It's a balmy summer night in Baochao Hutong, and glamorously dressed Filipina Lampel is struggling into her gold stilettos, having developed a limp after being clipped by an electric scooter earlier in the day. Her bandmates gather round to tease and offer help in a multitude of accents and languages. The shoes are essential, Lampel insists – it’s a Time Out photoshoot.
Thus begins our first face-to-face meeting with the lead singer of Xing Xing Star (stylised as 星星 Star), a multicultural pop-rock ensemble that’s unashamedly pushing LGBTQ- and sex-positive messages through their tongue-in-cheek repertoire.
Bandmates Lampel (Philippines, lead vocals), Dooder (Burundi, lead guitar), Berit (USA, keyboards), Fiorella (Costa Rica, backing vocals), Ocean (China, drummer) and Frances (UK, bass) have earned themselves an impressive following, who evidently connect with the band’s joyous, unbridled vibe on- and off-stage.
'Xing Xing Star was founded on respect for each other’s differences,' Lampel tells Time Out, stressing that the band eschews labels and prefers instead to celebrate diversity. 'We sing about our own life experiences. Owning and accepting our emotions – pain, grief, fear, and happiness. Realising that life has its ups and downs, good times and bad. And all of this has a beginning and an end.'
A full-throated celebration of diversity and real life, Xing Xing Star’s lyrics resonate particularly strongly with the band’s growing LGBTQ following. Keyboardist Berit, who identifies as LGBTQ, reveals that the death of her father served as an inspiration for the song 'Hold it Right There'.
'It serves as a reminder to cherish the sweet moments in life doing things that you love or spending time with people whom you love,' she says.
Fiorella points to the same song as her favourite, also because its lyrics stress the importance of enjoying the here and now – a valuable sentiment in a place as transitory as Beijing. The discovery of a close-knit community in an unwieldy megalopolis like Beijing is one of the many things the band mates, most of whom are from small, relatively isolated places, have in common.
The enthusiasm of Xing Xing Star’s growing LGBTQ fanbase is helping propel the band to prominence, and its members are quick to acknowledge their gay fans. There are plenty of nods and winks in performances – during a recent Beixinqiao gig, a performance of the cheeky ballad 'Joe Doesn’t Know', which details a clandestine love affair between two female childhood friends under the nose of an oblivious brother, included some risqué choreography involving a wayward pair of panties. The audience, predominantly female and clearly in on the joke, went wild, with the band feeding off that energy and making a cavernous venue feel a lot more intimate.
'I’m having a blast being surrounded by people identifying themselves as LGBTQ,' says Lampel. 'They are generous, friendly, kind and open-minded.' When asked if any of her band’s lyrics sum up their message, Lampel doesn’t hesitate. 'We are born perfect and we will die perfect. For you are love and love is you,' she intones dreamily, lines from their song 'Love is Perfect.'
'Despite people’s imperfections and unfortunate circumstances, the love we offer is always perfect. That stands true for a love of a mother to her child, a husband to his wife, or a husband to his husband.'
Fiorella perhaps sums it up best. 'Diversity is beautiful,' she smiles.
For details of upcoming gigs, add ‘BeritBeiLei’ on WeChat.