Fresh off the release of their new album “Lurking” (Sweaty & Cramped), Hong Kong based emo band WELLSAID join us to dive deep into the the story of this offering, discuss their craft, creative process, and Hong Kong alternative music scene, as well as changes in their music that reflects shifts in Hong Kong society at large.
“Lurking” sees Wellsaid moving from a brighter sound reminiscent of midwest emo to one that is darker, heavier and more of their own. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the band took the opportunity to record live off the floor of one of the city’s underground venues – vacant due to social distancing restrictions, in order to capture a sound that better reflects its live performances. The result is direct, intense and uncompromising.
The record features seasoned Hong Kong independent musicians such as Nerve, Ben Tse, Ming Nichols and 611, blending their experimental, punk and folk sensitivities into the mix.
As per music writer & musician Arthur Urquiola, more than half a decade in, Wellsaid had shaped itself to be one of Hong Kong’s great live acts with a catalogue of well-crafted tunes to proudly represent the city with playing to audiences all across Asia.
“It’s more than a lot of bands can ever hope to achieve. With Lurking, however, the band has seemingly leapt five steps in its evolution and left the whole “emo revival” thing far behind.” – comments Arthur.
“Live shows are now a wholly cathartic experience and Lurking is a record with mature emotional depth and dynamics with a sound and intensity totally unto itself. The four members of Wellsaid might have not just navigated the last few years to a solid future, with Lurking they might have secured the band’s legacy.”
Wellsaid is a gathering of leaves. We collect the debris of daily life and put them into songs. Our music is a reflection of the psyche of those living in a cramped city: a familiar frustration juxtaposed with a yearning for air that sometimes descends into chaotic impulses. – Wellsaid
Asked about the lyrical content behind the new songs, WELLSAID admit that it’s not an easy question to answer.
“I often write whatever comes to mind and only later realise the meaning.” – says the band’s vocalist Lok. “I guess the title, Lurking, best reflects the mentality on this record. With COVID and its restrictions, as well as the changes to Hong Kong’s political landscape, I feel like we have been living in a semi-existence.”
“For instance, we have to sneak in and out of buildings to record, trying not to rouse suspicion, because at one point any gathering of more than four people can be deemed illegal.” – says Lok.
“You almost try not to exist, on anyone’s radar. So the lyrics on tracks like “Lights Out” and the end of “Hardcore” deals with isolation and living in some sort of an aftermath.”
“Parts of it is a reflection of band life, on “Hardcore” there is something about the dark side of DIY culture, which in some sense can be seen as bands carrying out these unrewarding task of record and touring, living off the goodwill of your friends but not being to give back much.”
“Some of it, like the start of “Stale Ale” and parts of “Afloat” feels more like a mental image, like scenes you’d see in a movie. They don’t necessarily mean something concrete, but are spaces for the listeners to project their own thoughts into.”
The band told us that Hong Kong’s indie music scene actually became a lot more active during the pandemic.
“More people got involved in organising all kinds of shows at underground spaces, despite the risk of hefty fines (HK$5000 per head if the police caught you).” – comments Lok.
“In the past, only shows featuring foreign bands were better attended, but these days local bands can sell out medium sized venues that are around 200-400 capacity – something that I would not have imagined. So personally I feel encouraged, but at the same time, we’re not sure if this will fade once the options for entertainment and travelling resume next year.”
Speaking about local collaborations and crossovers, Lok continues: “Internally, I think there are a lot more collaborations between musicians and other community members, such as Infree Records. On our new record, for instance, the song “April” features seasoned experimental musician Nerve, who has decades of material, as well as folk artist 611, who joined the scene a few years back. This is a kind of crossover that I did not see 10 years ago in Hong Kong. With the general perception that the room for free speech is shrinking in Hong Kong, I can see these changes as people trying to find a way to express themselves through music and other means.”
💬 To get some concrete inspirations, we asked the band to give us their top local acts and best records of the year. They shared an eclectic set of releases blending a variety of musical influences and styles. Get inspired below.
