It's been a decade since DJ Heatwolves started a small party and music crew named Love Bang. In the last ten years, they've thrown dozens and dozens of parties, drawn hundreds of crayon-art flyers and invented wild narratives about the lives of street cats. They celebrate this weekend at Elevator with a party themed on "going back to the womb" (followed by a China tour), so I asked him and Love Bang artist 陈吸吸 about the role of nostalgia in music and in Shanghai, how one stays relevant in Shanghai for so long, and a bunch of other things that don't revolve around the boom-boom-boom (though it will definitely boom this weekend). Click the jump to read the conversation!
SmartShanghai: Love Bang has been going for 10 years now. How do you stay new and relevant when Shanghai has a serious case of Attention Deficit Disorder? Restaurants and bars are considered old at their first birthday.
Love Bang: Haha, "new" and "old" are relative, aren't they? In fact, the whole world has ADD except for tribes and cults. Options are keeping us away from totalitarianism, at least on the surface. Fashion trends go backwards in loops and so do politics now. People and restaurants can be "old" in their youth and relatively old people and restaurants can stay young and fresh. The key is to have an open mind and accept the fact that our physical bodies get old no matter what, but ideas can live forever. Our generation will die someday but hopefully our spirit will live on, the mistakes can be remembered, and the hard lessons can be learnt. Our intention with Love Bang is not about entertaining people at parties but making them tick with concepts and ideas. We make clubs into galleries, and parties are our exhibitions. One thing we have in common with restaurants is that we both serve everyone. For some, our content transforms into sugar and disappears into the memory ocean, and for others, our content transforms into protein or new ideas, and they take action. For us, the latter matters more.
SmartShanghai: That's, um, a little philosophical... so Love Bang is an art exhibition?
Love Bang: You can think of it like that if you like. Clubs are exhibitions. Cities are exhibitions.
SmartShanghai: I would argue that for most people, they are a place to have fun, to find some stress relief, to drink a little too much... aren't we taking this all a bit seriously? But let's go with your theory. Exhibitions are themed to deliver a message to the audience. What message is Love Bang trying to express?
Love Bang: Duchamp's urinal means rebellion to one but it's total garbage to another. In fact, every art piece may carry a different message to every audience member. We are not doing some fancy-ass champagne drinking decorative art viewing ceremonies. If there is one message or theme that all exhibitions share, that theme is conflict. So we're never trying to send one message. In fact, we are against that. We put ideas and topics out there and leave it open for people to think about. We don't want people to run away from life. We want people to look deeper. Also, drinking is definitely not a must at our parties. The great thing about art is that it opens windows instead of shutting doors. We've had completely different themes for our launches in the past years, including issues about shanzhai products, ghosts, phone addictions, trash sorting, bad business ideas, cross-racial problems, moldy milk tea, and music festival scams. The theme for our nine-year anniversary last year was "Super Kawaii Death Virus." Ten years is a sharp number. The concept " Back to the womb" is also throwing ourselves back to the beginning, when we were in our early 20s. We hope to remind people of that feeling we had when we were first going out. Everyone needs a bit of a reminder of where they came from and why they're doing what they're doing. For those people already in an "old person's lifestyle", maybe this is a chance to reconsider.
SmartShanghai: "We hope to remind people of that feeling we had when we were first going out." How are you going to do that?
Love Bang: We are transforming Elevator into a womb. Our artist 陈吸吸 is preparing a totally new live VJ set and installations for the night, and we've also prepared a unique smell that might help to clean the audience's mind and soul. The whole lineup is stacked with six friends playing rare and original music loud on a big sound system. Expect the vibe to change every hour, and people might hear everything from gospel to dancehall to footwork to heartbeats. All of this stimulation should help to trigger some old memories and create new ones.
SmartShanghai: What about the saying "you can't go home again", which was both a DJ Shadow song and, originally, a Thomas Wolfe book title. Is nostalgia pointless? What role does and should nostalgia have in Shanghai, the future city?
Love Bang: For sure everything has its meaning and place. Nostalgia is powerful medicine, but you gotta resist it sometimes (especially in DJ sets). It's always a struggle trying to learn from the past but create something new, and many in history have probably faced the same struggle. It's all about balance. As for Shanghai and nostalgia, if you live in downtown Shanghai, it can be easy to get into a routine of staying around your district. And that district might feel quite rooted in the past. The architecture in Xuhui, Jing'an, and Huangpu is often from the 1920's and '30s, but other parts of the city feel completely 2021. Last summer we looked at over 50 apartments in different areas of the city and discovered all this futuristic development happening on the North Bund, the Pudong Riverwalk by Yangpu Bridge, west of Hongqiao Railway station, and lots of other places. That is straight-up 2020's architecture. And the more you explore and talk with people you realise how unique Shanghai really is. That's where a lot of our inspiration comes from. I came across a Quora thread yesterday where people were asking, "How long should I spend in Shanghai?" and everyone was like, "two days max." You need at least a week or two to even scratch the surface. So going back to the other point about the spirit of when we first started going out, often we can find that spirit when we're just wandering around the city. Then we try to infuse some of that into our work.
SmartShanghai: Any final comments on relevance or nostalgia?
Love Bang: Keep digging. Be aware of trends but don't follow trends. Accept that you're always learning. Keep reading, keep walking, and keep thinking. Look into the future. Curate tomorrow's nostalgia today. * Love Bang's 10 Year Anniversary starts this Saturday, June 13, at Elevator.