Founded in 2007 by Michael Pettis (owner of the now defunct D22 and new XP venues in Beijing), Maybe Mars
has set the standard for independent record labels in China, releasing a total of 44 albums to date. Their most recent release was Snapline's
Phenomena, and Snapline are one of many bands who took to the stage in Shanghai this weekend over two nights at Mao Livehouse to help celebrate the label's 5th anniversary.
We recently had the pleasure of spending the evening with Lolly from Maybe Mars, whose job it is to get the word out about their various releases and events taking place across China and further afield.
Here's a snapshot of what we talked about:
Maybe Mars was founded in the summer of 2007. I don't think that it was by chance, more an inevitable step. At that time, a bunch of surprising bands burst out in Beijing and they needed an organization like us to support them. That new generation of musicians needed more opportunities and were eagerly searching for them.
, Maybe Mars' founder, said "We can measure the importance of a country by the quality of music and art it produces. When I saw how many talented musician there were in Beijing who were not able to express their talent, and since I have lived in Beijing for many years and consider myself an adopted Beijinger, I thought there was a chance for me to help young artists and at the same time meet many interesting and important musicians."
The first three albums we released are Joyside's Booze
at Neptune's Dawn, along with Carsick Cars
' and Snapline's self-titled albums. These three bands have been deep influences to the following new bands (we called those following new bands "the sixth generation" bands, like Rustic
and so on...) And I think I have to mention a very important group, 'No Beijing'; they were at the vanguard of the new music scene at that time. The key bands of that time include Carsick Cars, Snapline, White and Ne Zha (the former band of the Gar). Now, they're all Maybe Mars bands.
Maybe Mars is now the biggest and coolest indie rock label in China. We have signed nearly 30 bands and released more than 40 records. Our talented artists have not only received praise from within China, but also stepped on international stages and given the world a shock. Maybe Mars bands have played in many famous music festivals, like Steirischer Herbst (AT), All Tommorw's Parties (UK), Primavera Sound (SP), SXSW (US) and so on... Also, we have cooperated with a lot of great producers like Blixa Bargeld, Martin Atkins and Chen Yuli.
The challenges when it comes to running an indie record label in China:
I think most of the challenges to us come from the same source - it bothers us that young Chinese musicians are so good and so exciting, but Chinese audiences are so unwilling to support them. If Chinese audiences don't support Chinese artists until after they become famous, Chinese artists will never achieve greatness. In cities like New York, San Francisco and Berlin, the audience for new music is very large and very intelligent. We need the same in Beijing and other music cities in China.
We give the musicians all that we can give and never set any rules on their creation, so they can express what they want to. You know, in China the government is too sensitive; sometimes, our songs are very dangerous in their eyes. We have some very good albums that cannot pass the censorship; that's a shame…
Interest from around the world:
Sonic Youth said Carsick Cars is their favorite Chinese band, that was just the beginning. We've have thousands of pieces of media coverage from all over the world - America, Britain, Germany, France, Sweden, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea... We're so happy that China's indie bands are welcomed there. The world has great passion and interest in China's new music scene. Every year, we get different invitations from overseas festivals. And besides the exposure on leading music media like Billboard, Pitchfork, NME and MTV, our musicians have also grabbed the attention from New Yorker and The Guardian.
Once, when Carsick Cars were on the plane to America, they found themselves featured in the airplane magazine they were reading! And when He Fan (Carsick Cars' bass player and Birdstriking's guitar player) tried to buy some CDs from a shop in America, the clerk excitedly recommended Carsick Cars' music to him. When he said he knew that band, the clerk recommended Birdstriking to him, hahaha... I think that was really a big surprise to us.
Some favorite Maybe Mars releases:
I can't just pick one! Carsick Cars' You Can Listen You Can Talk, Hot & Cold's
Any Monkey Is Dangerous, the Gar's self-titled album, Duck Fight Goose
's Sports and.. . I like all of the Maybe Mars records, that's why I enjoy my job so much.
New bands signed to the label:
Chui Wan is a promising band you cannot miss! Their music is psychedelic experimental, beautiful and attractive. Their first album will come out this year. Manny Nieto is the producer.
The 5th anniversary celebrations in Shanghai:
When we were 2 years old, we released a compilation. And for our 5th anniversary, we will hold a cool big showcase. We plan to bring most of our bands to the center of every city throughout the summer. It's like a report for our 5 years' work. We want to give a comprehensive presentation to people. It's a gift for our fans and also a good chance to give a full display to new people. For now, we have booked 17 shows in 9 cities in June and July. And the coming two shows at Shanghai MAO livehouse are No.7 and No.8 (already passed!)
By the way, we also made some cool limited edition souvenirs for fans!
If you fancy heading out of Shanghai to see some Maybe Mars showcasing here is the full list of upcoming gigs...
July 6th: Carsick Cars, Snapline, Deadly Cradle Death
July 7th: Low Wormwood
·Little Bar, Chengdu
July 6th: Low Wormwood
July 7th: Carsick Cars, Snapline, Deadly Cradle Death
·Star Department, Guangzhou
July 13th: Carsick Cars, AV Okubo, Mr.Graceless, Ructic
·Hidden Agenda, Hongkong
July 14th: AV Okubo,Rustic
July 15th: Carsick Cars, Mr.Graceless
July 14th: Carsick Cars, Mr.Graceless
July 15th: AV Okubo, Rustic
WORDS: Lolly / S247
PICTURES: Maybe Mars / Tim Franco