Yufeimen and Howie B: A new electro-live sound from Guangzhou

Yufeimen and Howie B: A new electro-live sound from Guangzhou

With Yufeimen hooking up with trip-hop producer Howie B for their fifth album, we talk to the Guangzhou-based trio about their new sound before their JUE Festival gig
Yufeimen
"We have to say Guangzhou is a real musical desert; more of a desert than any other city in China," says Yufeimen.

For a decade Guangzhou three-piece Yufeimen (与非门) had been making poppy electronica, and doing pretty well by it. But they fancied a change -- step in trip-hop maestro Howie B, the producer of, among other things, U2’s "Pop" album and Bjork’s "Homogenic". In December they released their fifth album, "Yes and No" (是与非) with the Howie B feel, so we caught up with the act to see how Howie B's influence has shaped their sound and whether he has altered Yufeimen forever.

Yufeimen play at MAO Livehouse on Sunday, March 28 at 8:30pm as part of the JUE Festival CrossTalk series.

CNNGo: Can you introduce the band?

Yufeimen:
There are three of us: Fan Jiang is our vocalist, San Shao is the song writer and DJ, and Atsing is the programmer and guitarist; but really we write our music together. We first got to know each other at underground music parties in Guangzhou and we started making music together in 2000.

CNNGo: What’s the story behind the band name?

Yufeimen:

I’m finding [the Chinese music scene] more and more interesting ... A new musical scene is emerging and it will begin to gather an unstoppable momentum.— Howie B, producer and collaborator on Yufiemen's new CD

It was the name of a heavy metal band that Atsing used to be in. When that band broke up, we decided to continue using the name. In English it translates as “NAND,” an abbreviation of “Not AND,” which is a kind of electronic circuit. But it also sounds a little like “You Feel Me”, which is the name we used when we started our bbs group.

CNNGo: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Yufeimen:
We listen to pop from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as international rock and electro. Between us we like Gun’s n Roses, Metallica, Sade, Portishead and Massive Attack, among others. And Fan Jiang likes Sheryl Crow.

CNNGo: Which of your songs are you most proud of?

Yufeimen:
Well, Fan Jiang likes "1061", San Shao likes "Happy New Year", and Atsing thinks "Rising Winds" (风起云涌) or "8mm" best embody our musical style. But we’re planning to make some changes in the future. To improve you have to change, and we’re thinking about making changes and breakthroughs in live performances.

CNNGo: What are your live shows like right now?

Yufeimen:
The atmosphere at our shows is beautiful. The people that come really appreciate the music. The audience is passionate on the inside and cool on the outside, kind of like our music.

CNNGo: What’s been your best live experience so far?

Yufeimen:
When we played at Brest Outdoor Music Festival in 2004 we managed to move people with our music even though they were speaking different languages. Also at the Deutschland-und-China show in Wuhan in 2009. We love big outdoor festivals.

CNNGo: So it’s not quite the same in Guangzhou?

Yufeimen:
We have to say Guangzhou is a real musical desert; more of a desert than any other city in China. We’re making efforts to change that based on awesome live performances. However, the situation is still not good. Still, we feel more relaxed there because we know the fans better.

YufeimenCNNGo: What’s the concept behind the new album?

Yufeimen:
"Yes and No" is a two-disk album, with new songs on one disk, and cover versions, or reinterpretations, of our old songs on the other. The mood and the rhythm of the new songs is different from our older ones, and the cover versions give listeners a new way to listen to our classics.

CNNGo: You worked with Howie B on the new album. What was that like?

Yufeimen:
Howie is a great, funny, lovely musician. He worked very hard during the mixing process, he helped us improve the structure and the groove a great deal, and the sound was more minimal than before. We thought it was a great improvement.

CNNGo: So what's next for Yufeimen?

Yufeimen:
We just want to make better lives for ourselves, and excite more people through live gigs.

We also spoke to Howie B about how he came to produce a record in Guangzhou:

CNNGo: How did you end up working with Yufeimen?

Howie B:
I first met the band about five years ago when I came to China for a small DJing tour. We clicked and since then always kept in touch.

CNNGo: What do you think you brought to their new album?

Howie B:
I think I gave it some depth and a different slant. I also worked hard on making it a balanced sound of electronic and live.

CNNGo: Any thoughts on the music scene in China in general?

Howie B:
I’m finding it more and more interesting. The new bands I have seen recently in Beijing have been really inspiring; both rock and electronic. The scene is moving very fast and this is very positive. A new musical scene is emerging and it will begin to gather an unstoppable momentum.

JUE Festival is on between March 12 and 29 at various venues across Shanghai and Beijing. More information on the JUE Festival website. Yufeimen play at MAO Livehouse on Sunday March 28 at 8:30pm, RMB 60.