Interview with Shanghai math rock band “X is Y”

In October 2011, Rock in China interviewed Shanghai math rock band X is Y via email. G was answering for X is Y and Azchael for Rock in China.

Azchael: Can you please introduce yourself and the band?

G: X is Y is a 3 piece based in Shanghai. We’re playing a mix of Indie Rock, Slow core, Math Rock and Post Hardcore. I’m G, guitar / vocals of the band.

Azchael: What is the meaning of X is Y? The name somehow reminds me of the band “Circle takes the Square”? Any connection?

G: X is Y is a simple and unexpected answer to the equation. It’s also the name of a movie by Richard Kern with girls handling big rifles.

Azchael: What was the most defining moment of your band?

G: The most defining moment for the band was the recording of the first LP which set the basis of our sound. We started using tube amps, acoustic sounding drums and atmospheric vocals.

Azchael: What was so far your best concert?

G: Our best concert was the free show at Live Bar with Boys Climbing Ropes, Rainbow Danger Club and Pairs. It was 3 of my favorite Shanghai bands, the sound was handled by Max Primeau so it was great and the turnout was impressive. It was completely packed. We hope that kind of shows will happen again at Live Bar. We’re now working with Zang Nan records to organize free shows at Live Bar on a regular basis.

(photo by 我也有)

Azchael: Your LP and recently also your EP are available online for download? Why have you made the decision to spread your music for free?

G: We see our records as a promotional tool, not a source of money. And I almost never buy records, so I really don’t feel like charging for our music. Plus, putting it online doesn’t cost us anything. And because we are recording everything ourselves, we almost spend nothing to make a record.

Azchael: Are there any plans for another record anytime soon?

G: We started recording a new EP this week. It should be released next month. We are recording everything very fast, with less overdub than our previous records.

Azchael: Post rock and its related genres math rock are not as common in China as in other parts of the world. How is the perception of the Chinese audience towards that music?

G: There are already a bunch of 2000s Post Rock in China. (Glow Curve, Fragile, Triple Smash…). Math Rock will probably never become as popular as 2000s Post Rock because it’s far less commercial. The are too many start stops and measure changes in Math Rock for it to be widely accepted. What we’re trying to do is to mix these awkward arrangements with strong melodies to make it less alienating for the audience.

(Photo by 摇滚雷锋)

Azchael: Have you had a chance to see either ENVY or MONO on their recent China visits? If yes, what do you say about their music?

G: It’s pretty different from what we are listening too. We’re more into Shellac, Silkworm, David Grubbs, Codeine, Sebadoh…Gastr Del Sol is the band we find the most inspiring. Camoufleur, their last record is the most modern pop record I know, even though it was released in 1998.

Azchael: Where do you see the future of rock in China?

G: There are good chances Maybe Mars bands will become popular in China and abroad in the coming years. The Shanghai label, Miniless also has great potential.

Azchael: Being a Shanghai band, let’s play the old game: Shanghai vs. Beijing? Which one do you choose and why?

G: There are more Shanghai bands that I really like individually. But Beijing bands have a very cohesive and distinctive sound. So Beijing works better as a scene.

Azchael: Can you please describe the Shanghai underground scene in one sentence?


Azchael: Which is the best livehouse in Shanghai as per your experience?

G: YuYinTang is the best Rock venue in Shanghai. Nice atmosphere, the sound is awesome, you can access to the park, always a good turnout, great local and international acts.

Live Bar has also lot of potential. It is next to universities. It’s the right place to get in touch with students. So if bands are willing to make the trip to YangPuQu once in a while, it might help developing the rock audience in Shanghai.

Azchael: Where is X is Y going in the next two years? What are your plans?

G: We’ll use more keyboards, drum machines, quiet noises and samples on stage. We are currently re-arranging the existing songs into something more diverse. We’ll test it on stage next Friday when we’ll open for Bigger Bang.

Azchael: Thanks a lot for the interview!

G: Thank you for interviewing us!


Don’t forget to download their free LP & EP:


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