Selling themselves

Source:Global Times Published: 2011-2-24 20:37:00

The Amazing Insurance Salesmen playing on stage.

By Jiang Wanjuan

Straight after China's first-ever triumph in the Global Battle of the Bands (GBOB) last year, another Beijing band is heading abroad for this year's final, vying for the same prize in Malaysia tomorrow night.

The Amazing Insurance Salesmen (the Salesmen), with French singer and guitarist Jean Hery, Dutch Maikel Liem on the bass and Chinese drummer Maomao, are no strangers to Beijing's hotspots.

Although they had defeated numerous bands in the preliminaries, few people actually showed confidence in the multicultural team, which was not considered one of the biggest names in Beijing.

"We come from different countries, so people are waiting to see whether it works or not," Hery told the Global Times.

"There is more pressure because China won last year and people want to see it win again."


Last year, Beijing rockers Rustic won over judges in London in the final of the world's biggest live-music competition, taking home the grand prize, which had long been dominated by European countries.

The prize was a "development fund" of $100,000, including a tour in England, a week of recording and $10,000 in cash.

Tomorrow night's competition at KL Live in Kuala Lumpur, will see the best young bands from around 30 countries competing for the big prize with Hery and his bandmates. 

"I've checked some other bands," Hery said. "I would say that a few are really good, for example, a Malaysian band called Bombers.

"But it's hard to say because you can never tell [whether] a band is good or not from the recording. When you record something, you can always make it sounds better in the studio."

Each band will have eight minutes to play without any sounds or music pre-programmed, and the result will be announced immediately after the competition, which is scheduled to finish around 2 am.

Although Hery is keeping tomorrow's playlist to himself, he said he would not choose Chinese, a language he has managed to speak, to sing in or even write lyrics or poetry.

"I want make it more international," he said. "I will probably talk in Chinese a little bit, introduce the band and player in Chinese, but that's all."

In the past 10 years' living in China, Hery has made a name for himself in the local folk scene as Zhang Si'an, performing jazz and Chinese folk.

But it was only two years ago that he spotted Maomao and Liem in a bar and formed the Salesmen.

The band's performance is natural and spontaneous, between blues and progressive rock. With Maomao's odd facial expressions, Liem's shyness and Hery's humor and artistic eccentricity, the band makes for entertaining viewing.

Maybe that was why hundreds of people called for encore last Friday night at Yugong Yishan,  their last performance before going for the final competition.

Some audiences told the Global Times at scene that they could immediately fall in love with the band during their performance despite that they never heard of them before.

But with or without people's attention, Hery believes the only way to make an entry is to focus on the job which is perhaps how they stood out at the Beijing leg of GBOB in September and the China final in November.

He is acutely aware that the quality this year is high and winning is going to be very hard.

"But if we do like what we did in Beijing and Hong Kong, which is, we just went there to perform and didn't think of winning anything, we may actually have a chance."

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