Interview: World Coda Talk Before Eclipse I EP and Abject Gaze 

There is an elegance in the dystopian soundscapes created by London-based World Coda. The self-described abject-gaze band emerged from the marrow of Merrow and present agony and angst mingling with melancholy within their musical style which includes shoegaze to post-metal aesthetics. Or at least a desire towards them… Their first EP, Before Eclipse I, introduces fans to the world of abject-gaze. I speak with World Coda’s guitarist, vocalist and arranger, Yao Li, about her philosophies regarding the project.

What is the history of World Coda?

Yao Li: When I was still in Canada before finishing my undergrad, I formed World Coda as a duo project with Jin who I met online. The blending of music influence between me and Jin is very excitingly unique – Jin mostly listens to heavy J-Rock (Luna Sea, Onmyo- Za, 9mm Parabellum Bullet, etc) and I soak myself in wistful post-metal and shoegaze. Although there was not a single band that we both liked when we first met, when we recommended our personal favorites to each other we actually found connections in music that is beyond genre. This leads to a more free-minded songwriting that we are making music out of our creativity autonomously, bypassing the dogma of music genres.

I came to the UK to study psychoanalysis in 2022, and this was when World Coda expanded to a quartet, transforming from digital project files to a real-life band. We had several member changes since then and there was once lots of chaos when playing with musicians with philosophies too far away from ours. But gladly Jin’s old friend Dan joined us as bassist last year, who’s also playing in a metalcore group Iridium. Although metalcore is my personal enemy, I still appreciate Dan’s technical precision and stage presence. I met our drummer Jamie this March and I am still feeling this bliss from our encounter – you’ll know why when you hear our live and recording with his brilliant performance.

Your previous band was Merrow. How did the time producing music within Merrow influence World Coda?

Yao: Merrow’s first (and maybe last) album was written during the lockdown of Covid. I was lucky enough to have my laidback placement year overlapped with the extreme stay-home solitude which saved all my energy to write music. I am mostly a self-taught musician, and Merrow, as my first serious project, was a journey where I explored my musical creativity, retrospectively speaking. Merrow was quite a success from what I know, it seems like people like us and play us on repeat, so it brought me lots of confidence. But on the flip-side, it limited my musical expression and created a bias on what I am good at – which are the very dreamy and wistful guitar melodies and folk-like blackgaze vocals. So I carried a bit of that into World Coda, at first, and was a bit narrow-minded to try new colors and moods of music, as Jin may complain a lot. But at this stage when I am already more comfortable and versatile in songwriting, I think what Merrow brought me is an anchor of me as a musician, from which World Coda is somehow succeeding the dark, melancholy and ethereal aesthetics.

You self-describe World Coda as abject-gaze, post-metal desire. What does this mean?

 Yao: “Abject” is one of the fascinating concepts I’ve ever read in psychoanalysis and in philosophy. It is explored by Julia Kristeva as a liminal space of subjectivity. In World Coda’s context, it has several layers of meanings.

1. Abject is first and foremost a denial of identity, and for us, it is a statement that we refuse to belong to any genres. I am very tired of reading the debates by gatekeepers, those who pledge allegiance to MBV as their shoegaze hero or those who are arguing “what is metal” in Deafheaven’s comment sections. I wish audiences would listen to us with no expectations, even though sometimes we have no choice but to classify ourselves into genres (for example, when submitting to various media and such).

2. In Kristeva’s writing, abject or abjection is always colored with some agonist and dark aesthetics. It is partially from the Lacanian theories of desire, femininity, and negation and partially from her analysis of the “disturbing” phenomenon of human beings, such as death, defilement, and pregnancy. The images or moods associated with abjection satisfy me aesthetically and I think it speaks for our dark, sorrowful, and angsty sound.

3. The whole phrase is, admittedly, very vague and I like how vague it is. I wrote this with an outburst after jamming with Jamie for the first time, knowing that his drumming style is leaning to post-metal which has been long missing with our ex- drummer. “Post-metal desire” also indicates a borderline state of our music, that we can be “post-metal” but we are not necessarily one of them – as desire is always something unattainable. “Abject-gaze” is hitting toward the iconic heavenly wall of sounds and a dedication to guitar tones like shoegazers do – this is the “gaze” part we want to keep from what may make a shoegaze band.

