Fresh Blood in the Old School: Qingdao Hard Rockers Sad Garage
Updated: 2 days ago
Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Dies!
In this Temper Sampler, we take a walk on the wild side and discover the Qingdao-based hard rock gang Sad Garage 伤心车库, their music philosophy, and, of course, their fashion sense.
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Sad Garage (伤心车库 | shāngxīn chēkù) is a quintet of rebel-rousing rock ‘n’ roll diehards. Living life by the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll catechism “live hard, die young,” Sad Garage’s objective is simple: Have a life that’s worth living and leave something behind that’s worth leaving. This sentiment is no more evident than in Sad Garage’s frontman Dakui (大奎| Dàkuí)’s response when asked about the band’s aim: “encouraging those few people who, like us, are a minority in society and out of step. We need to make our voices heard because life must be something meaningful--even after death.”
So what does Sad Garage warrant as being worth leaving? Songs that convey authentic, ludicrous antics. “When we write songs, we tend to get together and drink and talk, and we get most of our inspiration from cheesy jokes and life stories,” Dakui tells Temper, “I think most of our creative experiences are juvenile.”
Regardless of how immature and booze-fueled their creative experiences are, the sentiment that Sad Garage expresses is all too human and all too relatable. Their music, like a lot of rock ‘n’ roll, is the sonic preservation of life’s genuine novelty and declaration of just being true to the strangeness and overall beauty that makes each of us who we are.
“Although humans are complicated and everyday life is dull, the process of creating music is also a process of really exploring and expressing one's own charm,” says Qiushi (秋实|Qiū shí), one of Sad Garage’s guitarists and someone who found their passion for music via punk rock, “I really like David Bowie and The Rolling Stones. While showcasing their musical dexterity, they also put some interesting things in their music from their lives and their experiences; sometimes they are full of fantasy, they have many wonderful and lovely ideas in their music, which is very interesting. It's also very important for me to keep an open mind, and I love to experience different styles of music.”
First becoming exposed to the bounties of musical styles while still in school, Sad Garage’s members are connoisseurs of the classics. Besides Qiushi independently stumbling upon punk rock while in middle school and liking the genre’s “defiant attitude with what they were expressing,” other members’ descents into the underground had some guidance. For instance, Sad Garage’s other guitarist Yuegui (月鬼| Yuè guǐ), or moon ghost in English, started his immersion into the world of music at home. “Because of my family, I grew up listening to a lot of classical music. It was probably junior high school when I officially started listening to popular rock music. That was when I first heard Michael Jackson and the domestic [Chinese] band Beyond and from then on things got out of hand. After studying two three years of guitar by myself, I started to create my own original compositions.”
Breaking the fourth wall/editorial role of the narrator here for a moment to say that how the band name of Sad Garage was coined, and what it denotes, gives me goosebumps. When asked about how their idiosyncratic name was conjured, Dakui recounts a tale that just screams fundamental hard rock band’s humble beginnings. Because of heavy drinking and presumably not making enough to maintain a basic standard of living (it’s a hard life as a rocker), Dakui once was forced to find overnight shelter in carports. “I told people that I often drank too much and had no money to find a place to live,” he divulges, “I would buy cheap spirits with the rest of the money [after drinking in a bar] and then hide in a public underground garage to sleep. So, you get the idea.” Yes, we do.
Rock ‘n’ roll is life cranked up to 11 and blasted until your heart is on fire and your afflictions evaporate. It’s a sonic scorching of the soul that releases inner demons and welcomes party goblins to play. That is to say, rock ‘n’ roll, at its core, is about having a good time and disconnecting from the troubles and dullness of living.
Sad Garage’s music fully encompasses this intrinsic nature of rock. With melodies that surge and enthrall, Sad Garage’s discography possesses that fun and provocative vibe that makes rock music as a genre so satisfying to listen to. This in-your-face euphoric oomph and spark of youthful delinquency are no more apparent than on the track “HUMPING DOG” off of their 2021 EP《病态爱人》or Psycho Lover. As the song title entails, “HUMPING DOG” tells the tale of a hound going to town on the narrator’s leg. Considering how childish that sounds, the song has more merit than just being an example of pubescent jest. The literary devices used and the Chinese translation of the lyrics express a grave anecdote of being stripped of dignity, millennial apathy, and filial chagrin.
Besides expressing a young-at-heart attitude, Sad Garage’s music also explores other essential themes in hard rock such as heavy drinking to the point of causing a rumpus or drowning your sorrows, heartache, and anxieties in a pint…or six.
Not all Sad Garage’s creations are playful mischievousness, lowbrow humor or songs that promote partying until you puke, wallowing in your woes, or living life on the edge. Following in the footprints of rock legends, this motley crew has a profound social awareness and isn’t shy to use their music as a medium to remark on society’s dirty laundry.
Mindful of the world we live in and the power corruption that is at play, topics of socioeconomic injustice is another prominent premise within Sad Garage’s lyrics. One such song that fully exemplifies this is “Jimmy Friday《寂寞的富二代》” (jìmò de fù èr dài) off the aforementioned EP Psycho Lover. With a song title that plays with Chinese and English phonetic similarities, “Jimmy Friday《寂寞的富二代》” discusses economic inequity and how the rich, in this case trust fund babies, assume they can be as licentious as they please, “cause rich people always win.”
