“Folk music is about telling stories and I’ve always enjoyed stories,” says Ryan Harling, one half of acoustic duo The Folk Ups. He started making music with Jasmine Kelly in October 2015 when they decided to cover Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men. Discovering they had a natural chemistry, they soon wrote their first song, Red in the Sky. Jasmine tells Young Post: “We wanted to make it Halloween-themed because it was October, so we wanted there to be murder.”
Almost 18 months on, the song is a staple of their live set, accompanied by a video which they created and filmed themselves. Inspired by the shadow animation works of German director Lotte Reiniger, Ryan took the idea to Jasmine.
“We were discussing ideas and we went on to Google,” he says. “The Google doodle changes every day, and that day it was Lotte Reiniger’s birthday!”
“It was meant to be!” adds Jasmine. “We flipped my dining room chair over, put paper on the legs, shone a light under it and filmed with my iPod taped to a mic stand. We could only film six or eight hours at a time, then we’d have to continue another day.”
The duo recorded throughout 2016 with local producer Jordie Guzman, releasing their self-funded debut EP for free on Bandcamp in December, raising money to pay for it by performing on the streets.
“Busking is a good source of income,” says Jasmine. “Every time we got a bit of money we’d have to save it all, so it was a lot of saving up for each recording session.” So why release it for free? “We’re not really looking to make money, because we’re just students. We don’t have anything to pay for like rent or food because we live at home, so just having our music out and available to enjoy for free is the best way.”
Jasmine also expressed thanks to Jordie. “He told us a lot of things that we needed to hear. Going to Studio B ended up being a very good decision for us.”
The Folk Ups are already working on their next release. After debuting a new song Come and Go at Amplified Music Festival last month, Ryan confirmed “we’re planning on making another EP, but this time with more texture”.
Their biggest highlight so far came in November, performing at Clockenflap. “It’s the biggest music festival in Hong Kong, so to be able to perform there was crazy,” says Jasmine. Adds Ryan: “We weren’t expecting anyone to be there, as we were the first band on, but by the end we had quite a big crowd. The day got even better when they met one of their heroes, British folk singer-songwriter Lucy Rose, before being asked to take photos with fans. “It was surreal, because we were getting recognised for our art,” Ryan smiles.
The Folk Ups play Freespace Happening in West Kowloon Cultural District on March 11.