In 2012, when Wang Xixi was still a teenager, she left her hometown Shijiazhuang and moved to Xi’an with her family. Since then, the thousand-year-old city has become home to the Chinese singer-songwriter, and her music draws from its rich history. The delicate emotionality of her vocals, and her penchant for blending ancient themes with contemporary ideas, all seem to tap into the city’s cultural heritage. Her stage name West by West, inspired by the title of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and her experiences growing up in western China, looks to convey the same sense of drama and mystery that she infuses into her music.
石家庄以西八百余公里的地方是西安，2012 年，豆蔻之年的王茜茜随家人从石家庄搬来西安。多年过去，王茜茜已是一名扎根于西安的新晋唱作人，她在音乐中埋藏的那份细腻情绪与古今交融的意境，不禁让人将她与这座千年古城联系在一起。结合成长中居住地迁移的经历，以及希区柯克的电影《西北偏北》，她为自己起了一个同样具有距离感和戏剧性的艺名 —— 西偏西（West By West）。
Xi’an was the capital of 13 dynasties throughout Chinese history and remains an important city center in the country. Although its rapidly modernizing, its traditional architecture—such as the City Wall, Bell and Drum Tower, and Dayan Pagoda—are central to the city’s identity. These whiffs of the Xi’an’s colorful past still have an effect on many locals’ way of living, though in subtle ways.
Since ancient times, Xi’an’s cultural heritage has inspired countless literati and poets. The city’s creative flourish throughout past centuries is perhaps why its indie music scene has similarly prospered in modern times. Indie rock music in the city can be traced back to the late 80s with Zhang Chu and the early 90s with Xu Wei and Zheng Jun—all of whom are regarded as pioneers of Chinese folk rock. Today, whether its post-punk or heavy metal, young musicians from disparate genres are enjoying the fruits of their labor. “The pace of life in Xi’an is not fast, yet there exists a strong cultural and creative foundation,” Xixi explains. “In such an environment, I can find my own rhythm; I can live and create without much worry.”
In line with Xi’an’s architectural contrasts, listeners will discover that Xixi’s music similarly rests at the intersection of traditional and contemporary. Unhurried rhythms, charming vocals, and emotional lyrics are tucked inside the complex, digital textures that she brandishes. Though, it’s important to note that she doesn’t approach her music with this overlap intentionally. Instead, she typically works with an off-the-cuff approach, and the result is music that’s easily digestible for even casual listeners.
与西安这座城市气质相符，你或许能在西偏西的音乐中听出 “东方古典” 和 “现代化” 相交融的美学意味 —— 不疾不徐的节拍中，款款深情的表达方式与古诗词不谋而合，而这一切又穿插着科技肌理的声音效果。不过，西偏西对此并没有过多考虑，她喜欢在自然而然的状态下进行创作，这也使得音乐颇具 “随性” 的听感。
Xixi often taps into the emotions behind imagined scenarios, which lends her music a certain visuality. A journey, a farewell, and even the changing of seasons have all served as inspiration for her melodies. Her lyrics, similarly, draw from unlikely mundanities, such as sunsets, sunrises, flowers, nighttime, river, so on and so forth. “I write short poems occasionally,” she says. “I like to use simple words to paint lively pictures and instill emotions into them. I guess it’s a somewhat ‘poetic’ approach.’”
She enjoys dwelling in certain mindstates and finds that she works best when emotions take over. Whatever mood she may be in, she allows it to guide her and take on a shape of its own in her songwriting. Even during the post-production and recording process, she attempts to restore the feelings she had at the time of writing through tonal design and melodic variations. “My songs come from the heart, but they also influence me,” she says. “Through my music, I can re-live those moments.”
While her musical journey began with a simple notepad and guitar, as her creative ambitions grew, a guitar alone was no longer enough. She began experimenting with digital software and synthesizers, embracing the convenience and possibilities afforded by technology, though her performances often still include live guitars alongside synthesizers. “Synthesizers can create an atmosphere of mystery and romance,” she says. “Guitars more emphasize an individual’s performance.”