Instrumentally, Sad Garage is an impeccable textbook example of hard rock. Guitars gush ravenously and solos soar. The percussion section hits hard with rhythmic gusto and bold precision. And the vocals? As sultry and harsh as a chain smoker sipping smooth whiskey and reciting erotic poetry.
Formed in March of 2021, Sad Garage recently celebrated their one-year anniversary as a band. Like a lot of rock groups’ beginnings, Sad Garage started as a bunch of rock ‘n’ roll rebels wanting to create something awesome out of a shared love for the genre and old school. “At the start, I only knew the guitarists and drummer,” recalls Dakui, “everybody likes relatively old school, so you can say that Sad Garage was formed [out of that].”
Qiushi’s account of how they formed is a little more descriptive. “Before [the band] I just knew Dakui,” he states, “last year, I was in a creative standstill in my other band which was testing out some new styles of work. As a result [of this creative stagnation], I said to Dakui: ‘Why don’t we create some awesome material!’ At that time, he was already in the process of forming a band with Yuegui and 50m [the drummer]. And just like that Sad Garage was started--except at the beginning we didn’t have a name.”
After deciding to join forces and start creating “awesome material,” all that was left was to find someone to fill the position of bassist. Not much long after, the bassist P Jiang (p酱 | p jiàng, or p sauce in English ) got on board after being, as he puts it, “harassed” on Baidu Tieba (百度贴吧), China’s equivalent to Reddit, to join a hard rock group.
With the lineup set and everything falling into place, or, as 50m describes it, “the eight character began to have a stroke,” presumably making reference to the Chinese saying for it’s up in the air (八字还没一撇｜bāzì hái méi yī piē), Sad Garage’s adventure as a band really got rolling.
“Everything was difficult at the start,” Dakui recalls, “[but] the first practice, the first time writing my own lyrics and the first gig are all very precious experiences.” Their debut in the limelight took place at Dakui’s common stomping ground and Qingdao’s self-acclaimed “dirty beast” dive bar DMC. Since then, Sad Garage has played shows at small livehouses across Qingdao and the 10th anniversary of Tsingdao Calling (青岛呼唤 | qīngdǎo hūhuàn), a notorious underground music festival that brings flocks of music maniacs to Qingdao every year to ring in the new year.
MUSIC AND FASHION
Like any subculture, rock ‘n’ roll has a uniform. And although this way of dressing is not explicitly dictated to you when you enlist in the rock ‘n’ roll brigade, there are certain fashion formalities that most diehard rockers adhere to. Silk tops and tight jeans; bellbottoms and band tees; cutoffs and leather jackets (with or without fringe); boots and long hair.
Mixed among smartass remarks about how booze and cigarettes are fashionable and comments ridiculing popular fashion as vain, Sad Garage sees fashion as more of a state of mind than just button downs, blue jeans and flowing locks.
“Personally, I think fashion is a type of internal/external, naturally occurring and distinctive means of thinking and personality. Everyone’s ideology, when compared to others’, is different, and being able to think independently, this is fashion,” says Yuegui, “Of course, I think rock music should be at the forefront of the most fashionable.”
Yuegui isn’t the only one that holds these beliefs about fashion, as a concept. His bandmates are of the same mind, especially when associating fashion with music. “Music is fashion,” declares 50m, who likes to go on stage in whatever is comfy and easy to rock out in, “every genre of music is fashionable for its listeners.”
And fashionable these hard rock devotees are. With all the spunk and sass one would expect from a band of kinky misfits, Sad Garage’s sense of style fully marks them as members of the rock ‘n’ roll league, but with a distinct touch of self-expression, because, after all, looking sharp and being offbeat is totally rock ‘n’ roll.
“Recently I've been wearing a lot more casual [clothes], but I always like to have some southern elements, like flares and such, and I love Lynyrd Skynyrd,” says Qiushi, “I think it's time to be a little more flamboyant!”
The 1970’s rock band that popularized the southern rock sound and brought it to the mainstream was Lynyrd Skynyrd. A legendary Floridian group, Lynyrd Skynyrd flaunts a clothing style that is rock ‘n’ roller suave but accessorized with a total rodeo vibe. Thank the cowboy boots and hats for that. #TemperTeaching
Sad Garage hails from the dive bars and underground grottos of China’s Beer City, Qingdao.
On April 9TH Sad Garage will be bringing the tastefully sleazy and rock ‘n’ roll ruckus to the indie music livehouse INCORE (硬盒现场| yìng hé xiànchǎng). As the local act for the Qingdao stop of 虎啸新春2022 WEEK END厂牌联合巡演 (hǔ xiào xīnchūn 2022 WEEK END chǎng pái liánhé xúnyǎn), or Tiger New Year WEEK END Label Joint Tour in English, they will be hitting the stage with Tianjin rockers热力(rèlì | heat in English) and Hebei Province’s nu-metal act Fearless源点 (yuán diǎn| source in English). For more information, head over to Sad Garage’s Weibo. #scrolldown
As the rock legend and co-founder of the iconic British rock group The Who, Pete Townshend is quoted to have said, "rock 'n' roll might not solve your problems, but it does let you dance all over them." And that’s exactly what Sad Garage’s heavy-hitting rock anthems do. They give you a space to escape life’s mundane mania and just rage, igniting your inner flame and releasing any anguish. So, embrace the heat and give kindle to your inner rocker.