In the wonder years of 2006-2008, Snapline became, almost overnight it seemed, perhaps Beijing’s fastest rising band. At the very beginning, the band consisted of Li Qing on guitar and keyboards and Li Weisi on bass, who met as students at the Beijing Institute of Technology. Their music was dedicated to working out in a contemporary Beijing context the sounds and ideas produced by the noise and minimalist musicians of the 1970s and 1980s, especially focusing on the New York scene of that period. Wanting to also explore the dark, industrial music coming out of England during that period, especially from bands like Joy Division and The Cure, the two created a side project, which performed strange, drum-machine-driven music over dark, minor chords. Chen Xi, on vocals and drum machine, brought a softer, more fluid sound to the band with his delicate and slightly otherworldly singing.
When producer and ex-PiL drummer Martin Atkins came to Beijing in late 2006 to check on the local scene, he was delighted with dozens of bands, but was wholly awestruck by Snapline’s uniquely weird melodies, and immediately insisted on producing their first CD. Within weeks they had laid down the tracks in Beijing and over the next few months began the mixing process in Chicago, at one point flying Chen Xi to Chicago to add additional tracks.
As snippets of the recording filtered through the scene in China, the band’s shows started drawing larger crowds, and they soon began to develop a very strong following. A series of concerts at D-22 established them as one of the central bands in the scene, much loved by critics and musicians, although difficult at times for audiences to follow. They are not the easiest band to love, but their followers are passionately loyal and their music keeps growing in strange unexpected ways. In October 2007, they performed a stunning set at the Modern Sky festival, driving away half the audience in bewilderment and keeping the other half rooted to the grounds, mouths open, as Chen Xi danced and stumbled frenetically onstage while Li Qing’s strange and ugly noises dueled with Li Weisi’s relentless bass lines. After that show it was clear to many that Snapline was one of the key bands in the musical explosion emanating from Beijing.
The subject of many articles in the Chinese press, the band was listed in the September 2007 edition of That’s Beijing as one of the ten best bands in China and in an article in Rolling Stone that same year Li Qing was listed as one of China’s four major guitar innovators.