A little to the Left and making all the right noises

John Lloyd

The Sinister Left are not evil communists and insist their name has nothing to do with politics but, in case you didn't know, sinister is Latin for 'to the left', historically associated with Satan, or evil.

And if you're prone to over-analysing such things, you could think of the Sinister Left as being doubly evil.

The problem with that description, though, is that the quartet are indubitably nice, lacking the aloofness that often characterises rock bands. During an interview at a Tsim Sha Tsui coffee shop, the members are polite, friendly, even quiet.

They also say they're a little strange. 'For me, the stranger the better, [as] everything's so cliched these days.' says Filipino singer-guitarist Nathaniel Inciong.

Along with Inciong, the band consist of Italian lead guitarist Alejandro Dini, drummer Reginald Brotonel, also Filipino, and rounding out the quartet is new bassist Stuart Quinn, who is set to join the band after their next gig at the Underground's indie showcase on Saturday night.

Though Inciong concedes the Sinister Left's music is not yet that 'out there', it's certainly a step or two away from much of the derivative fare peddled around Hong Kong's indie scene.

Part of the reason for this is each of the musicians brings different influences to the table. Brotonel,

for instance, is a fan of electronica made by the likes of Aphex Twin, and he even admits to listening to Justin Timberlake 'for the beats', while Inciong favours 1980s Brit-rock bands Joy Division and the Smiths, and Dini is into Led Zeppelin and Radiohead.

The Sinister's brand of alternative rock comes with subtle inflections of jazz, and electronica beats. These musical flavours can be heard in songs such as Caped Carnival, which swings between moody and melodic with a handful of rock snarls thrown in for good measure, and MSG - a song apparently referring to the hypnotic qualities of the much-maligned flavour enhancer - which layers meditative Mogwai-like riffs over a rolling beat and brooding vocals.

'They're a great band,' says John Saeki of Transnoodle, an outfit that have shared the bill with the Sinister Left twice before. Saeki, who characterises the rockers as 'mature' for the local scene, singles out Inciong for praise. 'He's got a good voice and he's got a great way of putting across his intense, dark and brooding songs.'

That darkness will contrast with more upbeat acts - such as Killer Soap, Born to Hula and Urban Butterfly - on the bill at local rock showcase Underground 48 at the Cavern in Lan Kwai Fong on Saturday.

Although they say they're not thinking of a particular audience when they write songs - a process led by Inciong and honed collectively - their work appears to be a conscious step away from the mundane. One of the Sinister's frustrations with the local indie scene is that bands seem unwilling to find their own voice. 'The copy factor in Hong Kong is too strong,' says Dini. '[Local bands] don't even think for an instant that they don't have to copy someone else.'

Although the band's founders, Dini and Inciong, met at work - they are both designers - it was a Smashing Pumpkins CD that helped propel them to form the Sinister Left in 2005. The CD in question was on sale for HK$5 at annual fund-raising event Lamma Fun Day, and Inciong was about to pick it up when Brotonel's friend got to it first.

The three men got to talking and the conversation turned to the band Inciong was forming. He'd been writing songs in his spare time and Brotonel encouraged him to keep at it. Two years later, the band have 11 songs, with another 30 in the works - which they hope will one day lead to an album.

The Sinister Left write what they like, 'and it's a fortunate thing that some people like what we're doing', Brotonel says.

Dini chimes in: 'And the other thing is we're weird - which is good, because I like weird.'

Underground 48, Sat, 8pm, the Cavern, LG/F Lan Kwai Fong Tower, 55 D'Aguilar St, Central, HK$50 (students), HK$80. Inquiries: 9486 4648