Birdstriking brings their brand of Beijing punk rock to the world

Birdstriking brings their brand of Beijing punk rock to the world

It's tough to be punk anywhere, but as Birdstriking tells Melanie Leung, doing it in Beijing carries its own consequences


(Left to right) Wen Yuzhen, He Fan, Wang Xinjiu, and Zhou Nairen.
(Left to right) Wen Yuzhen, He Fan, Wang Xinjiu, and Zhou Nairen.
Photo: Zhang Yikang

When punk band Birdstriking played at last month's Clockenflap music festival, most of the audience were from the mainland. But there were also some local and Western fans cheering as the Beijingers slammed out their wailing electric tunes.

Backstage, the four musicians are goofy - yet strangely profound. The band's name refers to a plane colliding with a bird. The tiny bird dies, but it also damages the plane's huge engines. It's symbolic of the voice of young people. "It's fragile, but it's aggressive," says lead singer and guitarist He Fan. "It can make people think."

He goes on to tell Young Post why rock music is so revolutionary, saying: "When you choose to use a machine, you are giving up some part of yourself as a human. Rock music uses machines to express humanity, and that paradox produces an artistic beauty."

While their songs tend towards the melodic, palatable side of the jarring noise punk category, it's their sharp lyrics that stand out, earning them huge popularity among the educated youth.

Back in 2009, He Fan, along with bassist Zhou Nairen, 26; and drummer Wang Xinjiu, 24, first performed in Beijing's now-defunct club, D22. (Six months ago, they welcomed guitarist Wen Yuzhen, 22, as their fourth member.) After just a of couple shows, club owner Michael Pettis signed them to his indie label Maybe Mars.

Three years later, they released their self-titled debut album, which contains songs in both Putonghua and English.

But being anti-establishment isn't without consequences. Their lyrics didn't pass censorship, so they couldn't sell the album in regular stores. "It just shows how insecure the government is." says He, who is a reporter by day. His white T-shirt screams "#NoFilter" in loud capital letters.

"Actually, all countries face similar problems. Our songs are our feedback to how this era affects us."

The feedback is pretty defiant. "You have the lies, the media/It doesn't mean you can transform my mind", he sings nonchalantly in Monkey Snake.

China is four decades behind the west in developing punk rock, but it is catching up. "With more music festivals being held, more people are learning about our kind of music," says Wang, who sports a distinctive bowl cut.

And how close are they to reaching the masses? In response, Wang quotes the words Sun Yat-sen, the revolutionary and founding father of the Republic of China, said on his deathbed: "The revolution is not yet complete. Comrades, we must struggle on."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Screaming out a message


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