Location: 北京 Beijing, 中国 China
艺术品 Artwork by Nini Sum @ Idlebeats
Mr Graceless are a 3-piece indie rock band formed in 2009, with members hailing from all over China and now based in Beijing. Zhang QiuShuang (guitar and vocals) is from Sichuan, YuanShuai (usually on bass) from Shaanxi and Zhao JiuLong (drums) from Beijing. The band recently released their debut album ‘The Tree Ever Green’ and we caught up with them for a special version of “Throw That Block”, off the new album.
The Mr Graceless manager, TR—who incidentally took his name from the logo on his PC a decade or so ago—called us late last year and suggested a day on the ice. It was early December though and the lake hadn’t yet frozen over. “It usually freezes the week after Christmas,” TR explained. “Let’s catch-up then”.
So for a few weeks, we watched the weather reports religiously and probed friends who’d visited the popular bar area surrounding the lake. Finally, we received word that the lake had frozen over and the ice was teeming with ice chairs, ice bikes and people stumbling around on skates, like newborn foals. The Houhai lake, it seems, is where Beijingers go to play in the bitter, winter months.
When the time came, we opted for the serenity of the less popular side of the lake, called Xihai. It was after midday on Saturday, but deathly quiet and wind carried sounds that I’d never noticed in Beijing before , particularly the haunting sirens from a kit of homing pigeons circling above, like squadron of WWII fighters.
We noticed the modest band of three trudging across the outskirts of the lake, lead by YuanShuai (guitar and vocals) in his indie-hunter stylings, complete with Ushanka hat. The camera caught him by surprise…”I’m shy,” he chuckled nervously, while Zhao JiuLong (drums) and Zhang QiuShuang (rhythm guitar and vocals) attempted to warm up with what looked like an improvised 80s-style aerobics routine. Together members of Mr Graceless, have a boyish charm that infects you before they even begin playing.
Here, their song, “Throw That Block” is mixed with the ambiance of lovers learning to skate, hockey players passing their puck, and old Olympic speed skating hopefuls weaving through the stray toddlers. Though the band sight influences like The Beatles, Stone Roses and The Strokes, we can’t help but hear a touch of Kurt Cobain in the contrast between the sweet acoustic riffs and abrasive chorus. That is to say, we love it.
If you’re in China, make sure you catch Mr Graceless on their national tour happening right now. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of their new album, ‘The Tree Ever Green’.
Andy & Charles