In most interviews with Shanghai based band “Pairs”, it is the drummer/frontman Xiao Zhong who does most of the talking. Least heard from is the duo’s guitarist, who has a demure, quiet stage persona and often faces her amp during the band’s live shows. Known simply as “F”, she recently launched a new band called “Next Year’s Love”.
“Pairs are some kind of awful band. We try and keep everything free as we figure even nothing is too expensive for what we make.”
The drummer Xiaozhong wrote some easy chords to convince me that everyone can play guitar and it’s really not that hard.
ASIANCE: F, it is a pleasure to be able to talk with you. You were originally asked to play in the band Pairs but did not have a lot of experience. Can you tell us what made you want to perform?
F: Hey, thanks for having me in this interview and I am more than happy to do it and share my story.
Yes, I could hardly play guitar when I first played in the band Pairs. So the drummer Xiaozhong wrote some easy chords to convince me that everyone can play guitar and it’s really not that hard. We first got offered a show last April. It was at Yuyintang, a big venue in Shanghai music scene. Then we just started to play shows after that. I had been to Yuyintang many times before to watch gigs but not play. The reasons that make me want to play shows is basically the excitement I can have on stage when playing the songs and the echoes from the audiences, they are not always good though; The achievements of learning new songs and playing them live (still working on not to fuck them up a lot though); and getting a chance to meet a lot of interesting people and talented musicians.
I feel alive when I do it and basically the shows are just like parties and they are lot fun. So I don’t see any reason that I should say no to it.
ASIANCE: You have learned a lot and made a lot of progress and come into your own. How did your participation in NYL (Next Year’s Love) begin?
F: Ah, thanks! Still miles to go. Sophia and Vic from Next Year’s Love are both friends of mine as well as the former guitarist. We usually hang around searching for food and wasting time together. I accidently went to their practice once sometime in February or March this year just for fun. Then for some reason, I picked up the guitar and that’s how it looks and sounds now. Things happened and sometimes without notice.
ASIANCE: In general, I have read, you have a lot of fun with the process of making music. What makes if fun for you? Is it the learning, the atmosphere, the music writing or something else?
F: I would say all of them. Making music is always a lot fun. If locking yourself inside, alone to play some chords on guitar for hours is fun, then making new notes on Guitar Pro, learning songs and trying to work them out with others at practices, or listening to your shitty recording through headphone to tell how awful they are–would never be boring. Even having some fuck-ups is part of it.
ASIANCE: Can you tell us a little about the other members of NYL?
F: Next Year’s Love are now Sophia on keyboard and Vic on bass (sometimes on drums as well), and the one who is writing this introduction on guitar. We also have a drum machine if that counts. Sophia is the booker for Yuyintang. She’s been doing this for years and has seen a lot of live shows so she is definitely very familiar with the scene. Vic is an old friend and she played bass in the French band “Eyes Behind” during her stay in Paris. She played in their first album and they toured France a bit which it’s cool.
None of us are very qualified musicians but I guess that’s why it makes it fun.
ASIANCE: I know you have traveled quite a bit with Pairs. What were some of your favorite venues you have played?
F: I think we’ve thrown our shitty sound in most cities of China. My favorite venues would be Wuhan Vox, Beijing Old What and Raying Temple. Vox knows how to run a business–they balance bands, DJ sets and crowds well. The people who work there are super nice and make everything under control properly. Old What is one of the most exciting places to play live. It’s located in Beijing city center and right on one of the quietest streets. The venue is not that big and for most bands the stage is small enough to have people easily feel the energy and power. It enables people to drink and talk outside and at the same time enjoy the show through the open windows. Raying Temple is more like a secret place, it’s far from downtown but many interesting things happen there. The Utopia surroundings suit the noises and experimental stuff perfectly.
ASIANCE: How did you get the name F?
F: You have to stick to one certain name in case 2 different groups of friends get to talk about you when you dislike your real name. For some reason, people started to call me F or maybe I just did myself years ago. Recently, I learned that if you pronounce “F” in a vague or a funny way, the pronunciation would be sounding like “Uh F-uh”. Put them into Chinese characters which can’t be shown here and somehow Google translation…. Google translation educates me. The English word is “Fitch” and I feel the capital letter basically explains how this stupid theory works.
Pairs is more a noise and punk thing. It’s the crazy drummer losing his mind, crashing and yelling something hard to understand on stage while the guitarist standing aside, playing some simple chords trying to hold back/build up the boom.
ASIANCE: I have read some interviews with Xiao Zhong. He is very knowledgeable and opinionated and I get the impression that you are much more quiet. How did you get along?
F: That’s true. It’s always a good thing that people know what they are doing at the moment and also know what they want to do for the next. Xiaozhong had played in several bands in Australia before, while I was new to the scene. So we are quite different on stage, but he is a nice person and good friend to talk about many things and we write about 2 or 3 emails a day to communicate all the ideas and updates.
ASIANCE: Can you describe the types of music of both Pairs and NYL?
F: Pairs is more a noise and punk thing. It’s the crazy drummer losing his mind, crashing and yelling something hard to understand on stage while the guitarist standing aside, playing some simple chords trying to hold back/build up the boom a bit but I reckon sometimes they have quiet/slow/sweet melodies as well. Next Year’s Love is an all-girl band. They have a keyboard and a drum machine and that sounds very different. I would say the music is a little indie, a little synth-pop, a little post-punk and a little whatever you call it is.
ASIANCE: What do you think about the music scene in Shanghai and in China in general?
F: Generally, I am quite happy about the Shanghai music scene as I feel it’s getting more and more dynamic and on track but it also bites when the organization and communication don’t collaborate well. Another issue is somehow a gulf lies between local/Chinese bands and foreign bands as well as the local/Chinese audiences and foreign audiences. And Beijing is probably suffering from that as well. I reckon the main reason could be the different cultures and values that have been educating us for many years.
Chinese bands have started to make their names well known by the world rapidly these past years, but there is always a dark side of the moon. (Check the article below for more info.)
ASIANCE: What music do you personally like and are there musicians that you admire?
F: I usually listen to a lot of stuff, different kinds of music and it’s really hard to recall my all time favorite bands or artists. Currently my playlist shows that I am listening to The Rapture/ Foals/ Lemon Jelly/ Simian Mobile Disco/ Women/ Fuck buttons/ Muscle Snog/ DieDieDie/ Advantages/Pixies/ Lenoard Cohen/ Arcade Fire/ Editors/ Nipples/ Death From Above 1979… and lately I have been listening to a lot of Lawrence Welk and Hootie and the Blowfish.
ASIANCE: Where do you hope you are five years from now?
F: The big goal is to live better and be proud of what I have done in the past and all the fun times I’ve had with people together.
ASIANCE: What have I learned from playing in bands and what do I think of it?
F: Check the article recently posted on Pairs’ douban page, it’s called “Things we’ve learned from hanging out with rockstars”.
The drummer Xiao Zhong from Pairs originally wrote this but I think I just can’t agree more.
Also, here is the link of Pairs Shanghai Sweat DVD on tudou. It’s about the funny stories and people we met during the tours in different cities we had this year.
You can listen to Pairs and know what they are from here:
and Next Year’s Love here:
Thanks for reading!