Photos by mican and zoo

FOCUS // Chinese Football on American Football (and other stuff)…

After releasing their self-titled debut album in 2015, Chinese Football has sparked a lot of attention across the world. They made a China tour last year, and had been to Japan to hold a 5-stop tour by the end of 2016. Their brand new EP, Here Comes A New Challenger! just released on March 3, 2017.

Songs in this new EP have more catchy melodies – some of which even remind me of some punk-rock bands I’ve listened to during my mid-high-school life – and there are more changeable and bouncing notes in the composition of the guitar. The hot-blooded spirit we heard from their last album has been inherited, as well as some Mid-west American Emo features. I’ve also got some surprises in this new EP —— they added saxophone in the song Hezi, and they produced two videos for the songs ‘Electronic Girl‘ and ‘Awaking Daydream‘.

This brand new EP will no doubt bring them even more attention. Prior to them traveling on their next tour, I did an interview with Xu Bo – guitarist/vocalist of Chinese Football – to talk about the band, their brand new EP, and ideas of indie music scene in China and the world. Chinese Football is currently performing around China for their new tour. Hopefully they’ll get a nice trip.

tokyo live photo by mican
FB: There are many listeners always making a comparison of you and the emo band American Football because of your band name and the somewhat similar music style…
Xu: I really like the Kinsellas’ bands since I was young, but there was quite few people in China who knew about them. Even the other members of our band hadn’t heard of American Football when we formed. I just wanted to make fun to replace the word American to Chinese at first, but the other guys thought about the football team in China, which means suck here, and we found it would be funny to name the band Chinese Football, without thinking too much. At that time, none of us had expected that this American band once only had five videos on Youtube – of the same show – reformed and released a new album.

Our band name could be regarded as a tribute to American Football if they didn’t reform, but now, it is more like a joke. And what interests me more is that people would like to recognize a band from their former experience rather than their ears, so listeners from abroad always think about mid-west emo because of our band name although we actually have more other features, while Chinese listeners would like to relate us to hot-blood and self-mockery because the only thing we can remind them of is the Chinese football team.

FB: Congratulations for releasing new EP! First of all, please introduce the concept or ideas about this EP. At first I thought it was inspired by your new drummer after seeing the name and the cover of the EP, then I found saxophone when listening to your songs which made me very surprised. And I’ve heard that there were 3 different drummers to completing this EP, is that so?
Xu:「Here Comes A New Challenger」 is the pop-up prompt in a fighting game when a new player bursts into the game. You don’t even know what the other side is while you’re both in the same world to play as enemies as well as companions. This situation is kind of like the relationship between the outside world and us. Challenges lie in everywhere, and after all, we’re all designed as players in the same spectacular game.

This EP was recorded last spring before the new drummer joined. We thought it would be interesting to work with different musicians, so we found the owner of our label, who used to be a drummer, to record one of the songs. Our new drummer finished the percussion recording of another song because she and I was working with a side-project at that time, and then she joined Chinese Football right after the former drummer left the band in the summer of 2016.

FB: Chinese Football just finished a Japan tour not long ago, how was that feeling? What are the differences between the Japan and China tour and live scene?
Xu: Differing from our last tour in China traveling by train, this time in Japan, we traveled by van, which makes the trip unforgettable. It was just the kind of tour I’ve always dreamed of on the road with great music, really beautiful scenery and nice chatting with our tour manager. Our Japanese friends all so kindly took care of us that they even gave their houses to us to stay during the tour.

Music scene in Japan has already developed quite maturely, and there are many market segments in this field. For instance, you can find over 100 live houses in Shimokitazawa – only one district in Tokyo, and you will have abundant choices from all kinds of gigs, so it is not strange at all to meet a show performed by 10 indie bands which are not so popular with less than 10 audiences. In fact, this kind of gig is more like a communication between musicians. Only when a band gets more famous can they have the opportunity to perform on a larger stage, while to get famous is very difficult because the competition is fierce. In China, bands can get better chances much easier because there are fewer bands here and the audiences are not so fastidious.


FB: After your China tour last year, Chinese Football had released a compilation with the bands you shared stage with. Do you like this kind of way to promoting indie music? Do you have any new plans of doing other compilation projects in the future?
Xu: Yes I’m really keen on compilations cuz I’m holding the idea that indie bands need to stand together to create a ‘scene’, so that we could have more fun, more motivity and more influences.
What I can say is that we’re doing with the Come Together! 2, a new compilation of the bands we shared stage with during the Japan tour.

FB: I can hear some emo, pop, and punk styles in your music, and your math-rock features also attract me a lot. Do you guys pay any attention to math rock bands? Any bands you like?
Xu: Actually I haven’t listened to many math rock bands! I used to like Ghost And Vodka, Pele, Q And Not U, and Minus The Bear very much but couldn’t tell if they were ‘math rock’.

FB: You have been studying and living in Kyoto, Japan for a while, I wanna know that how to keep up with Chinese Football’s creating and rehearsing work? Do you guys write songs remotely on the internet?
Xu: The other three members keep rehearsing and writing songs regularly when I’m in Japan, and I also do some creating work by myself to set up some motives. When I’m in vacation, we’ll get together to rehearse and play for gigs.

FB: We know that Chinese Football always focuses on Chinese underground music scene and the communication with foreign musicians. For instance, you have your own music label SANGO and you also cooperate with Japan music shop Unidisk to promote Chinese bands. What have you gained from the work? Do you have other plans in the future?
Xu: What I’ve got is music really has no boundaries. Every time I chat with friends who love the same kind of music from different countries, I find that we also have the similar views of values. And we all have the same deep thirst to get more great music no matter which country we’re from. So why can’t we be the one to step out to set up a great communication with each other?
I will keep doing the work of importing Japanese indie bands’ albums to China, as well as promoting Chinese great indie music to Japan.

FB: In the end, I want to know that do you guys plan to perform in other countries in and out of Asia? Cuz I’ve seen many requests from foreign fans from Mexico, America and other countries.
Xu: We actually planned to tour in South-east Asia this year, but we can’t make it because It’s hard for us to be all available for a period of time this year – we all have to study and work in normal times. But we really hope to manage to perform in Europe or US next year!

bathingHere Comes A New Challenger! is out now. You can purchase the EP over at Chinese Football’s Bandcamp page.