We recently caught up with Taiwanese musician Chiu Pi to talk about SPLENDOR, his new full-length album (which he proudly proclaims to be even better than his previous album, Zang Zang). The album has been generating a lot of chatter in China, so we were keen to chat with Chiu Pi to learn more about his creative approach and how recent lifestyle choices have shaped the album.
Listen to two of our favorite tracks from his new album below:
On each track of the new album, Chiu assumes the role of four different characters. The characters – which represent personality, logic, emotion, and physicality – are all based on the concepts from the field of psychology, a discipline that he’s been endlessly infatuated with. Chiu is ecstatic about how the album turned out, considering that the concept is something he hasn’t seen done before. But the experimental aspects of SPLENDOR don’t end there; rather than following a conventional songwriting process, his loops and samples were meticulously worked and re-worked based on individual words in the lyrics. This method is meant to emphasize the underlying meanings of his deliberate word choices. As the cherry on top, Chiu enlisted the help of Grammy Award-winning sound engineer Chris Gehringer to master the album.
Being such an ambitious and painstaking endeavor, the production of SPLENDOR ate up most of Chiu’s 2017. But with this new year, he hopes to find a better balance between work and personal life, even entertaining the idea of being in a relationship. Explaining his shifting priorities and outlook, he says, “Without a destination to look forward to, people don’t feel motivated. However, in the past, I thought that walking alone meant getting to my destination faster. Now I’ve realized, much like Frodo being accompanied by Sam in Lord of the Rings, having someone by my side will ultimately help bring me closer to completing my journey.”
In Chinese mainstream music, listeners have been conditioned to expect songs that focus on generics stories of experiencing heartbreak and finding catharsis. Chiu abandons this clichéd formula in SPLENDOR. Instead, he sings about his own random musings and mundane observations (such as discarded aluminum cans or even his own pillow). “Most people can only enjoy superficial topics,” he says. “But I believe this album will resonate with certain listeners, and through my music, I want them to grow. I want to grow with them.”
His upcoming 18-city Asia tour will be one of the largest Asia tours by a Taiwanese musician in recent years. Acknowledging the long road ahead, Chiu jokingly tells us needs to go and do his voice exercises as our interview comes to a close. The name of the tour, Shang Xia Yi Fang (上下一方), is constructed from dissecting the Chinese characters from the albums SPLENDOR (大放) and Zang Zang (正正). While the nuances of the tour’s name become lost in translation, the main takeaway will be that it’s designed to be an ambivalent phrase; the purposeful ambiguity perfectly embodies Chiu’s own musical style – thoughtfully created yet difficult to define and categorize.