Hong Kong Six
A conversation with Darren Geare
Interview by Caitlin McGuire
“It’s hard to imagine life without music,” says Darren Geare, lead singer of Hong Kong Six. He gestures madly with his hand that holds a cigarette, flinging tiny bits of ash around our table, while the other nurses a cup of chamomile tea. He blows his smoke out, but as the wind is blowing towards him, he only succeeds surrounding his face in a halo of nicotine. Yet he speaks on, unabated by the shortcomings of speech inhibited by smoke.
Geare is one of those unintentionally attractive people: compact, red-haired (although Geare’s is darker), freckled, and green-eyed in the vein of Seth Greene, yet bearing striking similarity to an eighties-era Peter Gabriel, as well as the intensity of 311’s Nick Hexum. Yet he smiles easily, and talks almost unceasingly. My pen skipped entire sentences in an effort to catch even the bare minimum of his words.
“I’ve been playing in bands since I was twelve, working numerous projects,” he begins, recalling the start of Hong Kong Six. “The band was formed basically by my making the phone calls, to make a dream band. Three-fifths of us are actually related; the drummer is my cousin [Riley Geare], and my brother [Jeff Allen] plays guitar. The rest of the band we’ve known since we were young.” He describes everything to do with the band as a family project, blood-related or otherwise. “Everyone we pick up along the way becomes our close friends. We’re a tight-knit group.”
Amplifier claimed that Hong Kong Six was the soundtrack to “the real O.C.” When asked about what the real Orange County sounded like, Geare seemed stumped. “A lot of bands, not good or bad, although there are a lot of bad bands, are making music right now, so it’s not easy to figure out what Orange County’s real sound is. I think that being the real sound of Orange County would be us because we’re authentic. It’s hard to gauge how much of an effect where you live has on your music, since the entire band grew up here.” In a local sense, Hong Kong Six is probably known best as one of the nominees for Best Indie Band in last year’s Orange County Music Awards. Yet Darren considers his proudest moment with his band their victory at the Battle of the Bands at the House of Blues. He reminisces, “We weren’t really expecting to win first place, but it was a lot of fun, drinking wine and winning the award and stuff.”
Hong Kong Six has been known to list seemingly converse artists as their influences, ranging from The Beatles to Bob Marley to The Police to The Smiths to Nirvana. But apparently the influences are not as different as I would have thought; Geare explains, “Sting says he rips off every melody from Bob Marley, so the two influences are pretty inseparable. Even though the influence isn’t overt, we’re all heavily influenced by reggae. And with The Smiths, Morrissey could hit so many notes; I’ve gone through a lot of Morrissey phases in my life. I think the influences mainly manifest themselves through the vocals. Personally, I love Oingo Boingo.”
Geare gave me the first few tracks of their new album, pre-mixing, and it’s clear even from a superficial first listen that Hong Kong Six has matured since their eponymous debut album. “The change was totally natural,” Geare says of their newer sound. “What comes out comes out. I think we’re moving from the more experimental stuff we used to play for a more solid kind of rock and roll.” And the move is certainly good for Hong Kong Six. Where I’d get the hook from “Swim With the Sharks,” Geare’s favorite song to play, stuck in my head off their last album, songs like “Lips” and “Crazy” embed themselves in your mind in a different way. More than just the chorus, the entire song seems to play in loops. New to Hong Kong Six on their upcoming album is Alex Alena, who helped work on the CD. “Alex has a really eclectic resume, and he brings a diverse pallet of ideas in.”
With the debut of their second album coming up in the next few months, progress is on Geare’s mind. “We’ve been shopping around a couple of major labels. Things are really exciting right now.” Yet Geare maintains his favorite part of playing music is “connecting with people, with someone in some way.” On the flipside, Geare finds his vocation in general a downside. “It’s hard to be a musician,” he explains. “The world wants you to follow the straight and narrow road, you know, go to college, get a job, make money. It’s hard to deviate from that.
Why should you see Hong Kong Six live? Geare says, “We bring a lot of energy and fun to the stage. We are so appreciative of anyone who's leaving their home, spending the gas money and paying to come and see us, so we always put everything we have into our performance and make sure it's not just a show, but an experience you will always remember.” From everything I’ve heard, he’s right. Last time they played at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, they sold out every seat but thirty, and they anticipate a similar showing at their concert there on the eighteenth of January, as well as their February 2nd show at the Knitting Factory. Hong Kong Six is at the fragile stage where stardom could be made or lost. In the paraphrased words of Ferris Bueller, things are moving pretty fast for Hong Kong Six right now. If you don’t stop and look around, you might miss them.