With a brilliant new album out and an invitation to play at SXSW, future rockers Duck Fight Goose have cast off the more difficult elements of their sound to embrace a new-found accessibility. Jake Newby talks to frontman Han Han
Duck Fight Goose are no stranger to these pages. Since forming in 2009, the Shanghai-based ‘future rock’ four-piece have consistently been one of our favourite bands, frequently occupying the attentions of this section of the magazine. So why, then, give them yet more space?
Quite simply, the quartet’s new 11-track LP Sports, released this month, demands it. With this record, the band have not only created the best Chinese album of the year, but, by releasing it on Beijing’s Maybe Mars label, they’ve also produced a wake-up call to those in the capital who continue to dismiss any Chinese music produced from outside its own self-satisfied scene. Slickly produced and crammed full of inventive, catchy rock songs, the record caps a great year for Shanghai releases and deserves to see them increase their already significant following.
The band seem to have broad appeal on their minds, too – their debut full-length is a significant departure from the harsh blips, beeps and math rock that characterised last year’s four-track Flow EP. ‘Previously our music was a rejection of certain groups of people and listeners,’ says guitarist and vocalist Han Han. ‘Before, I wanted to put lots of elements together to make a complex picture and I didn’t care what the picture actually looked like, it just had to be complex. But we’ve done that, it doesn’t matter anymore. Now we want to make something that’s more accessible.’
After going through a phase of indifference to their listenership, Duck Fight Goose have emerged all the stronger for it. There’s still plenty of experimentation and electronic wizardry involved with the material – tracks such as ‘Golden Gate’ and ‘Beacon’ in particular draw on band members’ experiences with more avant-garde acts such as Boojii – but these elements are incorporated into tight, catchy songs that make for a thoroughly listenable experience. Anchored around three sweeping tracks – opener ‘Athletes’, the epic ‘History’ and closing track ‘Ritual’ – the record is underpinned by drummer Damen’s rhythms, the hooks of Panda and San San’s guitars and Han Han’s rousing vocals. If they were looking for accessibility, they’ve found it, and then some.
'There are some small groups of people who want to listen to obscure music just for their ego’s sake,’ says Han Han. ‘But we don’t want those pretentious fuckers, we want normal people.’ And while he is under no illusions about just how mainstream Duck Fight Goose can become (‘CCTV probably aren’t going to do a report on us,’ he jokes), the band have the opportunity to bring their sound to a completely new audience next year having been invited to play at SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas.
'I thought it was a spam e-mail when I first saw it,’ says Han Han of the invitation to one of the music industry’s biggest events. ‘I’d always wanted to go and had been looking at the application forms and the admin online, but I’m a lazy person and I hadn’t got around to it. Then we got the e-mail and I didn’t think it was real. I’m still not sure how they found us.’
Before that, though, the band will release Sports at Yuyintang this month and at Maybe Mars’ Beijing venue D-22 the next day. Despite Han Han founding and operating his own independent label, Miniless (which released Flow), he says Maybe Mars – also home to domestic heavyweights Carsick Cars, PK14 and Xiao He – were an easy choice due to their broader network and connections. The band also brought in producer Li Weiyu, the man behind Shanghai’s Top Floor Circus’ albums, for a fresh approach.
It’s an evolution rather than a completely new direction – elements of Flow are still traceable on Sports and long-time ‘fifth member’ Brad Ferguson remains heavily involved – but the shift has spawned an outstanding record, one that still holds the band’s trademark ‘future rock’ tag. ‘Futuristic things affect us a lot,’ says Han Han, contemplating the repeated occurrence of references to time in Sports’ lyrics. ‘We’re making music for the future.’