Gate to Otherside: 'We heard crows that sounded like spaceships'

Take a trip with the Beijing band breaking on through

You probably wouldn’t expect a band named Gate To Otherside, who have a song on their debut album called ‘Get High’, to be writing music influenced by standard fodder such as first dates or getting mashed up on a Friday night. Dragon Bus Terminal, the Beijing-based three-piece’s first full-length record, doesn’t disappoint on this front, being influenced by topics as interesting as the spacey titles suggest. Namely: shamans and birds that sound like flying saucers.

‘We went to Mongolia to see some real shamans,’ says drummer Jiang Mengyang when asked about the inspiration behind the song ‘Wu’: the seven-minute closing track of the album. ‘I appreciate the essence of shamanism because it emphasises respect of nature, which is far from urban life.'

Jiang continues of the Mongolia trip: ‘A scene we saw at the top of a hill kept appearing in my mind and I sang lyrics [based on the memory]. We saw a giant rainbow… there was a big crowd of hawks whimpering, not a typical twittering or crowing, it was like the noise of a spaceship. There was a deer in the distance – it glimpsed at us then disappeared into a bush.’

This dreamy imagery fits perfectly with the tone of The Doors-esque song, and Gate To Otherside’s general vibe of spacey, head-expanding squall. Based around the spiky guitar lines of singer/guitarist Sun Heting, the band’s album, recorded in Beijing and produced by The Brian Jonestown Massacre guitarist Ricky Maymi, is a hazy delight.

The band, completed by bassist Alex Turner, formed at the end of 2014 as the result of an instrument-swapping experiment that went right. Jiang used to drum in Carsick Cars and still hits skins in rockers Birdstriking, while Sun plays guitar in punk types Free Sex Shop. ‘We formed because I wanted to play guitar and sing – it’s a better way to present myself musically,’ says Sun, who has the nickname Monkey. ‘It felt pure and natural’.

Sun revels in his new role as a frontman – the guitar-driven album feels forceful and propulsive, full of moments of punky fervency and indie jangle such as the catchy ‘Don’t Get Emotional’ as well as psychedelic expansion. And although they insist that the song ‘Get High’ is not an ode to literally getting high (Sun: ‘It’s simply a state of being’), it’s reassuring to hear that the band’s floaty-headed music isn’t born of contrivance.

When asked to explain their band name it becomes clear that they’re definitely somewhere on the space cadet scale. ‘We all live in a known world, but the gate to the other side may lead us to a world that is unknown to us,’ says Jiang. ‘We may have a few glimpses but can’t see it in its entirety. We are trying to use music as an approach to look into that world.’

Jamie Fullerton

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