Friday, July 23, 2010

My BBC China Article on Hong Kong in the 60s

My article on Lucky Cat favourites Hong Kong in the 60s has been published on the BBC China web site, check it out:
For those of you who cannot read Chinese (myself included, the article was translated by Lily Feng @ the BBC) here's the English version:

Hong Kong In The 60s
Nostalgic Electro Pop from a Cool London Band
By Zoë Baxter

Electronic Pop trio Hong Kong in the 60s have released a brand new vinyl single this month, on the acclaimed independent label Ghost Box. It is fitting that the band are on vinyl – an old medium - as their music is infused with nostalgia. The track Seasons Change is a collaboration with The Advisory Circle (the alias of electronic musician Jon Brooks).

The band, who comprise of Mei Yau Kan (lead vocals, keyboards, guitar), Christopher Greenberg (keyboards, vocals, guitar) and Tim Scullion (guitar, keyboards, vocals), formed in London in 2007. They have an unusual name which reflects their passion for Hong Kong Chinese music and film of the 1960s. They were looking for a name that evoked Hong Kong in the 1960s but couldn’t find another phrase that fitted quite so perfectly. Christopher describes their sound as “pop music that is a bit unusal, unsderstated, atmospheric and involving.” Band mate Mei Yau adds “my aim is to make music that has a faraway sound – the sound of an echoey empty dance hall”.

The trio produce all their own tracks and also use old instruments, such as Casio keyboards, to get more character in the music. They also use old equipment and even toy instruments which give their sound a quirky and youthful naivety.

As their name implies, they are fans of Hong Kong Chinese culture and film in particular. They cite Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love as a real turning point in their appreciation of Chinese music: “Wong Kar Wai’s soundtracks were a gateway in to appreciating Chinese music. The atmosphere and feel of the Chinese music I have heard is very intoxicating” says band member Tim Scullion. Mei Yau, who is British Chinese and speaks Cantonese, already had an appreciation of Hong Kong Chinese music from her parents’ cassette collection. She has fond memories of hearing Rebecca Pan, Feng Fei Fei and Anita Mui around the house whilst she was growing up. Her parents would keep in touch with Hong Kong music by buying cassettes from shops such as Golden Disc in London’s Chinatown.

Visuals are important to the band as they are interested in “creating a whole world that people can get lost in” says Tim. This follows on from their love of film, they are fans of Italian and French cinema as well and are also influenced by 1960s Italian soundtracks. Their visual style reflects their music – soft, retro, considered and dreamlike. The band were spotted at a gig by director Claudio Napoli who was so impressed with them he offered to shoot the video to their track Footsteps for free. The video is beautifully stylish; shot in black and white, it echoes the film noir genre movies of 1940s and 50's European cinema.

The track Footsteps comes from the trio's debut EP Willow Pattern Songs which was released earlier this year. Hong Kong in the 60s produce all their own tracks, which means that they have total control over their sound. They have also remixed tunes for other artists – such as the sublime bossa nova remix of Valorian they did for indie duo Arthur and Martha. They are not averse to their own tracks being remixed either – London Hip Hop producer The Last Skeptik remixed Footsteps earlier this year, giving it an urban dance music feel with heavy bass lines.

Since releasing their EP the band have been busy working on their debut album, My Fantoms, which is due out at the end of the year on the Proper Songs label. The title is named after a collection of haunting short stories by 19th century French writer Theophile Gautier (translated by Richard Holmes). So what can we expect from the band's debut album? “It's quite a lot more varied and ambitious than our EP, but we've tried to create a dreamlike, understated atmosphere throughout all the songs. Something we are particularly excited about is the track "King Of Chinatown". It's our theme to an imaginary Hong Kong action film, and something we've been wanting to do for a long time!” says Christopher Greenberg. Let's hope that they get to make a video for that track, it sounds amazing. It also shows that the band's passion for Hong Kong cinema is very much present in their music as well as their unusual name.


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