Listen closely and you might just hear the faint echo of an altogether different anthem – an Olympic chorus sung in support of the little-known nation of Chinese Taipei, stemming from the unlikely source of an indie rock band from Bristol.
Everyone likes to have a second favourite team – preferably an underdog nation – and for Niall Dunne (28), and brothers Jesse (29) and Josh Edbrooke (28), who together make up Transition, this was only ever going to be Chinese Taipei (or Taiwan, as it is more commonly known outside of politically-sensitive circles).
Transition has been somewhat of a sensation in the Far East since the group upped sticks three years ago to make for themselves a permanent home in Taiwan, and the culmination of their adventure – which has involved a dramatic shift in musical taste, not to mention the small matter of learning Mandarin – is their newfound celebrity status as the official performers of the Chinese Taipei Olympic song.
Olympic Dream – think Three Lions in Chinese – has been something of a revelation on the tiny island of Taiwan, where the idea of a team anthem has never before been considered. Perhaps this has something to do with the country’s less than spectacular record in past Olympics (Chinese Taipei has won only two gold medals in its history), but Transition hopes the song can spur the team on to new heights.
‘We would love to see Chinese Taipei get at least one gold medal in these games,’ says Josh, the band’s drummer. ‘I think that would be fantastic. We will be rooting for them – and, of course, Team GB!’
The English group have become honorary team mascot of the Chinese Taipei team since their arrival in London last weekend, and seem to follow the athletes wherever they go.
They held an impromptu welcome concert in Heathrow airport on Sunday July 22, and performed at the country’s official pre-Olympic party at the Taiwanese Embassy in Grosvenor Gardens, Victoria, last Tuesday.
Even when Transition isn’t on official Olympic duty, the band’s connection with its adopted country is never far away. Indeed, it was the Taiwanese Creative Organisation that was responsible for setting up their own homecoming concert at Camden’s Roundhouse on Saturday July 28, and the venue is unlikely to witness such a Taiwanese monopoly of fans at another of its concerts anytime soon.
Transition’s journey from West Country rockers to Asian superstars has, perhaps not surprisingly, taken time. From the band’s first trip to Taiwan in 2005, when they played at the local ‘Springscream Festival’, to now putting the finishing touches to their first fully Chinese album, there have been many challenges – and none more difficult, says guitarist and lead vocalist Jesse, than putting their own musical persuasions to one side.
‘A really big influence on us has been Taiwanese ballads,’ he says. ‘Karaoke in Taiwan is massive, so nobody really looks at the Top Ten, in terms of CD sales or download singles sales. They look at the karaoke charts.’
‘Songs you can really sing!’ interjects fellow guitarist and backing vocalist Niall, who admits he has had to move away from his own inclination towards more traditional British rock and embrace the ballad.
‘We’ve been a little bit opposed to the whole ballad culture,’ he says. ‘But it was so funny when we started to write songs like that because I found I actually do really like it and it couldn’t be a guilty pleasure anymore because we were trying to get as many people as possible to like it.’
The band are in a period of transition themselves, with visa problems meaning a return to Taiwan may not be a formality, and Jesse likens their own journey to that of the Olympic athletes they are supporting.
‘The reality is: there’s no shortcut,’ he says, ‘And it’s the same for these Olympic athletes. They’ve trained day-in, day-out, all their lives to get to the games. And for us it feels a bit like that. We’ve done lots of concerts, practised a lot and made mistakes, but there’s something about this spirit of just going for what you believe in that is so close to the Olympic spirit.’
For more from Transition, including a snippet from their song Olympic Dream, click here