This article has been written by Leo (from Kaiguan Culture).
Colt Silvers, a band from Eastern France, who invest time and energy in China, will it pay? We don’t know, but we support them anyways because they’re great on stage and that’s what counts!
FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH COLT SILVERS’ MUSIC
The first time we heard about Colt Silvers it was in 2013 through a young dude from Alsace (a part of France that almost became German during second WW so people there have really long and hard to pronounce family names). The guy formerly studied in Nanjing and really wanted to bring his friends to tour China.
He sent us some links and we got our head nodding in no time when the catchy tunes of Colt Silvers started to spread around the office.
It sounded a bit like Alt J with a hint of Foals and also a bit of early Strokes, not very French sound at all, rather global hipster sound I would say. Unsurprisingly the lead singer, Tristan, has a big beard…
And now what do we do with this? Translate their bio in Chinese and tag some related artists…hmmm… Well. We helped the young dude from Alsace, Pierre, to set up his tour and do some promo for him because he sounded like a nice lad and that we were just like him 10 years ago. Finally in May 2013, him, Colt Silvers and 1984, another band from Strasbourg based label Deaf Rock embarked on a 4 cities tour – Beijing, Zaozhuang, Nanjing and Shanghai.
I don’t know if they broke even on that tour. Only thing I know is that I saw them in a pretty empty Yugong for the first time and I have to say I was blown away by the quality of the show. Beardy Tristan is an amazing leader, constantly moving and dancing kind of gracefully despite his strong body, guitars are played high and staccato, drums are pumping and the whole thing is over-layered by beautiful engaging choirs. Yes, their live is even better than the records.
To be honest, this concert is quite representative of gigs of small western bands like Colt Silvers in China. Promotion wise, everything is done, but the tour is just an economic failure ,except the gig in the 3rd-tire City Zaozhuang, a random gig which was arranged through the local friend of a friend of Pierre, we heard that they did an ass-kicking sold-out in the little venue and the whole band received VIP treatment with baijiu and all. Because of the fact that they are unknown in China, that the time and budget for promo is limited, that their music doesn’t get a chance to get on bigger music portals because let’s face it , distributors don’t care about one single indie bands, they want whole catalogues (that’s the current trend, look at Tencent signing exclusive deals with Sony, Warner, HBO etc…) these bands just can’t collect the same revenue from concerts as their Chinese counterparts, even though they often do better music.
This happens a lot to us, even if the band is already somehow popular but… wait, I just realize an interesting fact – how come, as a French, who also have been in the music scene for more than 10 years, I never heard of them before?
THE FRENCH MUSIC SCENE AND ENVIRONMENT
Well, I guess it’s because they may not belong to a certain French hype which gets recognition in the mostly Paris based media. What does French hype wants then? Well, as you may know, France music market is no exception to the ruthless rule of fast food products. Labels rush to trendy looking bands, preferably bands who sing in French with a post 80’s attitude and a twist of electronics, (even better if they have some entry with hot fashion brands), put resources and marketing to make a buzz online. If the buzz actually picks up they’ll put more resources to get the band on tour, and that’s where you find out that most of the bands actually don’t have the stature to go on the road and string together 20, 30, 40 gigs.
Alike other bands signed on Deaf Rock, Colt Silvers are familiar to stage like athletes are to running tracks, playing, touring is just what made their sound and their presence on stage, simple as that.
“We focus on long term development for our bands” says Label manager and Colt Silvers drummer, Julien. First of all bands need to be solid on stage, and then we can implement the rest, recording, marketing, licensing etc… There are so many bands currently that just get hyped up really quickly and when they go on tour they literally get sacrificed, some of them will never play ever again after.
Besides the unavoidable fast consumerism within the music market which is common to the rest of the world, France is still a very special country to live in when being an artist: based on the statement that people who work in the leisure and arts industry, including actors, musicians, technicians don’t have a steady employment but rather event/ project based contracts, they receive an allowance to sustain themselves in between contracts. And this allowance is financed by taxes which are paid by employers and normal tax payers like me. A country where people sustain artists career and creation? Doesn’t it sound like paradise? well ,it is indeed a model other countries envy France but it demands a good understanding of French administration which is to say resilience and patience towards heavy paper works which can reach Kafka-esque levels you’d rather expect to find in totalitarian countries.
