Guangzhou upstarts Landfills are one of a number of young Southern bands to crop their heads up in Canton in the past few months. With the likes of Moonband, The Foreigners, Nein or Gas Mus and Nouvelle all making fantastic rock music down South, it is clear that the scene here is alive, if not cohesive.
They recently received the call to go play in Beijing as part of the White Light, White Tower provincial event, which spotlighted bands from Kunming, Wuhan and Guangzhou over a three month period.
Due to disagreements about their plans to play in School Bar during their trip to Beijing, whilst under an exclusivity agreement with the organisers of White Light, White Tower, Landfills were taken from the WLWT bill and replaced by Hip Hop duo Madpete.
They took their talents to School Bar instead and proceeded to make considerable waves by playing four consecutive nights in that hallowed space.
I spoke with the band’s vocalist Ya Wrong about Guangzhou music, Beijing days and their new EP Black Things.
Hi guys, could you tell me about your name? Could you also tell me where you guys are from and how long you have been playing music in Guangzhou?
Hi, we are 堆填区（duitianqu）Landfills. The word “duitianqu” means landfills in Cantonese. We knew that the meaning of the word “lajichang” (garbage dump) could be more direct, but we thought “duitianqu” was more eclectic and metaphorical, and later, we found out that many people from northern China didn’t know the meaning of “duitianqu”, which we found really interesting.
The four of us – I, Ya, am the vocalist, Mingjai is the guitarist, Chow is the bassist, Cookie is the drummer. We are from Guangzhou, except the me, I’m from Dongguan – the “City of Sex”. We started to perform at the end of 2014. Nearly four years have passed. How time flies!
What is your take on the Guangzhou music scene at the moment?
You’ve asked about the very contradictory and even somehow embarrassing part, because the local rock ‘n’ roll culture is declining, while the illusion of prosperity appears everywhere.
There are more and more live gigs, and more and more bands from other places playing here, whilst there are fewer and fewer local bands playing. This is like “alien species invasion” in a fish pond, which I think is both a good thing and a bad thing.
However, what about Guangzhou music scene? I really think I’m not qualified enough to make judgments. The golden days have passed. It is meaningless to feel fine about yourself and recall the old days, and make no changes. During all these days, how many Guangzhou local bands have successfully come out and become well-known? People usually say Guangzhou is the “Capital of Metal Core”.
The older generation has huge influence on the music style here, which results in nowadays “Guangzhou Rock’n’Roll”. But unfortunately, most of the new generation are still imitating the older ones, and get into an endless loop and then fade away. We just want to make Guangzhou rock more colourful, and the most important thing is to enhance the local feeling of Guangzhou rock.
In Guangzhou, there are lots of very great bands, so we hope that people can support and pay more attention to our local underground rock culture. In terms of the music scene in Guangzhou, we won’t say if it’s good or bad, but everyone can see the facts in front us, we hope we can make it better.
How did you first come across Fing3 and when did you decide to release your music on this label?
The bassist used to work with Fing3 when he was in high school, so we got to meet many peers and seniors in very early days. And about the question when did we decided, it’s hard to answer, because sometimes it’s something to do with destiny and tacit mutual understanding, not the label’s financial resources or social forces that can influence the band’s future. We are dedicated to the same thing, and this is enough, and this is the essential part. There is no decision-making. It’s naturally having the same goal.
Your recent release Black Things was very heavy and dark. What and who influences your music?
The words “heavy and dark” may be too strong to describe this album. “Black Things” is my own translation, and the original name was “Black Claw”.
Every young man, and even adult, have these thoughts in his or her mind. Some people choose to forget, some choose to remember, but the fact is they will always exist and never disappear. More people, including ourselves, are trying to create an inner world that can be balanced with the society with no disturbance to each other. However, some complexities can never be untangled.
Out of sight, out of mind. We make a box to seal these thoughts away, and try not to see or face them. This is what we young people are really good at.
What does the name Black Things mean?
Actually, we are silly and merry guys in our daily lives, and our music style is not exactly dark. Well, young people like to make a fuss about imaginary illnesses, but we create our works through long processes of thinking and debates, and we want to express neutrally and sincerely. We can only explain or take our stance through performing. Therefore, the darkness is the darkness, which is not what we make on purpose. On the contrary, we want to accurately describe and construct different sides of the thing, and then show it. Our composition is always for expression, to express both darkness and lightness, both happiness and sadness, all our humans’ feelings.
Were you happy with the final product or do you feel that there are still things you need to improve on?
We regard the final product as average. After all, we recorded this album in our rehearsal room by ourselves, and the equipment and even recording techs are limited. In terms of improvements, many parts that you think you can make improvements on can only be known by yourself. If it’s not that abnormal, people usually cannot notice.
Thus, you can only keep thinking and make improvements. We think we can improve on many ways, so we are trying to make greater efforts, working on our first album and a series of works afterwards.
How long have you had these songs? For how many years/months/weeks have you been performing them and how long ago did you write them?
The 7 or 8 songs that we perform now is what we have been performing since we started to play music. Of course, there were new songs or cover versions of other songs. We never stop composing. How long have we had these songs – it depends on which song you are asking about, and for songs we play in live shows, on average we’ve had them for 2 to 3 years.
I like the cover art, the tangled mess of black wire, who made the cover art for you guys?
Thanks for your appreciation. I – Ya Wrong – designed it.
The vocals are very interesting on this album, very strained and kind of tortured, is that intentional?
I think some part of some songs, yes, not all of them. I take them apart on purpose. I think your question about whether it is “intentional” is meant to ask if we make that affectation on purpose. I’m not sure if you find it weird or you are just curious, I don’t know how to explain.
For instance, Picasso drew men that didn’t quite look like men. Of course, I cannot rival with him, but what I want to say is like this. He didn’t draw you in that weird way, but it is because at the point he started to paint, he had already known what he wanted to express.
In terms of long-term ambition, is music something that you would like to do in the future as a career or are you guys happy to be doing it now as a part-time thing?
Music is what we want to do as a career in the future, all the other stuff are part-time things for us.
Earlier this year you missed out on the opportunity to perform as part of the White Light, White Tower provincial exhibition, what happened with that?
We are disappointed that we couldn’t make it. We always cherish every show, and even we don’t get show fee, if there is enough transportation and accommodation fee, we would perform. But this time we heard that we broke some unwritten rules, and that’s why we couldn’t make it.
We were disappointed but not angry, or if we engage in a lawsuit, they would have to compensate us, and pay the lawyers of both sides, which would be a large sum of money lost. However, we were very happy, because we went to School, and broke its record of performing in 4 continuous days. This sounds really stupid, but we have met many interesting friends, and that is the place we always want to go. We would regard this as a very very very great experience.
What are your plans for the rest of the year? Will you bring this new EP on tour? Will you play any summer festivals? Do you have any upcoming gigs in Guangzhou or in the Guangdong area?
We are planning right now. We are speeding up to produce while guaranteeing the quality. We plan to release 2 new songs and some music videos as a mini EP.
You can find Landfills’ music on Xiami and Netease, via the links below: