The trans­for­ma­tion of Tran­si­tion’s troubadours

The China Post - - LOCAL -

Imag­ine a Bri­tish rock band pulling up its roots and re­lo­cat­ing to Tai­wan to learn Chi­nese and in a few short years com­pos­ing hit songs in Man­darin and col­lab­o­rat­ing with a who’s who of Tai­wanese mu­si­cians.

The trav­el­ing troubadours of Tran­si­tion are one of the few Western bands to have achieved this im­pres­sive feat and more.

Cat­a­pulted into star­dom by their first Man­darin lan­guage hit “Dui Bu Qi”, which has 1.6 mil­lion views, and their first Tai­wanese style bal­lad, “Stay in the Mo­ment”, which has 230,000 views, the band’s YouTube chan­nel has gained over 2.5 mil­lion views and count­ing.

Over 100,000 have viewed a 30- minute online doc­u­men­tary about their life in Tai­wan. In De­cem­ber 2013, when their al­bum “Kua Yue” was re­leased by Asia Muse in dig­i­tal for­mat, it stayed in the top 5 in the Indievox chart in Tai­wan for 4 con­sec­u­tive weeks.

Spot­ted on YouTube

Re­cently, they’ve been spot­ted on YouTube croon­ing flu­ent cov­ers of clas­sic Man­darin hits, like “Ni Zen­meShuo” by Teresa Teng, “Red Bean” by Faye Wong and “You are my Flower” by WuBai.

Com­pos­ing those hits in Man­darin was only made harder be­cause they had to do it out­side Tai­wan.

When ap­ply­ing for new work per­mits, they dis­cov­ered their ap­pli­ca­tions had been blocked be­cause they had per­formed at a church in 2010 and were given a mon­e­tary gift, an ac­tion that the gov­ern­ment deemed illegal and thought was wor­thy of a full 3-year ban from the coun­try.

Cur­rently fronted by broth­ers Josh and Jesse Ed­brooke, the band had hum­ble begin­nings at the school the two at­tended in Bristol, Eng­land.

When Josh was 13 and Jesse was 14, the two teamed up with another pair of broth­ers, Niall (14) and Steve Dunne (13), to par­tic­i­pate in a school com­pe­ti­tion. As they be­gan to prac­tice and per­form to­gether and write their own songs, they re­al­ized that they wanted to take the band as far as it could go.

Striv­ing to Be­come Bet­ter

They chose the name “Tran­si­tion” be­cause they wanted to be a band that was con­stantly mov­ing for­ward, chang­ing and al­ways striv­ing to be­come bet­ter.

In 2002, Tran­si­tion met some peo­ple from Tai­wan who were study­ing English in Bristol. These new Tai­wanese friends came to see their shows in Bristol and told them that their mu­sic would have an au­di­ence in Tai­wan.

Know­ing noth­ing about Tai­wan at the time, they were grad­u­ally per­suaded by their friends to take a closer look and search for op­por­tu­ni­ties to tour the is­land.

It was dur­ing this pe­riod that they were first in­tro­duced to Man­darin mu­sic through David Tao’s al­bum “Black Tan­ger­ine,” which fas­ci­nated them with its blend of Western rock and Eastern melodies and lyrics.

Spring Scream

In 2005, Tran­si­tion took the bold step of go­ing to the Spring Scream out­door mu­sic fes­ti­val and im­me­di­ately felt a real sense of con­nec­tion with Tai­wan. The friends they had known in Bristol who were now back in Tai­wan helped them a great deal, and they got a phe­nom­e­nal re­cep­tion at the fes­ti­val.

Go­ing to Spring Scream also in­tro­duced the group to the lo­cal Tai­wanese mu­sic scene, in­clud­ing bands such as Tizzy Bac, Totem, Green!Eyes, Chair­man and Chas­ing Spar­row.

Four years later in Septem­ber 2009, the group chose to move to Tai­wan be­cause “first and fore­most, it was friend­ship that made Tai­wan feel so much like home,” Josh says in an in­ter­view with CNA.

