Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tizzy Bac Interview: A Cross-Cultural Music Exchange

Formed in 1999, the Taiwan indie band Tizzy Bac has gained lots of attention for their unique music style. The three young and ambitious music lovers decided to start their "piano rock" style despite the fact that guitarists were ruling the indie scene at the time.

Fast forward to 2011 and Tizzy Bac recently returned from performing at the SXSW festival in the US. SXSW was a great experience for Tizzy Bac as they met and mixed it up with indie bands from various countries and backgrounds. But it merely whet their appetite for something even bigger in the future - their first US tour, calling the possibility "a unique and precious opportunity."

Although most audiences coming for their show were Chinese, some westerners were also there, which was quite noticeable. Unlike the Chinese audiences who had already known their music before the show, the westerners were purely drawn there by curiosity or what little buzz there was for "Taiwan Rocks SXSW." Tizzy Bac believes that their appeal for American fans lies in their merging of music and cultures. They feel that music is an international language that everyone can speak, and it doesn't matter whether it's in Mandarin or English, as long as it's good. "I remember at the SXSW festival, there were several foreigners watching our show. We can tell that the were captivated by our music from the expression and smile on their faces."

At the same time, they recognize the challenges of conveying their lyrical message to fans who don't understand their native tongue. "Although audiences in America and Europe listen to our music, there are language barriers in their trying to understand what we're singing. Our plan is to sing in English in order to more deeply connect with our fans."

The band has toured abroad in various countries including the UK, Singapore, Canada, Japan, Malaysia as well as mainland China and Hong Kong. Their music is quite popular in Japan and mainland China, which can they attribute to having an audience with similar cultural backgrounds who simply 'get it'. In fact, in some areas, fans organized pre-performance social events. When the band went to perform at Fuji Rock, they could feel that the love Japanese fans had for their music in order to come see a Taiwan indie band perform. They didn't know Chinese, but they understood the charm of their music.

When Tizzy Bac formed ten years ago, most bands were focused on hard-rock and guitar-based music. Tizzy Bac, whose members played the piano, could only play the 'supporting role'. To distinguish from other bands, Tizzy Bac focused on keyboards and formed a guitaristless band (still rare in Taiwan). Ironically, being a piano-based indie rock band became their brand. "Every music lover can go for their dreams--- for us three, who all came from different bands, our brand became unique because of our passion for music." They became the exception, and not the rule. "The exception makes us think about the direction we are going and also influences choosing the following members of the band."

While the band members usually collaborate in the studio to produce songs, Tizzy Bac's vocalist Chan Huiting usually comes up with a basic structure, such as the tempo for chords. Each member of the band strives to keep the passion in their music, and have each dedicated themselves to the fine art of recording and performing, which they credit to their longevity and success.

Tizzy Bac admits that while all of the members have listened to a wide variety of western music, with a particular emphasis on rock, Taiwanese music (especially Taiwanese folk songs) has had the greatest influence on their sound. While their music is certainly flavored with western elements, they manage to maintain a very 'local' sound. Taiwanese, the local dialect that has a much longer history than the more currently used Mandarin, has also had a significant influence on their musical inspirations. Other native influences also include Chinese local operas, and traditional music from China and Japan.

Being an island, the market and circle for music in Taiwan is relatively small. Because the history of Taiwan indie music is quite short, barely ten years before the formation of Tizzy Bac. However, while all the Taiwan's indie music community is relatively tight, those that are able stick to stick it through are far and few. Tizzy Bac thinks that Taiwanese indie bands have not done enough to collaborate and learn from each other. However, Tizzy Bac will still go on to as the industry changes. "We want to do the band until we are 50 and experience all the transformations along the way."

Interviewed by Eric de Fontenay

No comments:

Post a Comment