When Hong Kong bands murmur, DAVID BORING, and Ex-Punishment began to write new music last year, they realised that their songs were tied together by one common motif – insects.
Their new tracks, with titles such as “Church of St. Roach” and “Mother Swarm”, assault the listener with a dissonant wall of noise. It certainly is not elevator music.
The result of this connection was a joint concert – 虫虫虫 [Insect Insect Insect] – held February at Sheung Wan’s Premium Sofa Club. But while the motifs revolved around insects, the concert was thematically dystopian, reflecting how the bands felt about local and global events in the year 2016. They curated a show that not only involves sound, but also the distribution of three paperback artwork zines, and 47 separate posters.
“A marathon of experiences,” summarised Blythe, lead singer of murmur.
All three bands had started out very differently within Hong Kong’s small independent music scene. Once upon a time, murmur was a shoegaze group, before its members grew tired of their more radio-friendly songs.
Medical doctor Jason Cheung started DAVID BORING after trying his luck in his university’s music club, and likewise, the five-piece initially flirted with shoegaze. But the belated arrival of blue-haired lead singer Laujan flung the group towards industrial and no-wave, as well as live performances that bordered on violence.
As for Ex-Punishment, they are the noise reincarnation of highly popular indie band The Yours, which released its first EP way back in 2006. Ex-Punishment and Laujan recently collaborated on a track titled “The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement”.
It is as if the three bands underwent not only a stylistic transformation, but also a mental one, and their insect concert was a reflection of this.
Each of the show’s 47 black-and-white posters was prefaced with the words “Last Day on Earth”, a slogan proposed by Laujan as a reaction to the year 2016. The posters were presented in a series of Facebook posts that ask concert-goers what activity they would be doing on the apocalypse.
Break things. Kill time. Be nice to your mum. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
“The world is ending – why not do something extravagant about it?” asked Laujan. “Some people might think we’re being too serious, but well, this is black humour.”
The three artwork zines, on the other hand, were DIY creations, packed with collages of the literary, musical and cinematic influences of the bands, produced over two long nights. They evoked passages from Franz Kafka and Charles Bukowski, dystopian images of deformed humans, and even Buddhist scriptures.
The zines were then distributed to audience members at random, to be read while listening to the music.
“It’s not a deliberate attempt at doing something different,” explained Laujan. “But if we were to curate our own [ideal] show, we would do it this way… We look back at our influences, like punk and no wave from the 1970s and 1980s, and what they did back then was use ugly, scrappy trash paper and scribble things with a pen.”
“The impact of this is much more powerful than buying a piece of merchandise or band t-shirt for several hundred dollars… You usually have quite a sterile way of watching shows in Hong Kong, but this would be interesting.”
Performances by several local DJs completed the night’s set. murmur’s Blythe acknowledged that the sensory assault might not have necessarily inspired everyone, but wanted to, at least, have fun. “We weren’t really thinking from the perspective of [what would please] the audience. You could also feel completely numb [to the experiences].”
“But if you can take some value from the night’s show, then that’s good for you.”