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The Current Pulse: Carsick Cars Reflect on China’s Band Boom

2023.12.21

#MUSIC

Approximately 30 years after ‘Ikaten’ ignited the band boom in Japan, in 2019, a band audition program called ‘The Big Band (乐队的夏天)’ began streaming in China. This show is produced by iQiyi, a leading video streaming platform, and has aired its second season in 2020 and third season in 2023.

The program features bands with diverse musical styles from the Chinese-speaking world competing in a contest. It rapidly became a popular show, sparking a band boom in China. Due to the large population and vast territory, the entire rock scene has scaled up, and there is an increase in music professionals who can sustain themselves in the industry.

While the media has significantly expanded the band scene, how do those who have built the scene through DIY efforts feel about it? To gain insights, I spoke with Carsick Cars, a veteran band that introduced alternative rock values to the underground music scene in Beijing in the early 2000s, selling out tours in major cities. I anticipated that they, as pioneers, would provide a thoughtful perspective, and took the opportunity during their visit to Japan to hear their thoughts.

Harmony in Individuality: Crafting a Unique Sound as Trio

Carsick Cars
Formed in 2005, Carsick Cars is an emblematic indie band that started its activities centered in Beijing, gaining strong support from figures in the Chinese music industry and sophisticated young music enthusiasts. They are affiliated with the music label “Maybe Mars,” which has produced outstanding indie bands in China. The band has accomplished numerous international tours, including the United States and Australia. In 2007, they accompanied Sonic Youth on their European tour, solidifying their status as a rare band continuing to lead China’s indie music scene.

<Comments from Japanese Artists> One of the most memorable moments in my life was the final day of the 2017 China tour spanning seven cities with DYGL. We covered Carsick Cars’ “Zhongnanhai” during the encore. Their music embodies a sound that, despite coming from a distant foreign land, feels just like ours. It’s a sound that exemplifies the straightforward idea that there are people in China who love music and play in bands, just like us. They represent China’s hidden alternative rock! – mitsume, Kawabe Moto https://www.tunecore.co.jp/artists/CarsickCars?lang=ja

I was looking forward to hearing about your long-awaited first show in Japan. I’ve heard that Qing (Dr.) and Weisi (Ba) have a fondness for Japanese anime and video games. Could you please introduce yourselves and share some of your recent recommendations in these areas?

Weisi (Ba): I play games from the 1980s on Steam. I also like Japanese retro games. I started with the first “Final Fantasy” in order, and now I am trying “Final Fantasy VI”.

Qing (Dr.): I saw “THE FIRST SLAM DUNK” 16 times in Chinese movie theaters! Shin Evangelion the Movie” is also great. Our manager applied the personalities of the three of us to Eva and said, “Ching is Shinji, Shawang is Asuka, and Weisu is Rei, right? Maybe she is tired of managing us (laughs).

I heard that you are not much into video games and anime.

Shouwang (Vo&Gt): Well, recently I’ve been watching documentaries about the relationship between hunting dogs and their prey. I thought the relationship between predator and prey was complex and interesting.

Qing (Dr.): Speaking of predator and prey, the final season of the anime “Marching Giants” is about to begin. I am looking forward to watching it in real time in Japan since I will be visiting Japan this time.

BiKN shibuya 2023,” in which Carsick Cars performed, was held on November 3 (Thursday, national holiday), and “The Final Season” of “Shinkage no Kyojin” began its broadcast on November 4 (Friday).

From left to right: Wacey (Ba), Chin (Dr), Shawang (Vo &Gt & Loop)


I notice that everyone has distinct hobbies. Carsick Cars has gained legendary status in the Beijing band scene, and their songs, while simple in structure, convey powerful messages and free-flowing ideas. To start, could you share insights into your process and the inspiration behind creating your songs?

Shouwang (Vo&Gt): When we write songs, we usually go into the studio and jam together. We then expand on the idea. As we do this, we apply the lyrics around the inspiration that will be the theme of the song.

Weisi (Ba): Qing and I have a noise music side project called “Snapline,” so we often get ideas from that.

The improvisational interlude of “Zhongnanhai,” a song that is synonymous with Chinese indie rock, is a perfect example of this.

Qing (Dr.): By keeping what the three of us, with our disparate sensibilities, thought was good, the greatest common denominator became the identity of Carsick Cars. The human touch, not the technical one, may be what makes us who we are.

Shouwang (Vo&Gt): I produce young bands, and there are several iconic live music venues in Beijing, and when young people play there, they can produce something good that we can’t produce. Inspiration can be found through young artists.

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