BY HAZEL REID

Sister duo Tee and Dani make up Chinese-Kiwi songwriters Ersha Island 二沙岛. Their musical journey began in GuangZhou, China and they were raised around classical music and learning to play piano and violin when they were young. We caught up with the talented musical duo to chat their debut songs Good Day and Gut Feeling, plus their involvement in the ‘Where Are The Asians At?! (Aotearoa)’ initiative and their future plans. 

Tell us about your new songs, Good Day and Gut Feeling?
Good Day explores the complex feelings of vulnerability when, after grappling with our struggles alone, we finally find the courage to reach out for help. The song is a reminder of the impermanence of difficult times and the hopeful road to better days through the acceptance of our limitations and normalising not being ok all the time – themes many listeners can identify with. 

Gut Feeling is dedicated to our father, who was diagnosed with cancer a few years back. Originally lament-like, during production Gut Feeling instinctively transformed into an exhortation of anger and defiance instead of fear. The resulting song is charged with imposing feelings of dread and unattainable immortality, yet full of hope and unwavering filial love that binds it all together. 

You’ve also recently released music videos for both songs, can you share what inspired the visualisers?
Good Day was inspired by Louis Baker’s lyric video, Rainbow. Although the end result of our music video was quite different from Rainbow, we believe we were able to capture the beautiful simplicity that was showcased in Louis Baker’s version and provide a similarly warm and melancholy ‘hopefulness’ in our version. 

The visuals of Gut Feeling was inspired by Billie Eilish’s music video for Male Fantasy. We loved the toned-down colour gradient which appropriately reflected the bittersweet soulfulness of her song. While Gut Feeling is fundamentally more ‘explosive’ than Male Fantasy, we thought that we could take inspiration from the muted shots of everyday life, and incorporated that alongside our more action-based shots. We also used Lomochrome colour grading for the more explosive shots of our song, and used 4AM by Kid Brunswick as inspiration for this. The amazing Swap Gomez (from The Umbrella Collective) then took these references, directed and helped us bring these two music videos to life. 

Where do you find your musical inspiration and is there somewhere you like to get creative?
It may be a bit cliche to say, but we find music inspiration everywhere. In sunsets, nature, city lights, stories and music created by others, and everything else in our daily lives. Emotion is another big driver of our creativity, whether that’s in our own lives, or in those around us. I’m sure every artist can attest to how their feelings influence what they create. 

We understand you are part of the initiative ‘Where Are The Asians At?! (Aotearoa)’ – tell us a bit about this group and your involvement?
‘Where The Asians At?! (Aotearoa)’ is a movement created to call out our music industry for its lack of (Asian) diversity. What started off as just a Facebook Group created during the second lockdown of 2021 became a place for many Asian creatives to come together to share ideas, provocations, resources, responses, strategies and experiences as we seek to increase visibility, representation and engagement of the Aotearoa music community. During lockdown, we hosted many Zoom sessions (named ‘Boba Sessions’) that helped a lot of Asian creatives come together and talk about the difficulties faced being emerging artists. We also frequently held seminar-like Zooms that taught artist topics such as royalties and NFTs. We hope to make this movement even bigger within the country, and create more change in the following months. 

We know the world is still a bit crazy right now but what do you hope is on the horizon over the next 12 months?
An upcoming project will be the creation, production and (studio) recording of our first EP entitled Back To Our Roots EP, with an accompanying behind-the-scenes mini-documentary, working title Reaching For Our Roots to document our journey and process. The EP will feature all new original songs that feature a blend of modern pop, classical and Chinese traditional music, instruments and sounds. The plan is to connect and collaborate with other Asian artists in NZ, and feature either a traditional Chinese instrument or a classical instrument to showcase our ‘roots’.

Obviously we’re planning and hoping to play at other events, gigs and potentially festivals, covid-allowing, however, we always introduce this EP first as we’re beyond excited to work on a project that will allow us to embrace an integral part of our cultural identity, and work with others so they may do the same. 

New releases ‘Good Day’ and ‘Gut Feeling’ from Ersha Island 二沙岛 are available now. 

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