19 October, 2011

That Girl: Natalie Belbin, PR girl by day, rock star by night!

19 October, 2011

This week’s That Girl is Natalie Belbin – PR girl by day, rock star by night! She lives on Lamma, has an amazing collection of vintage clothes and guitars and loves to wear bright red lipstick. We get nosy about what’s on her iPod, the live music scene in Hong Kong, and band, Tigerbombers

Are you and your family originally from Hong Kong? 
I was born in Hong Kong with a Thai mother and an English father, then moved away and came back here about six years ago with my family. We can’t really define where we are from — I grew up in California and moved around spending time in Switzerland, Australia and Tanzania.

Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?
I live in Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island. Although our apartment was originally furnished, it looked quite stale. I have plenty of different fabrics such as kangas from Tanzania and some blankets from India that certainly added a shake of culture to the home. We have a lot of strange things from our travels that we love and have displayed. A lot of friends have told us when they walk into our apartment, they feel like they are in a warm home. I smile as that was our intention.

How do you like living on Lamma? What is there to do there?
People think there are hippies here, but we just say that to keep the tourists away! I love living on Lamma. After being in the city for 12 hours of your day, it’s so amazing to come back to Lamma. When you get off the ferry, the first thing you hear is the ocean waves crashing along the rocks. The village is vibrant, with lots of kids running around. The villagers all know who they are and their names.

There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat. We cook a lot at home, and it’s nice to go down to the local village shops to buy my ingredients from rather than a Park N Shop or Wellcome. There is a great vibe here, sometimes when we get off the ferry and head home, there’ll be a group of people by the beach and bars just jamming with their instruments playing beautiful music. There’s African drumming by the beach on Sundays by my friend, Makha. Another time I passed by a small troupe of mandolin players and the sounds that came out of that restaurant calmed the entire village. Then again, hippie moments do pop up – like the lady who likes to hula-hoop at 8 am by the ferry!

We go to the beach a lot, especially to walk our dog as it’s only a 5 minute walk from my apartment. We have BBQs on the beach and bring our instruments. My friend, Mike, brings out his ukelele and can play a wonderful rendition of ‘You Belong to Me’.

Can you tell us a bit about your music and your band?
Our band is called Tigerbombers. I play with Jasmine Robertson (former drummer with The Mooches) and Arthur Urquiola (Multi-talented musician in many bands, including 6 Pack of Wolves). I’ve only just started to pick up playing the bass last year. To be honest, I’m quite terrible at it! But I’m learning a lot. I’m lucky to be in a band who are very patient with me. Jasmine and Arthur are both extremely talented musicians. Some people have described Tigerbombers as ‘Surfer-billy’ or ‘Tarantino Soundtrack Music’.  We’re all big fans of The Cramps and they have influenced us quite a bit. If you get a chance- you have to watch Jasmine drum and go insane on ‘Surfin Bird’. She does the whole shake and everything!

What do you think about the live music scene in Hong Kong? How can Sassy girls get involved?
It’s getting a lot better than when I first moved to Hong Kong. Bands are finding ways to get their name out and bring musicians together. Although, it’s hard to find venues here that will support this. There are plenty of bands out there setting up shows in the little venues we have so that we can make some noise. The venues pop up and then go down again. People are very transient here and some seem to forget that there actually are live bands here (gasp!).

Hong Kong has a lot of DJ’s and support for that, but to find a place that would host a band, set it up, have a drum kit, and decent sound… it can get difficult!

Venues like The Wanch or Swindlers really encourage bands to get together to play and trust me – it is appreciated. There are also people such as Mike and Jane from Songs for Children, Chris B from The Underground, and a group called Bauhinian Collective who all organize shows and support the bands here. I suggest that if you are looking for any music here in Hong Kong, that you check out their facebook groups or websites. Our next gig is on the 27th October at The Swindlers – you can check out all the details here.

Some of my favourite Hong Kong bands are DP, The David Bowie Knives, Poubelle International, Jade and the Stagger Swallows, Corey Tam and One Horse Town and Milkteeth. Hong Kong has great bands such as Noughts and Exes and 9 Maps who are touring- this is something Hong Kong should really proud of.

