The Taiwanese seven-piece band, Sunset Rollercoaster, carries a distinct sound that’ll take you exactly where you want to be, whether it be under a night sky, a moment of bliss, or a time decades back. They create tracks that melt into a soothing, subtropical funk feel, something you’ll find yourself reaching to with nostalgia. With their groovy synthesizers, sax and guitar solos, velvety vocals, and waves of assorted eras washing over each track, Sunset Rollercoaster has molded Bossa Nova(2011), Jinji Kikko (2016), and their most recent release, Cassa Nova (2018).
A while back, I was able to chat via email with Sunset Rollercoaster’s Tseng Kuo Hung to discuss the band’s history and influences, along with some individual thoughts on love, life, and the sublime.
Lourdes Irina: Before we go any further, can you give us some background information about the band? How’d you all come to be Sunset Rollercoaster?
Tseng Kuo Hung: Sunset Rollercoaster is a band located in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. Taiwan is a lovely subtropical island in the east Pacific Ocean, so [similar] to these geographic and climate conditions, our music is a bit chill, laid-back, and urban.
The band started as a bedroom electronic duo. We were more into ‘80s new wave, Euro disco, and so on, it was only just two of us nerding around [with] gears and softwares. Then time went on, we stepped out of our tiny bedroom to form a real band, to play real music, to communicate with real people. We first reached out our hands to friends we were used to hanging out with in some music venues, and then these friends reached out their hands to some other friends who hang out in different places.
LI: Over the course of time, what has influenced the shift in the overall sound of your music? To be more specific, how did you guys go from 2011’s Bossa Nova to the Jinji Kikko EP to your recent release of the Cassa Nova LP?
TKH: [Sunset Rollercoaster] was [a] 3-piece band by 2011. After we formed the real band, we got rid of computers and synthesizers. We picked up guitars and bass to play some early rocky stuff—most of [it was] kind of ‘60s-’70s garage music. We were so into Velvet Underground, The Zombies, and The Strokes. I know they were from [the] early ‘00s, but somehow they all share lo-fi feels.
After we released our debut album, due to some personal issues, the band stopped. We reformed the band with a new bassist and keyboardist in 2015. [At] the time, we were more into psychedelic soul music like Shuggie Otis and early Funkadelic, which inspired Jinji Kikko a lot.
Cassa Nova is pretty mashed up, it is more synth-heavy and groovy. We were trying to put Serge Gainsbourg and Prince together, put Phil Collins and YMO together, using intensive chord progressions which were inspired by John Coltrane. Most of the influences are pretty much more Western music, but we were trying to put it out in our own [way].
LI: Having mentioned the new album, Cassa Nova, was there anything that played a role in the creation of the LP? Like a lover, friend, or certain situation? If so, what was it?
TKH: … Cassa Nova is about the man who is in love with Jinji Kikko. So Cassa Nova and Jinji Kikko [are] talking about the same story, just different aspects. The main concept of Cassa Nova is shifting a bit from love into maturity. Love is the trigger [that makes a person endear themselves, and] understanding or questioning life itself is the beginning of maturity. It’s a pleasure to mature, like flowers blossom. It can be really colorful and rich, so in the musical arrangement, it’s synth-heavy, [has] jazzy chords, and [it’s] more groovy.
LI: What are your thoughts on love? What do you think about loving someone or being loved? Is it just a simple concept, or is it greater than that? I mention this because of the fond feel that often lingers in the sound and lyrics of your tracks.
TKH: I think love could be a really easy thing, but also the thing you are going to spend [your] whole life pursuing and learning. It’s the meaning of life, it’s the truth, the highest good, the sublime.
Loving someone, or being loved by someone, is a beautiful thing. Love has the power to seize time, to make time stop, to open our imagination. Forever is a concept, which is beyond time; but I think with love, forever could be a real thing. We just cannot see it, because we are so limited.
LI: That’s absolutely beautiful. I believe that’s the most profound statement a band has ever said to us in an interview. If you were anything or anyone besides yourself, who or what do you think you’d be?
TKH: I want to be a dolphin, so I can be the smartest creature in the ocean, chasing the best solitude in the deep water.
LI: I can definitely envision that… Where would you like to see yourselves five years from now?
TKH: In Taipei. [I] hope all [of our hard work can] bring us back to Taipei, the city which gives us love… Maybe [we’ll] own a huge recording studio with a gym and a bar, so we can keep making music there, make our muscles solid, and also get really drunk.
LI: What do you believe the best feeling is? And could you describe it to us?
TKH: I don’t know how to explain this feeling, but I could try to describe it. It’s like [you’re] 12 years old, and you just finished the last exam for this semester, you got the awesome grades, and the long, long summer vacation is coming, [so you have] nothing left to worry about. The very next morning, there’s no alarm to wake you up—you wake up because you smell your mum is making some breakfast. I think this is the best feeling for me. Every time I feel satisfied, I feel like it.
LI: Definitely one of the best feelings! What’s a moment in your life that you wish you could go back to and tell your younger self how important it would be?
TKH: The time I wrote my first own song. It was a sentimental, romantic song, I recorded it and shared it [with] my friends. They all [thought] I was trolling, because most of the time, I’m just a trolling guy. So I deleted the files, lyrics, and everything, but I should encourage the younger me to keep making them, because sentimental, romantic, trolling songs are so popular now. [The] tables turn sometimes.
LI: Are there any upcoming projects you could tell us a little about?
TKH: We are going to write couple new songs with melancholic, bittersweet, heavy melodies and orchestra arrangements. Also, maybe we will do a cover album to tribute ‘80s Mandarin pop music [later this year] or next spring.
LI: And lastly, any closing statements, thoughts, advice, or announcements for the readers and your fans?
TKH: Keep dreaming! Sunset Rollercoaster loves y’all!