Whether it was the friends they’d met in Bristol who had re­turned to Tai­wan or new friends they met while per­form­ing here, there was a sense of com­mu­nity with peo­ple with whom they had strong re­la­tion­ships.

Mov­ing to Tai­wan

Mov­ing to Tai­wan was a huge learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and the band’s mem­bers had to un­learn many of their Western habits to em­brace the Tai­wanese way of do­ing things. That process was helped tremen­dously by col­lab­o­rat­ing with other bands and mu­si­cians in Tai­wan.

They worked quite regularly with Wing, who also in­volved them in work with A-do, Sam Lee and JJ Lin.

They also re­ceived guid­ance and as­sis­tance from Real of FIR, Will Liu and Jay Chou, and they were part of the back­ing band for Rainie Yang’s Taipei Arena Show in 2010, as well as her Sin­ga­pore In­door Sta­dium Show that same year.

The leap to Man­darin was a par­tic­u­larly big chal­lenge.

“Singing in Chi­nese was some­thing that we al­ways felt was out of reach for us. Par­tic­u­larly the idea of writ­ing our own songs in Chi­nese seemed im­pos­si­ble. But through tak­ing things one step at a time, we found our­selves cre­at­ing a whole Man­darin al­bum!” says Josh, the group’s drum­mer.

His brother Jesse is re­spon­si­ble for guitar and vo­cals, and Niall Dunne, who was with the band for most of its run in Tai­wan un­til 2013, also han­dled vo­cals and sev­eral in­stru­ments. Steve Dunne left the band in 2007, be­fore it set­tled in Tai­wan.

The first step was singing some sim­ple Chi­nese cov­ers. Af­ter some time, they asked a friend to trans­late some of their English songs into Chi­nese and they be­gan to per­form those, with ex­cel­lent re­sults. From there, they be­gan to use the sim­ple Chi­nese they knew to write songs that re­flected their life ex­pe­ri­ence.

Olympic Dream

In 2012, the band had the honor of be­ing com­mis­sioned to com­pose the of­fi­cial theme song for Tai­wan’s team at the Lon­don Olympics.

When de­scrib­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of film­ing the mu­sic video for the song “Olympic Dream” in Kaoh­si­ung Na­tional Sta­dium, the mem­bers felt hum­bled.

“Know­ing that the song was go­ing to be the theme for the ath­letes who were go­ing to Lon­don to com­pete and also that this was the first time that they’d ever had a theme song was such an honor for the band,” Josh says.

Un­like in Bri­tain, when it came to per­form­ing live in Tai­wan, they learned that au­di­ence in­ter­ac­tion was much more im­por­tant than look­ing cool.

One of the most im­pres­sive small shows they per­formed was in Kaoh­si­ung at a venue called No. 18 Skyis­land. There were around 25 peo­ple squeezed into a tiny room and they just played an acous­tic set, but the at­mos­phere was elec­tric.

“Ev­ery sin­gle per­son in the room seemed to be part of the mu­sic and it al­most stopped be­ing us per­form­ing for the au­di­ence and be­com­ing all of us to­gether cel­e­brat­ing mu­sic,” Josh re­calls.

By the end of the show, af­ter fin­ish­ing the last song, Niall sud­denly be­gan to sing Amaz­ing Grace and ev­ery­one joined in, cre­at­ing a sense of shared spir­i­tu­al­ity.

China Tour

Hav­ing just com­pleted a suc­cess­ful 21-city tour of China, the band is back in Bri­tain putting the fin­ish­ing touches on a new Man­darin al­bum.

They plan to re­lease the al­bum in Tai­wan by the end of this year and hope to per­form their new al­bum and hit songs on an is­land­wide tour in De­cem­ber.

They would also like to make a mu­sic doc­u­men­tary about other bands in Tai­wan.

In 2011, the band made a doc­u­men­tary ( https:// www. youtube. com/ watch? v= 6iwOKENrc20) about their own mu­si­cal jour­ney in Tai­wan, and they’d like to be able to repli­cate this on a big­ger scale, in­tro­duc­ing Tai­wanese mu­si­cians that they know and love to the rest of the world.

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