Imagine an experimental rock tattooed guitar dude filling up his monthly worked hour’s declaration? Hard, no? That’s why management companies and labels such as Deaf Rock cumulate a lot of responsibilities. They do more than providing good recording and touring environment, making sure the band has his ration of Sneakers and Absolut vodka backstage, they basically take over the shittiest part of an artist’s life. They deserve respect for all that pampering, and of course, they take a cut for that too J
“All of the bands at Deaf Rock make a decent living, each of them has cumulated enough hours while playing gigs to get the official artists’ status so they also receive their allowances when they don’t play. We only work with bands who have gained their artists status and do their music 100% , not with dudes who have a day job”. Julien adds.
THE CHINA EXPERIENCE
While they were in Beijing, they recorded this nice unplugged hutong session for Niurenku, check it out.
Following our first crush on Colt Silver’s music in 2012 and the fact that Tristan, Liet, Julien and Agnan are all very sweet boys, with funny low brow tatoos and all, we decided to invite them back to China to perform at DongDong 2014.
These dudes get tatooed like others drink coffee…
And once again the magic occurred at Yugong but this time there was Chinese promoters in the venue including Yuyang and Ezi from Midi Festival who also kinda got captured by them. And so here we go again, Colt Silvers will be back this coming May to rock Chinese festivals and sweat across the countries’ live houses.
Which is a nice investment for them given the low economy of the new tour shaping up when you think that these young dudes (they are all 80 hou) just treated themselves a composition and recording retreat in Waterfront Studio in Hudson (NY) under the guidance of magician Fab Dupont (the producer behind The Do and Santigold) for a whole month this winter.
Waterfront Studio in Hudson
Waterfront Studio in Hudson
Why do they do that, you would ask? Why do they come to China while they should be focusing on polishing the new album, work on artworks and PR? Well because of 2 things: First, because manager and founder of Deaf Rock Julien is a nuclear battery who doesn’t need much sleep and can deal with managing a label and artists, raising a kid and play drums (in Colt Silvers and Plus Guest). Second, because China counts on the map of new Indie music kids who have been growing in a post label crisis era anyway. While their predecessors were chickening in front of a country like China because of piracy , language barrier and all thinking that only the anglo saxon world counted in music ,these young entrepreneurs know that export and mobility are the key to evolution.
The Deaf Rock Gang on Great Wall in 2013
“When people back home see that we toured China, they’re always quite impressed, even if we’ve played in dirty clubs with only 30 audiences, it doesn’t count for people. What they see is that we’re moving our ass and we’re traveling the world with our music.”
We really love playing here, it is great to feel you’re witnessing and participating to a whole emerging movement and scene, to feel the energy of bands, audience and youth. We found that people are shy at first and then get friendly and a bit crazy too!
Yeah, crazy eh?
Each gigs we had there has its load of funny stories, the first time we played at Temple in Beijing, we nearly ended up inked by a tattoo girl there. We finished up at her place playing video games, she finally declared that she was too drunk to tattoo us, so we just played guitar heroes until dawn, we almost missed our flight actually.
This bike was “borrowed” by Agnan outside a bar last november in Beijing. In Strasbourg, his hometown bikes get often stolen, he assumed that Beijing was the same so he brought the bike back to his hotel room for more safety!
The only frustrating thing about China as a market, is that there is just no room for records and we don’t know how to get visibility on the big internet portals, I guess that’s a new challenge for us. Sooner or later there will be room for more local and western Independent music on more mainstream channels.
Yes, these dudes are ready to come and learn from China, scan QR codes instead of giving phone numbers, eat with chopsticks and get their music pirated on Xiami while being part of the building of the new independent scene.
I’d like to be able to say that this will pay off soon, let’s see after they blow everybody’s mind at Midi!