Lucky for us, Montreal based indie rock duo Handsome Furs is coming to Shanghai! Currently touring Asia, the band will be making a stop at everyone’s favorite live music venue, Yuyintang, on Saturday, September 5.
Pinning down dulcet melodies with hard driving electronic beats, Handsome Furs is one of our new favorite bands. Their most recent album, Face Control, is a wonderfully interesting foray into the nature of interpersonal relationships, social hierarchies and individuality, mashed up with addictive good music.
We swapped emails with Alexei and Dan on the future of indie rock, “face control” around the world, and the band’s penchant for wanderlust.
Where: Yuyintang, 1731 Yanan Xi Lu, near Kaixuan Lu 延安西路1731号(凯旋路)
Starts: Saturday, September 5, 9PM
Cover: 80 RMB
So, how is the Montreal indie rock scene these days?
Alexei: It seems like a lot of our friends are making good headway. The nice thing about the Montreal music scene is that every one lives within roughly eight blocks of each other frequently sharing gear and studio space and meeting up at the local coffee shop. There’s a lot of other music in Montreal, besides indie rock, that doesn’t get much press but is really worthy. There’s a very strong metal scene for example that’s really growing.
Dan: The garage rock scene is growing pretty fast too…Redmass, Demons Claws…great bands. Montreal is diverse enough that the scene will always continue to mutate.
What’s the future of indie rock look like?
Alexei: Hopefully it will get better but, like all things, the more mainstream it becomes the more the quality deteriorates. I hope things move towards the fashion of Jay Reatard and Deerhunter where things are a bit more raw than a lot of the meaningless crap being made in the genre currently.
Dan: Smaller, louder, faster, simpler. Less extraneous instruments. Better.
Authority and appearance are major motifs in your last album, Face Control. What is it that fascinates you so much about the way people interact?
Alexei: I think we are in a fortunate position of being able to witness the policies of many other countries because we get to travel so much as musicians. I guess I think it’s important to discuss the governance of places so that you can imagine better options.
Dan: It’s interesting to me to see the emotional weight on individuals that a vauge ideology can impose. That this large, amorphous political idea can filter down and have a personal effect on one persons life.
So what’s it like coming to a place like China, which is pretty much run on face control?
Alexei: We’re very lucky to be able to play in China where we know many things are rather censored. In the past few days of being here, however, I find that amongst the emerging arts and music scene pioneers people are able to gain access to most everything. There is an incredible energy here because these possibilities are so new to so many people.
Dan: China is currently blowing my mind. I’m really fascinated with the concept of guanxi, which seems like a highly developed system of social control.
Technology is an integral part of your music– does Handsome Furs make digital music, or does digital music make Handsome Furs?
Alexei: I think we use digital technology to comment on living in a world full of digital technology. As an artist, you have to carve out your niche in humanity despite these modern times and sometimes because of them.
Dan: I think our setup of cheap, portable electronics and guitar is something pretty open source and modern. It’s really cool that you can have a loud rock band that fits into a few suitcases and costs less than 2000$ in equipment.
Can you pinpoint a moment or an experience that defines who Handsome Furs are?
Alexei: I suppose the very moment Dan and I met expresses the sentiment of our band: we met in a very sterile depressing office tower in downtown Montreal where we were in a training meeting for a soul-crushing telemarketing job but we were able to find something palpably human and reassuring in each other’s eyes.
Dan: Handsome Furs is when we first locked eyes.
The new album is much more upbeat than Plague Park. What were you listening to/ inspired by when you were writing it?
Alexei: We were doing a lot of touring during the creation of Face Control so we were listening to a lot of club music all over the Balkans, Baltics, Russia, Western Europe and, to a lesser degree, North America. I think the importance of crappy techno to much of the world played into our writing of the record.
Dan: The more we toured pp the louder and faster everything got. Eastern European techno had a big influence…and punk. Mostly, the pace of the cities we were visiting was so much faster that it ultimately rubbed off on the music.
What’s been the most exciting part of your world tour so far?
Alexei: Right now tops it for me. I have wanted to come to China my whole life and I am being utterly blown away by everything here. Nothing rests, everything smells; it is a sweaty whirlwind of colour and shock. I love it here with my whole brain/heart.
Dan: Me too. Being here, China seems like the center of the universe.
You guys seem to write a lot of music inspired by where you’ve been. Are you thinking about making an Asia-inspired album?
Alexei: We write what we know so everything we experience here will, in some way, effect what we do sonically on our next work.
Dan: I’m already writing track notes for a song about Beijing haha!
Alexei: In October we are heading to Beirut and Budapest and Belgrade and Skopje amongst other places, then we have a stint in Ireland and England, and then we’ll head home to work out our new tunes.
Dan: Plus a romantic vacation….
Handsome Furs @ Yuyintang
1731 Yanan Xi Lu, near Kaixuan Lu (entry on Kaixuan Lu, behind the Metro Station)
8 PM, 50-70 RMB