Taiwanese Indie Band Deca Joins Rolls With '2020 Canceled Tour'

Taiwanese Indie Band Deca Joins Rolls With '2020 Canceled Tour'
Photo Credit: Brian / TNBT

What you need to know

Taiwan's music industry is in the doldrums because of Covid-19. But one indie band, Deca Joins, is taking the challenge as an opportunity to show the importance of live music.

By Cyan Liu

As the independent music industry faces a Covid-19 slump, one group has taken the unprecedented bottleneck as a theme for a concert tour. 

Taiwanese indie band, Deca Joins (also spelled deca joins), is one of the groups continuing to tour and debut new songs. While most concerts in Taiwan were canceled, label company Airhead Records launched a “2020 Canceled Tour” featuring the collaboration of Deca Joins and No-Nonsense Collective (無妄合作社). The shows sold out in an instant. 

The band’s name has changed over the years from FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair), Gray Dwarf Star, to its current iteration as Deca Joins. The name doesn’t have a clear meaning but loosely refers to “decadent/decaffeination joins together.”

The musical arrangement of Deca Joins's songs leaves a unique impression. There’s always an atmospheric introductory measure, followed by a moment heightened by the entrance of all the instruments, as if it’s attempting to speed up one’s heartbeat. The sounds of the guitar then elevate the mood until the vocals suppress the airiness of the guitar like they’re reflecting the suffocating aspects of life. 

Unhurried drum beats and bass are intertwined like the wandering footsteps in a city awakening from a daydream. This is how Deca Joins composes the mundane story of daily life. 

Fans always describe their music as “dejected” — perfect for those who feel sluggish and seek to temporarily escape from this dreadful planet. 

Focusing on music production in times of uncertainty

Were it not for the pandemic, Deca Joins would have taken the stage at the American music festival SXSW (South by Southwest).

Bassist Hsieh Chun-yen and guitarist Yang Shang-hua both expressed regret at missing out on one of the major music festivals in the world. SXSW typically lasts for about 10 days, featuring over 2000 musical acts.

SXSW is more than just an occasion to perform for Yang, an art school graduate. It’s essentially a 10-day festival for contemporary creatives to immerse themselves in film screenings, tech startup exhibits, and panels among others. 

Just as Deca Joins was garnering a bigger audience, the pandemic forced the cancellation of many of their scheduled performances. In addition to losing the acclaim from a live audience, the band also saw a sharp drop in income and promotion opportunities. Hsieh said he could not change what’s going on in the world, so he could only focus on perfecting the new music for the band. 

Photo Credit: Victor Wang / The News Lens
Deca Joins: guitarist Yang Shang-hua (left) and bassist Hsieh Chun-yen (right)

Before the pandemic, Deca Joins used to perform their unreleased songs live before putting them into an album. “A lot of our musical elements have to rely on live,” they said. 

Although music streaming algorithms have taken over most people’s listening habits, Deca Joins insists on creating a coherent concept for each album production. They like to first establish a core concept and then brainstorm what narrative and expression the album would take on. Each album is like a contemporary piece of art. 

“As soon as our album is uploaded onto the platforms, we’re competing against famous bands like Mayday and Radiohead,” Yang said. “Fans won’t think about the vast differences between your resources — they’d just sense the gap in the quality of your final product. All we can do is try our best.” 

Mastering a live performance is necessary for a successful indie band

The band’s new songs depart from their past work. Mainly, they wanted to perfect the “already-recorded” songs. Since Deca Joins likes to perform unreleased songs, fans typically share the videos on YouTube, turning them into a form of “documentary.” However, most of these versions would evolve over several shows and end up entirely different in the end. The pandemic provided the band with the time to put together an EP of live but polished work called 3 Songs.

3 Songs features reworked versions of “Nothing to write home about” (乏善可陳) and “Resplendent Red” (豔紅), and a song in homage to a giant of Taiwan’s music scene Wu Bai, a cover of his “Summer Night Wind” (夏夜晚風).

Although many bands have turned to live streams and videos during the pandemic, Deca Joins has emphasized live performance as an irreplaceable component of a music group. “If you want to refine your work, or see how certain parts of it come together, you have to be performing live,” they said. 

International bands often release live concert albums, but this practice is rarer in Taiwan, Deca Joins added. Live performance videos sometimes get more clicks than official music videos, which shows that music fans might love the live energy as much as musicians do. 

“We also care if we’re bringing our live audience new sounds that are unique to music festivals, that may not be heard in our album,” Yang said. 

Maintaining a hard-earned live audience for indie music

Airhead Records embraced the possibilities of cancellation for the 2020 Canceled Tour. The band members of Deca Joins felt uneasy, but they wanted to keep the audience tuned in with the habit of attending live shows. 

“It was not easy for [bands] to build up audiences who would be willing to pay for live shows. We can’t let this habit disappear because of the pandemic, otherwise it would be hard to bring people back,” they said. 

At the same time, they also paid attention to how concert venues were hit hard by the first wave of Covid-19. “Concert venues, even before the pandemic, are not a stable business. With ticket refunds and the costs of halting bookings, they are certainly in dire straits,” the band said.  

Interestingly, the core profits of their 2020 Canceled tour were the band T-shirts. In case the performances were canceled, the T-shirt sales would have provided some financial relief. In terms of revenue, 50-percent of the t-shirt sales were used to pay for venues while the rest was used for the production cost and shipping. The door ticket sales compensated for the band’s performance.

Fortunately, Taiwan has kept the coronavirus at bay and the tour was successful in bringing the crowds back to the world of live houses. 

Photo Credit: Airhead Records

In the face of Covid-19, not only music venues are facing potential closures, indie music bands that rely on these spaces are also at risk. 

If music venues are forced to shut down, music creators would have no space to experiment and audiences would have no shows to walk into. The long-lasting, systematic shock brought by Covid-19 is the most dangerous aspect of this pandemic. 

“We have to work together and keep this hard-earned music environment going,” Hsieh said. As face mask restrictions are loosening in Taiwan, and the tour brought fans back into live shows, Deca Joins are ready to get back into the groove with their new music. 

READ NEXT: Roots of Life and Music in Yilan

TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty, Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more story updates in your news feed, please be sure to follow our Facebook.