Monday, December 13, 2010

The Amazing Insurance Salesmen - from Beijing and Hong Kong... to Kuala Lumpur!

[Editor's Note: When Beijing-based Rustic won the Global Battle of the Bands World title earlier this year in London, attention inevitably turned to China and who would represent it in the 2011 competition. While it might not be so surprising that the prize went once again to a Beijing-based band, being the birthplace of its indie music movement. But a multi-cultural franco-sino-dutch band called the Amazing Insurance Salesmen?

With influences ranging from Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd and good dose of fusion jazz, the band has played all of Beijing's hotspots (Yugong Yishan, Mao live house, D22, 2Kolegas) since the band formed in 2009. Band leader Zhang Si'an (aka Jean-Sébastien Héry) arrived in China in 2000 and stayed paying a Wednesday night residency at the "River" bar (later destroyed in 2003). What would follow are seven solo albums written and recorded in Mandarin, and member of indie bands The Incredible JSB!, The Maix Jazz band and the Amazing Insurance Salesmen, which brings us back to the GBOB China competition in Hong Kong. In Zhang Si'an's own words...]

We woke early in the morning to meet each other at the Beijing airport. I arrived early, and waited for Maomao and Maikel. We saw the band Rustic there and realized they were taking the same plane to Hong Kong as we were. After going through customs, we were finally seated on the plane.

Once we arrived in Hong Kong, the Global Battle of the Bands (GBOB) team was there to. We were quickly ushered to the Novotel Hotel in Wanchai, and realized we had been upgraded by the hotel, giving us access to bigger and more comfortable rooms (nice!!!). It was time to get ready for our showcase at The Wanch, one of Hong Kong's oldest venues When we arrived, Misery, one of the Hong Kong GBOB leg winners, was playing. We waited, listening to the music, drinking beers, realizing we had left mainland China, and not knowing what was lying ahead of us.

The atmosphere at the Wanch was very cool, and we had fun there. My feeling is that people there didn't expect to hear the kind of music we play coming from a Beijing band, and it felt good to surprise them. We were very tired after the day's travel and playing, and decided to go back to the hotel early.

The next morning, we went altogether to eat some good Hong Kong food, and then headed to Tom Lee, the local music instrument and equipment shop, to buy a few things and take a look at some gears. After that, we went back to the hotel and started practicing our songs for the final battle that was to take place that night at the venue Sticky Fingers. We practiced the songs and talked about what had gone well or not so well at The Wanch the night before. We decided to take the best of the show that we had performed at The Wanch and use it at the GBOB contest.

We still had a few hours to kill, so we headed to the Sticky fingers for a sound check, and then went out and walked for hours along the Hong Kong docks, watching all the tourists and the local people mixing together in an atmosphere only Hong Kong could create. We were talking about what to expect from the contest that night. I said to Maomao and Maikel that we would probably lose. At that time, I was convinced the Hong Kong band Senseless would win because not only were their lyrics interesting, they were in Cantonese, which was great for interacting with the local audience.

Shortly before the beginning of the contest, we went back to Sticky Fingers, changed into our performance outfits, and then waited and listened to the first band to play, which was Crossline. They were from Macao. Once they finished, it was our turn to get on the stage. We didn't know what to expect from the contest, but we did know that the best we could do was to enjoy ourselves, and do it like we do it in Beijing....

We really enjoyed ourselves playing those 8 minutes, and I think people in the audience felt that. There were still two bands to go. Senseless did well, and so did the band from Shenzhen -- Bolt Action. Then Rustic came on stage, and surprised the Hong Kong audience with their punk rock Beijing sound. We couldn't wait anymore and I went outside to have a smoke, and talked with a few judges, who told me they really loved our music, which seemed like a good sign for us. Then the moment for Chris B. to declare the name of the winner came, and she said our band's name -- The Amazing Insurance Salesmen. We couldn't believe it! It was a relief for us to win as it had been a lot of pressure on us from the moment we had won in Beijing as people had doubts about our ability to win again.

Nobody would have bet a multicultural band, with a French guy as the front man, a Dutch guy on the bass, and a Chinese guy from Henan on the drums would win in China to represent the Beijing music scene at the world final of the GBOB, but it happened!

We want to once again thank the GBOB team, Chris B, Wain and all the others.

We hope to win the Global Title in Kuala Lumpur!

By Zhang Si'an (aka Jean-Sébastien Héry)

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