Nanjing indie rock outfit Schoolgirl byebye have had quite the journey thus far – after being touted as 2016’s Best Newcomer from the Douban music awards, the band, led by couple Yang Yue (on vocals and guitar) and Geng Shengzai (on drums), finally got around to releasing their full-length debut No Romantics in China on Ruby Eyes Records last year. In many ways an encapsulation of the band’s youthful vigor and earlier days – the album gleefully jumps from reverb-heavy dream pop to scrappy noise rock while still maintaining their sweet heartedness. Not soon after, the band started leaving hints of a wiser, more mature Schoolgirl byebye, with singles like “Lonely We Die” and ‘Ordinary Life 一般的生活’ finding solace and company in the trivial trails and routine of daily life. Those feelings are crystallized in the band’s newest EP ‘Weak 软弱’ – which twists the band’s pulpy indie pop into something wistful, bittersweet, and all too familiar. The band heads on the road next month in support of the new release and I was lucky enough to talk to Yang Yue and Geng Shengzai ahead of it.
LCM: Schoolgirl Byebye明显更成熟了，是什么原因导致的？家庭对你们音乐探索和词曲创作的影响有多大？
This is definitely a more mature Schoolgirl byebye — what is that attributed to? How much would you say family has affected the way you approach music and songwriting?
Geng Shengzai 更生仔：我们聚在一起的时间很多，当灵感产生之后，我们立刻进入了创作和讨论的状态，所以我们很高产。
We spend a lot of time together. When the inspiration arises, we immediately enter into a state of creation and discussion, so we are very productive.
Yang Yue 杨越：成熟的原因是我一直在保持学习的状态，在练琴。有了家庭之后，生活的很规律，减少了不必要的社交。虽然我以前也喜欢在家看各种音乐类的视频，但总是免不了被兄弟们拉出去骑摩托车或是喝酒玩游戏打篮球。
The reason for my maturity is that I always learning and practicing piano. After having a family, life has become more routine, taking away pretty much all unnecessary social interactions. In the past, although I used to like to watch various music videos at home, I was always dragged out by my brothers to ride a motorcycle or drink, play games and basketball.
The songs in your new EP feel more autobiographical this time around – was they ever a moment where you felt like you were revealing too much of your personal life to your listeners?
Geng Shengzai 更生仔: 分享隐私，这或许看起来有点别扭，对我而言，这样的歌词却更靠近现实，杜绝了空洞的抒情。我想你也会同意我，女性作家，很少会写宏大的主题。所以我的歌词，也是围绕自己或身边发生的事情，一种对自己是谁或曾经是谁的强烈兴趣。有些自传性的作品相当好，但有些自画像就不那么好了。隐私的边界就在于处理的手法，要精准到，让人有感同身受的经验，然后这个故事可以是他的。
Sharing your personal life may seem a bit awkward, but to me, such lyrics are closer to reality, making it easier to avoid empty lyricism. I think you will agree with me, a female writer, who rarely writes on grand extravagant subjects. So my lyrics often concern what is happening to me or around me – a strong interest in who I am or who I used to be. Many autobiographical works are quite good, but some self-portraits are simply aren’t. The boundary of privacy lies in the method of processing and how we process it. It must be precise and make people feel empathetic, and thus this story can be theirs as well.
When you and 更生仔 are working together on a song – is there a level of trust between you two that makes it easier to open up and be vulnerable with one another?
Geng Shengzai 更生仔: 杨越一直是我最好的朋友，我非常信任他。我们总是在一起嘲笑无聊的事物。但他也有自己的精神世界。我总是冒着“伤害他”的风险，表达自我，但他有时候也不在听我说什么。
Yang Yue has always been my best friend and I trust him very much. We always laugh at boring things together. But he also has his own spiritual world. I always take the risk of “hurting him” in expressing myself, but sometimes he even doesn’t to what I’m saying – he’s in his own mind.
Yang Yue 杨越：在创作和交流中我都是倾听者的角色。
I am a listener in creation and communication.
I also must imagine your relationship musically has evolved substantially over the years parallel to your personal relationship. How has it changed? Do you ever look back at older songs and realize one of you were trying to impress or woo the other in making it?
Geng Shengzai 更生仔：是啊，在经历了多年审美经验的交换之后，我俩终于能听到一起去了。我以前喜欢的一些歌，多亏了杨越告诉我它有多糟糕，而且，就算我们听的东西不一样，和谐相处也比“审美品味”更重要，你不觉得吗？
Yes, after years of exchanging artistic experiences and the aesthetics of music, we can finally agree on our tastes. Some songs I liked before, only to have Yang Yue tell me how terrible it is. And even if we listen to different things, harmony is always more important than the “aesthetics of taste”, don’t you think?
Yang Yue 杨越：变化是，由我负责的编曲和情绪，更加贴合她歌词的表达。之前我写了一首Love Song给她的，后来又写了一首By You Side，但一直没录出来，因为她说那首歌的歌词，太白痴。我写的那么真诚，她却嘲笑我，真是一个“坏女人”！
The change is that arrangements and emotions that I am responsible for are closely in line with the expression of her lyrics. I wrote ‘Love Song’ to her earlier, and then I wrote a song ‘By You Side’, which I haven’t recorded yet because she said the lyrics of that song are too idiotic. I wrote so sincerely, but she just laughed at me – what a “bad woman”!
The feelings you share together through the creative process – Id’ imagine you’ve saved a lot of money down the road in marriage counselling. Is it therapeutic to craft these songs together?