Merrow was a Pest Productions band. Any band on that label I immediately put in high regard due to their track record. What is your perspective on this and being part of the label?

 Yao: Merrow was signed to Pest Productions after our debut single – it was quite surprising to have an album contract after just three months into making music. Pest Production built a prosperous metal scene in Asia and it connects lots of talented musicians and engaging music lovers. I think as a musician in niche styles a community like this is much appreciated as it makes you feel supported and it bridges our music to the right audience.

What are some differences between the UK and Chinese musical environments?

Yao: To be honest I am not that engaged in the Chinese music scene since I’m living mostly overseas. But from what I’ve seen on the internet, I do feel that the Chinese music scene, metal or underground in general, is showing a strong potential of growth because it is quite new there than it is in the west. People are actively discovering new bands, collecting records and going to grassroots shows.

In the UK, particularly in London, there are so many bands that you see gigs happening everyday and in every corner of the city. You’ll meet lots of talented musicians here and there are more possibilities for good music to happen with better facilities. But to make the most of these possibilities, I think it can be more challenging in a busy city like London than in Toronto or China – I’ve seen lots of musicians getting lost in promotion and chasing market trends. In a word, music is more capitalized and industrialized here, and musicians really need to work smarter to balance between the pros and cons of its consequences with stronger self-resilience.

How do you feel your occupations add to your soundscape?

Yao: In our group we have myself, working in psychoanalysis and philosophy academia; Jin, visual artist and game designer; and Dan and Jamie as both technical engineers in their own niche fields. Dan and Jamie were the quality assurance guys in our recording and live performances, they have the extraordinary level of attention to details and the high familiarities with literally everything about music equipment. Jin said he is a visual thinker, which means he translates the imaginary scenes in his mind to music that creates cinematic feelings in our sound. I am a book worm in my own time  and read mostly postmodernist philosophy in which its depressive outlook I sometimes find inspiration. Due to the nature of my research project I mingle with artist-researchers a lot, and their avant-garde art-making methodology also inspires me to make music more authentically – more intentionless and more feeling-oriented.

What is the storyline for the songs on the upcoming EPs and album?

Yao: The first EP Before Eclipse I, is about scenes or stories inspired by the primal scene of human beings – a boundless intimacy, which you may also call it “love”. “Seachanter” is questioning the notion of “love” – what does it mean to humans and what it brings. It is very pessimistic, as you hear “now my twin sister dies” in the lyrics you may associate that the part of us falling in love is doomed to be lost – love and ego is fundamentally conflictual (though you are more than welcome to read it in other ways). Soma, Chora is again inspired by Julia Kristeva’s theories on abjection and Chora. I used it as a metaphor for the lyrics to describe the madness in love, and the pain in the disintegration of our egos one must go through to love and to be loved.

Our next two volumes of Before Eclipse will feature two different themes. Before Eclipse II, which we will soon be working on, will bring forward the contemporary sides of our sound by touching upon scenes we experience daily – architectures, homes, highways. Songs in Before Eclipse III will be more edgy or “exotic”. We chose the name, Before Eclipse, for our EPs to signify the enigmatic, otherworldly, but also passionate atmosphere that audiences may find in these releases. And we are very curious of what Eclipse, our debut full length will sound like.

What does the World Coda live show look like?

Yao: I wish I could be the audience to find out! From what I’ve seen in the videos and in the feedback, our sound is quite immersive. Wall of sounds from guitars is a key feature in our show that makes it worthwhile to go to the venue to experience its power. Besides that, what makes us unique is the complexity of songwriting, contrasts between passages, and beautiful melodies in vocals and guitars. As a performer, I could feel my body dissolving in our sounds on stage, and I hope the audience will feel the same.

Before Eclipse I will be released on July 12.

Before Eclipse I | World Coda (bandcamp.com)

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