Beijing’s leader in experimental psychedelia, Chui Wan, is pushing all the right boundaries. We were dying to see how the band formulates such a philosophical sound. Take a peek into their world from our chat with mastermind, lead vocalist and violinist Yan Yulong about their recent release, fate-driven connection and the sound of music.
How was your first North American tour? Any major culture shocks that you weren’t expecting?
Actually we didn’t get our Canadian visas in time to make it there on the tour… But to make up for that we got to visit Yellowstone National Park, that was really spectacular. I love Montana!
I feel that America’s cultural influence on the rest of the world is quite large. When you are in the US the feeling is quite different from being other places. New York and Philadelphia left the deepest impressions on me. I’ve always really liked Baudrillard’s America…I like the way he describes the US.
With two records to date, White Night and the self-titled Chui Wan, what can you say about the evolution of your sound?
I think the most important point is that we’re trying to make our musical ideas more succinct, less ornamental. Of course, everyone has their own favorites types of music, what each person hears will be different.
can you tell us a little about Beijing’s post-punk / psychedelic music scene, the D-22 bands, Psychoney, Zoomin’ Night and the mid-noughties? That’s where it all started for Chui Wan, right?
Right, our earliest performances were at D-22’s Zoomin’ Night, that was our point of origin. That environment gave us the most inspiration, the greatest feeling of freedom. These days, with respect to Beijing’s experimental music scene (post-D-22 Zoomin’ Night, as well as Subjam shows), I have really great expectations. As for the rock scene, I think that now it lacks the energy and vitality it had before.
As a quartet, there is more to your art then just playing music with one other. What moves you to create? what does being an artist mean to you?
All of us have our separate day jobs, the real problem is for each of us to find a balance between our day-to-day work and our music. But when our music-related projects become really busy, we all tend to lose interest in everything else. Everyone can make art, but it’s very difficult to be a good “artist of life.”
Do you ever feel like you see art and creativity in places that people might not traditionally assume creativity exists?
I believe creativity has a major attraction for everyone, but in different aspects. Also, different cultures will produce different experiences or senses of creativity. Westerners often say Taku Sugimoto’s music has “Zen” overtones, but he doesn’t think that himself. The city versus the countryside will also produce different modes of experience, different sensibilities. The sounds of a city intersection and the sounds of a mountainside in Bali are equally interesting.
We like that your music involves the energy of natural elements, 20th century avant-garde sounds and a variety of instruments. How would you describe Chui Wan’s sound to someone who has yet to hear your music?
Thank you. I say that we are a “new psychedelic and experimental rock band.”
Each song is full of multi-layered sounds and samples, but it seems you’ve switched from noise rock to a more smoothed out sound. During your week of recording Chui Wan, was there ever a time when a song felt oversaturated with musical texture?
Haha, good question! Before recording the new album we discussed exactly this, thought it through quite distinctly. We wanted to simplify the source material of our music, to focus, and make sure each track sounded exactly how we want it to sound.
Yan, you mentioned in a previous interview that the band was formed by fate. How have you grown with this idea? Do you feel it makes it easier to explore different sounds together?
Is there anything that was not organized by fate?
Your band name and music is resonated within the Daoist philosophy of Zhuangzi, and your sound genuinely feels like a connection between the mystic spirit of nature and the complexity of human life. Do you feel as though your music holds more substance because of the foundation it was created on?
Thank you for saying that. Speaking in terms of the spirit or the mind, this is certainly the case. I also really like the American spirit of openness.