Jonathan and Pollie: 182cm and 150cm - this is the description taken directly from their Instagram account, and when you meet them, you realise it summarises them pretty well. Together, Jonathan Wut Ting-hin and Pollie Tong Hoi-ting make up Lil' Ashes, a charming indie duo.
The two met in 2011 during their first year at the Hong Kong Design Institute, and have been working together ever since.
During their last year of study, they began talking to Sony Music about pursing music full-time after graduation. There were initial reservations about joining a major record label, but the two firmly believe that being indie is all about attitude. "The Arctic Monkeys, Russian Red and Lenka are all signed," says Tong. "What they express through their original songs is still indie. The record label is just a platform that helps more people discover our music."
Their 10-track debut album Be Little is the result of going with their gut and joining a major label. Before making that big decision, however, they translated their doubts into the track Don't Think Too Much.
"I wrote this for myself before the album," says Tong. "It's a representation of my personality - I worry a lot and I think too much. It's easy for me to make quick judgments, but this song helps me believe in myself and others."
Making progress slowly seems to be the theme that ties Be Little together. The title track was a reminder to both Lil' Ashes and their listeners that it's not always necessary to judge others or yourself. "It's nice to revert back to the way we used to think as kids - when we'd believe in what we saw and what we heard. When we get older, and come into contact with differing opinions, we may begin to have doubts, even about whether love exists … but it's still there."
Lil' Ashes' album art echoes this sentiment. Tong and Wut worked with Little Thunder, a Hong Kong-based comic artist. "Little Thunder and I talked about how growing up can cause us to have unconscious biases towards others. When you look at our album art, you might think that the cards we're holding suggest that our mug shots are being taken, but the background is actually a growth chart! Growing up sometimes magnifies our biases, and things lose their original meaning."
The two cards Tong and Wut hold up actually say "Don't judge. Forgive." And "Don't condemn. Should Give." respectively. "We put [ Be Little] as our first song so that when people listen to the rest of the album, they'll keep the message [of non-judgment] in mind," says Tong. "They … can just enjoy the moment with the music, and that will be enough."
They also have a YouTube channel which they manage themselves, living up to their "indie" vibe. Right now, the duo is looking forward to performing English versions of their Cantonese songs.
"We're going to do everything ourselves, as it can show others who we really are. It's going to be 100 per cent us."