Hard times are over - Hard Queen

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Jake Newby reviews the recent developments of Shanghai rock band Hard Queen and interviews Sheena Du.

General information

Author Jake Newby
English title Hard times are over - Hard Queen
Publication Urbanatomy Shanghai
Date of publication 2009 exactly on 2009/03/03
Original URL The original article was posted on http://shanghai.urbanatomy.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1171:hard-times-are-over&catid=161:music&Itemid=29

Entities mentioned

In this article, especially the following entities (bands, artists, cities, articles, etc.) are being called out:

Hard Queen, Shanghai

Keywords & Genre

The following keywords / genres apply for this article:

Interview, Rock

Full Article

Hard Queen

A brand new website, a preview show at ENO on the 22nd of this month and an official album release party at Yuyintang on April 4 – these are heady times for local hard-rockin' trio Hard Queen.

"Shanghai's music scene is always changing," says Sheena Du, the band's lead singer and keyboardist. And certainly, Hard Queen has seen plenty of change as well. Formed in early 2007 as a duo named Hard Candy (comprised of Sheena and drummer Damen), the band went through a succession of bassists before settling on their current lineup, with Zero on bass (the only male in the group) – and a new name, after they realized plenty of other bands had named themselves after the David Slade film as well.

While these early missteps arguably hindered their progress on the Shanghai scene, Hard Queen's debut EP (set to come out, finally, at the end of March) should change all that. The five-track recording, entitled Holiday, will be available through iTunes and Taobao (and hard copies available at the release party), and will feature their most accomplished and most popular live songs: 'Jungle Queen,' 'Loser,' 'Pretty Stranger' and 'Fat Girl Slim Boy,' in addition to the title track.

"It's an important step for us," says Sheena, "and hopefully it'll allow us to reach a broader audience." But it's been a long time coming. The band originally began recording in the spring of last year but were beset with problems. "We weren't really happy with the original producer's interpretation of our sound," explains Sheena. "There were a lot of layers and guitars added to what we were doing in order to 'fill out' our music." Listening to the revamped final cuts, it's clear that previous approach went against the whole tone of the band – indeed, the lack of guitars and over-complicated layers is something that distinguishes Hard Queen from their contemporaries.

"I guess one of the most obvious differences between us and other bands is that we don't have a guitarist," says Sheena. "In fact, when we first started out we only had keyboard and drums." This was one of the reasons that the White Stripes' 'Hotel Yorba' became a regular, and popular, cover at their live shows. "We played a lot of cover songs starting out and the White Stripes' stripped-down garage rock was a big influence on us, as were the Dresden Dolls. But we eventually developed our own sound and our own songs."

Commenting on her album, Sheena adds: "As anyone who's been to a rock show in Shanghai knows, the sound quality is usually pretty bad – we've always had to make do with the club's equipment and sound engineers. So we're not trying to recreate that sound. It's more like an ideal version of our live sound."

And how do they describe their sound now? "That's a tough question," admits Sheena. "We've been called everything from girlie-pop to synth-punk, but we don't like labels. Really, our songs are just fun and upbeat – we just feel that music should make people happy. It should be about love and peace, not anger and rebellion."

Despite their previous setbacks, the band's talent and potential is clear, though their early experiences have left them philosophical. "We'd love to be able to make a living with our music, but that's not really realistic for a rock band in Shanghai. For a band like ours that doesn't fit into one of the 'main' genres, I think it's a good thing that the scene here is smaller than places like Beijing – it's more inclusive here."

For Hard Queen, the EP seems more of a marker of progress than any attempt to 'break through.'

"It doesn't really matter to us," muses Sheena, "we just want to go out and have a good time playing our music. If nothing else, it's a physical record of the songs we've written – proof that we exist."

"We have some fans who come out and dance or sing along with our songs," she adds. "That's success for us. We're already successful."

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