Best new Hong Kong / “local” bands worth a listen
Arches, who we are sharing a record release show with (they are releasing a new EP on the same day), is a great new band to watch out for. Their music blends influences from Japan, the US/UK and they take their music making very seriously. There are elements of indie rock, post-punk and emo, but represented in their own way and in the Cantonese language. They also have a great visual aesthetic from the get go. I recommend their song “Candy”, though honestly the upcoming EP is even better.
Bennu is a Heron from Guangzhou is a brilliant skramz/emo-violence project led by our friend Jinbo. Before the pandemic we’d play shows with her other band, Die!ChiwawaDie! and trade ideas. Bennu is a much more melodic and dramatic band, wearing their influences quite on the collar (one song has a Daft Punk part in it). It is also very multidimensional: you get the Envy-ish spoken words on one song, and then pop-punk singalongs from another.
COLD DEW is not from Hong Kong but we consider them our contemporaries. This Taipei-based band somehow managed to mix stoner, psychedelia, Taiwanese oldies in an edgy-edging-on-cheesey-but-never-cheesey way. I feel like releasing an 18 minute song is also a big fuck you in 2022. They are honestly THE band to watch live in Taiwan right now, after playing so many shows in the past few years, they are a promised experience.
While these bands does not necessary share the same home town, I consider them “local” in the sense that we are part of a loose network of musicians linked by language and values and we definitely influence each other.
Best records of the year
“Dissolution Wave” by Cloakroom
Admittedly, a tough year to decide my AOTY since most of the listening was not contemporary. However, the latest Cloakroom entry would have to be my top pick overall. It’s somehow heavy but easy to listen to all at once. Washes over like a dream that never seems to end but then all of a sudden it’s over. Their whole catalog has been solid but with a couple albums under their belt, I think it’s their best to date. They’ve proven their chops and are really focusing on expanding their sound while still holding on to the key sonic components that give them that Cloakroom sound.
Other 2022 choices:
- Soul Glo “Diaspora Problems” – Soul Glo may be one of the most important bands in punk right now.
- Between Bodies “Electric Sleep”
- Danger Mouse & Black Thought “Cheat Codes”
- Kae Tempest “The Line is a Curve”
- Yoo Doo Right “A Murmur, Boundless to the East”
“Together” by Duster
It was really hard to pick one record but this has to be it. I had it on repeat for a large chunk of the year, the slow and sludgy sound just resonates so well with the strange times we’re in.
Whenever Duster comes out of the dusty cellar they put out something great. Didn’t expect a full on evolution though, especially for a band that’s been around for sometime. The instrumental and vocal lines are sparse but intertwines just right. The riffs are all elegantly simple but effective, almost effortless. While the sound remains heavy and gritty, most of the songs are very calming to me, almost tranquil at times. The album also covers a lot of ground with varying songs, I enjoyed the sonic journey very much.
It was a hard pick between Duster’s “Together” and Palm’s latest “Nicks and Grazes”, which is so musically exciting! I probably haven’t spent enough time with it yet but, damn, it is one joyful surprises after another and then another.
“Heiwa” by Mansur Brown
To be honest, I did not listen to a lot of new music in 2022, but this stood out to me and I had it on repeat often.
It is just music that takes you to other places, some tracks make you blankly staring at the ceiling and thinking about life. Lots of atmospheric synths, minimal guitar leads and occasional 808 bests which just hit the spot. Sometimes you put it on and it becomes part of the environment. It’s hard to put the feeling into words but I love it.
Lok (Vocalist / Guitarist):
“Careening” by Hammered Hulls
Can’t really pinpoint a “best” record but I was joyfully surprised when introduced to this band. Not only the legacy of DC hardcore, but the beautiful melodies on cuts like “Abstract City” and really dry production is a welcomed contrast to the maximalist records put out by artists like black midi this year. There is a sincerity coming out of this record that I miss, after feeling so bombarded and overstimulated by other new music.
I also want to highlight a remastered record that I think IDIOTEQ readers would love. 人 Human Beings is a Taiwanese skramz band, who is re-releasing an album titled “Animals” this year.
Look out for it, you won’t be disappointed. They were a short lived band but damn they put out some iconic records.
Another Taiwanese band, Super Napkin, also released two killer EPs.