“Stay Retro,” An Interview with Junks

Junks is a band based out of Hangzhou, China. Their music is a simultaneous blend of retro synth sounds that make you reminisce about the days in arcades, as well as futuristic tinges that will place you in another millennia. Their self-titled EP will be out this Friday, September 7th via Modern Sky Entertainment.

This interview was done via email; and questions answered by Junks’ “commander-in-chief and lead singer,” DK.

1. How did the band form?

When I moved to China, my wife Ursula and I already had a band called Party Horse (a 2-
piece trash-pop band) that we started when we lived in Sheffield, England. After a couple of years I decided to try and expand the line-up to include some Chinese members to reflect our new life in China and to see if it would influence the sound. We were already friends with Yifei (Junks synth player) so we invited him to join us along with Hangzhou-based DJ and producer Onichan. With the line-up secure, I decided to change the band name to Junks and focus only on new material only, altering the image and aesthetic along the way.

2. & 3. Why use such visceral and dirty images in your titles and music? (Like the name “Junks,” describing your origin as “smog strewn,” and Nuclear Holiday, as a few examples) How much has Hangzhou and your environment and the different places you’ve seen, affected your music?

The environment we’ve found ourselves in has influenced Junks’ music 100%. Chinese cities are sprawling, densely populated places filled with neon, high-rise buildings, constant noise and are occasionally submerged in waves of pollution. This new environment went hand-in-hand with my love of the synthwave genre, which has an aesthetic that closely resembles parts of Hangzhou and Shenzhen (were I am now based). Accordingly the music I begin writing for Junks combined all these elements as well as influences from the underground club-scene I’ve encountered whilst playing around the country as a DJ (Ectoplazm), and – of course – my love for an idealised/dystopian vision of the 1980s.

4. What influences the band and your music? As a band and individually. What music did you each listen to growing up and what do you listen to now?

IMG_3116Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I was influenced by whatever music was coming out of the radio, or by the records that my Dad had at home, which was mainly classic rock like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles, or more proggy stuff like Yes and Jethro Tull. As a kid I then got really into Britpop, like most kids my age did, and I was particularly obsessed by Oasis. That developed into a love for guitar music in general, but around 10 or more years ago I found myself going back to more 80s, movie soundtrack-style music that sparked memories of my childhood. This led me to Giorgio Moroder, (particularly his work on 1984’s The Never Ending Story OST), Alan Silvestri and others, and from there I took a deep dive into retrowave music and culture, which has some influence on Junks’ music – although we are defiantly not a typical synthwave band. As for the Chinese members of the band, I think their influences are totally different from mine (due to the cultural distance), which I find interesting.

5. I see you describes yourself as a “synth driven pop band.” But that to me does not totally fit your sound. What exact genre would you put yourselves in? How would you describe your sound?

I’m really bad at describing the band’s sound, and I hate to have to pinpoint it; I like to let
others decide what they think. I just make the music that comes naturally to me or that
excites me, and I’m not really thinking about what genre it will fit in when it’s finished. By “synth-driven” I guess I meant that we are not a guitar band, although our songs are
structured in a very pop way that is perhaps more common to guitar bands or whatever, and our starting point is usually the synths, drums and bass (at least that’s how I write). Our sound is evolving though so I just let it go where it wants. I think subconsciously I’m trying to recapture some kind of vague feeling with Junks’ music that is very personal to me and makes me feel good. It’s kind of 80s sounding without trying to go the whole-hog and sound totally 80s, and it’s also kind of futuristic sounding. I don’t know man – I guess in the final analysis it’s just pop music.

6. How long has this upcoming EP been in the works?

Around a couple of years I guess, although we’ve never really been working towards
making an EP or a record. We’re more focused on just taking it song by song and playing
them live. I get a real kick out of playing live, but the ultimate high is probably finishing a new tune that I’m really into. With the EP it’s a good chance to draw a line under some of the material we’ve been playing live for a couple of years and to introduce some new, fresh stuff to listeners.

7. What can you tell me about the EP? Does it have themes or messages you really wanted to convey?

Like I said, I don’t really like to analyse things too much, I’m more instinctive, but I think
there’s a some recurring themes in the music that are sometimes masked by the relatively upbeat melodies and arrangements; loneliness, insecurity, fear of the future, nostalgia, dislike of materialism, expat blues etc, are all themes touched on in some way.
I think the EP is kind of a snapshot of where we are at as band; with “Rich Girls” and
“Kinda Heavy” representing the recent past and “Nuclear Holiday” and “Tellin’ Stories”
representing where we may be headed.

Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 22.20.158. Any other comments you have about yourselves, the band, the album, or in general?

Sure! I guess now is a good a time as any for some seamless self-promotion – so here goes. We have an EP out on September 7th, which will be available on 12” vinyl and digitally and can be purchased on our bandcamp page, at shows and available from all the usual online places if MP3s etc are your thang. Other than that, stay retro kids, and be cool.

By Antonio Villasenor-Baca

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