Duck Fight Goose on SXSW
Duck Fight Goose just returned from their inaugural trip to the US, where they played SXSW while also managing to squeeze in some exra shows in San Antonio and LA. I caught up with frontman Han Han to ask him about the trip, his impressions of the US and his advice for other bands looking to make the journey.
This was your first time playing in the US and having done SXSW in the past I know how much of a clusterfuck the whole thing can be. What was it like preparing for the trip and did the reality differ much from your expectations?
Like a friend of me said, SXSW is a fucking zoo, in a neutral way. I had asked some people about it before we played there so we were more or less psychologically prepared. Most of the daytime shows were pretty shitty. But we enjoyed every show, that’s for sure. I mean, odd people, unique Texas-Mexican culture and Shiner Bocks. Bands clapping hands for bands. CLAP YOUR BANDS SAY YEAH baby.
Your first experience of the states was Austin, Texas a very “American” town. Were there things that you found particularly strange, shocking or interesting as first-time visitors?
Austin is such a friendly and polite city, not like San Antonio or Los Angeles, at least based on my own experience. The air and the scene there make you want stay longer and simply enjoy the slow-paced life. It’s heaven compared to Shanghai. There’s only one thing that disappointed me from time to time – you can’t drink and smoke at the same time, except in your own yard. But then I knew it’s like that in every city in the US now… that’s the dark side of the civilized world.
You played six shows in six days during SXSW. Did you have a favorite? Any stories you want to share?
Our last show in Austin was really really unforgettable. We were introduced to it by the guy who we rented the house from and all we knew about the show was the name, something like “barn show.” We were thinking that we were going to play with some horses and cows and see some real ducks fighting geese. However it turned out to be a big house party of maybe 80 old hippies. And everyone brought homemade food, beer and barbecue. I can still remember the guy who was helping out near the stage who called himself Shakespeare. We were playing with some acoustic country bands that day, and there was real mud on stage; it kind of reminded me of last year’s Zhenjiang Strawberry Festival. It was such a cozy and beautiful night.
The experience of playing shows in the US is pretty different from that in China. Everything from lugging in your own backline to how you relate to the audience. What were some of the biggest differences you felt on the performing end?
Thanks to Brad and Josh, we didn’t have to pay too much attention to backlines; they helped us a lot with that. Compared with many of the SXSW bands, most of the Chinese bands are spoiled today. They preform in bars with backlines, the bar pays them and they still complain about this and that. We’ve been there before. But there are some ridiculous bands in the US too. We played one show where another band wanted to borrow a guitar cable so I said here you go. Next thing I know I was witnessing them playing with our guitar… I was thinking, what the fuck. And after the show they returned the guitar, with like 10 different guitar cables, all from different brands.
What about the audience? How different were American audiences from Chinese audiences, and was there a difference in how they reacted to your music?
In general I think they are more friendly. I talked to some of them and they seem to be listening to all kinds of music, which is good. Funny thing is that there are people everywhere asking about censorship or what you can’t sing about in China. I said you can sing about anything you like, but you will eventually benefit or suffer from what you’re doing, and what you’re singing about will lead you to the right people or vice versa. That’s universal.
Are there things you think bands from the US and China could learn from each other’s approaches or experiences?
I don’t know… for me there are not very big differences between bands from the US and China. They are all the same. An interesting band from a cave is still more interesting than a boring band from outer space.
For the week of SXSW every conceivable space in Austin turns into a live venue. Were you able to catch shows by many other bands while you were there? Any favorites?
Definitely Jesus and the Mary Chain. A heartbroken fucking elementary-school-memory-lane kind of show. When they played “Just Like Honey” I cried like a fucking Sofia Coppola fan. Their sounds are just as fucked up as all the articles that I read about them, which was so satisfying. I talked with Li Qing after the show and we came to the same conclusion – this show alone was worth all the shit we had to go through for SXSW.
Fender set up a showcase for you at their showroom in LA. What was that like? Were there many fans there or was it more industry folk and media?
It was pretty commercial stuff. They took photos, did interviews and shot some videos for us, which they seem to want to upload to the Fender US and China websites. Some old guy from or related to Center Staging [the venue that houses the Fender showroom] were there too. The place is really professional. Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre were having a rehearsal that day next door; I feel a little regretful that I didn’t rush into their room for a autograph.
Do you have any recommendations for other Chinese bands looking to tour the US or attend SXSW or anything that you would want to do different next time?
We definitely want to go there again. And this time maybe play more night shows. Only one suggestions for new birds – never expect too much, you will always get more if you are expecting less.
Is there anything else from the trip that you would like to share?
Buy enough local cigarettes before you go to the US. Marlboros or American Spirits won’t satisfy you anyway.
You can check out Brad’s tour diary covering all of Duck Fight Goose’s US dates here