Inside Cover: Future is Now campaign with 8 new artists by Warner Music Hong Kong

Warner Music Hong Kong presents its new month-long Future Is Now campaign, featuring eight unique young talents. Byejack, Gareth. T, Gigi Cheung, Kiri T, Lewsz, MC Cheung, Moon Tang and Nancy Kwai talk to Stephenie Gee about fronting the campaign and carving their individual paths as artists

Courtesy of Warner Music Hong Kong / Photography: Simon C

The pandemic has certainly been a game changer for all of us. But if there’s one thing it has gifted us with, it’s a wave of homegrown talent and creativity. Of particular note is our music scene, which in the past couple years has seen a dramatic uptick in the number of young musical talents making their presence felt. And in a city whose music culture, for the longest time, has been dominated by Cantopop and big-name overseas pop stars, this new generation of local acts spanning genres from hip-hop to R&B and all their variant and hybrid forms – and who not only bring enthusiasm, energy and new perspectives, but can also genuinely pull a paying crowd – is a breath of fresh air.

So, it seems fitting for Warner Music Hong Kong, one of the city’s leading music labels whose roster includes the likes of respected veterans such as Dear Jane, Janice Vidal and Fiona Sit, to launch its new campaign, Future Is Now. Put together by a star-studded production crew of esteemed local fashion photographer Simon C, acclaimed make-up artist Angel Mok and creative director Halftalk, the month-long project (kick-started with huge black-and-white billboards at Hong Kong Station) celebrates eight aspiring young artists – Byejack, Gareth. T, Gigi Cheung, Kiri T, Lewsz, MC Cheung Cheung, Moon Tang and Nancy Kwai – and their unique talents with singles that take the audience on a musical journey transcending the many facets of teen spirit.

“I think this was a really interesting campaign and I was very excited to be able to be a part of it. It made me reflect on where I want to go and take myself in the future as an artist in our music scene and reminded me of my original intentions and to stay humble,” says Gigi Cheung via email. One half of the popular sister pair, her path to a career in music has always been clear, having participated in numerous singing competitions since a young age before going on to study drama at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, which she recalls introduced her to the world of songwriting. Fast-forward to today, Cheung has made a name for herself in the ever-changing showbiz world with her multifaceted charms. “I hope that my music is trans-generational and that, while representing the present, it can continue to shine in the years to come.”

Courtesy of Warner Music Hong Kong / Photography: Simon C

While most of Cheung’s works have been autobiographical, written from an emotionally instinctive standpoint, the last thing she wants is for her music to come across as exclusive. “There has been a burst of talent in recent years, and I see more and more people who love music making their mark and having the courage to create their own music,” she says. “I hope that in the future, I can bring resonance and strength to others through my work and create unique and representative music that can help inspire and influence people.”

Her latest single, “Save Myself”, is a step in this direction. “My new song is about no matter how uncertain the world we live in is, or how unsatisfactory our life is, that we must save ourselves. Because everyone can tell you to stay strong and stay positive, but ultimately, it’s up to you and only you to make change.”

Also looking for his work to become a source of comfort for listeners is hip-hop artist Lewsz – perhaps because music to him, in much the same way, is what gives him “hope and strength to look forward and keep walking, especially when I’m feeling down” – who is best known for his fashion magazine cover-worthy looks and distinctive deep-toned voice that serves as the key instrument in his artistry. “I hope that in the future, my music can help to heal those who listen to it,” he says.

Courtesy of Warner Music Hong Kong / Photography: Simon C

He’s not limiting himself within that concept, though. The music landscape is evolving by the second, and Lewsz is ready to react to that change. “I think that the future of music is going to become more and more expressive and individualistic. And I hope that I can bring more variety to our music scene in the future,” he says. And he’s well on his way to doing just that with his new campaign release Sick and Tired. Dark and driving, “it’s all about what we’ve all experienced at least once in our lives: that feeling or phase of feeling tired and unmotivated. This song is for all those who feel that way and I hope it can help my listeners to release their tension and negative energy.”

But Future Is Now stands for much more than just an opportunity to showcase individual talents. For Kiri T, MC Cheung, Moon Tang and Nancy Kwai, this campaign is the stepping stone for building connections, whether with the audience or fellow artists. “I think Warner made a really bold statement with this campaign, showing the public how multifaceted the world of pop music is nowadays by bringing together artists of very different styles and backgrounds into the limelight,” Kiri T says. “Some of us started indie, some of us started with labels, some of us started with other artistic disciplines, and we all came together to celebrate our artistry in this campaign. And to be a part of this instilled a great deal of confidence in me and I’m very grateful for it.”

“I hope this project will let more audiences know about the new generation of artists and encourage them to explore their music,” says MC Cheung, who hopes to play his part in continuing to break down the walls between mainstream and indie music as well as bring variety to the stage together with other creatives. Actor and model Nancy Kwai says, “Future Is Now reminds me of the connections I have with other artists, not just myself, and also how I’m a part of this special era.”

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What is the first thing you think of when you think of the future?

Byejack: The present. Because the future is now.

Gareth. T: Me, because I am the future.

Gigi Cheung: Freedom and happiness. That’s what I hope for in the future.

Kiri T: Chaos and limitlessness. Because the state of the world is frightening on many levels, while technological advancements have broken boundaries that were thought to be unshakeable and young minds all over the world are inspiring societal and cultural changes. 

Lewsz: I’m not someone who thinks about the future because, for me, the future is now. I live in the moment.

MC Cheung: The first thing I think when I think of the future is “randomness”, because of the excitement of infinite possibilities.

Moon Tang: I think of a plain white canvas because I’m waiting for someone to colour it. The future is exciting because there’s nothing in it; there’s so many possibilities.

