Indie Music Extravaganza 'We Are Shanghai' is Back!

By Ned Kelly, April 9, 2024

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For the uninitiated, We Are Shanghai is a non-profit, (mostly) annual pan-genre music project for all bands and artists in Shanghai. 

Every band or solo musician can contribute one song to the project every year. With over 40 contributions in recent years, We Are Shanghai has become Shanghai’s largest music compilation project.

This year’s album – Vol.9, no less – contains songs from a truly impressive 42 of Shanghai’s talented bands and musicians, spanning multiple genres of music.

The album is not where the rock'n'roll revelry ends either – this weekend there will be a two-day live music event at Yuyintang on Kaixuan Lu showcasing 14 of the bands featured on We Are Shanghai Vol.9.

We caught up with the "begrudgingly sole organizer" of the whole thing, Canadian Jason ‘Sishen’ Schaller, formerly of metal bar Inferno, and currently vocalist for Chimera Cult and drummer of Cosmic Worm, two bands who will be taking to the stage this weekend.

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Lets start at the beginning – when did We Are Shanghai first come about?
We Are Shanghai was started in 2011 by Ivan Belcic (of Moon Tyrant, Death to Giants, TMOOS), Nicholls (Death to Giants, Rainbow Danger Cub), and JC Heinbockel (Moon Tyrant), with the first volume being published in 2012.

I had just arrived in Shanghai at that time, so I wasn’t aware of it or the music scene yet. My first band, PVA, was on Vol.4 way back in 2015, when it was being organized by Ivan and Mike Herd (of XXYY, Girls Like Mystery).

They sort of ended the project after that as Ivan was planning to leave Shanghai and Mike was busy with his bands and his new company. So the project sat in limbo for over a year.

How did you come to helm the project?
One night, coming back on a booze bus from Zhujiajiao (in 2017, I think) from some bands’ show (could have been my own for all I remember), Chris Milne (Pinball City) and I got to talking and decided to resurrect the project.

So I got Ivan’s blessing, and we released Vol.5 at the second Inferno. The next year, Chris left Shanghai, and I begrudgingly became the sole organizer of this agonizingly wonderful project. 

What can people expect from this weekend's event?
Depends on what day they go.

Day 1 – Saturday, April 13 – is the heavier, high energy bands. This will be an alcohol-fueled dose of mayhem.

Expect your clothing to be either: beer-soaked if caught in a metal band’s mosh; (hopefully fake) blood-soaked if caught in Hogchoker’s set; and god-knows-what-fluids-soaked if you’re caught in Round Eye’s set.

Either way, don’t wear your grandmother’s prized wedding dress.

Day 2 – Sunday, April 14 – we got more variety to this show, giving you more of a sense of Shanghai’s musical range.

It’s a hair of the dog show, giving you some action, without recreating the pain from the previous night.

We still have high energy punk / rock bands, but the kind that will alleviate your hangovers, not make them worse.

In addition, we have some hip hop, pop, and indie. Stuff you can groove too. A good blend of action and chill. 

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Both days we’ll be giving away 50 free limited edition USB albums for the first 50 people in line.

There’s only 150 of these made, and the remaining 50 albums I’ll be given first dibs to the bands.

So if you want one of these, the only way you’re likely going to snag one is getting there early on one of the two days.

Any other way people can get the album?
The only way to get a physical copy is to arrive early, as mentioned above. If, for some reason, people want to own a digital copy in the age of streaming, they can buy it for $1 at weareshanghai.bandcamp.com. 

Any bands you are particularly excited about this year?
Guji, a side project of Chachy from Round Eye – some neo minimal new wave punk stuff happening there. Really unique sound for the scene, but also accessible.

Not to say there aren’t some other crazy unique sounds on the album. If you want some experimental stuff, check out 'The Andes' by Solid Liqui, 'A Long Midway Stroll' ('漫漫中途漫”游') by Yǐnxíng Zhījià (隐形支架), and 'The Oddity' by Zǐ Tóng (紫铜).

Other than that, I have a bit of a guilty pleasure in 'Love Paranoid' by Anonymous Annoyance (无相喧哗). I actually wanted them on the Sunday show, but they were already booked for that day.

