More than just a high school band: James's Secret have broken the local scene

Eric Yang

There aren't many bands that get to play Clockenflap while still at school. We chill with HK funk outfit James's Secret and bring you their story

Eric Yang |

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We're still not sure what big secret James is hiding.

Most high school bands end up performing the odd gig during morning assembly, or standing on the awards podium at the school talent show.

But that was not enough to satisfy James's Secret, an up-and-coming funk band, whose members attend Renaissance College Hong Kong.

"Essentially, the band formed to prove that a school band is capable of branching out into the local music scene," 17-year-old saxophonist Phipson Lee told Young Post.

"Things like age and experience shouldn't matter when it comes to success in the music industry."

Phipson will take to the Clockenflap stage next Saturday alongside drummer James Koo, Patrick Yau on bass, guitarists Arthur Leung and Michael Ju, Wilson Chan on trombone, and singers Samuel Pang and Jacob Leung.

"We heard there was an opportunity to perform at Clockenflap while we were playing at other events, like KGV's Lion Rock Music Festival and the community project, YRock," says Samuel.

He said the Clockenflap booking proves not only the band's musical prowess, but their ambition too.

"Clockenflap is the first time we've been paid to do a show," Michael says. "It also signifies the first time we've been employed as professionals in the music business.

"This is well beyond what most other school-based bands have been able to achieve."

For James's Secret, school has always been a double-edged sword. For a start, it was where the members met and began playing together.

They all agree that without the support and equipment from the school and their teachers, their journey to where they stand today would have been a lot tougher.

But that's not to say that being at school hasn't also sometimes acted as a barrier to the band's development.

The boys say schoolwork is a major burden, as well as the expectation that they perform at certain school events.

"We've worked out that we need to practise at least two to three hours a day," says Michael.

"Coordinating our schedules with all of our extra-curricular activities is difficult enough, let alone the pressure to keep delivering a high standard both academically and on the stage.

"Then again, that level of commitment is what makes James's Secret stand out from your average high school band," he adds.

Outside school, being in the band has become the main focus for every member.

A tight-knit group of friends who learn and play music together, the members sometimes find themselves clashing with each other.

"Our performance for Walk for Change was definitely our worst," Phipson says of a charity event they played in March as the others nod.

"We let our egos get the better of us and the whole thing was just bad, structurally and musically.

"It's tough because you have eight people trying to be on the same page. In some ways it's impossible," says Michael.

However, as the band grew and its members had something to show for it, the boys overcame their insecurities, and tried to communicate with each other better.

When asked about how James's Secret would cope with the departure of three university-bound members, they said they're planning to reunite in the States so that they can keep playing together during their university years.

"Phipson, Samuel, and I are all looking forward to studying in the US," says Michael.

"Nowadays, there's really no excuse not to continue even if we're miles apart."

Before then, the band has a January gig at Picnic in the Park in Discovery Bay on the agenda, as well as plans to record and release their own EP within the next year.

And, of course, there's their Clockenflap debut next weekend.

They're going to make it work - and that's no secret.