- Rochelle Beiersdorfer
Beijing’s 和复文丙: Psychedelic Rock That Expands the Mind
Updated: Sep 26, 2022
In this Temper Sampler, I chat with 和复文丙 (Héfùwénbǐng), a trio of free-spirits, about their feelings towards music, life, and, naturally, fashion.
See the China Temper posting with minor edits here.
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Images come courtesy of 和复文丙.
和复文丙 (héfùwénbǐng) is a psychedelic/atmospheric rock trio that thrives on the fringe. As deep thinkers that value the natural world and human nature, they embrace an ethos of always respecting the self and only wanting to create music that they genuinely want to create. And with a frontman who has strong ties to his Yi heritage, 和复文丙’s awareness of human essence and our connection to Mother Nature is at a loftier level.
Yi (彝族｜yízú) is an ethnic minority group that mostly calls southwestern provinces such as Sichuan and Yunnan home. According to Culture Trip, Yi’s ancestry can be traced back to “the archaic Qiang people.” One of the larger ethnic groups in China, the Yi’s population is around nine million.
Yi people revere flora and fauna and their indigenous belief system, Bimoism, depicts this. A religion that falls into the category of animism, Bimoism holds that everything has an essence. #TemperTeaching
To get a taste of 和复文丙’s take on human nature one doesn’t need to look any further than the release description for their 2022 EP: “不被舞台之上的人左右，不被具体的事物所束缚，不用一时的标准来衡量。任 ‘什么错与对，’人应该是自信的，是潇洒的，自由的，没有束缚的，随时 ‘上擅长的武器，凌晨穿行于山林。’ 人应该是自然的，不是被外界塑造成的样子，不是被算法定义的样子，不是被资讯影响的样子，人，本是在 ‘文明之外’的人，纯粹的美，纯粹地享受生命本身，恰如 ‘流星滑落’。”
A rough translation of this profoundly allegorical and own-lyrics-referencing manifesto would be: “Do not be affected by the people on the stage, do not be bound by material things, do not use a temporary standard to examine. Any ‘what is wrong and what is right,’ people should be confident, elegant and unconventional, free, unrestrained, and ready to ‘take [up] the weapon that [they are] good at and walk through the mountains in the early morning.’ People should be natural, not shaped by the outside world, not defined by algorithms, not influenced by information, people, who were originally ‘outside civilization,’ were pure beauty, [and] fully enjoyed life itself, just like ‘shooting stars.’”
Admiring oddity, travel, and the outdoors, 和复文丙 walks their talk, living their truths and relishing in the glow of life. The music they create embodies this. “Everyone's life and experiences are different,” says 阿炳 (ā bǐng), guitarist and a lover of a good adventure, “and right now we're just colliding, bonding, and enjoying the music itself. The material is us [in music-form].”
When it comes to music creation, the three’s guiding light is simple yet vast: expression. “My thoughts on music composition come from life itself and my observation of the world,” states frontman 吉祖尔呷 (Yi language: jjie zzur lur gga), “for a creator, creation itself is a kind of summary and sorting out of one's thoughts over a period of time. Very often, when you look back on some [past] creations and thoughts, you may not even recognize them anymore, but people are ever-changing, and records [created] during fluctuation are not meaningless.”
As this statement signifies, the band holds a deep-rooted appreciation for how change is unavoidable and boundless. This mindfulness of endless evolution is not just present in their musical compositions, personal philosophies, and life journeys, but also the band’s branding.
Anyone who has wandered through the deeper regions of China’s indie rock scene since 2018 has probably come across 和复文丙 before but under a different moniker. “Once we were called ‘冷杉与树,’ today it’s ‘和复文丙,’ the band is now in its fifth year, [and] we’re in different stages [of life],” says the band’s drummer 欣宇 (xīn yǔ) somewhat cryptically, “aesthetics are changing. People are always in flux.”
He goes on to explain that 吉祖尔呷 coined the new name and that each character in the four-character moniker possesses separate symbolic meanings. 和 (hé) is in reference to the chengyu 和光同尘 (hé guāng tóng chén). In modern terms, this idiomatic expression could be defined as being down-to-earth and going with the flow. 复 (fù) denotes patterns or rhythms of life (规律| guīlǜ). 文 (wén) simply symbolizes aesthetics (审美|shěnměi) and 丙 (bǐng) balance (平衡| pínghéng). “These four terms are a state we hope to achieve and are our view of the world - to live and create peacefully and regularly, balancing ourselves with the outside world.”
