Interview: Chui Wan

The Beijing psychedelic band hit Shanghai with Psychic Ills this week

Photograph by Zhang Shouwang
As one of Beijing's brightest bands gear up for a country-wide psychedelic trip with New York's Psychic Ills, Jake Newby talks to Chui Wan head honcho Yan Yulong

When Maybe Mars assembled their best acts for their fifth anniversary shows in Shanghai in June, we asked Carsick Cars frontman Zhang Shouwang to select three of the most promising new bands from the label. He had little hesitation in choosing Chui Wan. ‘They are definitely my favourite younger band,’ he said. ‘If they were a New York band, everybody would already be talking about them.’ Chui Wan’s set was certainly one of the highlights of those shows and this month the Beijing psychedelic rock four piece return to town with, coincidentally, a New York band in tow, Psychic Ills, and a new album.

The eight track White Night is an eclectic record according to Yan Yulong, the avant-garde violinist who formed Chui Wan with bassist Wu Qiong two years ago. ‘Each song is really different. It was only after we finished mixing it that we realised,’ he says. ‘The album really exaggerates the differences.’

In part, this reflects the nature of Chui Wan’s performances and make up as a band, with a largely fluid, almost jam-like approach at times. Their name is taken from Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi’s text Qiwulun, which is represented in the modern Chinese idiom, ‘when the wind blows, every sound may be heard therein’, and the band’s live shows are suitably ethereal and oscillating.

Clearly such a methodology can encounter problems during the recording process. ‘My view is that freedom and restraint are twins,’ says Yan, who says that some songs actually became less constrained when it came to putting them on the album. ‘The track “Tomorrow Never Knows” was originally only three minutes long, but on the record it’s over seven minutes. It’s one of our favourite tracks on the album now.’