of the Sparrow
--By Cynthia Aylward Translated by Liu Fang Ru
Superheroes of Taiwan's tiny alternative
scene, Chasing Sparrow is a mild-mannered bunch, apologizing
for their poor English (which, in fact, is very good).
Lead singer Yoz is even an ex-kindergarten teacher (to
his credit, he was recently fired!). Jobs and manners
aside, the group is in fact--as stated by a friend of
mine at Chasing Sparrow's New Year's Eve show in DV8--one
of Taipei's best indie bands.
I sat down in Shida Park on an unusually
warm January night to have a chat with three out of
four Sparrows--Yoz, YuChen and Graffiti (guitarist LaiQ
was busy filming his final school project)--about their
music and thoughts about Taipei's current indie scene.
Chasing Sparrow rose in 2003 from the ashes of other
Taipei indie acts. YuChen and Graffiti were both in
the critically-acclaimed Varo, Yoz drummed for Sugar
Plum Fairy, and guitarist LaiQ had been in Fall of This
Corner. Bass player YuChen describes their initial sound
as more "cute and happy" but says that it
is now more "heavy", influenced by the likes
of alt. rock acts Built to Spill and Modest Mouse. Their
varied backgrounds give Chasing Sparrow a unique and
adventurous sound, making the band difficult to pigeonhole
as they mix elements of punk, post punk, emo and new
wave. Yoz sings and screams in English over an understated,
intense musical squall.
When asked about Taipei's indie scene,
both Grafitti and YuChen say that it was more exciting
a few years ago and that "electronic" music
is currently capturing the local crowds. A reflection
of this, according to Grafitti, is the fact that a lot
of local indie bands, especially the ones she finds
really good, seem to break up even though they gain
popularity. She feels that this is probably due to a
sort of disappointment at the lack of local support,
coupled with limited venues. As a good example of this,
one of Taipei's best live venues for new alternative
acts, The Underworld, was forced to stop hosting bands
in 2005 due to pressure from Taipei city authorities.
You can see Chasing Sparrow along with
Banana Brave and Chimpanzee at their tribute show to
The Smiths on February 9 at The Wall.