Listen: Four Quarters return with Tongues, frontman Zubin Isaac reveals the inspiration behind first track since Songs About Girls

Listen: Four Quarters return with Tongues, frontman Zubin Isaac reveals the inspiration behind first track since Songs About Girls

To celebrate the release of Four Quarter's new single, we catch up with frontman Zubin Isaac to find out what he's been up to during the past year.

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The artwork for Tongues, the follow-up single to Four Quarters' 2015 EP 'Songs About Girls'

It is just over a year after Four Quarters featured in a Live@YP session, and now the post-punk rockers are dropping a new single, Tongues.

The track opens with a bluster of drums and guitar, before frontman Zubin Isaac's vocals enter in an ominous drawl over an off-kilter, grunge-style melody.

As well as sounding a lot more polished than the band's 2015 EP Songs About Girls, the song marks a new artistic direction, too: the accompanying video uses clips from classic Hong Kong movie, Chungking Express, a key songwriting inspiration.

As Young Post learned when talking to the band’s frontman and only fixed member Zubin Isaac over the phone last week, a lot has changed since we first met Rita and Angels.


Do you see Songs About Girls differently now compared to when you released it?

Yeah, it’s been a while. We did an anniversary zine in November which was a way to end that whole phase. I wrote Songs About Girls in high school, and Four Quarters started with friends at my school, but we never got round to recording.

I didn’t want to start from scratch when I got the new live band in place, and I thought it was better to use that material rather than see if we could come up with new stuff. We started playing that live, promoting the songs we had, so the whole process was quite drawn out.

Looking back, I can’t listen to the EP at all now. Every time I hear it my hands sweat.

Is there anything you learned from that experience that you’ve carried forward to new songs?

Definitely. First of all, it was incredibly stressful recording the EP, I was so anxious about it. I'd always imagined recording being this really cool, relaxed thing.

One thing Luke Chow [producer] taught me was that recording is a completely different thing to being in a band – playing shows is nothing like going into a studio, creating a recorded song as a separate piece of art. So recording the first EP taught me how different it is: playing as a live band versus recording this piece that’s going to be there forever.


Four Quarters go Live@YP and spill the beans on Hong Kong music and their new EP


You mentioned the anniversary zine back in November. How did you come up with that idea?

Brand New are one of my favourite bands, and they have done zines before with the lyrics and a few chords, and I thought "Why don’t we do that?" There are so many talented artists locally, so I reached out to them, and it was cool to work with people who could relate to [the EP's themes].

What have you been up to since your Live@YP performance?

We haven’t really performed much at all since then. Four Quarters isn’t your typical band. It’s not like everyone came together and we jammed. It all stemmed from songs I wrote in my bedroom, so the band has always had a changing line-up. Since then, [bass player] Andrew Shearer has left, and we’ve just taken our time working on new material. Tongues isn’t mind-blowingly different, but you can tell we’ve matured.

You are about to release your new single Tongues into the world, how did you write this song? Was there a specific inspiration behind it?

It was the [Wong Kar-wai] film Chungking Express – the atmosphere and the vibe. It was a concept I completely related to. Trying to recreate that atmosphere with this song was an interesting project. The lead actress Faye Wong did a cover of a Cranberries song called Dream Person. I thought it matched the vibe of the film perfectly.

Tongues marks a new artistic direction for Isaac and co.

How did you record it?

It’s 100 per cent layered [where instruments are recorded one at a time]. We take the demo and use that as a guide, record drums first, bass and then we record everything separately. We used samples to create interesting textures and harmonies, and we used synths for the first time.

The process was a lot more controlled. I’m very much a control freak, and I demo-ed the song six times before recording, so I knew exactly what I wanted going in.

Who did you work with on it?

Sammy So at Kolor Studio – the environment he created was a lot more relaxed this time. There were moments where I would think “why am I not stressed?”, but everyone there was professional and comfortable, and because of that everybody contributed productively. And I could really trust Sammy to make the right decisions.

How are you going to celebrate? Any single launch shows?

I’m leaving for the US next week to study Sound Design. We were going to do one or two sets, and had got together a live band, but drummer Eph Yuen had a very busy schedule with The Pansies.

On top of that, it was hard to sync up timetables, so we probably won’t play live for quite a while, but I’ll be back in the summer. I’m looking at doing more videos.

For the Tongues video, I didn’t want it to just be us playing, or about me as an individual, it was more about capturing the vibe. I’d be interested in doing a four-song EP at some point with videos to create a short film, and tell a story.


From student battle of the bands to opening for The Damned: how The Pansies have grown


Last time we spoke, you said you wanted your next release to be more divisive. Do you think you’ve achieved that?

I think if I heard the completed song back then, I would think “wow, that’s cool, it’s completely different”, but since listening to more dream pop and post-punk bands I feel we could still take that sound further. But it’s definitely a step forward for us.

What are the individual members of the band up to nowadays?

There are no real full-time members. Eph Yuen is a studio drummer, Gabe Hackman [Pansies frontman] played the solo at the end and did backing vocals, adding a nice low voice.

The Pansies are getting busier, they supported The Damned [British punk group] and are recording – it sounds really cool. Everyone is quite busy with their own projects here, the fact they have their own creative outlets is great.

Where can fans buy or stream Tongues?

The song will be available everywhere – Spotify, iTunes, and it’s available to download for free on our Bandcamp page, but I’d recommend that everyone watches the music video on YouTube, as it’s such a big part of the song.

Find Songs About Girls on Bandcamp here, and listen to Four Quarter's new single Tongues below.

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