Exile Parade are chilling out by the lake in the park outside Yuyintang, waiting to soundcheck. It’s a far cry from their previous stop, the Zebra music festival at Jinshan Beach, when they arrived at the venue five minutes before their scheduled starting time thanks to torrential rain in Beijing. Not that they minded.
'It was a bit tense, but we like it like that. We don’t like to be too relaxed or we don’t tend to do our best show. The bit where you sit around and think, that’s the bit where you fuckin’ hate each other isn’t it?' grins Lomax, the lead singer.
The sooner these guys get on stage, the less likely it is that the table football turns nasty.
This is Exile Parade’s second time touring China. Even though Yuyintang isn’t packed (it’s a Tuesday night after all), they’ve been drawing impressive crowds from Beijing to Chengdu. The result of a chance meeting with a Tony Zhu of Handshake Records, the lads seem slightly bemused by the success they’re enjoying over here.
‘We don’t know what’s going on when we’re at home and then we get here and then we’re playing in front of fuckin’ forty thousand people. Nothing surprises us any more, we just go with it and take it as it comes.’
Whilst other foreign bands with established followings at home stick to well-worn expat enclaves on tour, as a newer band, Exile Parade have been drawing audiences that are predominantly Chinese. Playing to local audiences suits their Northern, no-nonsense approach to rock n roll.
‘It’s a very fickle world in the West. A lot of people are more concerned with ‘are you wearing the right jeans? Is it the right type of music, is it OK for me to like this?’ There’s none of that here. We do want to be as big as humanly possible…we don’t hang around on the underground leaning against a wall and looking cool, we’re trying to get in everyone’s faces as much as possible. It’s something that’s happened so we just go with it and embrace it wherever it might be.’
Lomax was so concerned with wearing the right jeans, he forgot his shirt.
This ‘just go with it’ attitude is working out pretty well for Exile Parade. Their debut studio album, Hit the Zoo, has been produced with the help of Owen Morris, the producer of Oasis’ Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
‘When people ask us about what we’ve been through and what we’ve done and all, you don’t know where to start. When we were all teenagers we were obsessed with Oasis as everyone was. You have your heroes and we’re lucky enough that some of our heroes happened to turn up at our gigs- and then a couple of months later we’re in the studio with him.’
Previous to this, Exile Parade had been producing demos by themselves, and had learned enough through their DIY approach of ‘just going and turning everything up as far as it goes’ that they were able to produce half the album themselves.
‘The Owen Morris session was completely rock and roll, off its tits and all that, but other half has a different colour to it, a different texture.’
The band also recently released a cover of ‘Psycho Man’ by Elenore, a Handshake Records signing from Beijing, who in turn covered ‘Fire Walk with Me’. Despite working with a song that was half in Chinese, ‘we got the point across.’
Exile Parade are keen to keep working the China connection. Their message to their fans here is to ‘just keep on us. The more support we get over here the more chance we have to come back. Keep downloading our music for free, spread it as much as you can, get on our weibo.’
On stage, it seems like Exile Parade are able to expend all of the excess energy that they don’t spend on worrying about life. Stripped to the waist and smeared with dark body paint, Lomax leaps around the stage like a delinquent chimneysweep with the crowd marveling over his washboard abs, whilst the rest of the band pound the bejeezus out of their instruments. The set ends with the drummer striding emphatically through Yuyintang's transparent kit, knocking it to the ground in true rockstar fashion.
Musically, the influence of the band’s Madchester heroes is obvious on tracks like ‘Fire Walk With Me’, but there’s a much more of a pounding, energetic feel to songs like ‘Movie Maker’ evoking the likes of Kasabian or Maximo Park. The main common element to be found with the northern giants of yore is their balls-to-the-wall, no bullshit approach to rock and roll which keeps the energy levels of the Tuesday night crowd dialled up to the max until the early hours of the morning. As the eyes of the world turn to London and see bands swanning around Shoreditch sporting a surfeit of retro hairstyles, chunky glasses and synth-pop, it’s refreshing to see that Manchester is still producing the same driving, uncomplicated rock that used to be the country’s main export. The sooner they’re back in Shanghai the better.
WORDS: Pete J, Exile Parade
PICTURES: Exile Parade