Guest post by Oliver Dzuba.
With a band name that stands out as much as a foreigner does in Shanghai, rock outfit Round Eye are solidifying their status as musical auteurs to the city while drawing upon cross cultural influences. Lead singer Chachy, a 29 year old American, tells the tale of the ups and downs of making music in Shanghai.
By calling themselves “Round Eye”, the band seems to make a snarky self-referential stab at their interloper status in their foreign home. That interpretation is mistaken however, as the name comes from a song by a Chinese band that Chachy once sang with. The song described the bad traits of the worst kinds of foreigners, and from that came the inspiration for the name Round Eye.
The band’s line up is emblematic of the mixed expat population living in Shanghai, with members who have performed everywhere from the Middle East to Britain. It is the inherent transience of the foreign community in Shanghai that proved such an obstacle in the formation of the band. Chachy tells us that many responses to his Craigslist ad were futile as many respondents wanted only “a pastime, not a real effort. Most were only staying in Shanghai until their visas were up anyway.”
The band has a dynamic and evolving relationship with the city of Shanghai. “What this city was lacking was a ‘balls out Rock and Roll’ band and I guess those are the shoes we’ll happily try to fill” says Chachy.
Filling this role was not to be a difficult process it would seem. “All we had to do was show up […] and the shows then kinda came to us” Chachy can’t help however but to continually vouch for the love his band has received in what he calls “one of the most supportive scenes in the universe”.
Round Eye have been making every effort to become acquainted with their local musical counterparts. “We both want to rock, get weird and rattle some cages” says Chachy. Despite some colourful anecdotes about dealings with local bands, Round Eye clearly enjoys working with their Chinese competitors. “It’s their own thing mixed with the imported influences” is how Chachy describes the local talent, echoing descriptions of his own project.
As foreigners should, the members of the band continue to absorb the local culture of their new home into their life. “I quickly cottoned to eastern instruments, melodies, and the two-note chord forms of a lot of their folk tunes” states Chachy. As a fan of cross-pollination, Chachy and Round Eye’s music has incorporated eastern sounds into their music. “I’d hear from the musicians in the parks, on the street or on the subway steps would stay with me, ring around in my skull long after I’d heard them” says Chachy, claiming that the ubiquitous nature of music in the city has directly influenced some songs on their EP released on January 8.
“Can’t really predict the future so we think it’d be safe to say that we are a China-based band“ says Chachy, and we can but hope this band will help blur the cultural lines that separate Western and Chinese rock will for years to come. Shanghai’s cultural and ethnic milieu has produced an fascinating hybrid of east meets west. Despite the challenges, Round Eye manages to do the same with their music.
List of upcoming Round Eye shows.