Hong Kong indie darlings My Little Airport back, more spiritual and just as political
Ahead of their new album and first gig in a year, singer Nicole Au explains her relationship with bandmate Ah P, the outspoken nature of their lyrics and her belief in astrology
Hong Kong indie pop band My Little Airport have been working hard to put the finishing touches to their latest album, which will be launched at a series of gigs in Mong Kok starting on September 12.
Singer Nicole Au Kin-ying is keeping her lips firmly sealed about what fans can expect of the new album and insists it is band mate Lam Pang (better known as Ah P) who has done most of the work.
“Ah P did most of the songwriting , he’s the director and did the mixing. We are almost finished,” she says.
It’s been almost a year since the indie duo played five sold-out gigs at Kitec in Kowloon Bay. At the time Au expressed concern that five shows in a row – their longest run yet – might be too taxing, and this time around they’ve found a comfortable solution.
“I was quite nervous and felt some pressure [from the five shows]. So this year we have stuck a balance,” says Au.
My Little Airport’s first album in 2004 – The OK Thing to Do on Sunday Afternoon is to Toddle in the Zoo – was released on their own label, Harbour Records, with songs written in both English and Cantonese. Since then, the duo have struck a chord with many Hongkongers by commenting on the struggles of life in this city, from work pressure (such as the viral track Who Invented Work?) and political issues (Donald Tsang, Please Die) to unrequited love and the ubiquitous housing issue.
Over the years there have been fewer lyrics in English and the latest album is mostly in Cantonese – this little nugget, Au lets slip.
For the past few years she has been doing some spiritual practice and beginning in 2014 started studying the astrology-based “human design system”.
“Maybe it’s time to understand more about life. When you’re young you look at old people and you don’t understand, but now I get a little bit of it,” says the 34-year-old.
One thing she has learned from the system is that she and her musical partner Ah P have very different personalities and this explains not just how they create and work together, but why they don’t need to practise together several times a week like many bands do.
The system groups people into four types: manifestors, generators, projectors and reflectors. Au says she is a projector and Ah P is a reflector.
“For me, if something happens that makes me think or feel a lot, it stimulates me to write something and the music and words come at the same time or in a short period of time,” says Au.
As a reflector, she says Ah P is like a mirror reflecting the things around him and it takes him 28.5 days – a moon cycle – to make a decision.
“He’s telling the story of what he sees in this city. Some stories make him angry and others make him sad or happy and so he writes this story,” says Au.
Ah P’s lyrics certainly speak about what’s happening in the city now and since 2009 they have become increasingly political with songs such as Divvying Up Stephen Lam’s $300,000 Salary (referring to the former Chief Secretary) and I Love the Country But Not the Party. These songs have been embraced by their fans, many of whom are disenchanted with Hong Kong’s political system and eager for change. But Au is keen to explain that she’s not fiercely political, instead she sings about personal feelings and experiences without a strong political agenda.
“When you create something you just create it and then the creation goes out and what people think is their business, you can’t control it,” she says.
There is no doubt that Ah P is the one with the strong message – increasingly bold, sometimes sarcastic and often humorous – and the magic of the way that these two work is that Au’s sweet voice tempers the message so that even the fiercest rant seems almost poetic.
Au asked her human design system teacher to do a partnership reading for herself and Ah P, combining both their charts. Interestingly, they didn’t come out as a typical “team” partnership that you might expect of a duo that has worked together for well over 12 years.
“A team always needs to spend time together to work things out, but we can work things out separately,” says Au.
That’s not to say they don’t spend plenty of time together. They know each other’s friends and hang out – go for meals, hikes and have also travelled together – but their success in the studio isn’t dependent on constant contact.
“We aren’t like other bands that need to practise two or three times a week. We practise only when we need to be recording or do a show,” says Au.
My Little Airport, Sep 12-14, 8pm, MacPherson Stadium, 38 Nelson St, Mong Kok, HK$350, HK$450, Cityline. Inquiries: 2111 5333