The Yours: Move On, My Valley Kids!
The night of July 4th left an indelible mark on the history of Beijing’s music scene with the closing of experimental venue XP. As an eyewitness, Genjing was especially impressed by the energetic live performance of The Yours, a noise rock band from Hong Kong, who are now an important force for Maybe Mars. They really enliven Beijing’s live music scene. For those who are well-acquainted with the band, the Yours’ music has always been a leading force of modern youth culture. Sneaking behind the powerful noise sound wall, their meaningful lyrics entwine with wonderful melodies and arrangements, together giving out an echo of teenage scream. After the show, Genjing tracked down the vocal and guitarist of the band, Jack, to talk a little bit about the story of the Yours.
THE MEANING OF TEENAGARTEN
Please tell us your story of origin?
At the very beginning, in 2005, Nic and I founded the band. Later we found two other players to join us, but they left shortly after we released our first EP. We then had serious trouble finding new members for a long time until 2012, when Tim and the other drummer joined and together we released our first album 《The Way We Were》. After that, the line-up became much more stable.
The sense of youth is always present in your works. However in your more recent work, the conflict between the unique psychological state of teenagers and the current social environment has been raised up to a whole new level of head-on confrontation. Where did this transformation come from?
We create our music based on what happens around us every day. When we were recording 《Teenagarten》 we all wanted to re-record the songs we wrote as children but, although the band had been founded many years ago, due to an unstable line-up we hadn’t been able to. However, what I believe most deeply is that the teenage spirit can last forever. No matter how old you are it will always be in your heart, keeping you alive, and we wanted to make an album to express this idea.
The transformation mentioned above is demonstrated clearly in the first song of “Teenagarten”: the concrete walls and TV commercials in the lyrics have imprisoned all of us, and “teenagarten” is our only escape. Do you guys reach a consensus on the concept of “teenagarten”, or you each have your own interpretation?
It’s probably because the city we live in is Hong Kong, which, you know, is an extremely crowded metropolis. For us, living in a place like Hong Kong is really annoying, like we are trapped in a small cage. The concrete walls and TV commercials are just general representations of society nowadays. As for “teenagarten”, we do have consensus on a certain level. However, due to the different backgrounds we grew up in there will surely be slight differences.
Starting with an explosion of furious guitar riffs, the second song, “Darkness’ 91” expands on the damage that is done by a highly commercialized society. Can you exemplify that abstract darkness?
The “91” in the title is because all of us have inclinations towards the 90s. During that explosive period, everything was blooming very fast, such as music, fashion, etc. However, everything has an opposite side. The 90s also had its downsides, which we included in this song. In our eyes, this kind of darkness cannot be objectified. It is a general feeling of the time.
“Valley Kids” represents the soft side of this album. Starting with the tone-setting guitar melodies all the instruments slowly build up layer by layer and together create a sense of melancholy. Strangely, I feel the same when I’m listening to “1979” by The Smashing Pumpkins. Can you tell us about the inspiration and production of this song?
Actually, I really love this song. While we were recording it our guitarist Tim’s father’s health was in a pretty bad state. Tim felt really sad at that time and we all felt for him. This is where the song came from. We do love The Smashing Pumpkins, but we were not trying to copy them.
THE NIGHTS IN BEIJING
You recorded your recent album and 7” with Yang Haisong, tell us about your experience working with him.
Haisong is incredible! In fact, we weren’t familiar with music from mainland China back then, until we warmed-up for his band, P.K. 14. After listening to them we realized there are great bands on the mainland. Later we meet Zhang Shouwang who introduced us to Haisong directly. Shouwang said Haisong would be the perfect choice to record our music and at first we didn’t believe that he would agree to help us, but Shouwang contacted him and we flew from Hong Kong straight to Beijing. We really learned a lot from Haisong, especially our bassist, who watched Haisong scrupulously during the recording session and since we’ve returned to Hong Kong Nic has handled all of our recording. So, Haisong has been vital to our success.
I heard you guys recorded as a live performance, which was Haisong idea. Tell us about that experience.
Actually, since 《Teenagarten》, we record all our songs as live performances. We believe that music should sound like the way it is actually played, even if there are mistakes. That’s what makes our music genuine and that’s how we like it.
How did you guys come up with the idea to cooperate with Genjing Records? Why did you pick these two songs, “Public Eye” and “Purple”?
In fact, this was a really rare chance. After we arrived in Beijing we met with Nevin and signed with Maybe Mars, and then before you know it, we started to cooperate with Genjing too. Because these two songs are relatively pop and video-friendly we chose them and wished Genjing Records could bring the best out for our fans.
Tonight you guys really killed it on stage! I can feel the energy induced by your music in the crowd. Tell us your thoughts on tonight’s show.
We faced tons of pressure tonight because XP means so much to us and tonight is the venue’s last night so we could not bear to fail. We did it though, we gave our best effort and look at me, I look like I just got out of a pool!
THE STORY OF THE NEXT ALBUM
At the beginning of 2015, The Yours has begun to work on their new album. Their plan is to record and post one song per month on their SoundCloud page. Up until June, they have produced six songs and they will have twelve songs by the end of December to make an album. The themes of the upcoming album will revolve around mysteries such as religion (River of Life), dark magic (Witch War III) and topics about humanities (The Six). They will also add some elements of Eastern/Asian culture. Musically, The Yours will still be as noisy as they have always been, but with some influence of post hardcore and post punk aesthetics.
Tell us something about the upcoming album.
We didn’t take a break after recording 《Teenagarten》. When we came back from the tour last year we started recording the new songs right away. At first, we couldn’t find a direction for the new album but after a period of time we decided to make this album more dark and gloomy with more matured arrangements and structure. The album will be released at the end of this year after which we plan to tour again on the mainland. There are so many places we haven’t been to on the mainland, like Chengdu, and we are totally going back to Wuhan again because we love it there so much.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Of all the venues you guys have played at which one is your favorite?
Actually, it’s hard to decide, but XP is probably our favorite because we are all deeply emotionally attached to this venue. We’ve played here four times and we’ve always played our best shows here.
Do you guys find any similarities and differences between the indie scenes in Beijing and Hong Kong?
They used to differ a lot before when most Hong Kong bands were into hardcore and metal with very few indie kids us. But now, the Hong Kong scene has become much more diversified and we stopped to envy the music scene in the mainland.
You once mentioned each member of The Yours has his/her own job beside making music. Do you have any advice for those who are struggling between their dreams and realities? How to maintain a proper balance between the two?
It’s hard to say, because everyone has a different situation. I don’t think it’s possible to survive in a place like Hong Kong if you are a full-time musician. However, for us, the pressure of living in Hong Kong also has an upside. Because of our limited time together to play music, we always treasure every single second while the four of us are together. Beijing is a different case though, since the music scene is more developed here.
So do you ever consider moving your music career to Beijing?
Actually I’m not young any more, if I were still young I would definitely move here to play in a band, but life gets in the way. I have a stable job now in Hong Kong and it’s hard to make big decisions with all these concerns at stake.