The Runaround Band in Xiamen, China
A western rock band writing and singing songs in Chinese
I recently sat down with Christopher Dilts who is the front man of The Runaround band (乱跑乐队). The Runaround is a Xiamen trio that was formed about a year ago consisting of Chris on guitar and vocals, Matt Kirby on drums and Scott Hildebrandt on the bass guitar. They are two Americans and a Canadian who sing and write their own songs in Chinese.
Their Chinese phrase Luan Pao 乱跑 is as Chris explained something that Chinese mother's will tell their children to stop doing. That's why they chose the name because it connotes recklessness and allows them to be open by changing up their style that ranges anywhere from folksy punk to hard rock when needed. Chris said that if they didn't change and progress as a band then they might as well be a wedding band. He, unlike a mother, encourages everyone to runaround (luan pao) especially the audiences. They like to interact with the crowd by getting them to sing, chant or dance along.
I asked Chris about their achievements as a band and he mentioned about how this May they were on stage in Shenzhen at the MIDI Festival, one of China's largest Rock concerts which easily boasted over a 100,000 visitors. He noted that last summer they made the Fujian Regional Round in the Tiger Beer Rock Competition. They also have been playing at local venues here in Xiamen for the past year.
To give you a few themes that this distinct band hits on in their songs here are four song titles that are linked below: Black Mahjong, Little White Face, Seaside and Massage of Death.
I told Chris that he had a foreign Rock band in China who writes songs in Chinese. You have a unique perspective. Almost all art - especially rock music tends to state something or critique something about the culture surrounding it. It's almost cliché to say this now but this is a crucial time in all of human history and China specifically is the muscle forcing all this change. Human history has never seen anything quite as large as China is today with all of its accomplishments and challenges. You, The Runaround, are a rock band in the midst of all this confusion and change what do you have to say?
Chris said that they try not to talk about anything that is too controversial in their songs because after all they are guests in China and want to continue to be here. He mentioned a few subtle references in his songs to xxxxxx ghost (w/o overtly using that word) in the "Massage of Death" song and a young man who leeches on a rich sugar mamma in "Little White Face," but nothing too sensitive.
You've been in China for more than three years with a working grasp on the language and culture. So why do you chose to write in Chinese? What's the process? He laughed a he said that he writes mainly in Pinyin and does some of his checking online and dictionaries and then he sends his songs to a team of about five or six Chinese friends who sometimes scrap the songs all together. It's a difficult and long process from conception to stage. He's working with local friends to try and perfect his pronunciation. Listen to their songs and judge for yourself. If you hear anything wrong with the lyrics then Chris wants to know. They want to get it right.
If you want to check them out live then this Saturday June 1st they will be on stage for the official opening night of the new Easy Rider Saloon now located in the Xiamen Bin Guan Hotel. And they are working on a future show this month at Poison Bar near Xiamen University.