Gong Gong Gong (工工工) only needs guitar and bass to melt your face off. The duo met in China and now split their time between Beijing and NYC.
I met them in Austin, Texas when Josh Frank (bass) and Tom Ng (guitar) tore up the backyard at a D.I.Y. house show for SXSW. The intensity of their set had me intrigued. I just had know their deal. Luckily, they agreed to chat. We moved to a cozy spot in the front yard of the house, far enough from the party so we could hear each other, and talked about playing music as just a guitar and bassist, flying back and forth between continents and the future of Gong Gong Gong.
The two musicians clicked immediately and quickly realized that their interplay would be enough to create a unique sound.
“We never really thought about adding more people,” Frank tells BTRtoday. “We like being limited by having just the two of us so I think it’s kind of a challenge, like how do you create this atmosphere and rhythm that people can feel with very very limited elements?”
The two make a 20-minute jam session feel like a flash fire. When they’re through, it’s hard to believe so much time has passed and that the sound was produced only by a bass and guitar. Their songs are usually almost completely instrumental, interspersed with spare Cantonese lyrics sung by Ng. His vocals are sung deep and melodic amongst a storm of distorted guitar and intricate bass lines.
“Inspiration-wise, I really like Bo Diddley, Henry Flynt [and] The Monks,” Ng says.
Luckily, you don’t need to understand Cantonese to feel Gong Gong Gong’s emotions and passion.
“Generally, I think what we try to do is something that has an interesting rhythm and also some kind of melodic element that’s between places and cultures,” Frank says about their music. “We’re just doing our own thing.”
SXSW was just one stop in Gong Gong Gong’s globe-hopping tour. Before reaching Texas, they toured Europe with NYC’s new wave art-punks Bodega. The European shows were preceded by a tour through Asia with Tonstartssbandht and a West Coast/Canadian tour with Parquet Courts. It comes naturally for a band spanning cities on opposite ends of the earth.
“It’s nice to be a Beijing band that’s a little bit of a New York band too,” Frank says.
Currently, the duo is taking a break after their first SXSW. Musicians at the festival have to play around 5-10 shows a day and it was no different for Gong Gong Gong. The two had come straight from the Bodega tour in Europe and were jetlagged to hell. Still, they were more than ready to play the five shows they had lined up in the next few days.
“I want to take a shower right now and go to sleep,” Ng says laughing. “It’s pretty sunny and much warmer than Europe though.”
After the week of shredding in Texas, the two have gone back to working on their sophomore album that they hope to have out by this summer. In the meantime, hear music by Gong Gong Gong and the entire interview with the duo on this week’s The Music Meetup.