For Beijing-based duo Guiguisuisui, the best part of performing live is the element of surprise. Dann Gaymer and Nan Su, who have just completed a 20-stop tour of Europe, like their live shows to be visual spectacles. With lots of improvisation and audience participation, no two shows are ever the same.
Speaking to Young Post after returning home to Beijing, multi-instrumentalist Gaymer and singer Su discuss their approach to live performances, as well as their new music.
“Sometimes, you can get so set in your ways of how something should sound,” says British-born Gaymer, 32, who was a solo artist before he met Su, 31, in 2014.
He explains how endless touring first prompted the band to mix up their live shows.
“We were just playing the same songs every night, over and over, and they weren’t really changing. It felt like karaoke.”
The duo decided to make use of Su’s artistic skills. A professional illustrator, Su began creating drawings in real-time during live shows, and projecting them onto the stage backdrop for the crowd to see. This idea eventually gave way to a host of creative ideas, costumes, and improvisations which have made Guiguisuisui’s live shows truly unforgettable.
“It’s liberating to let go of your ego a little bit,” Gaymer explains. “We were trying to think of ways to get the audience involved, so I’d give the guitar to someone, or get people to sing along. Then, we tried different stages, and giving the audience choices, so there’s that interaction.”
Su sums it up best: “We just don’t know how the set’s going to end. We know what we want to try and achieve, but sometimes it’s more like experimenting for us.”
The visuals have progressed the most, moving from a projection of Su drawing using Photoshop on a laptop to a multiplayer mode that allows several audience members to collaborate at the same time.
“This works nicely, because just as much as the music can change the mood of the audience, the visuals can change it too, or even the direction of the music,” says Gaymer.
This love of experimentation and improvisation has spilled over into the duo’s approach to writing and recording as well. They released their EP Charon earlier this year, then followed it up with the Charon Remixes in August after testing out the songs.
“It felt like this really natural extension where we recorded the EP, took it on the road, and the people we performed in front of helped to reinterpret it more,” says Gaymer. “The tracks can really come to life when other people add ideas to them, which is a really nice, organic process. And for us, it’s a nice little record of all the interesting people that we’ve met along the way.”
“A lot of the lyrics on the EP are in Chinese, and a lot of the people we meet mainly speak English,” adds Su. “[But] there are themes like yin and yang, dark and light – so even if people can’t understand the lyrics, we’ve been able to communicate the themes through the music or performance.
“It’s exciting that you don’t just have to use words to connect with people.”