The Chinese indie music scene is incredibly small: Everyone knows everyone. Everyone is related in some way. After some digging, it almost seems that every label has co-released with another label, that every band has played at least once with every other band, at least in the southern part of the country.
Outside of China’s twin music powerhouses, Shanghai and Beijing, regional music scenes across the country get significantly smaller. The city with the most prominent indie scene outside of those two is arguably Guangzhou on the southeastern coast, and the record label propping up much of what Guangzhou music does well is Qiii Snacks Records.
Qiii Snacks on Bandcamp
Born out of what was one of the first indie DIY record labels in the country, Full Label, Qiii Snacks was established in 2015, and has moved from publishing music by only Guangzhou bands, to putting out music from bands from other areas of China, to — with their latest release — releasing international acts.
By now, Qiii Snacks has worked with artists and labels in virtually every corner of the country, including The White Tulips in Xiamen, a bit further up the coast; VOOID in Taiwan, just across the strait from Xiamen; Wellsaid and Sweaty & Cramped in nearby Hong Kong; Boring Productions in neighboring Shenzhen; Zoogazer in Xuzhou, near Nanjing; and Genjing Records, the first DIY vinyl label to take off in China from its base in Beijing.
They even have a connection to China’s underground hip-hop and vinyl scene through frequent Qiii Snacks collaborator and producer Pete Chen of hiphop duo Madpete, who releases music through Groove Bunny Records, and who also frequently help out with a Shanghai event series called Daily Vinyl.
Qiii Snacks specializes in making cassettes and lathe-cut vinyl, and also sometimes gets in on the zine publishing act with their popular feature Man Man Think. Utilizing social networks such as Douban, Bandcamp, WeChat, Weibo, Facebook, and more, Qiii Snacks has made contact with and bridged the gap between multiple vital DIY music scenes in southeast China, helping to connect a seemingly disconnected group of passionate musicians.
RADII recently met up with Howie Li and Andrew Hsu of Qiii Snacks Records to talk about their collaborations and relationships with some of the best indie labels in China and Asia right now. Here are some highlights from the conversation:
Back when Beijing-based artist GUIGUISUISUI was a one-man act and touring heavily around the country, Howie hooked up with the man behind it, Dann Gaymer, and helped organize his Guangzhou gig. In a similar effort to facilitate a Hong Kong performance, he got in touch with Lok Sum, who later founded the Sweaty & Cramped label. That Hong Kong gig never happened, but Howie and Lok stayed in touch and formed a relationship that has borne substantial fruitful musical collaborations, such as Wellsaid’s most recent cassette release, Setbacks.
Qiii Snacks also helped Sweaty & Cramped to release two compilations — Emotional, No and its sequel, Emotional, Too — with their label’s bands Foster Parents and Nein Or Gas Mus making an appearance. This form of collaboration makes a lot of sense for the two labels, given that they both deeply care about physical releases, especially on niche, collector-friendly media like cassette and lathe-cut vinyl/
While the Qiii Snacks is closer to math rock and punk, Shenzhen-based label Boring Productions chases a poppier sound, summed up perfectly by their first release: the Sarah Records tribute album, Our Secret World.
Howie Li says of Boring Productions:
I really like their indie pop. We’ve been friends with all of those guys for a long time, since before Qiii Snacks Records and Boring Productions started. So, when we made our labels, we wanted to support each other and make an album for our fans.
Around the time that the two labels were just getting off the ground, they co-released a compilation featuring singles and unreleased tracks by bands affiliated with each, including The 尺口MP, The Cheers Cheers, Chestnut Bakery, and Nein Or Gas Mus.
The two labels have capitalized on their close proximity, playing numerous shows together in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, most notably the “30 People 30 Songs” event put on by Qiii Snacks Records on Ersha, an island outside mainland Guangzhou, over this year’s Chinese New Year holiday.
The White Tulips and Chinese Football first met through sharing the stage at a festival in Guangzhou in 2014. Later, while The White Tulips were touring in Japan, they teamed up with Chinese Football and Sango Records founder Xu Bo, who lives in Kyoto. Both bands were fans of each other’s music, and both were eager to collaborate on a split.
Shanghai’s Shengjian Records and Qiii Snacks have teamed up quite a bit in the past few months. Both labels had each other’s physical releases on display at their respective Record Store Day markets in Shanghai and Guangzhou. Foster Parents and The 尺口MP also took to the stage with Kirin Trio and Cos of Youngs (杨公堤上下运动社团) at a recent Shengjian Records/Qiii Snacks gig in Shanghai.
Both labels stumbled across Zoogazer’s music online around the same time and they liked it so much that they agreed to do a dual release, with each side taking responsibility for one physical format — Qiii Snacks on cassette duty and Shengjian taking care of CDs.
The impetus for the foundation of Shengjian came when Nick Cao, formerly of the band Soft, and one of the founders of Shengjian Records, attended an event organized by Qiii Snacks Records and got inspired. “I was infected by their energy,” Cao remembers. “Because at that time there was no indie label in Shanghai, I thought I should do this thing.”
Taiwanese artist Hom Shen Hao has been creating music inspired by punk, surf rock, funk, and R’n’B for years, as part of Touming Magazine and, more recently, VOOID.
“Hom’s music is great, but if you listen to the lyrics, he sounds kind of like your mother,” Qiii Snacks’ Andrew Hsu says with a laugh. “His words can be very powerful, like he is giving you advice. In a normal conversation maybe you wouldn’t listen to it, but from him it makes more sense.”
Hom had previously put out releases on Full Label, Qiii Snacks’ now dormant precursor, including a solo track on The Sarah Records Tribute, Our Secret World.
While the guys from Qiii Snacks have been friends with Hom Sheng Hao for years, helping him to bring his bands to perform in Guangzhou on multiple occasions, it is only recently that Hom and VOOID collaborated with Qiii Snacks Records and Guangzhou vinyl cutting service Hak Hak Manufacture to create a lathe cut vinyl 7” featuring VOOID’s two most recent singles, “New Moon (新月)” and “Ore (礦石).”
After a busy April, which saw the part-time musicians/promotors/label runners release three thumping albums by Nein or Gas Mus, Zoogazer, and Seattle-based math rock band Curse League, they have no plans to slow down. The long-awaited debut EP from Die!ChiwawaDie! — a band featuring Howie on guitar — will arrive in the coming months, and a colletion of unreleased songs by Yourboyfriendsucks! — a band that was also central to the earlier Full Label — will soon be recorded. Qiii Snacks will also collaborate further with Sweaty & Cramped for a Wellsaid 7″, while Xuzhou lo-fi indie band Zoogazer will go out on a short China tour, and as always, it will be all about the community.
You might also like:
Don’t Sleep on Hong Kong DIY Record Label Sweaty & Cramped
How Hak Hak Manufacture is Cutting Out a Vinyl Record Niche in Guangdong
Voices from Inside Shanghai’s DIY Music Scene
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