Interview: Absolute Purity

While most kids who grew up in Beijing in the 2000s can list off the Maybe Mars bands that (many claim) redefined the underground scene here – Carsick Cars, Birdstriking, Snapline, Chui Wan, etc., if you dig deep enough and ask any diehard music fan, or better yet, local musicians who their favorite Maybe Mars band was you’ll get a different answer. You’ll discover a little band called Guai Li made quite the splash in the late aughts and then like that, vanished into thin air. Led by singer Wen Jun – they were a force of nature on stage and left behind one of the label’s best releases – Flight of Delusion. The cult is strong with Guai Li, and their influence can be felt in many of the young indie rockers today. It just so happens that during my yearly combing of Xiami, Weibo, and Douban in search of new Chinese sounds, I stumbled upon a Shanghai band called Absolute Purity. I immediately recognized that voice. Better yet, I was in awe of the band’s maturity, which seemed a fully-formed and blissed-out mix of post-punk, electronica, and psychedelic music, with driving bass and drums perfectly punctuated with the vocals from none other than Wen Jun. Now, after having been away from Beijing for six years, Wen Jun and her new band are ready to return to the city that provided her and her old band Guai Li short-lived glory but life-long fans. I shot Wen a few questions about the band’s development and their future plans ahead of their capital debut this Saturday, Mar 24 at DDC.

Wow is it great to discover a band like this! First off, give a little introduction about yourselves. Who are Absolute Purity?

Bound in contrast and contradictions, Absolute Purity pairs fierce desperation against melancholy and innocence. The band was formed in December 2016 by singer Wen Jun (ex-Guai Li), guitarist Tang Ting, drummer Zhang Yun and bassist Dami, each bringing their own musical direction. Drawing on experimental, post-punk, electronic music and psychedelia, their sound spans the aggressive, melodic and pure, going between the everyday mundane and unhinged madness.

What is the background of each of your members? Did it take a while to settle on a sound or did it naturally come to you guys?

Guitarist Tang Ting is a photographer, bass player Dami is an IT engineer he also plays guitar in Naohai, drummer Zhang Yun works as a chemist and she also plays in the band Solid Liquid.

At the time we made up our minds to rock the band, everything started from simple beats and motifs made and collected in the past years by sampler and synthesizer. As we members were stepping forward and getting closer, new motifs sparkled while jamming. Then we moved to the more challenging and time-consuming part of compiling and weaving the motif materials together into a song. Often this cycle of jamming and rearranging repeated several rounds. I’m not sure if these are in our genes but it is undeniable that we enjoyed and treasured the time and pieces working together.

There are plenty of people here in Beijing who are wondering what happened to Guai Li, the band that you led here and whose album Flight of Delusion has become a cult favorite upon many fans and musicians. How did your time here in Beijing and with Guai Li end? How do you look back at that time now in the present?

Guai Li stopped activities right after the releasing and tour of Flight of Delusion because band members have different life plans at that time, but we leave open the possibility in the future.

It feels wonderful to pick up the same thing you did six years ago, some parts remain the same and some parts have totally changed. Right now the flow of unbounded and optimal options in music drives me most.

Based on what I’ve seen of your live sets and the array of portraits taken of the band, I think it’s safe to assume that there is a large visual component to your music. Are the visual aspects of your band integral and how do play off one another?

Two of our artist friends Gao Minyan and Tang Dixin did VJ performances on several of Absolute Purity’s lives with footages from their contemporary art documentaries and video clips from the internet. At the moment it’s more like having fun with friends, VJ is not an integral part of our performance. We also look forward to developing new ideas with visuals, like making music videos.  We are open to random incidents and flexible combination along with solid unity.

In late January you went on a three-day tour of Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai. Was it exciting to be on the road again? Any expectations for your trip to Beijing?

We had a crazy tour with Gong Gong Gong in Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai. It was during a blizzard which made everything that much more difficult but nevertheless fun. As for Beijing – it’s a city I lived in for a long time and my last performance there was a long time ago. And now, I’m back. As you can imagine, many complicated feelings. I am both very excited and quite emotional at the same time. 

Catch Absolute Purity this Saturday, March 24th at DDC alongside psych world music groovers Boiled Hippo, guitar noise demi-god Li Jianhong, and Guiyang raised jammers Run Run Run. RMB 70/100

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