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Fantastical Journeys of the Rainbow Men

Since their first gig at Harley's Bar in the summer of 2009, Rainbow Danger Club has quickly established itself as one of Shanghai’s favourite, and certainly most singular, bands. The gaggle of Americans, guitarist Jesse Munson, bassist Dennis Ming Nichols, trumpeter Michael Corayer and drummer Michael Ford, recently spoke with TALK about their beginnings, the release of their debut EP late last year and what’s in store for the Club in the coming months.

What is your band’s genesis?

We were all friends first. Jesse, Michael C and Dennis first started playing together as a jazz-pop trio for school events, at a Chinese high school where we all used to teach. We played jazz standards as well as covering songs like Britney Spears ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ and John Denver’s ‘Country Road’, but in our own weird way. Separately, Jesse and Dennis were writing original songs with Michael F. It was only natural that Michael C would eventually join the fun.

How did the name Rainbow Danger Club come about?

We wanted something childish and whimsical, like a group of kids deciding to put on paper hats and play space invaders or cowboys and indians. At first we didn't know what we were going to sound like, but we did have a few core principles to start with. We knew that we wanted a high contrast of darkness versus light and ugliness versus melodicism. The name seemed to encapsulate those core ideas.

Did it take a while to find your sound?

We tried a lot of different things. It took a few months to figure out what we were good at, and what we couldn't pull off. You start out with all these avenues and you'd like to try, but you eventually come to what you are. It's like a process of elimination. It's humbling to realise you can't actually be anything you want, as tempting as that is. You're better off just being who you are, even if that's not so cool. 

Listening to your EP you sound like a band that has been together for much longer. Do you feel that you have natural chemistry as a group?

There is a creative tension, but ideas come pretty easily when we’re jamming. Finishing ideas is by far the hardest part. There are hundreds of unfinished ideas on our hard drive and we always think we’ll get to them, but something new always excites us and we’re back in the old cycle. We’re not professionals; we have jobs, so we can afford the luxury of simmering in unfinished ideas.

Musically your material is hard to pin down; how would you pigeon-hole yourself if forced?

Our music could be called Victorian fantasy, or maybe Jules Verne-esque ghost rock, or perhaps Fantasy-core.

Your album is slated to drop in the next month or so. Will it be in the same vein as the New Atlantis EP or can we expect further evolution?

The LP is a huge leap from the EP. The LP is our first mature attempt at proper storytelling, writing and producing. The songs on the LP intersect like a crossword puzzle. There are reoccurring musical themes that revolve around strange phenomena, like the Moon coming into the atmosphere and picking up all the children and taking them to distant islands, or obsessive love that ends up with murder. 

What are your hopes and dreams for Shanghai’s live music scene this year?

The scene is picking up here exponentially. It seems it’s reaching a critical mass. Maybe in a few years it’ll be like a black hole event horizon – pulling in interest from around the world. How’s that for some fantasy talk?

Stream Rainbow Danger Club’s New Atlantis EP from and experience risky meteorological phenomena. 26 February, 9pm. Live Bar. 800 Guoshun Dong Lu, near Shuangyang Lu. Price: TBA


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