Interview: Lil' Ashes work to create something unique to Hong Kong
The music duo hope to be the 'light that leads people out of confusion'
Acoustic pop duo Pollie Tong Hoi-ting and Jonathan Wut Ting-hin talk about their music’s positive message.
48HOURS: How did the band come about?
TONG: We met when we were digital music and media students at the Hong Kong Design Institute. Our teachers always encouraged us to perform whenever we could and since year two we've had plenty of opportunities to perform alongside other classmates with Buskic in Lan Kwai Fong and at music cafes. In the end it came down to the two of us as I find him the most reliable to work with. Our duo started in 2012 and we signed to Sony Music in 2013.
What philosophy does the name Lil' Ashes embrace?
TONG: It is inspired by Merchant Band's song More Than Ashes. It says if we live our life to the fullest, we will shine more than what the tiny ashes that we all eventually turn into may seem. We've listened to overseas singers since we were young because we felt that there weren't many music choices here. Now we're taking things a step further: writing and producing our own music. We hope our songs send out a positive message and are the light that leads people out of confusion.
Is it a blessing or a curse to be lovers working in a band?
WUT: It's definitely a blessing because we get to communicate with each other more and build a stronger mutual understanding. It may be a curse only when people are overly interested in the details of our relationship and they ask a lot of non-music-related questions. There is the possibility that we may break up one day — when we first made our music together we were single, after all — but we tend to solve instead of avoid problems. Many couples think separation is a solution, but for us facing problems and reaching a consensus is what works.
How has comic artist Little Thunder's illustration for your debut album "Be Little" enhanced its impact?
TONG: As a new band, we needed more than just my voice to capture people's attention. We needed some visuals that people could associate with us. The style of the work fits with the songs we've created. Works she created for our first album were very refreshing. But for our new single — it's a cover of [Lowell Lo's] Walk With You for a TV ad — she has drawn a cool piece with a vintage feel. It reflects our new take of the song as well as our respect for it.
What is your most memorable performance so far?
WUT: The most recent one was [Dialogue Experience's] Concert in the Dark 2015. It was a brand new experience performing in total darkness. The venue was so dark it didn't matter whether you had your eyes open or closed. It was quite terrifying. But working alongside [singer] Eman Lam Yee-man, [guitarist] Wong Jing and [music producer] Yu Yat-yiu made us learn how to just live with that anxiety or any other contingency. We then realised how sensitive all our other senses had become and that helped us to enjoy the music.
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
TONG: We're rehearsing for Windmill Grass' drama Let's Not Talk About Love. It's an interesting experience, as it's our first time acting. We have several roles that have personalities that are very different from our own, but the veteran actors are always ready to guide us. We're also working on a new album which we are hoping will be released by the end of the year. It features more of my lyrics in Cantonese. Naturally, it makes all the difference to sing lyrics that I have penned myself.