Wrexham based trio Gallops returned earlier this year after a three year hiatus with their incredible second album Bronze Mystic. The long awaited follow-up to 2012's debut Yours Sincerely Dr. Hardcore, it follows in a similar vein moulding elements of post-rock, ambient electronica, and experimental free style jazz to create something altogether unique.
Since returning, Gallops have kept themselves busy on the road. Next week they go out on another UK tour in support of new single 'Shakma', this time with And So I Watch You From Afar.
However, last month saw them visit China for the first time as part of the Concrete And Grass festival, where the organisers described them as "a gothic, industrial orchestra".
As an exclusive for Drowned In Sound, the band put together a tour diary detailing their adventures.
Wrexham, and it’s raining. We head, bleary-eyed, to our rehearsal space in the centre of town. We rehearse in a community run Arts Centre (because, of course we do). It’s called Undegun, which is Welsh for the number 11. We hope you’re taking notes, there will be a test at the end. Our room is up about 4 or 5 or 13 flights of stairs, I’ve stopped counting because I’m always disappointed. A last minute idiot gear check before loading the van, kindly driven by our handsome sound engineer, Sebastien. Half an hour into the journey to the airport we realise we have left the merch back in Wrexham. Classic. A quick debate, 180 degrees, pick it up, another 180 degrees. Back on the 56, drop the van off at the questionably priced Airport Park & Ride. Boring luggage drop-off and security bit. AIRPORT PINTS. Always airport pints because let's face it, airport pints. Money loses value in airports, it becomes Monopoly tender. At least it does when you’re financially immature and full of Dutch lager. Board flight, half cut, to Paris. Pretty good croissants to be fair, mid-air delirium withstanding. Security in Paris is predictably a ball-ache. You’d think they would have seen, even in some mad dream, a cowbell before. Sebastien to the rescue, did I mention he is French? And handsome? CDG is a pretty swish airport, and you can smoke which is obviously great. Board China Eastern flight to Shanghai. Film selection is pretty terrible and they’re pretty snide with the free booze. 14-15hrs of deathly boredom and worrying about deep vein thrombosis. Land in Shanghai PVG. It’s Friday now, how did that happen?
Hello, China. Greeted with very stern visa checks. Expected, I suppose. By this point my legs feel like someone else's, and that someone else isn’t very healthy. We head to the carousel to pick up our gear. 4 flightcases. 1 creeps its way towards us after about 10 minutes. Sorted, the other 3 will be here in a minute. Another 10 minutes. Nowt. Another 15. Erm. Baggage screen switches to the next flight as a few crumpled bits of ephemera creep on around the carousel, presumably no one wants to own up to them. Every band's worst nightmare is happening to us. We make our way to the lost baggage office where we are greeted with what looks, smells, and sounds like a bustling street market. We soon realise that queuing isn’t a thing in China and only a Darwinian attitude to the process will yield any favourable results. The thing is, we are being ignored. And we haven’t had a cigarette for around 16 hours. Things get stressy and we look more British than perhaps we’ve ever looked.
Eventually, having got our tour manager on the phone (Dostav), we pass it to the bloke on the desk. Dostav translates. Our luggage is ‘probably’ still in Paris. Thumbs up all around. A shuttle picks us up from the airport and we head to the hotel, where the luggage will be ‘sent at some point’. Chinese roads are all kinds of crazy and share the same ethos as their queuing system. It’s all pretty white-knuckle, to be honest. It’s a dull, rainy, and also very hot afternoon in Shanghai. The city looks terrifying under the smog, but also harbours a kind of beauty that I can’t put my finger on. It’s hard not to think of Ballard at this point; it’s hard not to throughout the trip.
We reach the hotel and it’s kilometers-beyond-swanky. Chandeliers, a bar that looks like that one in The Shining (now with added Jazz player-piano). Ace. We drop our stuff and head out for a night-time walk. The city is imposing and looks post-apocalyptic. Or at least what we’re told that will look like. Anyways, it’s COOL. We look for food and end up at an internationally renowned fast-food burger chain, because it’s easy and we are too tired to be anything other than blotchy Philistines. Tomorrow, we promise. A few beers in a very friendly neighbourhood bar (the local wheat beer is boss) and back to the hotel for some beers with DZ Deathrays (good lads, them) Then S.L.E.E.P.
SHOW DAY. We awake early in the hope that our equipment has arrived at the hotel. It hasn’t. Our shuttle to the festival is due at 11am and it isn’t looking good. We eat a very weird breakfast. Nondescript sausages and equivocal egg approximations. Good coffee, mind. Dostav calls and says that it’s likely we won’t be able to play the show as our gear hasn’t arrived. Our stage time is 3pm. We agree that it isn’t gonna happen and our hearts sink. Wounded and defeated we decide to make the best of a bad situation and head to the festival anyway on the shuttle. Upon arriving at the festival, we are even more gutted. It looks amazing. A really unexpected and picturesque area of lush greenery slapped in the middle of a brutal metropolis. Somehow it makes perfect sense though. So unique, and so cool.
We head to our dressing room and decide to take advantage of the hospitality. Beers punctuate the next few hours of us lamenting over what could have been. By this point, we have put a message out to the festival organisers with a list of what equipment we need to make the show happen. Hopes aren’t high as it’s a bunch of really specific and awkward stuff. Our collective dream of being a skiffle band rears its head again (closer each day). An hour before the show and we are told that the organisers have managed to get what we need to play. However, we have left the rest of the equipment at the hotel as we were certain we weren’t playing. The next hour is spent undertaking a panicked back-and-forth to the hotel, whilst I worked out the file architecture of a sample pad that I had never used before. Sans manual. We managed to get everything in order with minutes to go. We play the show, and it’s great. Although very surreal, as we were definitely not mentally (or arguably, physically) prepared for it. Ace all the same.
That evening is spent celebrating the photo-finish success of the day by heading to C’s bar and drinking heroic quantities of cocktails with our friend Ronnie. Ronnie was part of the production team that filmed our last stint to China for a documentary called ‘From Wrexham To Wuhan’. The night is wild, and although this was as much our fault as hers, it only seems right to pass the blame. The drunk early morning taxi back to the hotel was surreal. Our hotel is a good 45-minute drive from the centre of town and we see the sunrise over the frankly overwhelming sprawl of the city. Upon arriving at the hotel we take the elevator to the 51st floor to admire the vista and take our wobbly legs to bed.
Our day off. Which we spend over 50% of in bed. Naturally. We manage to pull what’s left of us together in the afternoon and head to The Bund to be proper tourists. It’s dark when we get there which is good as we are told that this is the correct way to take in the panorama. Whoever told us that is undeniably correct. It’s proper stunning and I’d recommend it to anyone. Beautiful and frightening in equal measures. We hail a cab and head to ALL club where we are DJing the after-show party. The club looks amazing. All minimal, industrial decor. Our heads are bit frazzled at this point and it’s hard to not feel like we are on a Kubrick film-set. We play our set to the darkest dancefloor we’ve ever seen and then attempt to party to Steven, Julien, and Eclair Fifi’s sets, but by this point jetlag and general decadence takes it toll and bedways is rightways.
9am pick-up for the airport. Lots of boring queue-based stuff that I wouldn’t wish on anyone (or want to bore you with). The flight back feels longer somehow and the films haven’t improved. Try to sleep. Can’t. We arrive in Manchester, head to the baggage carousel and are delighted to discover that this time THREE of our four flightcases haven’t arrived on the flight. Welcome home. (We’ve had them couriered to us since)
Overall, ace trip, ace people, ace sights and ace country. Can’t wait to go back!