Just in time for National Day 2012, Shanghai self-entitled jurassic rock band Stegosaurus? answered to our call for an interview, especially after the depressing outlook of the Shanghai scene offered by Xiao Zhong of Pairs. We were lucky enough to get both Bren and Josh to spend a little time with Azchael.
Azchael: Can you please introduce yourself and the band Stegosaurus?
Bren: We’re Stegosaurus? We’re not really even sure who we are….hence the question mark.
Josh: Yeah, I am Josh, the midget one. We have Bren, the balding one. Tyler, the glasses one. And finally, Levi, the only one with any real talent in the band. There are a lot of ones in this band. We’re racist against twos. No twos allowed. Twos can go sit in the back of the bus.
Azchael: What instruments are you using in the band, which brand?
Bren: We’re using a variety of things. An Ibanez bass…it’s black.
Josh: We use whatever we can afford after feeding our alcohol and sheep dependency. Mostly, it’s cheap knock-offs found on Jinling Lu (music street).
Azchael: What is the Shanghai sound for you? Do you think Shanghai has a particular sound?
Bren: The Shanghai sound for me is sometimes awesome, sometimes redundant, sometimes powerful, sometimes crap, sometimes boring, but always alive. I think as far as a particular sound goes, you can’t really pick a sound for Shanghai. A lot of Beijing bands have a very “Beijing” sound. I don’t think you can pick a band in Shanghai and say, “That sounds so Shanghai.”
Azchael: How does the Shanghai scene look like in 2012? What venues are there? Who are the real newcomers in your opinion?
Bren: Honestly, it feels like a slow year to me. Probably because I haven’t been going out as much.
Josh: Shanghai has some fun venues. I personally like Yuyintang, Livebar, 696 Live and Songjiang Corner Bar. There are some cool bands new and old. Even if I don’t particularly like the style of music a certain band plays, I respect them for getting out, playing show, recording, spending money, printing CDs, flyers, ect and getting hardly any of it back. China’s not a place to make money as a band and I’m happy to see so many bands still doing it.
Azchael: Why do you think that China is not the right place for a band to make money?
Bren: Because the market for rock music isn’t big enough. Either it’s not big enough, or when people are interested, the big boys shut stuff down. It’s not allowed to freely spread, so the market just isn’t going to expand in way conducive to making a living on music. Not for a “laowai” band anyways.
Josh: If you look closely at us, very closely, you’ll see that we don’t resemble Jay Chou or Jolin. We’re getting fat, wrinkly and bald. People don’t wanna see us on ads, TV or large events. We need to be hot, young and muscular to be featured on anything. When that happens, maybe more people will be open to take indie music seriously here.
Azchael: What would have to change so bands can actively survive in your opinion?
Bren: Better marketing. More quality venues. More listeners and show goers. Ohh, and daily foot massages. Those are essential.
Josh: Shanghai is an ever growing, ever changing city. I think if people stopped getting married or having babies, if people stopped moving away, stopped living their dreams, then we could have a decent band stay for a long period of time! Actually, some bands still play music despite marriage and babies: Rhys from Pairs has like five kids now! Zack from Friend or Foe has his third coming now. Top Floor Circus actually bring their babies to their concerts! I respect that.
Azchael: What do you think of bands joining up with major brands such as Vans, Converse or Ray Ban in order to promote their music? Do you think that is a sell-out?
Bren: Up with the man I say! I think it’s a personal decision. It’s definitely a way to get potential new fans that wouldn’t have heard you before. It’s not a sell out. Just another excuse for somebody to complain, “I liked them better before they sold out.” Whatever.
Josh: Hell, if a company offered us money to sing Britney Spears covers and dress up like Justin Beiber, I’d do it! Money is everything in life! Actually, yeah, we are actively trying to sell out before we all break up and go our separate ways.
Azchael: What is the message of Stegosaurus? in one sentence?
Bren: We love to laugh so laugh with us or at us……..
