Maven Grace come from Hong Kong, Connemara, Rome and London. They are a band with a global aesthetic that effortlessly crosses borders and genres. Between them they have supported everyone from Radiohead to Siouxsie Sioux and have just returned from a short tour of China, which saw them play alongside hardcore members of Beijing’s underground music scene next to a Lama Temple just off Tiananmen Square.
Today they release their second single/video Something Strange. Produced by Chris Hughes, the song is cinematic and urgent, combining the tension of Jonny Greenwood’s film scores with the expansive flourishes of Tan Dun (Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).
The Something Strange video was shot entirely in Beijing, under the ever-watchful eye of the Chinese authorities. An extremely risky gamble, the end result completely vindicates the band’s decision to shoot in a city almost never seen as it really is. Political and logistical difficulties almost always prevent Western acts from working in Beijing. Amazingly, the police not only failed to stop this shoot, but ended up actually making an unwitting appearance in the final cut.
An exceptionally powerful work directed by double BAFTA-winning Marina Parker, and shot by ace cameraman Drew Bienemann (The Weeknd, Blur etc.) the video centres on the night-time journey of five-year-old Vincent Fang as he journeys alone through the enormous urban sprawl of central Beijing. Exploring grief, love and loss of innocence, the video’s heart-stopping climax speaks for itself. Once seen, Something Strange is not easily forgotten.
Marina Parker says “The video is set against the vibrant canvas of Beijing at night. I wanted a naturalistic, documentary style approach so we used non-professional actors and we shot in real locations. We filmed over 4 nights with a 5 year old boy from Beijing.. We had a Chinese producer and an American DoP which helped to create a film which would resonate both in the West and the East.”
Something Strange is a heartbreaking song that hangs over you like an unsettled sky. It is a song of loss and longing, but also ends with a promise of renewal. Right from its incantatory Mandarin beginning – ‘Wo men du xing… bie jue wang’ – the song implores the listener to keep going however tough it gets. ‘We walk alone, but we don’t lose hope’.
The dystopian dread captured in the song’s robotic harmonies and extraordinarily atonal, Belew-esque guitar playing is balanced by the warmth of the female counter-melodies. In a voice shot through with self-doubt, singer Henry Jack acknowledges the struggle against the odds – ‘We’re supposed to dream, so where’s my dream?’ – but the song itself appears to beat those odds with the soaring optimism of its conclusion. ‘There’s a world outside being torn apart, but no one says goodbye.’ Maven Grace embody the hope heard in their music.