The Gatling Gun Revival: Why low expectation is the best expectation for indie musicians in Hong Kong

 

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The Gatling Gun Revival. Photo: West Kowloon Cultural District

 

By Ada Fong and Ronny Cheung

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, many families are picnicking at Taikoo Park and enjoying the beautiful autumn weather. Barefoot children happily dance around in circles on the grass to the strong indie rock rhythms of Hong Kong band The Gatling Gun Revival (GGR). This seems an atypical genre of music for children to dance to.

“I think what’s good about music is that it’s a language in itself. You don’t really need to be able to fully understand,” explains Zane Stroud, the band’s vocalist, bassist and melodica player.

GGR is one of four bands that are performing at the Weekend Concert of “Freespace at Taikoo Place”, a new collaborative project between West Kowloon Cultural District and Swire Properties to bring multi-disciplinary performing arts productions to the public.

 

 

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Chillax time: Weekend Concert at Freespace at Taikoo Place. Photo: West Kowloon Cultural District

 

This local indie rock band was formed by singer-songwriter Corey Tam and his secondary schoolmate Zane Stroud in 2012. They later joined forces with Gabe Andre (drums) and Vicky VC Chan (keyboard and bass) to round out the group’s overall sound. The Underground HK, one of Hong Kong’s major local independent music organizers, comments that their music embodies a “fresh geniality” which “happens when an eclectic bunch of instruments and genres come together within bluegrass, folk, country and rock.”  

When listening to their eponymous 2013 debut, their songs are high-energy and poetic. According to Stroud, the creative process started with poems he wrote back in university. Despite the fact that the band plays indie folk and country music, many songs are about city lives.

“It reflects more of my observation about relationships and people living in the city,” Stroud explains. “Corey was able to construct country and bluegrass music around that idea. Those songs are very lyrically driven.”

GGR has been calling Hong Kong home for more than a decade. The city has long been known for its unfriendliness to arts and culture, but things aren’t too bad for GGR. Over the years, GGR has played at many venues and festivals, including Clockenflap and Freespace Happening.

“You just have to not expect so much. You just have to play it for fun,” says  Tam.

While the band hopes that Hong Kong’s music industry can pay more attention to local talent, they all have day jobs as teachers and have no desire to pursue music full-time. “I’m just realistic. If we do it as a hobby, it’s more rewarding than trying to do it full time.” Stroud explained. Andre added, “I would say the busier your day to day life gets, the more you look forward to playing the music.”

Check out CJC’s Facebook Live from Freespace at Taikoo Place 

With the production and consumption of music having significantly changed with online streaming services and music platforms, Tam thinks it’s a double-edged sword — GGR’s albums, including their debut and A Stone’s Throw, which came out in July, were released digitally.

“For one, it makes it really easy to release a single. But at the same time, because of how easy it is, there is all this music coming out. And it’s almost overwhelming how much there is. It’s harder now to get people to listen to your stuff.”

Despite how challenging it is, GGR is not keen on promoting their music heavily. “It’s not about making money,” Tam explains. Instead, the joy of playing and creating music seems to be the main goal.

“Just play for the sake of playing. (When) you enjoy playing and performing you don’t care if there is 50 people or just 5 people in the crowd.”

Which brings us back to their performance at Freespace at Taikoo Place. While the band is rocking hard, children are dancing on the grass just because they enjoy the music. They don’t care about the lyrics, genre and even who is playing, demonstrating how music is a universal language – a language everyone knows from birth.

This story is part of CJC x Freespace at Taikoo Place, a CJC learning programme in collaboration with Swire Properties and West Kowloon Cultural District

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