The big ambitions and misadventures of Dirty Fingers

Andrew Chin
Hometown rockers Dirty Fingers take to the Mao Livehouse stage to kick off their second national tour in six months.
Andrew Chin

Just a couple weeks after opening for The Cribs at their sold-out Shanghai show, local rockers Dirty Fingers will take to the Mao Livehouse stage to kick off their second national tour in six months.

The rowdy Shanghai rockers have big ambitions as they will embark on a 13-city world tour from September to February, thanks to a crowd-funding campaign, taking in Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Egypt, Brazil and South Africa.

“Our logic is that we have more fun when we play and we get better,” says drummer Alex Amazonia. “The better we get, the more people like us, which gives us more resources so we can keep doing what we’re doing, which is playing, drinking and traveling around the world.”

It’s a remarkable rise for a band that began in college only five years ago, with a self-declared threat of “being disbanded at any time.”

“I wanted to be recognized, and starting a band was the easiest way,” explains founding member Guan Xiaotian. “I became the frontman pretty naturally because I don’t play any instruments. I’m pretty inspired by the people I meet.”

While Guan was able to convince classmates to start the band, it would take two years for their lineup to solidify. Amazonia describes those early shows as “embarrassing and hilarious at the same time.”

“Basically, it was Xiaotian jumping around singing and the other members looking at their hands trying to figure out the notes,” Amazonia laughs. “No power, no speed, no emotions. Just struggle.”

Guitarist Bing Xiaohai joined after the outfit’s original guitarist broke his arm. Amazonia was next after randomly meeting Guan at an art exhibition where they bonded over the singer’s Suicidal Tendencies T-shirt and the drummer’s past playing in bands in his native Brazil.

Zhang Haiming was the last, an early fan of the band who solidified his spot after learning how to play bass and all of the Dirty Fingers’ songs in less than one week.
In a city better known for its exemplary electronic music scene, Dirty Fingers stands out for a sloppy sound they describe as “something between indie kung fu rock mixed with bossa nova 1970s punk.”

Ti Gong

The four-piece Shanghai rock band Dirty Fingers

While the band was a frequent presence across Shanghai venues, such as Live Bar, Harley’s, LOgO and 696 Livehouse, Amazonia admits that the hometown reaction was mixed.

“Apart from local bands and foreigners, the general audience was not that supportive at first,” he says.

Undeterred, the group self-released their debut EP “Monkey King” in 2015, which included a cover version of Jackie Chan’s “A Man Should Strengthen Himself.”
Despite being an unknown independent band, they embarked on a self-funded 33-city tour of China that took them across 29 provinces in four months all by train.

“Great times,” recalls Amazonia. “So much cheap beer, instant noodles, bad sleep and moving around. But most importantly, a chance to observe and understand the country as a whole.”

The band’s relentless touring paid off when Beijing indie label Maybe Mars last year released their full-length debut “How’d I Turn So Bad?” 

Spurred by the cheeky lead single, “I Like Your Girlfriend Too,” Amazonia admits the group was taken aback by the positive reaction to the album.

“We liked this album a lot, but we didn’t expect the buzz that it caused. It was like we went from zero to hero in the indie underground scene,” he says.

“So now we have our own recording studio in Yangpu District and started producing our third album. So far the new compositions are richer in rhythm dynamics, incorporating some African beats and rock and roll riffs, and the four of us singing sometimes on top of each other and sometimes in an organized way!”

Performance details

Date: May 26, 9pm
Tickets: 100 yuan
Venue: Mao Livehouse
Address: 3/F, 308 Chongqing Rd S.

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