Gender blender

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 April, 2009, 12:00am

Nothing is ever simple when you're a musician in Hong Kong.

Take the case of Yanyan Pang. The founding member of local post-punk outfit Hard Candy was thrown a curly one when bass player Alex Hurworth's day job forced her to move to New York.

Not only was Pang losing a close friend and collaborator, there was the little fact that, up until the time the news came through, Hard Candy were an 'all-girl' three-piece.

What were they to do?

'I thought about it for a while,' says Pang. 'We knew our sound would change anyway but in the end I decided not to be too stubborn and not only look for girls to replace her.'

Luckily, Pang didn't have to wait too long for a replacement - in fact, she found two. Kissing on the Dancefloor's Tony Liu had long been a fan of Hard Candy and was keen to help out - and he suggested bringing guitarist J.T. with him.

'Having the boys involved has changed our sound a lot,' says Pang. 'There's more melody now and I have had to change the way I write my songs to fit our new sound.'

The now-four-piece version of Hard Candy (Pang, Liu and J.T. are joined by founding member Renee Ko on drums) will have their coming-out party on Saturday, helping The Underground series of gigs celebrate its fifth birthday.

'Alex left a month ago so we haven't had that much time together,' says Pang. 'We are still new so we are a little nervous but the new members are very good - I trust them.'

The timing of The Underground anniversary was perfect for Hard Candy - as it has been in the past.

'The Underground has been very helpful to us,' says Pang. 'Whenever we've wanted to play, [organiser] Chris B [aka Chris Bowers] has tried her best to arrange a gig at that time.

'When we released our CD in 2006, The Underground helped us arrange a gig. The Underground plays an important role in the local music scene - it's a platform for a lot of new bands and also a chance for bands to play in different venues.'

It was the chance to seek out new venues - and expand audiences for local acts - that motivated Bowers to initiate The Underground nights in 2004.

The fact they've now strung together a record of about 90 nights - having also expanded to Macau and, for the first time this weekend, Shenzhen - has confirmed her faith that if you play the music, people will come to listen.

'Originally we put the night on purely because we wanted to play a gig,' says Bowers, the former vocalist for Flowers of Babylon and Sisters of Sharon.

'It wasn't anything really noble like we wanted to change the face of the Hong Kong music scene. But it just snowballed from there.'

Part of the attraction is the fact that The Underground seeks out new venues, places that might not normally give local bands an opportunity to play.

'When you play the same venues you end up being able to do it blindfolded,' says Bowers. 'You know how high the roof is, you know how high you can jump. It's great that the same venues support the music scene, but sometimes it's good for you as a performer to try something different.'

That's why The Underground has been held everywhere from Joe Bananas to, more recently, The Cavern, Club Cixi and California, which will host Saturday night's anniversary gig.

'Playing in new places is fun, it's stimulating,' says Bowers. 'That's the feedback we got from bands immediately and that's one of the things that keeps us going.''

Have there been any difficulties over the past five years?

'One thing you have to get used to in Hong Kong is that venues are always closing down,' Bowers explains.

'So just when you find a great spot, they close or they decide not to have live music any more. But that just keeps us on our toes.'

The Underground feat. Hard Candy, Airtub, Hardpack, Summer Junkiez and Us-2 Evil-0 (Philippines), Sat, 9pm, California, G/F California Tower, 30-32 D'Aguilar St, Lan Kwai Fong, Central, HK$100. Inquiries: 9486 4648