*Warning may contain absolute bangers*
Sam Tsang better known as the in demand producer Congee is finally stepping out on his own to release his highly anticipated debut EP ‘Kwong’. Having already worked with the likes of Griff, Fred Again, Finn Askew, Bon Iver and Sigrid, amongst others, the much sought after producer is releasing an EP of electronic pop tunes mixed with personal lyrics detailing his own personal struggles.
This music-producing, video-editing, outfit-making multi-hyphenate sat down to talk us through exactly how his EP came about, his struggles growing up, learning to accept himself and why he decided to name himself after a popular Chinese dish.
So sit down and get ready to feast on Congee
What was life like growing up?
Growing up I would always observe my friends and their families. None of my friends were Asian, so it was all so different to me. I didn’t really like the idea of being so different to everyone at the time, you never want to be the one that stands out in school for being different, so you don’t get picked on but over the years I have been lucky enough to have really supportive friends who encourage me and also challenge me to be better.
People would always tell me ‘Sam you should make an artist project’ but I would always think to myself that is not what Chinese people do, even if it was always in the back of my mind to do so. So then just before lockdown, Griff was trying to convince me to do my own thing, but I still wasn’t sure, then during lockdown I did a lot of thinking and finally decided to give it a go!
Why was it important to you to be named Congee?
I initially was going to just pick my actual name (Sam Tsang), but I just felt that it wasn’t interesting enough. So instead I wanted to find a name that was there from the beginning, because names are something that have always been with you right?
So I thought back to my childhood and the one thing that was a big deal in our house was food. It was basically our preferred method of communication. Congee is the comfort food of china, it is something you can have for any meal. If I was ill my mum would just hand it to me and I wouldn’t even ask questions I would just eat it. So I wanted to put the word Congee out there, mainly so people know how good it is!
What was the reception like for your recent track ‘Be Alright’?
Really good, which was surprising. I just wanted to make music and didn’t expect to be doing publicity and talking to magazines, so the fact that it has been well received is something I am really grateful for.
Why did you want this track to be one of the first releases from the new EP?
Thematically it just made sense for this project. The song talks about the relation and communication barriers between me and my mum. I think that kind of message translates to so many other things, not just race.
Sometimes simple communication can solve a lot, when we are having a bad day we don’t always need to hear all the tips and tricks, sometimes just a simple ‘everything will be ok’ is enough or a simple gesture and that is true with me and my mum because she never spoke English and I never spoke cantonese so it was hard to communicate, so this songs deals with that.
You also directed the video, is that something you enjoy doing?
I love it, I really wanted to create a world with this project, both sonically and visually. I also get bored quite easily, so having something different from music is really important to me.
So for this video I worked with my friend Callum, who did all the illustrations for the project.
I really wanted to do something with those cheesy things you get at the beach where you put your head in a hole and it has all those different bodies, so I brought this idea to Callum, who was actually the first person to encourage me to do my own project.
So we went through loads of ideas and it slowly became more and more ridiculous. It started off quite serious so it was nice to end up with these lighthearted moments with elements of depth, I think that fits the song really well!
Moving forward you have a new track ‘Honest’ coming on March 30th tell us a bit about this song?
I wrote this song for my nan after my grandfather passed away, I wanted to create something to encourage her and also myself. I actually wrote the track years ago, then when I was thinking of what songs to do for this project, Callum reminded me of this track which I showed him years ago. As soon as I heard it I knew it had to go on this project.
What does your family think of your career?
We don’t really talk about it. My parents are really supportive but it is nice to come home and not have to talk about music. I enjoy going home and my parents just asking me about whether I am hungry and not more music talk.
The release of your next track will also mark the announcement of your debut EP ‘Kwong’ , what can we expect from the EP?
So ‘Kwong’ is actually my middle name and it means ‘Glowing’ in Chinese. I think what you can expect is some tracks being big and lively and then other tracks being much more intimate. I didn’t want to restrict myself to a particular genre. So it is interesting to see how all these songs that shouldn’t necessarily fit together, fit together in the same sonic world.
What is your creative process when recording music?
It changes a lot. I tend to overthink a lot, I analyse everything because I am a perfectionist. Every time I create something new I try to reinvent my way of making music. At the moment my ‘thing’ is to just record my friends (who are all musicians) on a voice note and then trying to manipulate that into something.
Which track are you most excited for people to hear?
I really love this track called ‘Forever’. It is such a big track sonically, it is a little bit similar to ‘Be Alright’, they both come from the same world sonically. This was the first track that I was like ‘This is definitely going on my new project’
It is about love and my relationship with my mother growing up. We weren’t a ‘touchy feely’ family and I remember seeing all my friends having that kind of relationship with their families and feeling weird because we didn’t do that. So the song is about how love can look different. My mum always cooks for me and asks if I am hungry, so her way of showing love is very much through acts of service, but I didn’t realise that when I was younger because that wasn’t what I saw.
Do you have any plans to tour with your new music?
Yes! We are currently getting a band together. I have never actually performed live before so it will either be really good or really bad. Once the band is sorted we will start rehearsing and hopefully do some shows later this year.
Aside from music are there any other industries that you would like to enter?
I would love to get into clothing. For this project I actually made an outfit. I remember just going into different shops looking for outfits for the project and realising how expensive everything was! So I thought to myself that surely I could make something like this. So I bought a sewing machine and watched Youtube videos to teach myself. I think my idea is to create a new outfit for each project. I just like creating things, so I will always be creating and if it happens to go somewhere then great!
Lastly, what is one piece of advice you would give to anyone who wants to try something new?
I think the most important thing is to just take that first step. This entire project was me doing exactly that and it can be scary and really shines a light on you. But taking that first step and just having fun with it are the best things you can do!
‘Be Alright’ is available to download and stream now and Congees next track ‘Honest’ is out March 30th, both tracks will be featured on his debut EP ‘KWONG’ out May 20th