Are there any bands that have appeared on every volume since We Are Shanghai’s inception?
No, but Round Eye’s pretty close. They’ve been on every one since the second album.

And you are in two of the bands playing this weekend...
Yeah, I’m the vocalist for Chimera Cult – a mainly metal, but sort of punkish band. 

And I’m the drummer of the fairly new D&D sci-fi SSD (stoner, sludge, doom) band Cosmic Worm.

Also, I have a little electronic side project I started during lockdown when I had time to learn ableton. It’s on there somewhere, we’ll leave it a mystery.

How would you sum up the Shanghai music scene?
It’s maturing and becoming less underground. Everyone’s upped their promo and production game.

This edition of We Are Shanghai is full of veterans; even the new bands and projects are mostly made of members from former bands.

How can new bands go about getting involved in We Are Shanghai?
They can either email me at WeAreShanghai@gmail.com or add my WeChat: sishenpva.

Any other musical projects you are working on?
Other than the annual heavy music based ShangHellFest, not much else.

We Are Shanghai takes a good half year from when submissions are open to the end of the show.

Plus, I have my other bands, my job, and – hopefully one day – a life.

Finally, why should people head along to We Are Shanghai this weekend?
The show’s gonna kill it, both days, no worries there.

If I have to be honest, I’m more concerned about people listening to the full album. I want people to take the time and listen to all the songs, especially the hidden gems on there, which are different for everyone.

I want people to listen to it because this is the soundtrack to Shanghai. This is capturing the souls and overall vibes of so many musicians, artists, and just people here at this time.

And I want them to listen to it over and over. Not for any necessary benefit to the project – we’re not getting anything real from those plays – but so in 10 years, when you go back and listen to some of these tracks, you’ll have a link to your memories from this era, and even your own soundtrack, depending on what songs you connected to the most.

Also, check out past ones on weareshanghai.bandcamp.com – there’s some really dope tunes on there – and the website for more information: www.WeAreShanghai.com


We Are Shanghai Vol.9 @ Yuyintang Kaixuan Lu

Your curator for both evenings... DJ BO

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DJ BO, 'Shanghai's #2 DJ' (if you know, you know), plays Earthly-Eclectica, Ex-Post Esquerita, and Rockabilly-Funk with aplomb – all smashed up with a block party sensibility.

A relentless peripatetic, DJ BO is a real road warrior, playing 29 countries and 44 cities in China and counting.

Whether in a cantina in Caribbean nation Grenada, or the State Symphony Orchestra Hall of Mongolia, or yes, even his infamous North Korean gig, DJ BO incorporates snatches of sounds from wherever he goes.

DJ BO routinely spins vinyl records and does related workshops, and recently did so at the Nanjing Punk Festival, for a series of talks at Raccoon Records (Shanghai), and for shows in Bangkok with some of South East Asia's premier bands. 

Saturday April 13th Bands

EmbersArise

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EmbersArise, a melodic death metal band, weaves intricate compositions, dual lead guitars, and intense rhythms.

Their lyrics delve into mythical and fantastical stories, creating a sonic journey into imaginative realms. 

Combining aggression with melody, EmbersArise stands as a dynamic force in Shanghai's music scene, pushing the boundaries of melodic death metal with their captivating storytelling and powerful sound.

Syren

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Syren is an intriguing alt-metal band. Formed in late 2020, the band has made waves with its unique sound and captivating performances.

Syren draws inspiration from a diverse range of musical genres, including hard rock, goth metal, psychedelia, and post-rock, creating a distinctive fusion that sets them apart in the music scene.

The band's performances are known for their intensity and the ability to take audiences on a musical journey that is both haunting and enchanting.

While the band Syren may not have a long history, their rapid rise and distinctive style have earned them a place in the spotlight within the Chinese music scene, and they continue to captivate audiences with their mesmerizing music.

Cosmic Worm

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Long has the Wizard of the Moon looked down on the Earth with a jealous eye, ready to strike out and claim humanity for his own nefarious purposes.

