Hong Kong Indie rock group Nowhere Boys won't let commercial success change them

Hong Kong Indie rock group Nowhere Boys won't let commercial success change them

While they may have signed to Sammi Cheng's record label, the band is staying true to its musical origins

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Nowhere Boys (from left) Kenneth Ling, Hansun Chan, Van Chan, Fisher Kan and Nate Wong.
Photo: Media Asia

When Young Post first spoke to the Nowhere Boys three years ago, they had just released their second EP Hyperreality, and signed with the label Frenzi Music.

Now, the boys are – ironically – everywhere. The past couple of years have seen them reach several major milestones, from scoring their first No 1 single on the 903 radio chart in April, to winning last year’s Shenzhen Midi Music Festival, and signing a major record deal with Media Asia. And just three days ago, the group released their fourth EP, Journey to Nowhere.

We caught up with the band – which consists of lead vocalist Van Chan Wi-rok, drummer Nate Wong, bassist Hansun Chan Heng-shan, keyboardist Fisher Kan Ho-yui and guitarist Kenneth Ling Yue-cheung – again recently over Skype. They had just finished shooting a music video with Hong Kong legend Ekin Cheng Yee-kin for their new single, Old Times.


Chan, a lifelong fan of Cheng, says it was “surreal” to share the mic with his childhood idol.

 

“He’s my favourite local actor and singer,” says Chan. “I grew up seeing him in films, so I didn’t expect to be able to talk to him or act with him in the same music video – which we just did today.”

Throwback to the first time we spoke to Nowhere Boys in 2016

“I met him at a gig and we started talking,” he explains. “I originally wrote Old Times for him as a tribute, but he said he wanted to do it together. So instead of having him sing the whole song, it’s now a Nowhere Boys song featuring Ekin Chan ... We changed the lyrics – it was supposed to be him singing to his fans, and now it’s the other way around,” he laughs.

Getting to collaborate with their idol is just one of the many perks that comes with a major label deal.

“We signed with Media Asia about a year ago, and many other well-known artists, such as Ekin and singer Sammi Cheng Sau-man, are also under the same label,” says Chan. “A major label deal gives us more resources to make the kind of music we want to make, as well as connect with other artists.”

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While the term “major label” often brings to mind horror stories involving strict contracts and bitter lawsuits, drummer Wong says that thoroughly discussing the terms of their deal with the label before signing up has helped them immensely.

“Most major labels have restrictions on gigs – that it has to pay a certain amount or be at a certain level,” Wong explains.

“We made it clear to the label that we didn’t want any strict restrictions on what shows we can or cannot do. We are open to playing smaller gigs, so our music can reach a younger audience.”

Despite their growing commercial success, their new music has taken the group right back to their roots, when they were just five musicians writing and jamming together.

Nate Wong of Nowhere Boys talks about his musical influences

“For our previous EPs, we used a lot of virtual instruments, and spent most of our time working on a computer, where we had access to this whole world of different sounds, and unlimited effects,” says Wong. “But we just wanted this album to revolve around the way we played naturally.”

While the album itself is yet to drop, all but two singles have already been released. The boys say they don’t want to follow a “normal” album cycle – in which artists release all new material in one go, every two years – a decision that serves their best interests.

“Despite the fact it might take away the element of surprise, we do it this way because if we wait to release everything at once, the process might take up to a year, with no new material released in between. We prefer to put out a single every few months or so,” says Chan. “Besides, we can also gauge audience reaction, and it keeps the momentum going.”

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Returning to their roots

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