White Elephant was formed in the summer of 2014 by Kalieninge and Li Wen in Nanjing, and was originally called “8 Eye Spy”.
In the beginning, the band was a drum & bass duo with the addition of violin and guitar, but over the years the sound has evolved and become more sophisticated. In 2016 the band reached its current form, with the arrival of Wang Fei on guitar, Yu Diwen on bass and synthesizer and Xie Ning on violin.
Their debut album, ‘Ruyi Lane’ was released in 2019 and is a sort of anthology of short musical stories characterized by black humor, surreal elements, realism, and frustrations, somehow retracing the footsteps of the Velvet Underground with ‘The Gift’ with some post-rock elements.
What’s the story behind the name of the band? What is the ‘White Elephant’?
The band name is from a short story called 《Hills Like White Elephants》 written by Ernest Miller Hemingway，which is one of the Kaliening’s favorite short novel。
How did you meet each other? How did you start to create music together?
Liwen（Drummer） and Kaliening（Vocal）were the members of another band “8 Eye Spy”.After “8 Eye Spy” came to the end，they began to play together。A few months later，Liwen invited Wangfei（Guitarist）and Xiening（Violinist） and Kaliening invited Yudiwen（Bassist）to to join the band。
Your songs are characterized by a surreal and theatrical atmosphere, staging real musical tales. How did you come to develop these musical structures?
Normally，we got an idea first，which could be several sentences、bass loops、guitar riffs，etc。Then we developed the basic idea，until it’s sound like something，something we thought is good。
What were the main challenges in making your sound and your ideas come true?
Balance our abilities and desires。
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The record stands out for its sophisticated production and sound research. Who is your audience?
Actually，We didn’t think about this before，maybe the people who understand alternative music and have a sense of humor。
Can you share with us a story from backstage?
Sometimes Yudiwen（bassist，he is an Automotive Engineer）went on a business trip to Chongqing，and the trip would be last for months，and we needed to rehearse for a gig。Then Yudiwen made the movement：he flight back to Nanjing at Friday night，rehearse with us at Saturday night，and flight to Chongqing at Sunday night。We had to conclude that，he really loves music，or he is really rich and happy to show us：）
Can you tell us something about your next projects?
We are going to move on and do something else，maybe music，maybe in the form of this band，maybe not。Thanks for your appreciation，hope you enjoy our music。
CHINA-UNDERGROUND. Matteo Damiani is an Italian sinologist, photographer, author and motion designer. Matteo lived and worked for ten years in China. Founder of CinaOggi.it and China-underground.com.