FOCUS // Griffo: a Chinese take on math rock…

GriffO is one of the more exciting Chinese Math-Rock bands we’ve found. Hailing from Hangzhou, the quartet’s songs are maturely composed, and have exquisite structures. The J-style features are apparent in their compositions, and the dream-pop vocals offer catchy melodic hooks with human feeling.

This band has already released two EPsThe Queen of Trance and Cosmos Egg – and has played as warm-up for many great bands and has taken part in many music festivals. This band will undoubtedly be loved by more and more people, both in China and abroad. I did an interview with these four young, brilliant, and super interesting musicians, to ask about their views of GriffO’s music and other things.

The name ‘GriffO’, which the band has said was taken from the word ‘griffonage‘ or messy doctor-style scrawl, reflects their situations of creating music at first when they established, but also very fascinating with the meaning of unknown. They think their music still has possibilities to change with more features, and they need to be more mature,and will definitely come out in their future compositions.

FB: Tell us how you guys met, I heard that you met in the same university?

Wan (vocals/synths): Yes. I met our guitarist and drummer when I got in the college in my first grade.

Yi (guitar): In our university, the atmosphere of music among students actually is not bad, but still in small groups. Some communities such as Rock Club are marginalized from the others.

Gong (drums): We met in the community at first, but the atmosphere in school communities is not that good, cuz we rarely get the support from our school except some activities held occasionally, so most of us just practice and play by ourselves.

FB: Do you find it easy to write songs together? Do different members bring different styles?

Pang (bass): Sometimes we do have different ideas, but I don’t regard them as difficulties. We can understand each other, so we can always reach an agreement even when we’re in different styles. If someone has a new idea, he or she will just tell us and we decide together whether to take the advice. There were only very few situations that we had totally opposite thoughts, if so, we would just make the decision by voting. Generally speaking, we write songs in a very democratic way.

Yi: The simplest and most efficient way to pass the break-in period is keeping writing songs together. We never get unhappy if there are different ideas. The most important thing is that we all in the same direction, and we have the similar music taste.

Gong: We keep all the ideas together and compare them with each other, and then choose the best one we all agree. I think the different styles among us can bring some unexpected surprise.

FB: We’ve known that you guys were majoring in art-related subjects in the Academy of Fine Arts, and all of you are focusing on your own fields like fashion design, graphic design, pottery design and so on. So I wanna know that is there any connection and influence between your majors and your music.

Wan: I don’t think so. Maybe there would be some similar ways in my appreciation of beauty, but speaking of writing songs, it is totally different in creative thinking.

Yi: There is no real influence on me.

Pang: I think there is not much influence either. Music is more abstract than fine arts to me. An abstract thing can’t express and influence a concrete existence, while fine art is quite concrete to me. Maybe sometimes I would like to use the similar way in creating songs and paintings unconsciously, but actually the compositions are independent between music and fine arts.

Gong: Well I think the influence exists because of our art background, such as using the similar creative methods of visual art when writing songs. Visual art also has synesthesia.


FB: I’ve found that there is only one former EP on your bandcamp site, and we can only find very few resources on Youtube. Do you plan to share more of your compositions to the global listeners?

Actually we let some other people to help us with the operation of our foreign band sites, and we’re so sorry that we didn’t update them very frequently. So far as I know, there seems to be only one video on Youtube. We’re happy to share our compositions with foreign friends, so we set up our facebook and twitter pages, and we’ll also upload more music to our bandcamp site soon.

FB: There are more young bands in different styles based in China right now, and we can feel that the audiences are also more inclusive about music. What do you think about the underground music scene in China? Do you have any ideas to share with us?

Wan: The music scene is becoming better and better, we can find more excellent bands here in China now.

Yi: We can hear more sounds through the Internet now, and as the economic environment is getting better, people can live a life with more choice of consumption, so the music market demand is getting bigger, and musicians’ can have more chances. Underground music – the cultural existence of an area – will definitely also improve with time.

Pang: I think we still need to make more efforts to break through the present situation. I feel gratified about audiences’ inclusiveness because all kinds of music need support.

Gong: The so-called tag ‘Underground Music’ is not like before anymore, we could see that this tag is actually tearing itself off by fusing with mainstream because the ways to spread music is changing, and the walls between different fields are falling down. I’m optimistic about the far more open environment of creating and spreading music; indie music will get benefit.

FB: Your music has the feature of Japanese style, and I’ve seen that many Japanese listeners as well as musicians are fond of your music. So do Japanese bands influence you guys in creating music? And what kind of music do you like?

Wan: Thanks! I started listening to Japanese music because of Shiina Ringo, and I was totally shocked when I heard her songs in my junior high school. Now I like many kinds of music – Japanese electronica such as Sketch Show, and math rock bands, etc.

Yi: I like X Japan, L’Are~en~Cile in the beginning. Toe and LITE also inspire me.

Pang: I think our music has J-style feature may because we all like to listen to Japanese Math-Rock music, we also like other music styles such as electronic, djent and so on.

Gong: I don’t have exactly preferred music style from a drummer’s view. I used to listen to the kind of music, which has special or even individual percussions.


FB: Speaking of math rock, what do you guys think about the term? And any math rock bands do you like?

Wan: LITE, ハイスイノナサ, downy, Mouse on the Keys. Math rock is full of fantastic and varied characteristics, and there is little limit in composing.

Pang: I like Toe, CHON, LITE, Zazen Boys, etc. CHON has excellent skill, and their melody – especially in guitar – is quite good. CHON is more like djent, and LITE is cool on the rhythm; Zazen Boys has more realistic and wittier sensibilities.

Yi: I’ve been getting into CHON very much recently.

Gong: Mouse on the Keys. In my view, this kind of music has a sensibility of intelligence, and we can get very special feelings from the fascinating rhythm in some seemingly normal places.

FB: I’ve heard that Pang the bassist lives a different city from the other members right now, and he needs to travel for a long way to come to your city to rehearse. Then how could you write songs in normal times?

Pang: Every one or two months, I come to Hangzhou once to rehearse and write songs together with them. If there would be a show, then I would come to Hangzhou one week before to prepare for it and also deal with new compositions.

FB: You haven’t made a tour since the EPs were released, do you have any tour plans at home and abroad?

Wan: We have many performances for Music Festivals and other gigs right now, and we plan to play out sea after we getting more experienced and mature.

Pang: So we haven’t got a plan in detail about our tour, maybe we’ll think about it after our album releasing and growing in popularity.

Gong: Yes we do not have a detailed plan of performing out sea right now, and we’re still playing for music festivals and different kinds of gigs. We hope to have more mature compositions to hold a tour. 

Griffo will release their debut full album next year. For now you could check out Griffo’s albums, currently streaming on bandcamp and Spotify. You can also stay up to date with Griffo via their Facebook page