Geng Shengzai 更生仔：你猜得一点没错。虽然短期会有创作上的争论，但从长远来看，这种生活还是挺亲密的。我喜欢的作家加缪说：创作就是活两遍，照这样算下来，我们又多活了16首歌的时间。
You are right. Although there will be creative disputes in the short term, in the long run, this kind of life is quite intimate. Albert Camus, a writer I like, said: “To create is to live twice”. If you count it like this, we’ve lived 16 more songs
I wanna touch upon your music videos — which have taken on a life of their own over the past couple years. What do you love so much about the ‘home video’ aesthetic/style in your music videos?
Geng Shengzai 更生仔：没有人能代替我，去拍摄我们的生活。我继续记录这些画面，在我们还活着的时候。
No one can replace me to take pictures of our lives. So I will continue to record these images while we are still alive.
LCM: 对比“love song”和“海边旅馆一夜”两支音乐录影带，我察觉到你们开始用视觉叙事了，这是你们近期习得的制作方式吗？“海边旅馆一夜”讲述了一个怎样的故事？
Just comparing something like the music videos for ‘Love Song’ and ‘One Night at a Seaside Motel’ I sense you’ve developed an eye for visual storytelling. Has it been a learning process? What goes behind a video like ‘One Night at a Seaside Motel’ for example?
Geng Shengzai 更生仔：我喜欢用说故事的方式去写中文歌词，而不是口号或者朦胧诗。也许因为我读了大量叙事性的作品，就是城市小说。我总是先想到当时发生的场景，有什么物品，或者窗外的天色。这不是最近才有的，由于Love Song这首歌只有一句英文歌词，更多的是情绪，并不适合叙事，而海边旅馆一夜，则是先写的歌词，再有了曲。
I like to write Chinese lyrics by telling stories instead of using jingles or obscure poetry. Perhaps because I read a lot of narrative works, that is, urban novels. I always think about the scene at that time, what objects are there, or the sky outside the window. This is not new or anything. Because the song ‘Love Song’ has only one English lyric, it is more emotion-based and not suitable for a entire narrative, while with ‘The Night at the Seaside Hotel’ the lyrics were written first, and then came the song.
Speaking of which — some of those trips in the videos look lovely. What are some of the best trips you’ve taken over the years? What’s the secret to the perfect vacation?
Geng Shengzai 更生仔：虽然我们四处旅行，但很多城市，我都分不出来。约旦是我去过最神秘的国家，瓦迪拉姆有地质奇观，我和杨越一起躺在夜晚的沙漠中看天上的星星。但是如果，要我选择一个地方，去度过余生——那我愿意去随便一个海边小镇，我想成为那里的永久居民。开心度假的秘诀就是选对伴侣。
Although we travel around alot, I can’t tell a city from another. Jordan is the most mysterious country I have ever visited. Wadi Rum (aka the Valley of the Moon) has such geological wonders. Yang Yue and I lied together in the desert at night to watch the stars in the sky. But if I choose a place to spend the rest of my life – then I am willing to go to any seaside town, and I want to become a permanent resident there. The secret to a happy holiday is to choose the right partner.
Yang Yue 杨越：我最难忘的旅行经历，是在格鲁吉亚的雪山上，和更生仔同时滑了下来，那时候我们刚学会，还不熟练，有时候我滑的快一点，就在前面等等她，她还会埋怨我怎么滑远了呢。
My most unforgettable travel experience was when I skied down on the snow-capped mountains of Georgia with Geng Shengzai. At that time, we were just learning and weren’t very proficient. Sometimes I skied faster and waited for her in front. She would still complain about how I slipped away.
Not quite the dreamy vacation but how does it feel to go on tour again?
Geng Shengzai 更生仔：很紧张，因为我并不是开着一辆野马，嘴里塞满药丸的摇滚明星。我知道我应该不断的巡演，把所有的事情丢在一旁，但有的时候，我会想带我们的孩子去玩。
Very nervous, because I am not a rock star driving a mustang with a pill in his mouth. I know I should keep on tour and leave everything aside, but sometimes, I want to take our kid along to play.
Yang Yue 杨越：我迫不及待，因为我喜欢舞台。
I can’t wait, because I like the stage.
What’s the best part about hitting the road? The worst part?
Geng Shengzai 更生仔：我讨厌的事情太多了，灯光太刺眼，场地太闷热，有些人站在台下一动不动就像你欠他的，当然有一种说法是，如果演的不好，观众就会全程站给你看。我喜欢的是演完之后可以喝两杯。
I hate too many things. The lights are too dazzling and the venue is too hot. Some people stand motionless under the stage as if you owe them. Of course, there is a saying that if the performance is not good, the audience will just stand there the whole time. What I like is that I can drink two glasses after the show.
Yang Yue 杨越：我喜欢热情的人，没什么讨厌的事情，如果更生仔能记得带身份证就行了。
I like enthusiastic people. There is nothing to hate. If Geng Shengzai can remember to bring her ID card.
What can audiences expect this time around? Any surprises in store for us?
Geng Shengzai 更生仔：我们为大家准备了一些视觉上的东西，作为感激，杨越跳水能被大家接住一次吗？
We have prepared some visual things for everyone. Can Yang Yue be caught in diving into the crowd this time?
Yang Yue 杨越：这次是一个真正意义上的专场，没有嘉宾乐队，一个半小时以上的演出，精心编排的17首歌，不够吗
This time is a real special, no guest band – more than one and a half hours of performance, 17 carefully arranged songs, isn’t that enough?