Since playing their first gig two years ago in Lijiang at the Snow Mountain Music Festival, Kunming-based band The Tribal Moons has become one of the pillars of the Yunnan capital's live music community. Sometimes playing for as long as three hours, the band is known as much for its stamina as it is for raucous performances in which its members frequently switch instruments and roles.
The current incarnation of the Tribal Moons consists of John Nevada (US – guitar, trumpet, vocals), Da Ma Ke (Ireland – bass, guitar, vocals), JP Tremblay (Quebec, Canada – guitar, harmonica, bass, vocals) and Ma Tu (Kunming – drums, guitar, vocals). The fifth Moon, Jacques LeBlanc, is currently somewhere in North America but will return later this year.
GoChengdoo sat down with the Tribal Moons after practice in a smoky corner of a bar to find out more about what makes the band tick, just in time for three shows around Chengdu this coming weekend:
GoChengdoo: For people who haven't heard your music, how would you describe it?
Da Ma Ke: Rock.
GC: What makes the Tribal Moons different from other bands?
JP: We're all different ages and from different places, so we have something for everyone – local kids love Ma Tu and the grannies love John.
John: This is a jingjiu band, not a baijiu band.
GC: You've toured extensively in Yunnan and southern China over the last two years, what have been some of your favorite places to play?
JP: We played a bikini contest at Club Nice in Kunming once, it wasn't the best show, but it was the best aftershow.
Ma Tu: We played a show in Deqin where we had to take a thousand kilograms of equipment up a mountain in a bus... that was fun.
Da Ma Ke: Those amps didn't make it back.
John: The Snow Mountain Festival two years ago – it really had the flavor of a festival... The Little Bar in Chengdu has the best sound... Playing the Jah Bar is also serious fucking fun.
GC: What's the strangest thing that's ever happened while touring that we can write about in this interview?
Ma Tu: When we were in Changsha, the taxi drove off with our bass... then some guy just gave us his bass.
GC: What's it like playing gigs around China as a foreigner?
Da Ma Ke: It's good to play, we don't care where.
GC: Ma Tu, what's it like to play with this particular group of laowai?
Ma Tu: They know how to play. Before I used to play with classmates and we didn't know how to play the music we wanted to play.
GC: Your shows are mostly original material – who writes your songs?
John: I write, Da Ma Ke writes, JP writes... so does Jacques LeBlanc.
Ma Tu: I write all the drum beats.
GC: How long is the average Tribal Moons show?
JP: We play anywhere between an hour and three and a half hours.
John: We're a mad band – we play a lot of music.
JP: I like the power sets.
John: The kids like the sprint – I like the marathon!
Tribal Moons will be playing the Shamrock (Thursday), Little Bar (Friday) and Hemp House (Saturday) this week – check the GoChengdoo events calendar for show details. For information on booking the Tribal Moons, contact manager Brian K at 15925216452.