Interview: The Hsu-Nami

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Asbury Park is known for some crazy original music, but nothing can compare to The Hsu-Nami – a prog rock outfit fronted by some virtuoso Chinese violin playing. Seriously, find us another band in this region like this? We’ll wait. Awesome, because you didn’t. This band is absolutely out of this world insane in terms of the structure of their songs and their talent level is beyond thunder dome. But no matter how unique or weird they might seem on paper – The Hsu-Nami are Asbury through and through – they bring it every time they’re on stage and they continually stun and amaze all who see them. We were lucky to catch up with the guys for our last Happy Mondays Interview for 2014.

Hsu-Nami Is (Band Members & The Instruments They Play):

Jack Hsu- Erhu
Brent Övar Bergholm- Guitars
Derril Sellers- Bass
Dana Sellers- Keys
John Manna- Drums

We’re based out of: All over New Jersey and once upon a time New York

The Story of Our Name: I (Brent Övar Bergholm) met Jack as a freshman in college and we united over our love and appreciation for J-Rock bands like X Japan and Bz. When we used to drink, I started calling him “Hsu-nami” as a joke. It’s a pun of his name “Hsu” and Tsunami. Get it? So it seemed fitting as a name when we decided to start a crazy progressive rock band with a Chinese Violin as the lead. I get a real kick out of how many people mispronounce the name. Doesn’t matter where they’re from. All nationalities fuck it up and isn’t that the thing that unites us all? We’re all idiots.

Any new music coming out: We are working on a new album that will hopefully be out in 2015. We just listened to some mixes yesterday at band practice. It’s taking awhile but its gonna sound amazing when it’s done. Can’t wait.

You’ve seen us before [in other bands]: We have been in lots of bands that nobody has heard of before Hsu-nami. So we won’t mention them. Hsu-nami started in 2005 so that shit is irrelevant.

You can catch me, Brent Övar Bergholm, in Asbury’s own The Battery Electric. Dana and Derril have a really sweet band called Lowlight. John Manna has stuff coming down the pipeline so stay tuned. Jack Hsu does lots of cool studio work and even played on the new Wheatus record. Remember them? Teenage Dirtbag? Yea, Jack Hsu was on his album. He also collaborated with DJ Shogun’s and is the main lead for the song “Er-hu.” He is a pretty huge DJ and the song charted on the Billboard top 200 for dance music.

Our sound has been likened to: Craziness.

Photo Credit: Mike Petzinger Photography
Photo Credit: Mike Petzinger Photography

Your sound is absolutely amazing – I’ve never heard anything like it before – can you talk about what inspired you to fuse American prog rock with Chinese violin?

It might seem complicated but it was never a challenge for us. We are all good friends who have diverse tastes in music and what comes out is a weird mix. We’ve been a band a long time, traveled lots of places, and it comes out in the music.

Can you talk about the artists that have inspired you? Also, what people in your life have inspired you to create music?

All the people and bands I play with inspire me to write music. I could make a huge list but it would be too much. My family inspires me a lot. My sister is an animator and my father is a painter. My medium is music so I feel like I am representing them every time I play my guitar.

My sister made the Hsu-nami logo and I have it tattooed on my arm to show our bond for creative paths. I will be getting two Battery Electric tattoo’s this year. One design my father did and my sister did the other. My tattoo’s are a tribute to them, even though they don’t like them.

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Last year you guys did a little Trans Siberian Orchestra for Happy Mondays holiday show – anything special planned for this year?

Things have been dull for Hsu-nami but we hope to be doing another tour of Asia after our new album is out. We toured there a bunch in the past and it was the best experience of my life. I miss it every day and hope to go back one day with this band.

There are so many bands out there in the Asbury scene to check out — outside of your sound, which no one else really has, what do you think separates Hsu-Nami from everyone else?

We are the only band in the world doing what we do. We went to China and Taiwan and we still didn’t sound like anybody else. No matter where we go we always stand out. For better or worse. Generally, it’s for the best. Sometimes there are some racist fools in the audience and they can fuck off. We are a freight train of culture and cock rock. How can you describe that without listening to it and watching us live?

If someone read this interview and never heard you before, but decided to check you out, what song would you recommend they listen to in order to understand what Hsu-Nami is all about?

We have lots of old songs that you can check out on your own. I would like to plug the new shit. It’s the best stuff we have put out, in my opinion.

So check out “The Great Race” and “Black Tortoise.”

A bit of more broad, sweeping question — what is it that you love about being in Hsu-Nami?

It’s a weird band, with a weird mix of people, I have basically crossed off all my bucket list items with this band in my 20s. We toured the USA, Canada, and Asia. We have sold out venues. We have had some of the craziest live shows. We have had songs in the olympics and we have gotten thrown out of hotels by storm troopers (true story).

But most importantly is that we have touched peoples lives, met some amazing people from all cultures, and get to write some amazing music. All of that is what I love about being in this band.

What can the people coming out to see you guys perform expect to see from you guys in terms of a live experience?

A weird ass good time.

What do you have planned for the rest of 2014

Gonna enjoy some yule time joy with family and friends. Long live Krampus.

The Hsu-Nami performs tonight at Happy Mondays at The Wonder Bar with Chemtrail and The Hive Mind. There’s no cover.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites