A Sprinkle and A Dash: Beijing-Based MFmachine Brews Sweet Sonic Sippers
MFmachine is a Beijing-based quartet that creates songs that are a scrumptious blend of electronic whimsy, jazzy rock, and bubbly dreampop.
See the China Temper posting with minor edits here.
All photos provided by MFmachine. Other photo credits stated where necessary.
MFmachine is a squad of passionate free spirits who create tunes that are four parts upbeat, two parts rockin’ and topped off with a generous splash of zaniness. The result is jams that go down smooth while simultaneously lifting your spirits and tickling your fancy.
White-collar workers by day, the members of MFmachine discovered their niche for music creation while in school. “During high school, I was obsessed with some ambiguous music and movies as well as some irritating idol celebrities,” Gaga (嘎嘎|gāgā), lead vocalist of the band and a lawyer by profession, tells Temper via WeChat “…I thought that only by creating something could I leave some existential value. After much deliberation (including taking into account my own preferences and abilities), I figured creating music rather suited me, so in my junior year of high school I started making some very rough demos. The music at that time was mainly guitar, piano and vocals.”
Other members found their way to molding melodies while expanding their minds at university. “In college, I started to try to make my own original music with my music club mates,” states bassist Chen Xuanming (陈宣铭|chén xuānmíng) , whose day job is related to foreign trade, “…I usually took up bass player duties for many bands, so the genres I’ve dabbled in are a lot.”
Like any idiosyncratic band name, MFmachine, 没发霉 (méi fāméi) in Chinese, is attention grabbing. You’re probably asking yourself right now what the MF stands for, right?
“At the start, MFmachine’s meaning was ‘mind fuck machine,’” clarifies Gaga, “later we preferred the understanding of a few fans, ‘my favorite machine.’”
And for the Chinese?
Gaga continues: “…[our] label required us to have a Chinese name. We started to look for a Chinese phrase that matched the initials MFM. As a joke, we decided the Chinese should be 没发霉.”
Well, there you have it. MFmachine is an overwhelming and preferred electrical apparatus that doesn’t emit mildew. Idiosyncratic indeed.
MFmachine’s discography is a medley of electronic whimsy, jazzy rock and bubbly dreampop.
“I like music that is sophisticated and emotionally resonates to the listener,” says Gaga, “I believe that the scope of independent music creation should not be limited to a certain style/genre, but only through constant fusion, development and innovation can we obtain new ideas.”
MFmachine’s strive for originality is evident. Songs such as “单向浪漫” (dān xiàng làngmàn | rough translation: One Way Romance), “欢迎光临白日梦” (huānyíng guānglín bái rì mèng | Welcome to My Daydreams) and “撞车俱乐部” (zhuàngchē jùlèbù | Crashing Club) combine a plethora of well-defined musical styles to produce eclectic mixes that can quench the musical thirst of any offbeat melomaniac, and that’s just considering the instrumentals which aren’t the only neoteric elements in a MFmachine song. The lyrical concepts are too.
Even with such a cheery and blithe vibe present throughout a majority of MFmachine’s compositions’ instrumentals, songs such as the aforementioned tell stories of unrequited love, forlornness, fatalism, soul-searching and a runaway’s delusion. To use an aphorism, all that is gold does not glitter.
With a DIY attitude, the creative force that is MFmachine formed in 2015 when Gaga and Jia Bao (佳宝|jiā bǎo) were both juniors in college. Desiring to play something other than run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter tunes, the duo began concocting songs with Gaga handling song writing and Jia Bao, the band’s guitarist, in charge of production duties. “[I] taught myself to record and mix for the band,” Jia Bao tells Temper, “and have been responsible for recording the band’s demos ever since.”
The project wasn’t just the duet slinging out singles by their lonesome. In the early days, Gaga and Jia Bao would hit up creative pals to contribute either cover artwork, lyrics or compose and/or play an instrument’s part. “[For] each song MFmachine would invite talented friends to be responsible for a part of the content creation, such as drawing the cover [art], creating the lyrics, [or] composing or playing a particular instrument,” Gaga explains when talking about the band’s history, “during this period, MFmachine was mainly about writing and recording songs.”
In 2018 that all changed. Realizing that MFmachine ought to “be more than just an entertainment program between friends” and get in on the action that is Beijing’s indie underground live music scene, Gaga and Jia Bao began hitting Beijing’s stages with different drummers and bassists. “During this time, there were several member changes and record label signings,” Gaga states. After cycling through a few different drummers and bassists, the current drummer and bassist, Sisi (思思 | sīsī ) and Chen Xuanming respectively, joined the band and the rest is history.
Since the lineup solidified, MFmachine has been skyrocketing. Releasing their first physical recording in 2020 as a cassette tape on Nugget Records, the band saw their debut EP entitled A Bigger Splash (落水火箭| luòshuǐ huǒjiàn ) come to fruition last year on Modern Sky (摩登天空| módēng tiānkōng), after signing a contract with the record label White Cat Laundry (白猫洗衣店| bái māo xǐyī diàn). The sky’s the limit!
MUSIC AND FASHION
Akin to their musical stylings, MFmachine’s members’ fashion senses are a patchwork of colors and looks. From babydoll chic to rocker casual, and sometimes even furry fabulous, the garbs MFmachine wears on stage sparkle and pop with quirky, kickass individuality. “Fashion is an outward expression of one's personality and preferences,” states Jia Bao,“for example, my personality is relatively casual. I like to play games, so I usually like to wear loose and comfortable T-shirts which most likely have a band's logo or game art.” The rest of the band’s sentiments’ parallel Jia Boa’s: “Fashion is a very important way to reflect your personality,” concurs Gaga, a fashionista herself and lover of cosmetics, “I am a rather flamboyant person, and I want other people to know my personality and mood through my fashion or makeup.”
“Fashion is very useful for me to express my musical ideas, especially as a band,” adds Chen, “[I] need to visually present myself and having a (clothing) style that fits with my musical style is best.”
And what about Sisi? What does he wear when blasting out the rhythm section live? The most rocker wardrobe of them all: Whatever he pleases. “No meaning,” he replies when asked about if his stage attire has any deep significance, “usually [I] choose to wear clothing that I enjoy wearing at that time, of course [I] will think about changing up the style, etc. a little bit.”
The MFmachine camp is stationed in Beijing, the epicenter of China’s underground music scene.
Due to the ceaseless dumpster fire that is the coronavirus, MFmachine, as of posting, has no upcoming gigs. Keep an eye on their socials for your chance to enter their realm of playful pandemonium.
MFmachine’s music is sanguine and saccharine (we mean that lovingly!) and is the perfect remedy to counter any case of the winter blues. So, serve yourself a heaping spoonful of delectable sonic sugar and make the bitter pills of life more palatable to swallow. After all, it is what helps the medicine go down.