Navigating Through a Modernity with David Boring
Vocals // Janice
Vocals, Guitar // Jason
Guitar // Yat-wa (Dave)
Drums // Stan
Bass // Jonathan
David Boring - Not Your Typical Musical Escapism
Modern Hong Kong has a legacy of tall skyscrapers and small spaces, while the machinations of a mundane safe lifestyle looms over the skyline and pressures those who refuse to conform. David Boring is a band that offers an alternative identity to a generation that has grown up in this particular social climate. Rejecting “happy escapism” and living safe lives that will bring one joy, David Boring wallows in anger and frustration through their distorted guitars and inner screams. The band itself embodies this position of unapologetic emotions and is fearless in admitting it. Listening to them discuss about their own identity is inspiring. They place hope into my heart by facing and viewing the deconstructive nature of modernism with positive light.
“We are not a typical Asian band. Post-punk is not big in Hong Kong, and we don’t think it is in Asia as a genre. But the subject we talk about is uniquely Hong Kong. It comes from a very personal place, and it also represents how a lot of people of our generation feel about the greater world nowadays.” Their music is an expression of their own frustrations and they see it as their duty as musicians to convey these feelings. Their sentiments are shared among their other musician peers and representing this overlooked culture of Hong Kong has become something they want to do.
David Boring started out playing music that was more aligned with the popular taste - shoegaze indie music in Hong Kong. As time went on, the sound became darker and more chaotic after the change of the band’s vocalist. “Our previous vocal left because she went to Japan for exchange for a year,” explained Jason, the guitarist. “The band still wanted to carry on to make music so we needed a new member. I actually knew Janice from my university hall but we were not really close at that time. Later, we sort of found each other online because we shared the same music taste, the more I got to know her the more I realized she’s the one who needs to start doing music of her own. She has a really special voice of her own and I thought that she would be the perfect person for the band.” However, he clarified that their band has always been different from the indie shoegaze scene. “Actually, I didn’t realize we were categorized as shoegaze when we first started. I think we do have some shoegaze elements, and even till today shoegaze is still a strong influence for me. I think the point where we identified as a post-punk band was with the song I Can’t. It developed a mentality or signature for us that later on we could always go back to, and have that as a starting point for us.”
If you are familiar with David Boring, there is a high chance you discovered them through Anthony Bourdain’s last episode to his popular show Parts Unknown. This segment was exciting for many fans of the band, and David Boring really enjoyed creating that episode.“I think they came to us more than six months ahead, so you can tell the whole thing was very organized. There was a lot of correspondence between us and their team before coming over for the shoot. The actual shooting took only a full day but it was very intense. It was very inspiring for us to witness how a team of professional people get things done,” Janice explains. “Originally it was just supposed to be like a ten second clip of our music in the episode but it turned out to be an almost full music video.”
Janice has been a fan of Anthony Bourdain. “It’s especially important to me because I grew up watching Anthony Bourdain. The rest of the band didn’t know who he was before filming the episode and I filled them in. It really meant something for me.”
Navigating Through Bits of Attention One Step at a Time
I was confused about how David Boring balanced representing their favorite crevice of Hong Kong society while enjoying their new breakthrough with Parts Unknown, but Janice was quick to clarify that we misunderstood the situation.“I wouldn’t say we have a huge audience, but people are definitely interested. They find something unique about us that they actually want to know more about beyond the music. I think that’s actually very meaningful.”
David Boring’s philosophy of creating relationships based on appreciation of what a band creates inspires me and it still centers within the ethos of the post punk genre. The music industry in general is a lot about making the right friends and trying to ride that properly. However, David Boring was very sincere about their position that “relationships between bands should only be built on mutual appreciation of each other’s work.” In the interview, they told us, “Compared to our peers, we’re not that social at all. We have always been a firm believer of if we want something, we need to work for it myself, rather then using connections. We think it’s really important, between bands, to appreciate what each other do, before they start that relationship. But not just people helping each other out because they are friends.”
David Boring will always treasure their DIY roots. The band shared their experience of their China DIY tour in 2017. “We released our album last year and the tour was part of it. It was an amazing experience for us because we weren’t expecting so much from the tour. Every single city was a unique experience, and it was really tough because we organized everything ourselves. We didn’t really have a budget.” As David Boring said, “Shit happened. Definitely an eye opener for all of us.” In classic DIY style, they created all of their own album art and their music videos. “We knew nothing about cameras, lighting, editing, filming. Everything we did was a learning process,” they told us and laughed, “admittedly, a lot of it was shit. Luckily we’re all into that sort of lo-fi, B-film aesthetic. We’re actually quite happy about the shittiness of some of the visuals, and some of the awkward effects we created. They were half mistakes, half intentional. We much prefer having music videos like that than glossy, commercial, well made ones to represent our music.” Their videos are a mesmerizing spastic claustrophobic kaleidoscope; repetitive cuts full of the same action make their videos stressful, but fans can always manage to catch a glimpse of them having fun.
