The Yours' debut album reflects their love for 1990s indie rock
Hong Kong band The Yours' debut album takes them and their listeners back to the sound and ethos of the 1990s, writesHannah Hodson
Take the sound of 1960s art rockers The Velvet Underground, combine it with US alternative idols Smashing Pumpkins, mix in some of the sounds of Scottish noisemakers The Jesus and Mary Chain, and you'll get what many believe to be Hong Kong's best indie band: The Yours.
Since being formed in 2005 by childhood friends Patking Leung and Nic Wong, the band have received praise from music critics and audiences alike for their well-crafted noise pop and blistering live sets; and now, six years after releasing their first EP, The Yours have finally released their debut album,
The Way We Were.
The album pays homage to the '90s alternative and indie rock the band love - an era they wish they had been old enough to experience at the time. Featuring the interplay of four guitarists,
The Way We Were is built up of melodic, multilayered noise, and its creators hope the music will leave the listener with a lingering, bittersweet emotion.
Guitarist Tim Ng says the tracks combine "a little bit of everything, from shoe-gaze, garage, psychedelic to post punk". The band stress, however, that they are "not into the genre thing". Preferring to avoid labels and remaining focused on creating their own melodies and layered guitar noise, they describe themselves, simply, as "noise pop".
The Yours enjoyed a surge in recognition on the release of debut EP
Abraham in 2006, but some rocky years were to follow. Multiple line-up changes led to three full albums of material being dumped due to what Leung and Wong describe as major inconsistencies. In fact, the only constant during these years is the band's name. Although a "random result of brainstorming", the meaning of that name, Ng says, is simple: "Our music is yours."
This lack of direction finally came to an end with the arrival of several new members. Leung and Wong met fellow guitarist and vocalist Gwyneth Tang at a gig a few years ago. The next to join was Nelson Ko, a former schoolmate of Wong's, who became the band's drummer. Ng, a former colleague of Leung's, completed the ensemble last year as the band's fourth guitarist.
Ng says the current line-up came together very well in a short period, and the rejuvenated band were quickly signed up by local indie tastemaker Alok Leung on his Lona Records label last year.
The album's title is indicative of the band's reflective and introspective nature, and its songs contemplate the ups and downs which have brought The Yours to where they are today. Ng says
The Way We Were is a tribute to "deviation and a devotion to adolescent angst", covering themes of "teen spirit, memories, the summer" and, of course, the 1990s.
This obsession with the '90s carries through to the album art (a chaotic collage featuring fire, animals and the band members dressed head-to-toe in very '90s threads) and the fact that it's also being released on vinyl.
The staple theme of adolescent angst is also evident in The Yours' music videos for tracks such as
Over. The clips switch from black and white to high-contrast filters, and feature the band members running around the streets of Hong Kong looking every bit the anguished musicians that they present themselves as.
The Yours have come a long way since their first gig in 2005 at the Fringe Club, where they appeared as a support act for local band False Alarm. After
The Way We Were was released last month, they played album-release gigs on three consecutive weekends, in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou.
Their popularity means their days as a supporting act are over, and are now themselves backed up on stage by well-respected local acts such as Laura Palmer and OWK, plus their long-term supporters in the Songs for Children events organisers. More recently, in Guangzhou, they were left in no doubt about the loyalty of their fans, with some coming all the way from Xiamen. That gig was particularly memorable - Ng said they stepped it up a notch and gave an intense performance at an "ear-bleeding" volume.
Asked about the Hong Kong music scene, Ng says "there are a lot of good bands, but it's really tough for them to showcase their talents". He says this is due to a lack of support from the government to help the music industry provide a good platform to target mainstream and overseas listeners.
As for independent bands, Ng thinks they may attract more attention if they join forces in creating a post-punk or hardcore scene, to increase their overall impact. He remains optimistic, however, as the success of bands such as The Yours hints that the scene "is getting back to what it was a few years ago".
Ng says the band have a long way to go before they achieve the status of the groups they look up to. Although there isn't a concrete plan in place, The Yours have dreams of reaching the European and American markets, but realise they will be starting from scratch there. They have a strong online presence on sites such as Myspace, Bandcamp and SoundCloud, as well as on Facebook and YouTube.
The Yours have a busy schedule of gigs coming up, and a second album is in the pipeline. "It's going to be a little bit different and very exciting," Ng says.