‘Coach’ will take you to Funkytown

Jelly (Li Guo-wei), with the tightest funk act around.
By Trista di Genova
The China Post

Watching Coach perform at The Wall tonight with Public Radio will be a
ride through Funkytown you won’t want to miss.

This is a rare funk-rock Taiwanese act that has perfected its sound by playing at venues around the island for four years now, and at numerous festivals — Formoz, Spring Scream, Taike among others. They produce their own high-quality sound at Ingo studio in Taipei, and have released an LP, “Da Shen chang” (“Loud Singing”), and two collections of their work.

“We play all originals,” said lead singer Jelly (Li Guo-wei), 30, during a very early interview in Taipei yesterday. He has a habit of drinking water, he says — “I’m weak for water” — and writing songs and plays nearly every morning, “early, when the mind is clearest.” Part-time he works for his father’s PR firm.

Four years ago, he joined the band Synergy as lead singer after seeing a flyer. The “synergy” of that band broke up after a year, then reformed as Coach — “because a coach can make you move, make you dance and sweat,” he explains — with Yong on bass (Chinese name Xiao Yong) and Ten (Chinese name Ten She-hao) on drums. And they picked up Label, a furiously funky guitar player (Chinese name Lei Bo).

“At first, we had two styles,” he said, “one that was like Pearl Jam, because we like all their songs; alternative, grunge (style) Seattle music. The other was P. Funk. Now we’re more funk rock.”

For inspiration, he draws on influences as wide as Jamiroquai, Bootsie Collins, Sly & The Family Stallone; the first cassette he ever bought was MC Hammer. He grew up watching MTV, and “the music I like I go find the CD. Now I also watch YouTube.”

He writes songs for Coach like “Cool Things,” reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers; “Ballerina” reminded me of Stevie Wonder.

These musical interests are a rarity in Taiwan, he said, where the traditional “bella style” dominates, as it does in other ethnic Chinese cultures like Hong Kong, Singapore and China.

“They really like Chinese style here. People in Taiwan only know (rock bands) Wu Bai and Mayday. They don’t know what is funk or alternative. They just like pop music,” although he noted in the past couple of years “people have become more interested in music styles like R&B and hip hop. But this style is almost just in Taipei, where maybe one singer is oh-so-famous. But in Hualien, maybe only someone knows this guy,” he joked.

As for the future, “We have a plan; we wanna go to Japan, maybe a tour, but we don’t know when. Maybe Korea, Beijing. I also really like L.A.; I really want to go. But maybe when I write English songs,” he said.

Moshe Foster of Public Radio said of Coach, “They’re pretty kick-ass, better than most Taiwanese bands, or foreign bands for that matter. They’re exceptional musicians, and Jelly is an incredible performer.”

Well they certainly get around. Before heading off to the GIO to apply for a music grant, Jelly checked his calendar: this Friday will be their 235th performance.

“I hope many, many guys come to Coach party Friday,” Jelly urged in charmingly broken English. “You should check out this band, because maybe you will be surprised, get something.”

WHAT: Coach performing live with Public Radio
WHEN: Friday, 8:30 p.m.
WHERE: The Wall, Taipei; Keelung and Roosevelt intersection.
COST: NT$300