One Beijing-based artist who isn’t afraid to meander between musical genres, and who pours her heart and soul into every song she sculpts, is Diner. In this Sampler, Temper’s own music maverick Rochelle Beiersdorfer ventures into Diner’s musical scope and eclectic fashion sense.
A lot of music released today is the same old same old with musicians just trekking down well-worn paths of yesteryear’s OGs.
When there is innovation in today’s music world, it seems to only happen when artists go off one beaten track to another, defying musical boundaries and combining retro styles with new technologies.
But one thing that is always in style and makes an artist’s sound signature is the emotional vulnerability, personal individuality, and distinctive passion only they can impart into their music. Meet: Diner.
Diner is an independent singer/songwriter and free spirit. A “cross-culture kid,” according to her presence on Spotify, she has lived and studied in both East and West (we’ll circle back to this in a bit).
Starting with vocal music before the age of six and eventually getting an MA in Music, music has been an integral part of Diner’s life since childhood. Pursuing both traditional and modern instruments alike, Diner’s musical dexterity is vast. Although she is reluctant to call herself a multi-instrumentalist, her musical repertoire ranges from string instruments like guzheng and acoustic guitar to electrophones such as the electronic keyboard and synthesizers. Diner has even tried her hand (or should we say mouth?) at the classic slide whistle.
Even with an impressive background, Diner acknowledges that there is something more important that a musician needs to possess than book smarts. Namely, sentiment. “[…] It’s important to study music systematically, but I think music is actually a feeling, a primitive human emotion. It has nothing much to do with theoretical stuff,” she tells Temper, “There are great musicians out there who don’t come from a musical background.”
Besides passion, another thing an artist needs to stand out is a catchy and meaningful name. Being snappy and sweet, the name Diner definitely fits the bill. “Haha, this is a very interesting story,” Diner snickers when asked about her name’s origin, “When I was little, my family sent me to English classes, [and] because I was too young at the time, I [only] remember the teacher giving me a name with a pronunciation similar to ‘Diner.’ Later, when I grew up and thought about my English name, I couldn’t remember whether it was ‘Danah’, ‘Diana’ or ‘Diner’.” [We think it may have been “Dinah.” As in “Dinah Washington,” the American singer and pianist who has been cited as “the most popular black female recording artist of the 1950s.” – Ed. #evilgrin]
Considering its pronunciation as cute and pleasant, and not caring about its actual meaning, she settled on Diner. With a buffet of musical prowess and a dress sense as flamboyant and illuminated as neon signs, we think Diner is the best name for Diner. Also, the icing on the cake: she’s a foodie (“yea, I am a foodie!”).
In 2021, Diner released her debut entitled Inevitable via China’s leading indie music label Modern Sky (摩登天空| módēng tiānkōng). Comprised of four songs that encapsulate a rich medley of all-too-human sentiments and perspectives, this EP is a makeshift storybook that blurs the lines between whimsical fantasy and too-close-for-comfort reality. From the dialogue on the opening track “DULL” to the last note of “I’m Not in There Anymore,” Inevitable twists, turns, and soars, enveloping you in a saga about the heartache after disconnecting with someone you hold dear, feeling a poignant longing for affection, and the psychological distress of being human and life’s precariousness.
Not intimidated to cross stylistic boundaries and allow genres to bleed and coalesce freely, the tracks on Inevitable run the gamut from neo-jazz, early darkwave, and psychedelic rock to traditional Chinese melodies and acoustic vibes. Inevitable is a whole caboodle of moods.
“The experience of living in London, Hong Kong, and Beijing has taught me the delights of ‘openness’, and that music is a maternal thing. That’s why I refuse to categorize my music, refuse to categorize it in any way[.] I would never sit here and [solely] write a jazz song, maybe a rock song tomorrow, and so on. I think it’s a basic requirement for me and a basic respect for what I understand as ‘music’,” Diner explains, “I am a musician who looks forward to inspiration, but also sits down and arranges music. Sometimes I may be walking on the road, [or] sitting in a cab, and suddenly I have a melody in my head and will immediately record it on my phone. I enjoy these moments of inspiration. I usually don’t force melody to be the main melody of a song. I like to record on my phone and create a random patchwork of inspiration. That is the most interesting moment for me. Music is all about play!”
This spontaneous, playful spirit has guided Diner to expand her musical reach even farther since Inevitable, especially when it comes to synthesized, electronic elements. Entitled Cassini, Diner’s forthcoming release will see her “young electronic soul” shine prominent as well as her first Chinese track (“Athena”) see daylight. Exploring themes of voyaging into obscurity, Diner’s muse for this upcoming release was the spacecraft Cassini which was launched on October 15th, 1997, as part of the groundbreaking research mission Cassini-Huygens. (Thanks Google!)
After having her mind blown by a photograph taken by Cassini in 2006 of “Saturn’s shadow [cutting] sharply across [its] rings in [a] remarkable night side view”, Diner dived into documentaries about outer space and, especially, the Cassini-Huygens mission. After years of allowing the particles of creativity and inspiration for Cassini, the EP, to collide and condense, the cosmos that is Diner’s next Modern Sky release is on the horizon. Here at Temper, we’re over the moon with anticipation for it to hit the market.
