Interview: Lulu (Luuv Label)

Nowadays you can throw a rock and hit a shoegaze or dream pop band – but ten years ago – you really had to comb through the entire country (and every douban page) to get your taste of distorted vocals and heavy reverb. That’s how I stumbled upon Forsaken Autumn, a shoegaze band out of Shanghai who started in 2011. It was a discovery that also led me to seeking out more and more bands of the same nature in China, and eventually to putting together China Shoegaze Compilation (on cassette tape of course). More importantly though, it was when I became familiar with Luuv Label, the platform heralded by Forsaken Autumn’s Lulu, that strives to bridge the shoegaze, dream, and city pop scenes of Japan and China and build an community across the vastly different cultures. Signing bands, releasing music, inviting over some of Japan’s hottest acts are just a few of the things that fall into Luuv Label’s many accomplishments. This weekend, Luuv Label will host the first volume of —— featuring an afternoon market complete with drinks, food, fashion, and talks, followed by an evening showcase with some of the indie pop scene’s most buzzed about acts. I chatted with Lulu about the history of his label as well as the changing musical landscapes both he and in Japan. And be sure to check out Luuv Label’s ‘Longhua Carnival Vol. 1′ Market & Showcase this Sunday, May 31st at LOFAS

Q: Introduce yourself… where you always based in Shanghai? Did you move to Japan at some pint?

A: Hi my name is Lu Jialing, you could call me Lulu or Brit. I’m born and based in Changning District, Shanghai. I moved to Japan from 2016-2018 to study for my MBA and to transfer Luuv Label from a part-time label to full-time professional label by putting together many Japanese artist events.

Q: Forsaken Autumn is one of the longest-standing shoegaze/dream pop bands in China. What was your background in those musical genres? Did you find that the fanbase in China for this kind of music was small when you growing up?

A: In my university, I spent most of my time studying My Bloody Valentine, Slowdove, Medicine, Swallow, etc. Forsaken Autumn become one too – a  dream pop & shoegaze band – but i think Ecke and I still appracohed it differently and its elements uniquely. I think this type of music had quite a small fanbase during 2010-2015 on douban, but this genre’s fanbase has only been growing up from 2015 to 2019. I don’t know what’s the main reason for it, but I do believe hosting the Shoegaze & Dreampop Festival in Shanghai for five years in a row helped pushed this revival to some extent.

Q: How did Luuv Label begin? When you first started what was the music scene like in China? How did it compare to Japan?

A: It began with the East Asia Shoegaze Festival in Oct. 2013 which Luuv Label put together.  The scene in 2013 was quite different – a lot of Maybe Mars or D-22 bands had a good reputation in the Chinese indie scene.  It’s hard to compare to Japan, cause China doesn’t have many J-rock or J-pop style artists at any time. Also there weren’t many electronic & hip-hop artists being featured on the mainstream variety shows and whatnot.

Q: What has been some of the Luuv Label’s finest accomplishments over the years?

A: holding for five years the Shoegaze & Dreampop Festival. The Sakamoto Shintaro China Tour. And bringing over Japanese act Paellas. As well as the Next Generation J-Indie Lab Festival.

Q: What’s the biggest obstacle for a Chinese band touring or promoting themselves in Japan? How about for a Japanese band who wants to do the same in China?

A: Firstly, it’s the language problem. Next,  the media won’t give a lot of help unless your music is mainstream and you have some sort of relationship already established. Furthermore, because of each different country’s differing culture and industries, marketing works in completely different ways. Learning how global marketing works and each country’s tailor-made marketing and communication skills is really important for all Chinese & Japanese artists.

Q: Do you find musical tastes have grown here in China? What has been the biggest change in audiences over the past couple years?

A: I should say that East Asia has been growing more and more aligned for tastes – especially in regards to citypop & urban music revival. The streaming platforms give young kids more chances to connect with new music (and their rhymic grooves) than before when everything was influnenced by C-Pop from Taiwan or Hong Kong. Electro and hip-hop has also played a big part in much of Asia’s music production.

Q: While the exchange between Japan, Taiwan and China has increased over time – do you think the recent pandemic will hurt how Asian bands tour in the future? 

A: I think for traditional bands with guitar, bass, and drums it will be more and more diifcult for business in the future. Electronic music and programming will be more exciting and is seen as progressive for the future of music. If you don’t have the sense for mixing authentic instruments and software, it’ll be harder to feel fresh to audiences.

Q: Do you see the rest of Asia, particularly places like Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and the rest of Southeast Asia following the same path and sharing their music with rest of China in the future? 

A: Yes,of course. I know Mellow Fellow from the Phillippines and Gym and Swim from Thailand. If it was not for the coronavirus, Gym and Swim would have toured around China. The globalization of music because of the internet is here so let’s see what happens.

Q: Could you explain the concept for the event ‘Longhua Carnival Vol. 1’ – what was the idea behind it? 

Q: Who are some of the special artists/bands that the event will host? How do they fit into the theme of the show?

A: I really love the four domestic bands we invited – each brings something unique to their sound. Also special thanks to Satomoka for her prerecorded live video from Okayama’s street. Looking forward a lot to it.

Q: What’s next for Luuv Label? Will there be more events like this in the future? And while we’re at it — it’s been over three years since we heard a new single from Forsaken Autumn. Will we hear from them again? 

A: I just find myself loving more and more genres in recent years. Pretty much anything besides metal I’m into at this point. If coronavirus can truly end, I will try my best to organize shows for more Japanese artists as well as for local or Western artists  and bands.

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