An iconoclast's power

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-22 07:10

Queen Sea Big Shark's lead vocalist Fu Han ventures into photography while riding a recent wave of renewed popularity for her style of rock

798 Art Zone, the hottest place to explore the contemporary art scene in the capital, is fully packed with weekend tourists. In one corner of the zone, dressed in retro high-rise black pants, white blouse and black winklepickers, Fu Han sips her iced coffee.

The lead vocalist of the indie rock band Queen Sea Big Shark, Fu is sharing laughs with the three other band members, guitarist Cao Pu, bassist Wang Jinghan and drummer Xiao Wu - when her cellphone isn't buzzing.

"If I knew we could do it (as a band) for 12 years, I wouldn't have done it in the beginning," giggles Fu. "Fortunately, playing music is still fun."

 An iconoclast's power

Clockwise from top: Fu Han, lead vocalist of the indie rock band Queen Sea Big Shark; the photo titled Mysteries; the band gave a live show in Qingdao, Shandong last year; a photo titled Star of the Ocean by Fu Han; members of the band at Houhai Lake in Beijing. Photos by Zou Hong / China Daily and Provided to China Daily

Queen Sea Big Shark, founded in 2005, is one of the capital's most popular rock bands. With its wild spirit, trendy music that blends rock, electronic and the retro sounds of the 1970s and 1980s, the band has been a fixture at Beijing's live music venues and at outdoor music festivals around the country for over a decade.

In March 2016, the band released its third full-length album, Beijing Surfers' Adventure, under Modern Sky, one of the country's largest indie record companies. Last year the rockers also kicked off a 12-city national tour.

On April 15, they released a documentary, Queen Sea Big Shark: Beijing Surfers' Adventure, at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in 798 Art Zone. The band also gave an unplugged performance after the screening.

The documentary follows the production of the album and latest tour, with stops in cities the band visited for the first time, including Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and Lhasa, capital of China's Tibet autonomous region.

"A young man drove for 500 kilometers to see us in Urumqi along with his mother and sister," recalls the guitarist Cao. "I had to take the oxygen during the performance in Lhasa for hight attitude sickness."

The new album, which combines jazz, hip-hop and indie music elements, took the band six years to finish.

After that, the band members spent three months traveling independently, without any contact.

"I went to a music festival in Texas (United States), the others went to Indonesia, the Philippines and the Grand Canyon," says Fu. "We did it intentionally because we wanted to have some time 'alone'."

"We have known each other for many years. We are so close like families. We agreed that it's good to separate for a while," adds Fu.

Their trips and separated days inspired them to write songs, including Bling Bling Bling, Beijing Surfers and Drifting on the Earth for the new album.

Timed with the screening, Fu launched her photography exhibition Playing on the Earth. 80 photos were taken by Fu and selected from over 3,000 photos from 2008 to 2016.

The ongoing exhibition at UCCA continues through May 30.

An iconoclast's power

"I started my passion for photography from taking pictures of myself. Then I realized that photography is not just about documenting everyday life but also about self-expression," Fu says.

In her photos, Fu started focusing on her friends, including the band members, audiences, and the places she traveled.

Among the images displayed is a girl in blue tight skirt and a rooster-shape headgear looking into the mirror. The photo, titled Mysteries, was taken in 2013 by Fu when she was in New York taking in a Halloween party.

Another photo, of a skinny girl sitting on a motorbike, captures a high school classmate of Fu.

"She is the coolest person I have ever seen. She rode that motorbike from Beijing to Lhasa to be a volunteer teacher. She also traveled to Inner Mongolia to live on the grassland alone for a year," says Fu. "She has no desire for material things. She enjoys the freedom and lives her life at her own pace."

"It seems to be a luxury to be oneself and stay true to oneself," Fu adds. "She is my idol."

The interview was constantly interrupted by fans, who wanted pictures, autographs and chats.

"My 2-year-old daughter enjoys your songs very much. I took her to your show in Beijing's Star Live last December. She likes listening to the song Beijing Surfers, before she goes to bed every night," says a woman, who claims have been a band fan since she was a university student. She watched Queen Sea Big Shark's performance for the first time at the Strawberry Music Festival.

"It feels good to see these people, who have been with us for years," say Fu, giving the woman a big hug.

Born in Beijing, the 30-something Fu was born to a pianist mother and a doctor father. She attempted to learn piano but failed.

"I was not a quiet girl. I was very naughty and couldn't sit down for hours to practice playing the piano. Thankfully, my parents are open-minded and they are very supportive of my choice," say Fu.

With a bachelor's degree in architecture from Beijing University of Technology and a maste'sr degree in graphic design from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Fu was influenced by the indie rock bands in the capital then, including Joyside and PK14. She founded Queen Sea Big Shark with guitarist Cao, her classmate Beijing University of Technology.

Then Cao introduced the other two members of the band.

All the band members are Beijing natives and they often hang out around Beijing's Houhai Lake, once a peaceful, scenic spot that's become a tourist site.

"We just wanted to have fun with music and didn't plan anything," says Fu.

In 2007, the band released its self-titled album under the Modern Sky label, which featured Chinese and English lyrics.

Besides the dance rock tunes, the band members also won fans' attention for their stage presence, especially the lead vocalist, who reflects her fashion sense in her stage outfits.

"I designed my stage clothes by myself. I collects cloth pieces, fabrics and accessories," says Fu, who also designs posters and album covers for the band.

In 2009, Queen Sea Big Shark embarked on a tour in the US, opening for famous acts such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

In 2010, the band released its second album, Wave, which has strong electronic beats. A year later, they performed at Summer Sonic in Osaka, Japan.

"In the past, we just had dozens in audiences to our shows but now we perform in front to hundreds of thousands of people. The change of the country's indie music landscape is also obvious. People are open to different types of music," Fu says.

In 2016, the band initiated a concert called Young Friends Concert, inviting their musician friends, including bands like Carsick Cars and Youth.

"We want to make this concert a series, which aims at introducing original Chinese indie rock bands," says Fu. "We want to do something for people like us."

(China Daily 04/22/2017 page19)

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