Prepare yourselves for tales of glory, daring, and DOOOOOM.

Soulitude

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Almost vanished in the seas of Shanghai arise our souls from solitude.

Many have fallen, yet we still find power in the metal, we rise once again to become Soulitude.

It’s a punk cyber core metal madhouse to be unleashed, come and play!

Hogchoker

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Hogchoker’s aim is to get every hoglet dancing like crazy by mashing art, theater and every genre of music into a joyous blitzkrieg of sax, skank and song.

“Extraordinary, creative, original and fearless.” Habibi Records

“Hogchoker are not a band, they are a sensory explosion.” Time Out Shanghai

“Theatrical punk ska pop… a joyously macabre treat.” Scotland on Sunday

Round Eye

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The experimental freak punk outfit have accrued a loud and controversial name for themselves since forming in 2012.

The group has as of late been a crucial force in bridging a wide gap between the Eastern and Western hemispheres of DIY punk rock.

Chimera Cult

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Forged in the flaming pits of Shanghai in 2020, Chimera Cult has been ravaging the world, with its appetite for chaos growing stronger with every show.

Chimera Cult's eclectic, stream-of-consciousness sound combines elements from all types of metal, from brutal death metal, to prog rock, groove metal, and even some good old-fashioned raw punk.

Every show is insane high energy self-effacing sonic devastation, leaving no one unscathed!

Having just finished their North American and European tours, they are currently working on their new album which promises to change metal, for better or worse.

(Probably the latter...)

End Theory

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End Theory, a six-piece metalcore band, mastering the art of melding thunderous breakdowns with melodic choruses and ferocious scream vocals. 

As they prepare for this weekend's electrifying show, they’re excited to welcome back an old friend, JohnMark, for some unforgettable guest vocals. 

Sunday April 14th Bands

Skinny OG

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Skinny OG is the founder of the Black China Music Company (BCMC).

Raised in New York City, Skinny OG has been a serious Hip-Hop artist since the age of 7, starting as a competitive break-dancer.

Arriving in Shanghai in 2015, OG has now performed hundreds of shows across China.

Surging Waves

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Surging Waves is a fusion rock band formed in Suzhou in 2011 by singer Emily Snow and guitarist Dave Matthews.

Also featuring Duff on bass and Patrick Carter on drums, the band reformed in 2022, and are now based in Shanghai.

The band have previously released four albums, In Greed and Lust We Trust (2011) Subway Surfing (2014), Harmonic Rush (2015), and Reincarnation (2018).

Surging Waves' sound has been described as psychedelic rock, with a soulful edge provided by the remarkable voice and stage presence of lead vocalist Emily.

So grab your snorkel and snazziest swimsuit for some wild, wet times! 

Jinhao Li

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Jinhao Li graduated from Saint Louis University in Music Study & Research. He is an individual song writer, singer, guitarist, keyboard player, and music producer.

Doppler Drive

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Hailing from China, Gabon, and Canada, Doppler Drive is an energetic Shanghai power trio.

Full Throttle

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Formed at the back end of 2020 out of the ashes of another band, Full Throttle have spent three solid years building a reputation as a band that must be seen at least twice.

From dive shows to failed stage dives, Full Throttle is banter-fueled rock'n'roll featuring Aussie stick-smith Craig Maguire on drums, the Chinese female version of Rob Truijo, Lucie Zhuang, and England’s answer to a wish.com Billie Joe Armstrong, Joshua Pemberton, on guitar and vocals.

Jen’s Curfew

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We all have curfews. Life is the joy and the melancholy, the ecstasy and the shame.

Jen’s Curfew aims to express this struggle through indie pop. Pop because they want to dance, indie because that’s what they are.

Their curfew is early and they are always caught up struggling against it.  But in Marc and Daniels’ guitar effects, Chris’ bass groove, Craig’s drum rhythm, Baldwin’s seductive sax and Jen’s raw voice they hope you’ll escape with them.

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Sat & Sun Apr 13 & 14, 6pm; RMB60-120.

Yuyintang, 851 Kaixuan Lu, by Yan'an Xi Lu 凯旋路851号,近延安西路口.

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