CapU alum Chris Wong’s breakout year

Inside the former music student’s latest tour and details on his upcoming shows and projects

Luka Vasic // Contributor
Photos c/o Roman Zugarazo

Chris Wong stepped over the suitcases and cables spread across the floor of his home studio. “I was in… I don’t know, let me check,” he said, trying to reorganize himself. He had just returned from a music video shoot in an Oregon desert with his band The Faceplants, and had already forgotten that a few days before he had been playing the Virgin Radio Summer Wrap Party in Halifax, NS, alongside Ria Mae. “This is what happens when you’re in too many projects,” he joked as he moved around musical equipment, preparing for Mae’s upcoming Canadian tour.

Before playing with Mae, Wong had studied bass at Capilano University, where he received a diploma in Jazz Studies. His proficiency as a multi-instrumentalist, with a passion for performance, led him to play with a variety of local acts including The Faceplants and Gabriela Geneva. After noticing him play bass and synthesizers with Geneva, Mae asked him to join her band, which would mark a new chapter in Wong’s musical career.

“You get a little bit star struck sometimes, but it’s also part of the job not to be. You have to play it cool, be professional,” he said about meeting some of the artists he’s been on the same bill as. In the last year, Mae has found breakout success through her hit singles “Ooh Love” and “Clothes Off”. They had just wrapped up a summer of playing major Canadian music festivals opening for the likes of Iggy Azalea and Hedley at the iHeart Radio Festival in Calgary, Nelly Furtado at Montreal Pride 2017, and K.D. Lang in Sydney, NS.

Only three years removed from being a full-time music student, the reality of living life among the stars hit Wong while touring Europe last February, opening for Tegan and Sara.

“They came into our green room the first day of tour and said, ‘nice to meet you guys, we’re Tegan and Sara,’ and it’s like the first day of school and I hope my shirt is cool enough,” said Wong. The experience of being around major artists has humanized them for himself. “Tegan came up to me and we just had a normal conversation and I felt really weird about it, but then I realized they’re just people,” he said, “we actually talked about that briefly, that when you’re an artist, it’s like nobody is allowed to touch you, nobody is allowed to have real conversations with you.”

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Photo: Roman Zugarazo

While touring and opening for established artists have greatly expanded Wong’s and Mae’s fan base, he has taken a different approach with his band The Faceplants, who for the last year, has taken a break from live shows to focus on social media, songwriting and their upcoming EP.

“Social media is such a huge part of being, not only an artist, but a business,” said Wong. “We’ve had to let a lot of people into our personal lives, which is just part of it.” He now finds himself getting recognized at the mall, and spotting fans with “I love Chris Wong” t-shirts in the crowd. “I thank Ria a lot for that, because she was really kind about promoting me on her Instagram, and that’s helped my following.”

The Faceplants have been releasing singles throughout the last six months and have a new music video on the way. Wong and Mae are currently touring Canada alongside co-headliner Scott Helman, promoting Mae’s new EP My Love, out on Nov. 3. This is their first tour with a tour bus, which they will drive from Toronto to a hometown gig in Vancouver at Venue Nightclub on Nov. 9. “I’m going to get to pull up in [my family’s] driveway in a giant tour bus and go, ‘Hey mom!’,” Chris laughed.

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