Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing new and emerging MP3s from local talent. Recently, we’ve given you Liturgy’s “Ecstatic Rite,” the video for Motel Motel’s “Coffee,” and Werewolves’ “Dora Gerson.”
Greenpoint duo Renminbi play a decidedly blustery, blown-out version of the type of indie rock that people still love describing as “angular.” Their just-released debut EP, Surface, is available completely free, via indie-promo machine CASH Music (Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu), and it’s well worth the download. Like a dozen massive indie-noise-pop experiments in four brief tracks, Surface plays like the Merge Records catalog forced through a fuzzbox: riffs in 9/8 are blasted out with sing-songy vocals; dissonant guitar riffs are played with arena fury; glam riffs smother under blankets of distortion. First single “Set Up” is a perfectly twee-pop earbug that is clamoring to be heard over a Thurston-ready quarter-note punk-pound. There’s even an equally disorienting video, where the two girls in Renminbi take to the subway, recreating the noisy hum and uncomfortable feeling of both relationships and public transportation.
What is this song about?
Keyboardist SMV: “Set-Up” deals with misrepresentation, betrayal and the fall out from that. The narrator is coming to grips with the duplicity of someone she had come to trust. It’s about that moment of recognition, when the disguise slips away, and what it takes to absorb that.
Vocalist/guitarist Lisa Liu: It’s illegal to film on the subway, right? How did you two do this under the wire? Did people look at you all funny since you were singing on the subway?
We used a Flip HD camera to do the subway shots. The Flip is really small and inconspicuous–It almost looks like a cell phone. A lady cop even got on the train at one point during filming, but she had no idea what we were doing. We rode the G train after rush hour, so the crowd wouldn’t be too thick. We didn’t get much attention from the crowd–in typical NYC fashion, everyone was so concerned about getting to their next destination, that they didn’t pay any attention to us. That doesn’t mean we didn’t feel awkward at times, though. Lipsynching on the subway is definitely a surreal experience.
What are some of the tricks you use to make your sound bigger?
Liu: Playing loud is part of it, but mainly it’s because the arrangements for the guitar and drums are very busy, which means we don’t leave a lot of empty space in our songs.
What’s your favorite place to eat and hang out in Greenpoint?
Liu: No doubt, the best places to eat in Greenpoint are the Polish restaurants. There are so many good ones, but we are partial to Golden Cafe and The King’s Feast. For grabbin’ beers and shootin’ the shit, Bar Matchless is our favorite–and we’re not saying this because we’re playing there Friday. It’s a genuinely friendly spot with a good vibe that doesn’t reek of pretension.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 30, 2009