她的创作视角则更能折射出情与景之间的关系： “触景生情，寓情于景” ，西偏西擅长赋予音乐以画面感。一次旅行、一次离别、甚至一次季节的更替，都能激发出西偏西的创作。日落日出、花开花落、黑夜、河流等等具象的事物作为歌词，穿插在流畅的音韵之间。她说：“偶尔会写一些小短诗。我喜欢运用简单的字词来展现出生动的画面，并赋予其情感，可能就是所谓的诗意吧。”
借助吉他和纸笔，学生时代的西偏西便开始写歌。但很快，吉他的音色已不能满足西偏西所有情绪的表达，她开始尝试运用电脑与合成器进行创作。她认为电脑为音乐创作提供了相当大的便捷性，也为音乐的氛围提供了更多的可能。“合成器为我的音乐营造神秘、浪漫、等等的气氛，吉他则更强调个人的演奏性。” 西偏西说道。2018 年，西偏西结识了西安电子摇滚乐队 TBOR 的键盘手王东，后者运用各类电子合成器与声音设计，将西偏西的气质层层打磨。而吉他与合成器的组合，也成为她如今现场演出的标准配置。
Listen to select tracks from the album West By West below:
This year, West By West released her first LP, the eponymous West By West, distributed by Merrie Records. The whole album feels like unconnected diary entries, with songs that meander about across a variety of different themes. Across the 10 tracks, she reminisces on past experiences and shares different musings her life. Most of the songs are re-interpretations of tracks from her EP Where, which released two years ago. But compared with older productions, the new album is much more complex, with a rich emotionality that teems from her ethereal vocals and full-bodied instrumentation. In the album, Xixi assumes the fictional persona of a woman far removed from the world around; as the album progresses, she sings of the unpredictable weather, of the changing seasons, and of interpersonal relationships. The album, with its fragmented themes pieced together, can be seen as a reflection on love and hatred—timeless topics that can be related to on a universal level.
On first listen, West By West can feel like it’s driven by rather traditional sounds, but a closer listen will reveal that this is far from the truth—in fact, the album hardly features many traditional instruments at all. But even more important than the soundscapes Xixi has expertly designed are the concepts that she aims to express with her lyrics. The opening track “Furong Garden,” named after the Xi’an Datang Furong Garden Relic Park, takes a skeptical look at the volatility of the world but without losing appreciation of its beauty. “Happiness” sets aside the percussive backing of earlier tracks, taking on a more minimal form to illustrate the different variations of joy. On “You Can,” the album reaches an emotional climax, with a dramatic ballad that draws parallels between a children’s love and an epic tale of heroics.
2020 年，西偏西在美丽唱片（Merrie Records）发行个人第一张全长专辑《西偏西》，整张专辑像一本随手的日志，没有特定的主题，但却记录了她在生活当中的经历与思考。其中大部分歌曲是对两年前 EP《哪呢》的重新演绎，而相比于前作，《西偏西》无论从人声还是器乐编配上都具有更饱满的情绪。专辑中，西偏西犹如一位远离世俗的风华女子，向你倾诉天气季节的更替、人际关系的变迁、爱恨情仇等等不会随时代而改变的主题，搭配她冷艳的造型与嗓音，带来与现实隔绝的疏离感。这种疏离感也同样来自专辑制作人罗可居对整体音色和人声的把控，为整张专辑营造出更加迷离的氛围。
Concluding the album are two of the most melancholic songs of the album, “Wait for Me a Bit” and “Don’t Turn Back.” The former reflects on the past, while the latter meditates on the helplessness that comes with passing time. Modern life can sometimes feel like it’s happening way too fast, and it’s easy to brush aside the emotions that make us human. By tapping into her cultural roots and emotional depths, Xixi has crafted a flawless album that encourages listeners to hit the pause button once in a while and enjoy the present moment.
Starting from October, West By West will go on tour, playing in eight cities across China alongside Shii, a female electronic music artist also signed to Merrie Records. Click here to buy tickets.
Shii x West by West 2020
10/21 Chongqing | NUTS
10/22 Chengdu | CH8 eastern suburbs
10/23 Shanghai | YuYinTang
10/25 Hangzhou | LOOPY
10/28 Wuhan | VOX
10/30 Shenzhen | B10
10/31 Guangzhou | Enspace
11/1 Beijing | Yue Space
马上的十月，西偏西即将开启国内八城巡演。特别的是，巡演将由与她同为美丽唱片厂牌旗下的电子乐女艺人 Shii 共同演绎，活动定名为「H2O2双氧水」。点击这里进入购票链接。
Shii x West by West 「H2O2双氧水」
10/21 重庆 | 坚果
10/22 成都 | CH8 东郊店
10/23 上海 | 育音堂
10/25 杭州 | LOOPY
10/28 武汉 | VOX
10/30 深圳 | B10
10/31 广州 | 不大空间
11/1 北京 | 乐空间