P.K.14 occupies a singular place in the canon of modern Chinese music. Over their two decades of existence, they’ve held a position of influence comparable to that of Talking Heads or Television in the New York of the 1970s. They are the most thoughtful and reflective band to come out of the vital independent rock scene that has burst past China’s cultural mainstream in recent years, eschewing passing fashions in favor of diligent attention to the evolution of their own craft. P.K.14s is unanimously cited as one of the most influential rock bands in China’s alternative rock scene, touching emerging artists across the spectrum of genres from punk and post-punk to shoegaze, post-rock, and folk.
Originally forming in Nanjing in 1997 — the hometown of the band’s singer and sole founding member, Yang Haisong — P.K.14 got their first break after opening for Sweden’s The (International) Noise Conspiracy in Shanghai two years later. In 2001 the band released their debut album Upstairs, Turn Left on seminal label Subjam, cementing their early status at the forefront of underground Chinese rock. That same year they moved to Beijing, China’s musical epicenter, where they released their consequential second album Whoever, Whoever & Whoever, followed by the eagerly-awaited White Paper in 2005, both on Modern Sky sub-label Badhead.
P.K.14’s next album, 2008’s City Weather Sailing, would mark the beginning of a long relationship with Grammy-winning Swedish producer Henrik Oja. The band also worked with Oja on their widely lauded 2013 album 1984, which was recorded in the studio of legendary Chicago audio engineer and producer Steve Albini. Both City Weather Sailing and 1984 were released on Beijing’s Maybe Mars label, of which Yang was a founding member and where he continues to oversee the production and publication of emerging Chinese rock artists to this day. Yang’s role as a producer as well as an artist is essential to the understanding of his band. P.K.14’s enduring appeal is foregrounded in Yang’s lyrical contribution, his words touching on the experiences of disaffected urban youth, the uneven pace of social change, and the unequal dispensations of modernization — sometimes directly, often through oblique and delicate poetic abstraction. His lyrics, as well as his self-taught studio skills, have proven a vital jolt to the fomentation of new creative energies across China.
P.K.14 has consistently broken new ground throughout their career. In 2009, they embarked on their first US tour, which included sold-out dates in New York and Washington DC. They tacked on tours across Europe and Asia in the five-year gap between City Weather Sailing and 1984, representing the Beijing scene they were instrumental in building on an international stage. The band’s next release, 2015’s Music For an Exhibition, was an experimental interlude: a live recording of a performance at Beijing’s foremost contemporary art institution, UCCA, during which their largely improvised compositions backgrounded a transgressive floor-to-ceiling installation of cicada husks by artist Sun Qiuchen.
After collecting their energies for another few years — and as Yang has continued to produce albums for the next generation, and P.K.14 guitarist Xu Bo has helmed progressive Beijing underground music label D Force Records — the band is now ready to convey their latest carefully considered, elegant and elegiac masterpiece, What We Talk About When We Talk About His Name.
“elder statesmen of the Beijing rock scene” — Wall Street Journal
“P.K. 14’s thrashing chords, dark bass lines and frenetic beats resonate with echoes of Sonic Youth, the Pixies, Fugazi and the New York Dolls. But the Beijing band’s charismatic vocalist, Yang Haisong says he takes his lead from songwriters such as ‘Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and a whole generation of protest musicians.’ Think of P.K. 14, in other words, as neither punk nor postpunk but postfolk.” — TIME
“The highlights came early behind P.K. 14 and Carsick Cars, the former act rupturing with the punk intensity of singer Yang Haisong caustically shouting out screeds in Chinese as he kicked around the corner stage and slung the mic with a professional frontman’s flair.” — Austin Chronicle
Yang Haisong - Vocals
Xu Bo - Guitar
Shi Xudong - Bass
Jonathan Leijonhufvud - Drums
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