Azchael: How do you promote your music? What are the most effective ways as per your experience?
Bren: Mostly the Internet. We’ve tried getting some things up on a few sites, still a work in progress though. Douban used to be super useful. Apparently Weibo is the big thing now, but I don’t like it that much.
Josh: I usually ask some homeless people to pass out our flyers in the Shanghai Metro. Hey! That’s a great idea, Josh. Thanks for the info!
Azchael: Do you actively promote your music overseas? If or if not, do you get any feedback from overseas?
Bren: Actively, not a whole lot. Most overseas activity happens on Facebook, and it’s mostly friends of ours…
Josh: I try to add two new “likers” to Facebook every year. It’s a worthy goal and most of the time, I’m proud to say, we reach that goal. Actually, we successfully made Claypool Cellars (Les Claypool (Primus)) a “liker” of us. It’s a funny story, really. I’ll have to include it on the next interview.
Azchael: What do you think are the biggest obstacles for being in a band in Shanghai?
Bren: The traveling lives of foreigners. We’ve had to pass on a bunch of shows because somebody wasn’t going to be here.
Josh: Yeah, people coming and going, getting married and leaving, people acquiring AIDS and dying, popping out babies and crying. Look for those lyrics in our next album.
Azchael: What is underground for you? Are you underground?
Bren: Underground for me is practicing at 0093 (an actual underground studio). So yeah, sometimes we are underground.
Josh: Underground for me is practicing at 009….oh wait, Bren already said that. I think most people who don’t play pop music in China are underground. Although I have read that some Beijing rock bands have been used for ads and some folk bands are getting offers too! If people can hear something else besides a famous pop star on an ad or whatever, that’s great, in my opinion. Introduce something new to the people. Get something besides pop music above ground.
Azchael: What are your plans for the next year? Will there be a “The World is coming to an end” show in December?
Bren: We plan to play some shows. We’d like to play another festival someday. We don’t have the proper connections though. It’s ok. It’s fun to live in dreams. Oh, and the secret is out, the worlds not coming to an end. It’s just a hoax.
Josh: We hope that more than three people will listen to our music this year. It’s a noble goal, but with Rock In China’s help, we can reach it. Listen and download for FREE our three albums at STEGOSAURUS.BANDCAMP.COM.
Azchael: Your three recent albums are all up on bandcamp and available for free. Why? Don’t you think you deserve money for the music you make?
Bren: Because we’re just nice like that. We hope the “free” tag will attract more listeners. Do we deserve money? I don’t know. But if somebody enjoys the music and wants to donate a bit for it, we won’t stop you.
Josh: Well, we’ve had two purchases in total for our new album. We mostly make music for fun. Our concerts actually almost paid for Purple Pachyderm in whole, recording, mixing, mastering, printing… Since I download music for free online, why not give our album for free?
Azchael: What are the stories behind the three records?
Bren: Record one, self titled Stegosaurus?, was born of songs written long ago. Some that had aged like fine wine and others that didn’t yet quite reach their full maturation level before being released on the public. In any case, it set the ground work for the mixed up sounds that leave question marks in the ears of listeners. “What just happened there?”
Record two, Our Songs B-side You, was brought upon by the excess of songs that were meant to create a second album. We made this album up of the more fun and playful childlike songs. It’ll make you laugh and cry and kiss your 30 minutes goodbye. It’s like a warm up for our third album released just a month after this one.
Purple Pachyderm, record number three. You think the name is ridiculous don’t you? Well, that’s how we like it. Ridiculous. This was originally going to be called ‘Story Time’ and we were going to have a book of short stories to go along with the CD. The stories would have been contributed by other people. The idea wasn’t hashing out as planned and we got bored of the idea and moved on to bigger and better things that are getting very little to no coverage. Yay for interwebs! So now we’re sitting on our hands keeping them warm for winter. I don’t know what that means.
Azchael: Thanks a lot for the interview!