New Shanghai cold wave band Faraway Neighbor and their minimal, moody sounds have really nailed the world's 2020 vibe. Contrasting light, synthpop tracks with heavier, industrial overtones, their new self-titled EP offers a kind of gauzy, post-punk cocoon you could crawl into and let everything else fall away. Musician Peter Isachenko and singer Mayura Jain of the duo give a bit of backstory to the act's origins.
Tell us a little bit about the project’s
genesis. What was its inspiration?
Mayura Jain: I wish it were
something more poetic than
this, but the truth is that Peter
and I were friends before and
it came about after a long
night of drinking. He is my
best friend’s boyfriend, and
by her description I knew him
to be somewhat of a ‘bedroom
producer/musician’, but he
had always spoken about not
being able to picture his music
without a singer. I’d never heard
anything of his before, and I
haven’t sung a note since high
school choir. But after a few
too many shots of Fireball, I
volunteered to sing if he needed
it. When I finally sat down and
heard what he’d written I was
like, ‘Holy shit. This is actually
something I’d pay to hear.’
Peter Isachenko: We met about
a year and a half ago. I had
just come to Shanghai and
was looking for a vocalist. For
eight months, I was annoying
everyone around me with my
search for a bandmate, until
Mayura decided to reveal that
she’s actually a trained musician
and has perfect pitch.
Working together was really easy from the outset, as we could both focus on what we do best. I definitely do not consider myself a good writer and was really glad to take this weight off my shoulders and focus on music. In general, we have a pretty good band dynamic where each of us has our own space to express ourselves without any constraints.
The songs on this record are still some of the first songs I’ve ever made so I can’t say there was a clear vision or a concept. Rather I was trying to emulate and borrow from my favourite artists.
And the name: Faraway Neighbor…
I know it’s been about a year in the
making but honestly, that sounds like
the perfect quarantine phrase.
MJ: Yeah, that was Peter’s idea. Our first time performing was a few months ago at the Hippo Tank’s monthly Ambient Night at Elevator. We needed a moniker for it, and Peter came up with that off the cuff. No other name has really made that much sense since, and I think it’s fitting given how many of our friends will be hearing our music and how we’re going to have to collaborate in the future.
PI: We’d been working on the
EP for quite a while, but only
started thinking on the name
just before the release. It might
seem like a name related to the
situation, but it really isn’t – at
least because I feel we weren’t
affected by it here in Shanghai
that much compared to other
places. Originally the name
came up during an evening at
[Uptown] RnB, when we were
thinking about a band name for
the ambient night at Elevator, where
we were supposed to perform. So
the name was intended to sound
more ethereal and dreamy,
rather than to comment on the
current state of things.
The track progression in your EP feels
a bit like 2020 – lighter and more
jubilant in its synth pop start and then
descending to pretty grim and dark.
Was this intentional?
MJ: That would be Peter’s stroke
of genius there as well.
PI: The last two songs were
written first actually, but it did
seem more appropriate to us
to arrange the track list in this
order as it does follow the line
of many tropes in life. The first
tracks although sound more
dance and energetic still are
pretty grim in their themes of
regrets and anger. I wouldn’t
say that the EP follows the light/
dark dichotomy, but more the
stages of depression: anger/
Any major influences on the album or
PI: For me, the biggest influences
were probably the bands HTRK
and Xeno & Oaklander, with
their gorgeous arrangements
and blatantly personal lyrics.
To put it simply, the vibe we’ve
borrowed was ‘making dance
music for sad people.’ But their
music is much more interesting
than this banalisation.
You’re moving apart soon. How do you see collaboration going forward?
MJ: The last two songs we wrote together – which funnily enough are the first two on the album – involved us sitting down together and bashing out a melody over a couple of hours. We don’t have that luxury anymore. So I imagine it will involve us working more on our own, and recording more fully-fleshed ideas to send to each other.
PI: Technology really makes it easy these days to work together on the opposite sides of the globe, and we’re grateful for that, of course. The opposite side of that is the fact that we won’t be able to actually play music together, and it really does take away a lot of fun out of it. But as musicians in 2020, I’d say we’re no strangers to that, as writing music these days involves less and less actual rehearsing and more instrument programming and spending time behind the computer screen. Overall, work over distance won’t differ so much from our process now, as almost every part besides recording we usually do by ourselves, separately.
Last one – describe your perfect night
in Shanghai. Where will we find you?
What will you be listening to?
Starting out at my favourite
bar, Uptown Records ’n’ Beer
obviously. After a few Costco
pre-mixed margaritas, some
friends and I would meander
over to Specters
to bob our heads
awkwardly to post-punk music.
PI: I’d have a beer in a park with
my friends (if the baoan lets us)
and listen to Sade. Although I
do love those bars, I hate that
almost every night out in this
city is centred on consumption
and spending a ton of money.
Hear Faraway Neighbor's recently released, self-titled EP on Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify, Xiami and QQ.