Interview: Me and My Sandcastle

This Thursday, July 29th at Yuyintang, LiveChinaMusic revisits that adolescent exuberance and youthful vitality with a rocking evening of earnest melodies and distorted fervor courtesy of a trio of bands all too familiar with plodding through the dog days of summer. The night will also see the youthful Me & My Sandcastle, performing for the last time this year before its frontman, Xiao Liu, ventures across the ocean to continue his studies.  Capturing a sound that’s unassuming, loose, delicate and lite as a feather – a cross between a more sincere Mac Demarco and a slow tempo city pop band, there’s an earnestness to the bands indifferent swagger and melodic charm. I chatted with the frontman and founder Xiao Liu about the age, Canada, forming a band, and how the younger generation is pushing the music scene in new directions.

QWhat was the catalyst for Me & My Sandcastle?

A: The catalyst for this project is basically all the demo recordings in my phone, and some loneliness, laziness and boring elements of my life. I felt that everyone around me is growing up as sophisticated adults but I am still very childish.

Q: There’s an innocence to your music that feels natural above all else – both in its simplistic poetic poise and it’s heart on its sleeve sentimentality. Heck even the title seems to refer to a time deep in the past. Do you reckon that age effects how people write?

A: Yes. I think I am an innocent person and I’m very energetic. I love the people around me and I love memories around me. The simple lyrics are composed within 5-10 minutes. I just hum along the backing tracks a feel time and sing them out without the interruption of my brain. They are sentimental to some extent and I think it’s because everyone have lonely feelings and frustrations. This type of sadness is a typical youth or children thing. I just want to express that common feeling. Age definitely affect how people write because in my view age equals to experience and understanding of the world around one. I think I’m not experienced enough to write meaningful and punchy lyrics.

Q: There’s a very clear aesthetic to your music – what influenced you both musically and lyrically? What sort of rhythm do you seek in your music?

A: I think many lo-fi bedroom music and oldies affect my music. Mac Demarco, Good morning from Australia, Mellow fellow, Boys age and many other young fellows. I love the music that has a special sense of memory attached to it. Roughness and honesty is rare in todays world I think. People love decorations and delicate stuff but I hate them. I love human feelings and realness in one’s music as if he or she is a weird person living next door. I can’t play complicate drum stuff so I try to keep the rhythm simple. But in new songs I want to make my work a little maturer.

Q: You’ve been studying in Canada for how long now? What subject? What kind of atmosphere is it over there?

A: I’ve been studying in Canada for two years plus a year in China because my university shut down due to pandemic. I’m studying language and literature but I feel kinda bored. Musical atmosphere is awesome in Canada and lots of the people I know plays some kind of instruments and love listening to all kinds of music. I think many people show strong musical talents because I saw many shredders and drum machines. Lots of great bands and projects are from Canada, like Demarco, Men I trust, Peach Pit, Homeshake and Alvvays. So there are also many festivals.

Q: What were the challenges of taking a bedroom project and expanding it into a band?

A: There are tons of challenges. Although I’ve never thought of recording with my band mates, I have to try to keep the live vibe identical or at least similar with my recordings. My band mates are from Shanghai and other cities nearby so there are limited times for us to rehearsal. But I love all of them and I think all of them like my works and that’s all I wish.

Q: You hooked up with Future Phonograph last year. How did the bond form? 

A: Not long time ago I listened to an EP of A Crush on River in Xiami. That is published by DingDingMao and then I know the label. Then I contacted Jia through Weibo and realized many good stuff I also listened to and loved on Xiami is from DDM. I love the DIYness of the creative young fellows in DDM so I ask Jia can I join them. She loves my music too to my surprise and then she really wants to publish my EP and make some cassette for me. I really appreciate her help and the support from DDM. Through DDM I know lots of lovely boys and girls, and DDM help me did four shows in four cities.

Q: What’s next for the Me & My Sandcastle?

A: The next thing for M&Ms is a brand new album. The style of this album is what I called “lo-fi twee soul pop.” I also tried to write lyrics in Chinese but I don’t know if people like it or not.

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