Kaohsiung Music Scene: Above the Giants

Every famous band has its roots in a city. Kaohsiung, too, has an up and coming band on the verge of stardom. My Kaohsiung introduces Above the Giants in an exclusive interview.

Typically, a few people get together to jam and one thing leads to another and then opportunity knocks. Kaohsiung is the proud hometown of Above the Giants whose opportunity has arrived.

The band was formed in 2019. The lead singer is Angelica who is accompanied by two guitarists, Oliver and Anthony. Prior to Anthony, Rich was the second guitarist, but he left to focus on his studies. The band plays a unique genre of music that can only be described as a mixture of Indie rock with hints of ambiance and shoe gaze. They were heavily influenced by The Smith’s Johnny Marr, while Angelica listens to a lot of Indie Folk such as Sufjan Stevens and Kings of Convenience.

Meet the Band

The band members used to frequent a bar in the southern part of Kaohsiung a few years ago and every night it would be jam packed.  There was a little stage with live music every day. They went with different circles of friends but one day a tiny little girl got on stage and sang this beautiful soothing music with this huge enormous voice.  Turns out that girl was Angelica. Right then, Oliver found the perfect lead vocal for the songs he had written. Anthony would also play on stage with different instruments in numerous bands. Oliver, like a professional talent agent, found his third member to form the trio.

Oliver is from the UK and grew up in a small town called Cowbridge in Wales. He came to Taiwan in 2012 and has been living here ever since. He is a guitarist and songwriter and wrote all the songs in the band. He started playing guitar when he was 11 years old. As soon as he could play a few chords, he started writing songs. Later, he wanted to perfect his craft so he decided to major in music in university. The Stone Roses was one of the first bands that he listened to and they are the band that turned him into guitar music.

Angelica is the lead vocal for the band. She is originally from Jakarta, Indonesia. She moved to Taichung to study when she was 18. Lucky for us, she moved to Kaohsiung several years ago. Besides music, she loves alpacas (see picture below). She actually wanted to name the band the Three Alpacas. While unique, she was overruled. They eventually settled on “Above the Giant.”

Image by JacLou DL from Pixabay

Anthony is the newest member. He studied music technology and is a bit of a wizard because not only did he single-handedly record and produce their EP, he’s a talented multi-instrumentalist. He plays bass, guitar and percussion. Going forward, he’ll be playing lead guitar on some of their songs and bass on others. His dad is from England and his mom is Taiwanese. One interesting anecdote, Anthony went to the same university the same year as their former guitarist, Rich, but they never met each other until they started playing together in the band in Kaohsiung.

The band found themselves in the Paramount bar and the owner agreed to let them play under the conditions that 1: Someone else would come and play on the bill with us.  2: We had 40 mins worth of material to play and 3: We come with up with a name for the band!

They managed to pull all of these off but what he didn’t realize was that their show was going to be filmed. Their videos ended up on YouTube and before they knew it, other venues were contacting them to play. It ended up being a snowball effect.

In another milestone, the band recently recorded their first EP. They recorded their EP above a shop which is nestled nicely away in one of Kaohsiung’s many unique districts. Even then, the lively party atmosphere of Kaohsiung was a distraction, but the band stayed focused and recorded the EP despite the temptations.

According to Oliver, the hardest thing about starting off was just getting your foot in the door. 

When we decided to do our first show I was speaking to venues and promoters and they all wanted either recordings or videos of us. At which point we didn’t have any of these.

Their advice for aspiring bands is that before you go and do anything like set up your bands, Facebook fan page, Instagram account, focus on the number 1 thing: get your music down.  Practice over and over again until you know it’s the best you can do. When you finally are ready to release those rock demons you can then kick back and have as much fun on stage as you like!!!

Videography

They attributes some of their success on Kaohsiung. Oliver reflects that Kaohsiung has such a welcoming and tight knit community which you won’t find in other cities: “It’s partly why we’ve stayed here for as long as we have.” Kaohsiung also has a lot of bands around town. They really enjoy other local bands such as Elephant Gym, who are having huge success at the moment with their LP and touring. The Last Wave and Fogbow are also favorite local Taiwanese bands.

They are also big fans of Plug & Play bar near Chengqing Lake which was previously named DC Stage. For performers it’s great because they have a cool stage and great acoustics. It’s also very cozy and has a great bar and atmosphere.  They have something going on most nights. They also recommend Paramount, Rocks and for more established or international acts, the Live Warehouse at Pier 2.

When not playing or after rehearsals, they like to chill at the Lighthouse Bar and Grill. It’s got a a really good vibe, lively atmosphere, and live music performances. When they really want to relax, they head to the Secret Beach. The sunsets are pretty mesmerizing.

Above the Giants remains humble and true to their original goal.

I’ll just be happy if we can keep on writing, recording and playing bigger and better gigs. I don’t want any success to be a distraction and every time I write a new piece of music it has to be the best I can do and better than the last one or different in some way. Once the songs are done either recorded or ready to be performed they’re no longer mine but then belong to the people who listen to them.  It’s up to them if they take that song to heart or not.  If they do and even if that’s one person my job is done.


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