Their honesty regarding negative emotions, unflinching frankness in staring sadness in the face, and their willingness embrace counter culture status is really what drives this band and inspires its fans. “I think we got on Anthony Bourdain exactly because we are not doing something popular, we have our own voice that stands out of the crowd. I think part of our strength comes from how we provide an alternative for people out there. If you need a release, or to deal with life, you don’t always have to listen to that certain type of music for escapism, you can also accept life is shit, and there’s still beauty in this shitty life, and that’s what we’re providing. It’s the honesty.”
Their aesthetic and hobbies embodies that. They coined the term “cult culture” to describe the entertainment they like which includes cult movies and dark humor. When asked what Hong Kong movies they’d recommend, Stan told us to watch The Story of Ricky (力王). If there’s one thing we all can agree on, it is that David Boring’s taste in cult culture is immaculate. Of course we had to ask about the David Boring comics and Jason as he was laughing told us that some of the band members still refuse to read them.
All Types of the Mundane
The chemistry of David Boring is possibly one of the most violent yet wholesome relationships one can witness. They all have strong personalities. It is clear the band members love what they do and any listener can hear the effort they put into their craft. It isn’t surprising this blend of personalities clash sometimes. And yet, this is what makes them so close to each other. When I asked whether or not there was tension in creation their new 7”, Victims, they immediately nodded their heads in agreement. “ The 7” was actually part of a project of another independent label [Sweaty and Cramped]. They invited four bands to issue a 7” within a given amount of time, that put a lot of pressure on us. We’re not the quickest in writing music. With the 7”, we were racing against time, and that generated a lot of tension among us.” Careful listeners can tell their tensions within the band seep into their guitar, vocal and the fanatic drumming. Their frustrations with each other causes the anger in their music to erupt. This approach evokes authentic emotions in listeners.
David Boring explained that their live performances are frequently violent because the opportunity often lets them release any built up tensions between themselves. Their tour in China last year was a great example of this. “I think most of the time the rough spots we were in occurred between us. There is always the clash of personalities.” This energy gives their live performance a raw power. “They always escalate to something huge. And sometimes they affect the show, our shows are not rehearsed at all. All of the anger, all of the violence you see is a manifestation of our frustration from each other.” David Boring’s concerts should be on everyone’s Things To Do In Hong Kong list as it is impossible to hear that performance through just their music.
It is fitting that their chemistry reflects the cultural swirl of decay they want to represent. They perfect their craft with a desire to present aspects of this suffering. The band explained the artwork to their latest release Victims. “For our debut album last year, we told a series of stories structured around three main arcs. With the Victims EP, it is a chapter of its own, but can also be viewed as a footnote to the 2017 album. The three songs on the 7” EP represent three scenarios, or three unique cases of how one falls into becoming a victim. But they obviously don’t cover every kinds of suffering in the world. The ominous ascending of the numerical number of Victim[s] is a graphical representation of that.” The ideas portrayed in the EP seem huge and philosophical, but the effects of suffering always surface through the mundane. To see the band member’s lives align with their music helps listeners have faith in their music; that the emotions and beliefs portrayed are not merely an image but something true to them as both people and musicians.
Learning to Treasure the Unlivable
Interviewing a band from Hong Kong proves to be challenging to hear positives about the city in general. David Boring’s acceptance of Hong Kong, while complicated, can only come from their frank willingness to embrace the challenging and frustrating facts of life. “We think it’s not something you can choose [to live in Hong Kong]. We’re not saying if we could have our own pick, this would be our first choice. This is not something you can change, so you might as well find some joy out of it. You need to find your own dignity and something you can be proud of. I think we are all doing our best.” Each member has lived their lives understanding Hong Kong is not even close to perfect but have managed to find something to love, and that result is David Boring. There’s no pretending, no desire to be different. They really are just “Boring” people trying to be honest with themselves. “Sometimes you learn more about the identity of Hong Kong from the foreign perspective. Movies like Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell come to mind. They literally adopted Hong Kong’s streetscape as the aesthetic for their movies. You see through their eyes and it is beautiful in its own way. What’s shitty about Hong Kong is also the charisma. The pollution, the badly maintained neighborhoods...they all become something rich and tasteful if you look at it from a different angle...It is not about finding beauty out of something that is pretty and easy, it can be about really difficult subjects too.” David Boring is its members and that is meant in the most literal way possible. This is what being in Hong Kong means to them, and it continues to be a raw source in their music. This is what David Boring is.
Last Updated November 12, 2018