Matchbox strikes gold

Matchbox strikes gold

A Hong Kong indie band aims to stay true to their fans - despite celebrating music success

November 04, 2012
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Anthony Choi and Rachel Lui, of Hong Kong indie band Matchbox, won the SoundBase Festival - Acoustic Band Competition
Anthony Choi and Rachel Lui, of Hong Kong indie band Matchbox, won the SoundBase Festival - Acoustic Band Competition
Photo: May Tse
Compared to the United States, Britain or even Japan, Hong Kong's indie music scene lags well behind. Because of smaller demand and fewer venues, it is difficult for local indie bands to showcase their music and jumpstart their careers.

That's where the SoundBase Festival - Acoustic Band Competition, organised by Tom Lee Music Foundation, comes into play. The competition, in its 11th year, aims to bring out the best in Hong Kong acoustic music and provide a platform for artists to display their talents.

This year, Matchbox claimed top honours, winning gold and a HK$5,000 Tom Lee Music gift certificate, with Jus' Groovin' and 9 Maps tied for silver and The3Think claiming bronze.

Formed in 2006, Matchbox was originally a two-man band - Anthony Choi, on acoustic guitar and vocals, and guitarist Bon Yip. After many incarnations, they are now a quintet, after the addition of Keath Kong on bass, Joey Lam on drums and Rachel Lui on lead vocals. "I joined the band only towards the end of last year," Lui told Young Post. "I quite randomly met another artist [Dennis Ng] on Facebook and he introduced me to Matchbox."

In the competition, Matchbox reverted back - temporarily - to being a duo: Choi and Lui. Kong was sick and unable to perform, while Yip and Lam, because of a prior arrangement, took part in another group's line-up, Polaroid. "The last few years we've had a lot of line-up changes, but now it's more settled," Lui said.

Choi came up with their name, Matchbox, when they were just starting out. "We used to play at places such as hotels that were quieter, less rowdy," Choi said. "They were more elegant and refined than some venues we play now - and you'd often find matchboxes."

He wanted their name to evoke the gentle atmosphere of these places, yet still possess a distinct character - traits that Matchbox aims to embody in their music.

Choi began writing songs about six years ago, when he was primarily a guitarist. He was inspired to write Brand New Day, the song Matchbox performed in the competition, by a couple's story. "I originally started writing the song for a job, after a couple told me their love story," he said. "Eventually I added some of my own feelings about love to the lyrics. The message is that, if you like someone - when you're still falling for them - it's the same as air; every day you need to take a breath of that air."

Matchbox were unsure they would win because all the rival bands had their own strengths. "Honestly, I thought 9 Maps, a pair of girls, would win," Choi said. Lui had tipped their Polaroid band mates to prevail. "Their performance was unique and left a lasting impression on me."

Matchbox's aim, rather than merely gaining exposure or fame, is to put their heart and soul into performing great songs their fans will enjoy; if you're not a fan, well, that's fine too.

"There will probably be more people that dislike our music than like it," Choi said. "We can't satisfy everyone; we just need to accept that."

Matchbox is now participating in Taiwan's Urban Simple Life Festival.

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