Li Jian assumed that Hong Kong was a modern, cosmopolitan metropolis. He didn’t expect it to be quaint. The guitarist for The Big Wave, the Beijing-based, post-punk trio, who are releasing their debut EP, <THE>, on April 20, recently played a gig in The Pearl of the Orient. While there, Li discovered a side of Hong Kong that contradicted its notoriously bustling pushiness. After he asked a local old-timer for advice on bus routes, he was taken aback by the stranger’s kindness.

“He was so helpful, I got overwhelmed a bit and jumped on the next bus,” says Li before adding that the old man followed him onboard, and gently explained that he was heading the wrong way. “I don’t think that would happen in the rest of China.”

That warm Cantonese charm inspired the lyrics for The Big Wave tune “Chinese Live in Hong Kong.” But the rest of their music mimics the Mainland’s crushing bulldozers, towering cranes and lurching traffic. Those notes are relentless, mechanical and precise. Take the band’s latest song, “Modern Slave,” which finds Li singing about a typical Chinese factory worker toiling on an assembly line that resembles a new age chain gang. It’s based on a friend of Li’s, and he sings about that pal’s plight through a distorting vocoder that enhances the dystopic vibe.

Li, bassist and co-frontman Xing Xing, and drummer Li He constantly poke fun at themselves. The Big Wave in Mandarin is “Da Bo Lang.” But they admit to using it because of the separate meanings of those words. “Da bo” can literally mean “big breasts,” while “lang” can mean a promiscuous lady. Jian admits his passion for socially conscious songwriting doesn’t make him immune to a good pun. “I sing about being sad, but the fans love Xing’s love songs.

“I don’t sing about love,” Xing corrects him with mock earnestness. “I sing about sex.”

The Big Wave’s new EP, <THE>, will be released on Apr 20. Tracks and gig schedule can be found on their douban.

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