Songs that instill a sense of serenity electrified is 和复文丙’s forte. Guided by heavy psychedelic beats and infectious grooves, 和复文丙’s sound is free-flowing and distinct. With an intentional mingling of rich tribal tones and post-rock oomph, songs such as《城市是一片希望与绝望》(chéngshì shì yīpiàn xīwàng yǔ juéwàng | A City is a Piece of Hope and Despair) and 《少年老甲》(shàonián lǎo jiǎ |rough translation: Young and Old Armor) lead you down a waterway of rhythm that is trancey. And although that sounds like drug lingo, the only trippin’ going on while taking in 和复文丙’s sonic psalms is to the light fantastic. In other words, 和复文丙 creates tracks that are top-notch blends of modern beats that make your body want to get down and easygoing vibes that invite your sentience to soar.
While the instrumental compositions are vibrant, chill, and danceable, the lyrics are deep and thought-provoking. Exploring the human condition and all its conundrums and paradoxes, songs like 《清醒只是痛苦的开始》(qīngxǐng zhǐshì tòngkǔ de kāishǐ | Clearheadedness is Just the Beginning of Suffering) voice the painful truths and ambiguous afflictions of being human. Although these lyrical concepts have been over exhausted for decades, 和复文丙 examines them from a place of poetic clarity and heartfelt contemplation, shining their novel light on circumstances that are commonplace encounters and oh so very, very human.
On the books, 和复文丙 was formed in 2018 under the aforementioned name of 冷杉与树 (lěngshān yǔ shù | Fir and Tree). Off the record, the three met each other in 2015 while studying at Beijing Midi School of Music (北京迷笛音乐学校 | běijīng mí dí yīnyuè xuéxiào). Aware of each other’s musical dexterities, they “…agreed to form a band together.”
Regardless of how long 和复文丙 has been around, all the textbook turbulence of being in a band has already been thoroughly experienced. From an unstable lineup, not being on the same wavelength when it comes to music, and taking a hiatus that eventually turned into a disband in 2020, the classmates-turned-bandmates have endured all the ups and downs of jamming with others.
After a year of being separated, the trio reunited and, earlier this year, released their eponymous debut EP. “Thankfully, we now get along very well with each other and have a good understanding between [us],” states 欣宇, “we are very confident about the future.”
MUSIC AND FASHION
Like their life and creative ideologies, 和复文丙’s fashion sense at first glance is minimalistic and laidback, with 吉祖尔呷 even fully embracing the man bun and comfy shoes combo. But, also like their music, there’s a lot more going on than what meets the eye.
“Fashion is something that is determined by both capital and social trends,” states 吉祖尔呷, “it is hard for a person to say that their aesthetic is good or bad, …but the aesthetic we usually talk about is largely influenced by external factors. So, the fashion that people chase or evaluate daily is, for me, a mirror of society.”
Even with such a weighty point of view towards fashion, 吉祖尔呷 recognizes that there is an inseparable bond between music and fashion. “Modern music itself is inextricably linked to fashion, like the Beatles, who wore suits and ties, and David Bowie, who became a fashion icon for his style. Modern music has always been with fashion, and has even influenced fashion,” he continues when asked about music and fashion’s connection, “over the past few years, I think the relationship between music and fashion has become even more significant, more listeners will recognize a band by external factors. For example, the band's dress or visual style.”
Speaking of a band’s visual 风格 (fēnggé｜style) and collective stage getup…
Fashion's use as a medium for expression hasn’t been lost on or overlooked by the trio. “We used to go [on stage] in our own separate [clothing] aesthetics,” explains 欣宇, “but recently we’ve been considering preparing some stage looks that are more in line with our temperament and musical style. No concrete ideas [for looks] yet.”
和复文丙 calls the concrete jungle of Beijing home base.
Even though the summer music festival season is in full swing, 和复文丙 is currently not hitting the circuit, or any stages for that matter. Instead, they’re fully immersed in the creative process for their sophomore release.
So, keep your eyes peeled for information on future shows and about this forthcoming release (via social media, of course).
Who doesn’t like a moment of tranquility?
Transporting you to a dimension of psychedelic pulsations, 和复文丙’s music is a bath of mellow melodies and calm contemplation. So, close your eyes, take three breaths, and allow yourself to be drawn into a meditative state to soothe the somatic and move the mind.