Nancy Kwai: “Ocean” – it’s just an instinct.

What is the future you’re hoping to create through your music? 

Byejack: To create new sounds and bring people into my vibe.

Gareth. T: I’m not sure at the moment as my music taste changes through time. But, hopefully I can stop making music because I don’t have to anymore.

Kiri T: By telling meaningful stories through my songs and imbuing my music with the values I believe in, I hope to take part in fostering a community that encourages creativity, expression, multifacetedness and kindness.

Moon Tang: I hope to create a future with diversity as people are becoming more and more open to express their individuality.

Nancy Kwai: One that is pliable and tough.

Courtesy of Warner Music Hong Kong / Photography: Simon C

Warner Music Hong Kong is the home to so many young, talented artists. As one of them, how would you describe your sound and how you’re making your mark with your music?

Byejack: I hope my sound is comforting to the people I love. I don’t put too much extra thought when it comes to making any mark with my music, but I write all of my songs and I use autotune on my vocals, which has become my signature.

Gareth. T: Most of my songs are in English, so I reckon that the language difference is already a standout.

Kiri T: My sound is a colourful, sassy and playful mix of pop and R&B, with elements of rock, soul, hip-hop and bubble-gum pop sprinkled here and there. I think of my music as a reflection of the mixture of cultures that I grew up in – being in HK, the UK and the US – and the combination of identities that developed from that.

Lewsz: What makes my music mine is that it is all created with my emotions.

MC Cheung: I would describe my music as all-inclusive. I like to explore and try out different musical genres.

Moon Tang: My sound is soft but I try to be more versatile in terms of production.

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How do you see music changing in the upcoming years? What do you hope to bring to the future of music as an artist? 

Byejack: I see music becoming more vibrant in terms of genre and sounds. As for what I hope to bring, I hope to bring originality into the future of music.

Gareth. T: I think music in Hong Kong will begin to have more diversity, and I wish to contribute by making more songs of different genres.

Kiri T: I think more and more artists are writing and producing their own music now because of how convenient it is to access these technologies. I can see the future of music being very rich with ideas and since actualising musical ideas with technology is getting easier, it would inspire more collaborations, more innovative ways of composing and further blending the genres. The music world would be an even crazier melting pot of styles and cultures. And I hope to bring to the future a combination of traditional and contemporary interpretations of pop, artfully paying respect to where we’re from, and showing people where we’re heading. Moon Tang: Music is going to become more diverse and I hope that my music contributes to that.

Nancy Kwai: The variety of music is growing, and I want to be representative of that and continue to explore my potential.

Courtesy of Warner Music Hong Kong / Photography: Simon C

Can you tell me more about your single – what is it you want to convey through your song and what was the inspiration behind it?

Byejack: “Sunbreak” is a song written for a friend of mine. The message that I want to convey is that I can be the person for her to share everything with, including the sunrise.

Gareth. T: My new song is a Cantonese song called “happy tears”, and it’s a tribute to 2000s pop music, taking inspiration from boy bands like Nsync and Backstreet Boys. And with DJ Jan Lamb on the lyrics, the song acts as a cathartic release of my inner emotional side.

Kiri T: I wrote “Twist Cone” to make fun of my indecisiveness and insecurities.

MC Cheung: My new single “Drink Up” expresses that adults tend to hide their sadness and replace the unpleasantness in their hearts by drinking alcohol. I’m a whisky lover myself, and that inspired the theme for this song.

Moon Tang: “i love u” is inspired by my personal experience and it’s all about the contradicting thoughts when you’re in a relationship. The love and the hate that you feel are all part of the process.

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Music can be as collaborative as it is independent. Have you worked with any of the artists at your label and how have you found that chemistry? Or are you more of an independent musician, and if so, how do you become inspired and create on your own?

Byejack: I’m definitely more of an independent artist, but I’ve had the chance recently to do a remix on my own song with Gigi Cheung.

Gareth. T: I worked with my girlfriend moon; it was nice. I’ve yet to work with other artists in my label, but I’m looking forward to.

Gigi Cheung: I’ve featured in Byejack’s 1973 Trail. It was a very smooth collaboration – we shared our ideas and and what we wanted, and we finished the song very quickly. I also learned through the process about him as an artist, his creative habits and direction – it was very interesting. But, I also love working as an independent artist because it’s very personal and open – it’s like having a dialogue with yourself. I get most of my inspiration from daily life, personal experiences, different films, performances and books. Also, during the nighttime. But really, I have a desire to create at any time.

Kiri T: I’ve worked with Janice [Vidal], Panther [Chan], Moon Tang and MC Cheung, and am currently working with Nancy! I actually prefer creating with people because I love the chemistry of great minds creating something together. Also, the creative process can get lonely for me sometimes and I’m always hungry for ideas from other perspectives.

Lewsz: There’s always going to be conflict and a clash of something, like ideas, when working with other creatives. But I think this clash is what makes the music unique and that’s why I love working with others when creating my music. However, most of the time I create my music by myself and when working as an individual, looking back into my life and memories is what gives me inspiration.

MC Cheung: I’ve worked with Kaho and Jude from Warner. And I used to think that I was an independent musician, but after meeting with different artists, I realised that by working with other musicians we can help to complement one another as well as inspire others.

Moon Tang: I’m still used to writing alone, but I worked with Kiri T on a mash-up a few months ago. It was mostly her doing the work as I’m more passive when it comes to collaborations – I’m definitely still learning how to work with others and contribute my ideas.

Nancy Kwai: I’m working with Kiri T now and she amazes me with her instinct, and astonishing flexibility and creativity.

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