Hiperson have been one of the most forward-thinking bands of Chinese post-punk in recent years. They’ve garnered praise from some of China’s genre stalwarts, toured and recorded in Europe, and in the span of five years they’ve dipped their toes in so many sonic ponds that one could argue they’ve outgrown the tag “post-punk.” The newest album, Bildungsroman, is a coming of age concept album detailing the journey of a Chinese woman following heartbreak. It’s also one of the best rock albums of the year by blending post-punk, indie rock, spoken word, and traditional Chinese folk to illustrate the magnitude of the protagonist’s growth. Fresh off of a tour around their native country, Hiperson sat down with Overblown to discuss their work, their influences, and their international interests.
In the past three years you’ve put out three releases with three different styles. What has been your motivation to pursue such different sounds with each release?
Chen Sijiang: Instead of aiming for different sounds we’d say we pursued different ways of making sounds. Sounds are made not only by us but also by the environments they are situated in, including resources, technologies and social connections. We look around what resources and conditions are available each time when we want to put our works out. The rest of the work is focusing on making use of them. Musicians can feel limited by the resources they have at hand and we sometimes feel that as well but then we thought there could be a cooler way of treating that sensation. We tell ourselves to treasure the obstacles as we treasure the advantages.
What was the inspiration for Bildungsroman’s story?
The recording happened in the beginning of 2019. We took a comparatively long time to decide the mixing and producing of it because we had a different vision from what we had planned for the album after the recording. We were listening to the raw recording, which was already very good, and rethinking these songs and the idea of a character growing in a contemporary background (maybe contemporary China) just appeared to us. The inspiration was in the songs and they recorded a process of changing ourselves in a way.
“Our Ballad” has a fantastic music video. Its style is striking, using matching outfits that contrast with the orange curtains and interpretive dancing. How does the music video reflect the story of Bildungsroman?
We chose the Zhongshan suit as it’s a symbolic visual of the birth of modern China. This symbol, of course with its inherent indication of that period of history, doesn’t work exactly the same at the present anymore, especially to the newer Chinese generations. It’s not worn that much and doesn’t play the same role in public life. How symbols change is interesting. On the other hand dancing involves using our bodies and also being with our own bodies, living with our bodies in a celebratory, serious and playful way. The immediacy which dancing, just like live shows, brings in is also what we love and wanted to integrate into our music video.
Your new album was recorded in Hansa Tonstudio (the famed German studio where David Bowie recorded Low and “Heroes”). What attracted you to that studio?
Our friend’s band P.K.14 recorded in Hansa and we heard a lot about it from Haisong Yang. We heard high praise for the brilliant work of the recording engineer Nanni. It was kind of a bounce-back effect from our last album’s recording and producing; we recorded and produced She Came Back From the Square in our old small band room on an eight-track tape machine by ourselves.
You recorded Four Seasons with the London label Damnably. How did working with a foreign label influence that EP and your development as a band?
We actually had finished recording Four Seasons and even had released it in China before Damnably talked with us about releasing it elsewhere. But we have been in touch with Damnably for years. We met George and Janice in Chengdu when they were traveling there and seeing pandas. We love working with them because everything we thought about working ‘internationally’ became tangible, real and true. This is important to us. Still we are looking forward to continuing on this road and seeing more.
How does touring in China compare with touring around Europe?
For now we’ve toured only once in Europe. When I couldn’t understand every single word people say beside and around me, I became very focused on other feelings.
You’ve said 4AD plays a huge influence on Hiperson. Which of their artists have inspired you? What do you think is the most important thing Hiperson has developed from 4AD’s influence?
Ji Yinan: 4AD was the first overseas label that I listened to. Bands like Bauhaus, The Birthday Party, Pixes, Lush, and Breeders meant a lot to a thirteen year old boy. At that time, 4AD’s music was a totally new world for me. Personally, The Birthday Party and Pixies were the most impressive bands, because the tracklist of the CD— a practical one I got from my mother— reversed the playlist’s order. So for the longest time I always thought “The Friend Catcher” was a Pixies song, and “Where is My Mind” was from The Birthday Party.
The most important thing I have developed from listening to 4AD’s music is to keep searching for new experiences.
Speaking of musicians and influence, which Chinese musicians do you all look up to?
Order Bildungsroman via Bandcamp.