Initial reactions upon being introduced to Xiamen three-piece Cheesemind vary. It’s admittedly very hard to simply pass over that name without a second or a third glance. No, they’re not Green Bay Packers fans (at least we don’t think they are) and no, they’re not fans of cheesy music afficionados Nickleback either (we hope).
“We love cheese-flavored food, and the word ‘mind’ makes us feel more fancy,” vocalist RabbitQ tells us. Well, there you go, that’s settled.
The band are currently preparing to drop a limited lathe cut vinyl on Qiii Snacks Records for Record Store Day on April 13, and a five-track EP, Bay Park Serenade, on April 23. They've also recently added a new member, cajon and djembe drum expert Zee, who was previously part of another Xiamen band called Kuba. Zee’s addition signals that Cheesemind are eager to expand their sound and their ambitions going forward.
Having begun life as a two-piece act, made up of Riubi Qiu (RabbitQ) and Chen Zhenchao (Soda), Cheesemind initially released songs on Douban back in 2012 and 2013. As they graduated from university, however, they went their separate ways, with RabbitQ focusing on work, and Soda turning his attention towards other musical projects.
They reformed in 2018 and released ‘Thermometer’ independently, before teaming up with Guangzhou label Qiii Snacks Records. They went on to release another two singles on the indie label during 2018, catching the attention of music fans throughout the country and earning themselves a nomination for Best Independent Single Release for ‘Thermometer’ at the 2018 Douban Abilu Awards.
Image courtesy of Cheesemind
Also among the nominees for the Douban Abilu award were Scarlet’s Other Parts, another band from the seaside city of Xiamen, a metropolis that has been gaining a lot of attention for its music scene of late. “A coastal city brings a more free and casual life status. A little sweet, a little romantic,” RabbitQ tells us. However, Cheesemind aren’t sold on the idea of a Xiamen sound quite yet, with RabbitQ adding “Do you know a Guangzhou band called Pocari Sweet? Their music brings the same feeling to most guys. They were regarded as a Fujian band for a time.”
Sugar-Free Soda/Crushing Annoucement Lathe Cut 7”. Image courtesy of Cheesemind
It’s a fair point. The majority of the emergent dream pop and pseudo shoegaze bands over the past couple of years can be traced back to a handful of labels, like Qiii Snacks Records, Shengjian Records and Boring Productions, as well as a number of important actors in the South China music scene. One of those people driving indie music forward in the South is Cheesemind guitarist Soda.
His other ventures include Xiamen bands Kirin Trio and the now dormant band, The White Tulips. His relationship with labels like Qiii Snacks Records from Guangzhou and Shengjian Records out of Shanghai has helped to bring a considerable amount of attention to the Xiamen indie music scene over the past few years. As RabbitQ says: “他是厦门一哥” which translates to ‘he is Xiamen’s number one brother.’ In a more poetic turn of phrase, Zee tells us that “music is his (Soda’s) medicine.”
Image courtesy of Cheesemind
“Many of my bands got into all sorts of trouble, people-to-people stuff, so I take Cheesemind’s recordings very seriously,” Soda says, adding that “even if we just do business, I want to do my best, and I’m grateful to Cheesemind’s teammates for their tolerance of me.”
We’re tempted to say that Cheesemind’s music straddles the undefined borders of surf pop and dream pop (a la Cocteau Twins in their Heaven or Las Vegas period), but RabbitQ is quick to point towards a different range of influences.
“Cheer Chen and Skip Skip Ben Ben (The Freckle Band) are two of my favorites. Their lyrics and melody have influenced me a lot. As we get older, myself and Soda just want to make more casual music, describing more realistic emotions in our daily life. We want to make pop music in a direct way.”
For now, we can enjoy the forthcoming release of two new records from Cheesemind, but, we’re also optimistic that we won’t have to wait long for more new music, with the band eager to publish some tracks featuring their newest member, Zee.
“The next step is to make a new single so that Zee can be directly involved in the creation of the songs. We are still considering how to do it,” Soda tells us.
If you're in Guangzhou on April 13, head over to Zhenyintang to pick up Cheesemind’s limited vinyl release, Sugar-Free Soda/Crushing Annoucement Lathe Cut 7”, for Record Store Day. You can also grab a copy at Juke Box Records in Xiamen. The release is limited to just 30 copies, so get there early!
[Cover image courtesy of Cheesemind]