Hong Kong experimental cinema, 80’s Kungfu movies, triad gangsters, Chinese and Japanese cartoons, Qian Xuesen and China’s early space program all collide in AV Okubo’s sound to create a weird kaleidoscope of modern Chinese sensibilities. The combination of retro-amusements with deeper social critique and ferocious dance rhythms has quickly brought this young band to the attention of fellow musicians and audiences across China and abroad, even earning them a coveted invitation – even before the release of their first CD – to Austin’s 2010 South by Southwest festival.
Formed in 2006 in the dirty industrial megalopolis of Wuhan, AV Okubo has captured the eyes and ears of China as its members navigate the very social conflicts and changes their music addresses in their daily lives. Frontman Lu Yan (vox/keyboard) is an aspiring film director while Tan Chao (guitar) works a day job as a train engineer in a major steel factory. Filling out the band, Zuo Yi (bass) and Hu Juan (percussion) are both active in the local music scene, which is traditionally the home of China’s hardest and wildest punk scene. They have played with, and at times overshadowed, foreign acts including Orange (Uruguay), The 4 Sivits (Germany), Ratatat (USA), These Are Powers (USA) and Battles (USA). Several large festival appearances, including 2008’s Modern Sky Festival, 2009’s JUE and Strawberry Music festivals, have exposed them to a larger audience and their infrequent trips to the capital have become occasions for packed and crazy shows at Yugong Yishan and D-22.
In late 2008, the band set up in A-String, Asia’s largest studio, to record their debut album with acclaimed producer Martin Atkins. The album, ‘The Greed of Man’ dropped in April 2010. CityWeekend Shanghai described the band as “a quartet of perverted robots, and The Greed of Man is the perfect soundtrack for their wanton, post-apocalyptic existence.”
For the band, their music manifests half-remembered memories of growing up in the social construction project that is China, the places they’ve been to, the people they’ve met and things they’ve experienced along the way. Described equally incompletely as new wave, experimental noise, or disco punk, ultimately their sound smashes together everything they have encountered and fuses it to a massive beat.
AV Okubo has grown up in the entertainment era. Neither punky criticism nor a complete overthrow of modern culture, they slide obliquely through a loophole and force on us their version of change.