Shiyi Xiang (who goes by Shii) is a creator – pure and simple. Coming off the release of her first official album, Floating Signifiers, last month, the Chengdu-born, Wuhan-based indie electronic artist is on the rise and shows no signs of pumping the breaks. The album features tantalizing melodies that combine synth and vocals to create a dreamy atmosphere. Songs like ‘Dream 2’ and ‘Memory Pops’ take listeners on a sensational auditory trip, integrating dream pop, dark wave, glitch and IDM.
We recently caught up with Shii in Guangzhou to talk about the new album, favorite Chinese cuisine, other projects she’s involved with and more, as she prepares for a national eight-city tour in support of her debut album.
Where did the name for your new album, Floating Signifiers, come from?
I thought up like 100 names for this album, and I wrote them all down – at last, deciding on this name. When I came up with it, I didn’t know whether it was a concept, I just knew the term ‘signifiers.’ But now after learning the phrase I feel it completely suits my album – it’s obscure, and it’s kind of uncertain. As for the song names, they instantly popped into my head once I would finish a track.
You signed with Beijing-based Merrie Records last year. How did that come to fruition?
Before I connected with Merrie Records, I had already been talking to several labels about releasing my music. The reason I chose Merrie Records is because I’ve liked their artists for a long time. They have a series called ‘Beyond the Billboard,’ and I performed at Vox Livehouse, which was where I met Uncle Hu who linked me with the label. In fact, I signed with D Force before, which was Merrie Record’s previous name.
Aside from your solo work, you’ve also been collaborating with David Carey on Lost Memory Machine. How’d you guys link up and what’s the future plan for that project?
David is quite interesting. When I was a senior in college I went to see his show in Wuhan, and we talked after the show about music and projects. Since we felt we could learn some things from each other, we started sharing music we composed over the internet. We have also met many times, either in Wuhan or Beijing. But as for composing the music, it’s all done online.
Image courtesy of Shii
As your music career continues to progress, do you feel that one day you’d leave Wuhan in pursuit of new opportunities?
Wuhan is not a very good place for me as far as musical influences go. It doesn’t seem like there are other musicians like me who produce and write songs. Also, there aren’t many female solo artists. Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities seem to have more musicians like me.
Tell us about another one of your side projects, Ex Luna.
For this project, the music I produce is more suitable for dancing, with a club. -like texture of electronic music. It doesn’t feature vocals but incorporates some samples. It’s kind of a space theme, so the sounds are fast and hollow.
With three projects – Shii, Lost Memory Machine and Ex Luna – how do you find time to focus on all of them?
Ex Luna helps me to find more songs and try new things – it’s the project I haven’t really promoted at all – but I have two upcoming shows in the next two months. As for Lost Memory Machine, we’ve collaborated very well and efficiently. While we’ve written over 10 songs – which we could turn into an album – we’re going to release a four-song EP first. While Shii is my solo and, you could say, main project, I’d rather forget about the concept of ‘main’ and ‘side’ projects.
Image courtesy of Shii
You mentioned that you’re doing something a little different for the tour – what’s the plan?
For this upcoming small tour, I’ll be performing alongside a dancer [Nee]. Before I was performing with a VJ for some shows as well, but only when the venue has a good screen or projector that can make the visuals pop.
Which city’s food do you prefer more: Sichuan or Wuhan?
Always Chengdu food. I always like hot pot and chuanchuan. But when I first got to Wuhan, I liked re gan mian (hot dry noodles) so much, but I ate it everyday for multiple weeks so now I don’t enjoy it as much. I always eat hot pot in Wuhan, but it’s not as authentic as Chengdu because they don’t boil it in an oil-heavy mix, it’s more like a soup.
Image courtesy of Shii
If you weren’t pursuing music, what other profession would you opt for?
I used to want to be a college teacher because at that academic level it can be very free; like you can teach everything you want and focus less on exams. I also thought about being a journalist or editor as well. But aside from music, I’m getting involved with different projects like cooperating with a clothing designer who is very talented.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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[Cover image courtesy of Shii]