At this point you might be muttering to yourself: “with a debut that plunged into the human psyche and abysmal sentiment, why is Diner so enamored by the void above, and, more specifically, the spacecraft Cassini?” Well, let’s have her explain: “The thing [that] grabs me the most is not only about the exploration of the darkness and beauty of unknown space, unlocking Saturn’s secrets, [but] it’s also about when something has already happened [and] we’re aware that there’s probably nothing more we can do, but we…still feel the blood boiling underneath [our] skin, just like when Cassini finished its mission and self-exterminated. That’s the beauty of it all.”
As stated above, music has been a key player in Diner’s life since a young age. As she puts it: “the study of Eastern/Chinese traditional music, the pentatonic scale, is something that has been engraved [into] my bones since I was a child.”
Realizing her musical strengths while still in pigtails, particularly with the guzheng, Diner pursued a bachelor’s in musical performance specializing in guzheng and played for four years in a traditional Chinese folk orchestra. With deep roots in Chinese folk music, Diner has studied everything from Chinese music history, Chinese folk music traditions, and even ethnomusicology.
While attending graduate school in Hong Kong, Diner started to dabble in writing her own music. Through exposure “to more less mainstream music from around the world,” her garden of Sino-centric theoretical knowledge and musical abilities started to sprout jams of multi-hues.
“The dorms in Hong Kong were small, so I would sit on my bunk with my headphones in and the sound turned up, writing songs on my iPad with Garage Band, and often losing track of time,” she recollects, “The next day I would import the finished parts onto my phone and listen to them on the way to Kowloon City when I went grocery shopping. I still remember that heart-racing excitement.”
After obtaining an MA in Music and adding some music creation chops to her arsenal, Diner found herself in arguably one of the most musical metropolitans in the world, London, England. In 2020, unable to go anywhere because of a coronavirus lockdown, Diner’s creative juices went from a flow to a surge, preparing the ground for what would become her official debut, Inevitable. After that the rest is history: she crossed paths with Modern Sky, signed to them, and is now making a name for herself in China’s indie music scene.
As they say, everything happens for a reason. It’s…inevitable.
MUSIC AND FASHION
The term fashionista can be defined as someone who’s exceptionally fashionable and stays in vogue with current fashion trends. But, with this line of thought, what is considered fashionable is rather subjective. At least it is to this writer and diehard wearer of obscure band tees.
Decked out in everything from polos and plaid skirts to leather hot pants and chainmail headpieces, Diner seems to share this viewpoint. “Fashion is something that I resist and love. I don’t even know what fashion is. Who defines it? Does it mean that someone who wears this dress today must be sought after and become synonymous with fashion, while another person who wears something unfashionable should be criticized?,” Diner replies when asked what fashion means to her, “if I have to say it, I think fashion is, after I have gone through aesthetic changes and have settled on a certain aesthetic, clothes that make me happy and make me feel confident. Nothing else matters[.] Who cares?”
With this cool attitude towards how to define fashion, Diner’s dress sense is snazzy and idiosyncratic. Moreover, her stylishness is a tool she utilizes to express herself. “I am a person without a filter and my own personality is very direct like this. If music [is how] I express my innermost sensitivities and shyness, then fashion is the complete opposite,” she retorts, “fashion is even like a weather forecast for me, it totally depends on my mood. In the summer, I like to wear colorful clothes[.] Sometimes in the winter, for example during rehearsals, I wear very ‘straight’ clothes, usually jeans, my Gucci shoes, and a t-shirt from R13 (a rock brand I like).”
A lover of alternative fashion labels (“…I prefer to discover little niche independent designer brands.”) and a total connoisseur of old school grit and glam, Diner’s stage looks are conscious cooperations between her and her friend Hoi, a graduate from London’s famed fashion institute Central Saint Martins and previous artist stylist. “A lot of my references and inspiration come from my favorite artists/poets: PJ Harvey, William Blake, Leonard Cohen,” Diner responds when asked about her stage attire, “I’m pretty old school, but there are a lot of current musicians’ fashions that I think are worth studying: Zumi from The Black Lips (she has a collection with Gucci called ‘Zumi’, which is so cool haha!) Charli XCX, etc., and, on the fashion side, influences such as Lotta Volkova.”
As far as we’re concerned, Diner is a fashionista.
One word to describe Diner is worldly, and we don’t just mean that she’s cosmopolitan. Getting that Master of Arts in Hong Kong, living in London, and now starting a music career in Beijing, Diner is definitely a “cross-culture kid.”
With no end in sight on this rollercoaster ride called the coronavirus pandemic, Diner has no in-person shows planned for June. But with the release of Cassini approaching, she’s gearing up for launch parties in both Shanghai and Beijing that will be streamed and in-person. So, cross your fingers and keep a vigilant eye on Diner’s social media for information about these can’t-miss gatherings.
Diner’s music is like a brilliant, multicolored nebula. Completely spellbinding with old school and traditional melodies illuminated by new school beats, a tune composed by Diner is easy to get lost in. And what’s better in this day and age where existence feels monotonous yet visceral than to escape into a galaxy of sonic fusion and stardust?
Our answer: absolutely nothing.
Follow Diner on either Instagram or Weibo微博 to fall into her realm of glitter dresses and genre-blending:
Lose yourself in Diner’s multifarious panoramas on the major music streaming platforms 网易云音乐NetEase Cloud Music, Apple Music, or Spotify:
ALL IMAGES COME COURTESY OF DINER
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