The Foreigner's frontman, Muxia Zhang, knows the feeling of being a stranger in a foreign country. He lived and studied in Japan for five years before returning to Guangzhou in 2016.
"Playing rock music feels just like being someone who’s living in a foreign country. At first you feel like an alien, you feel lonely, but you have to try your best to be yourself and try to challenge this world."
After making a name for themselves on the local Guangdong music scene with their EP, Bie Hui Tou, which was touted as a rare attempt to channel the classic Britpop sound of bands like Oasis in China, The Foreigners came to the attention of folks on the national scene with the release of their debut album, (Ending of the) Start.
That particular record made pains to move away from the Britpop label that fans knew and loved. It was at once a risky move, but one that the group felt was necessary. At the time of making the album they were listening to bands like Blossoms, while also trying to introduce more noise and grunge aspects to their sound.
Curiously, the band had only sung in English on their prior record, something that they changed with (Ending of the) Start, and something that feels like a symptom of their Anglophilic musical upbringing.
“We felt that our words sounded better in English, and you know, for some reason, it just feels better to sing in English. We don’t want people to feel our music in a different way.”
That album scored pretty well with fans, but the guys in the band had some reservations about the final outcome.
“Well, we think that the album was an unsuccessful experiment for us. And we really should not have put songs from our first EPs in there. But anyway, we had some good tunes and at least we tried to do write Chinese songs,” Muxia told us.
They certainly did something right, however, as they caught the attention of Modern Sky at the end of March when they were taking part in the label’s zany rock and roll marathon in Guangzhou.
While Muxia posted the news of their collaboration on his personal WeChat all the way back in May of this year, and told us that the official announcement would be forthcoming within two weeks of his original posting, it wasn’t until the middle of November that we saw Modern Sky post the news on their official Weibo account.
“We spent months thinking about it, and finally we decided to sign with Modern Sky before our tour," Muxia said, detailing the timeline of events. "We are going to release a new album called 21st Century Inadaptability [sic] Syndrome, which is going to include new versions of seven old tunes and four new songs, sometime in March [next year] maybe,” Muxia informs us. “We’ve already recorded the new songs. We went up to Modern Sky’s studio at the end of March for ten days and were totally impressed by the indie music scene there.”
Image via The Foreigners
For such a young band, with each of the members under 24 years old, experimentation is not only an expectation, but a vital aspect of finding one’s sound. Having formed in the summer of 2016, the band is very much in the throes of finding their voice, but beneath that outer turbulence is a sheen of mouldable, musical talent.
Speaking to the pressure to change their sound in favor of something more marketable, Muxia says "I love change, and we all love to try different styles of music. But we won’t follow that path too far. The biggest change we want to make right now is just to write songs in both English and Chinese."
[Cover image via The Foreigners]