It would be great if Sassy can get involved by asking some other girls in bands to come forth to talk about their bands. If possible, ask girls who are in a band to tell you their upcoming shows and post it up in a calendar of some sort. I’ll keep ya updated.

What’s currently on your iPod?
Some great bands that are out now are Nottee, Dum Dum Girls, Miniature Tigers, Twin Sister, Little Dragon, She & Him, King Khan and the BBQ Show, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Camera Obscura, Imelda May, April March, Metronomy. I’m a pretty big fan of Elvis Presley, Bjork and love The Ronettes. I tend to have great drunken moments of playing and singing Roy Orbison’s ‘In Dreams’ incredibly loud. He was such a babe.

How do you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?
To be honest, I don’t feel like I have a style and it’s really hard to classify. When I went to India, I came back looking like a total hippie! When I came back from Tanzania – I practically looked like a tour guide (sans baboon). It can be quite eclectic, but I tend to lean towards the first half of the 20th Century. I have friends who are fashion editors, designers and stylists and they seem to either raise an eyebrow at an outfit or want my handbag. I am inspired by the places I’ve been and the music I listen to.

When I play with Tigerbombers, I like to wear my 1950s vintage swimsuit. I bought it at the Rose Bowl flea market a few years ago for $15 bucks. When I tried to wear it in the pool, the fabric was so heavy I thought I was sinking.

I’m really looking forward to winter when I can bring out some of my other favourite vintage pieces such as my scarves and some hats. Bring on scarf weather!

Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on?
I actually barely shop. I have some fashionable friends that I get together with and do clothes swaps. We do about four a year in different houses with loads of wine and nibbles. It’s the best way to catch up together and I end up getting so many wonderful things. It’s good to just swap rather than constantly buy. When I do go out shopping, I do go to Mee & Gee, Monki, Massimo Dutti and some of the little shops on Granville Road or Causeway Bay. Also, Retrostone in Causeway Bay has some interesting pieces.

What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nails/maintenance?
I keep it simple. I have black liquid eye-liner, and about 8 different red lipsticks! With hair, I vary – I go to a great little place on Peel Street. I forgot what it is called, all I know is that they do a great job and don’t talk to me! During the winter time, I like to wear my fringe. Can’t really do that here in the humid summer. There is this other place on Jaffe road in Wan Chai that has vintage pieces on sale, helmets with fish bowl and live fish in it, and swords – everywhere! I thought I was in a castle with Edward Scissorhands!

What is your favourite thing to do at the weekend?
Besides go to some gigs, I sleep and eat. If I can avoid checking emails or making too phone calls – I’m a happy little bumblebee. I walk my dog a lot and head down to the beach during the day. There is so much nature around me that if I don’t have a good dose of it – I start to really feel un-human. Then on Sundays, I wind down with a giant burger, coca cola and America’s Next Top Model. Is it wrong? Nah…

What is your favourite restaurant in Hong Kong?
There’s a few, I love Tapeo for the tapas and love going for seafood on Lamma. There’s also this amazing restaurant called Cinta J’s on Jaffe Road. When you walk past it, it does look a wee bit dodgy (which is the main reason I went in) and they have this couple who sing your typical karaoke songs. The female singer has this awesome voice. One time for dinner, this group of (extremely drunk) business men asked her to sing, ‘O Sole Mio’. She thought it was a joke, but they were serious. Next thing I know, she is belting the song – on pitch and nothing was going to stop that woman! She was incredible! They take song requests and can play just about anything under their disco ball (ask for Sex Bomb if you can). They have the best grilled tofu and they are very nice there. I’m always asking our band if we can play there one day. I’m sure we can arrange some sort of cover of ‘O Sole Mio’.

If you have a suggestion about who should be our next That Girl, email [email protected] to nominate!

All photos in the That Girl article above shot by the extremely talented Tim Chan – to get in touch with him, email [email protected]

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