Snapline first formed in the mid-2000s as the shared plot of three precocious math and science majors. Co-founders Li Qing and Li Weisi — also founding members of Carsick Cars — met as classmates at the Beijing Institute of Technology, and decided to form a band connecting the dots between the harsher, edgier music of the 1970s and 80s industrial West with the equally smoggy realities of their contemporary Beijing. An initial run of sparse motorik beats placed over dark, minor chords was completed by Li Qing’s hometown friend Chen Xi, an engineering student at prestigious Tsinghua University with a penchant for offbeat lyricism, and Snapline was officially formed.
By late 2006, Snapline’s sound was honed sharp enough to cut through the surrounding noise and catch the ear of producer and ex-PIL drummer Martin Atkins, who was in Beijing looking for fresh talent and ended up signing Snapline on the spot, producing their first album, Party Is Over, Pornostar. Over the next few years, Snapline earned a rabid fanbase through frequent performances at their home base — the storied club D-22, sometimes compared in scene-building importance to legendary NYC club CBGB — as well as at music festivals, where their carefully calculated balance between discordant tunes and cutting, prescient lyricism drove away as many unsuspecting fest-goers as it earned diehard followers among those in attendance that “got it.” This underground momentum ultimately landed Snapline in the studio again for their expansive second album, Phenomena, which they performed widely across the country before eventually going quiet, as frontman Chen Xi relocated to the US.
Despite time and distance, Snapline is now back and as tuned in to their own weird frequencies as ever: over the past several years they’ve regrouped in studios in Japan and on stages across China for a reinvigorated new act of an already legendary career. Chen Xi’s signature personal charisma is perfectly intact, and the Li’s haven’t lost a shred of their nervous, harmonic tension — a fact underscored by the frequent activity of the band’s various side projects, including Chen’s Late Troubles and Li Qing/Li Weisi’s Soviet Pop. Snapline remains one of the most important bands to come out of the grimy underbelly of Beijing’s 21st century music scene, a lodestar for succeeding generations of musicians that continue to be drawn in by their singular approach to making music as art, not product.
“While their peers went on to buff the most abrasive elements of their sound into more or less palatable forms of noise rock and post-punk, Snapline earned a reputation for uncompromising, often alienating live shows. Their 2007 debut, Party Is Over, Pornostar, showcases a brazen mix of minor-chord melodies, industrial fuzz waves, motorik drum machine propulsion and percussive guitar shreds, all backgrounded by vocalist Chen Xi’s surreal lyrics ontologically probing the bleak postmodern Beijing landscape.” – Tiny Mix Tapes
“Snapline are a great Chinese band. Clever, sharp, a little punky, they are great songwriters and excellent performers.” – China Music Radar
Chen Xi - Vocals / Drum Machine
Li Qing - Guitar / Synth
Li Weisi - Bass
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February 3, 2017
This week on KEXP’s Music that Matters, Wo’ Pop host Darek Mazzone interviews Snapline singer Chenxi and plays a whole slew of Maybe Mars tunes. […]