China? How does it compare to the US? What are some bands from China that Americans should know about?
I think the Chinese market is getting bigger and bigger since last decade, a lot of new bands with different style and also lot of music festivals here to offer the bands and musicians a good platform to show their music, which is great. I don’t know how to compare to the US, totally different culture background and music history, in general, I would say that Chinese musicians need more time to create our own music culture.
What role do bands like re-TROS play in the shaping of culture in China in 2017?
I would say bands like re-TROS are more like pioneers, opening the door of music between China and the western world. I truly believe that more and more upcoming bands will keep on moving further through this door and make it bigger.
My band Loi Loi sings in Mandarin Chinese. Re-TROS sings primarily in English. What was behind that choice, and how do you feel about English as a tool of expression vs Chinese?
Oh hi! Nice to meet you here. It was a great night to play with Loi Loi in DC – it was very impressive.
And I have a question to answer your question: What language do you want to use to sing Beijing Opera? I would say, Chinese, right? That’s the reason for me – that’s why we’re singing in English.
You’ll be sharing the stage with Xiu Xiu. How did you come to meet them and what other American bands are you excited about?
First of all, I like Xiu Xiu’s music. They are so creative and unique. I’ve listened to their album Plays the Music of Twin Peaks a few days ago, really love it!! We didn’t meet them personally, but they were in BJ to perform on Strawberry Festival, and I was there too. I’m very, very looking forward to tour with them!
Also, there are tons of American bands we are excited about, as I mentioned: Battles, TVOR… and also Liars, Animal Collective, Darkside, Deerhoof, Blonde Redhead, the Mars Volta, Pere Ubu. I can list these names for ten miles long.
Do you think Chinese bands like re-TROS have a future in influencing the culture of American music? How?
I hope we could, someday, but it’s not the thing I’m supposed to think about. That goal is too big and heavy. As a musician, what I need to do is focus on my music.
What is behind the album title Watch Out! Climate Has Changed? Are you talking about the environment or something more metaphorical?
It’s our second record. Our first full length album was released in 2009. We were thinking about having an album of a whole concept when we start writing songs for this record. That’s the basic idea of it. The tracks were more like different chapters of an absurd story. I would like to say it’s metaphorical, but it’s difficult to me to explain what exactly this story symbolized. I think it depends on how you unscramble this record, musically and lyrically.
Gives us an idea of what’s next for re-TROS in 2017 and 2018. Tours? New record?
Yes, we’ll start our US tour very soon, actually three days from now. The first gig is in the Washington DC and the last one in NYC. It’s gonna take around half month. And then a Europe tour from middle of November to early December. Also, we are starting back to our rehearse room and practicing new songs for the next new record. It’s always fun to work on new stuff and build them up step by step. I love this process.