HONG KONG - For those encountering Taiwanese band sodagreen for the first time, what strikes one immediately is the high-pitched and pure tones of lead vocalist Wu Ching-feng.
It can almost be too much to take but if you give it a chance, that unique voice quickly grows on you. And fans soon find that, along with his vocals, there is a treasure trove of music just waiting to be discovered.
His band's works have been feted for their peerless musicality, lyrical beauty and poetic sensibility and they have won two prestigious Golden Melody Awards for Best Band - for Little Universe (2006) and Incomparable Beauty (2007).
They are, perhaps indisputably, Taiwan's most creatively ambitious band.
This year marks their 10th anniversary and they will be embarking on a major tour. A total of 10 stops were announced at a press conference at The Mira Hong Kong on Jan 11, beginning with Hong Kong on April 11 and ending in Kaohsiung in November. They perform in Singapore, the only South-east Asian stop, on Aug 30, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
A special website, www.soda green10years.com, has been set up for this tour and it allows fans from all over the world to easily access information for any of the shows.
The preorder form for the Singapore concert, for a minimum of 10 tickets, is up at http://sodagreen10years.com/jt/goupiao.php.
The tour is named Air, after the title of the band's first EP, released in May 2004. Translated literally from its Chinese title, the disc is Aerial Visions, Sounds And Illusions. Not exactly the title of the average Mandopop album.
Neither is the track Stopping At Each Station from Daylight Of Spring (2009), a cookie-cutter love ballad so beloved in the industry. It was inspired by Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi's musings on whether he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he was a man, and even includes some lines in French.
Their songs cover a wide range of topics from urban discontent to meditations on the changing seasons. And while they address love as well, its treatment is more literary than your typical ballad perhaps as Wu had graduated with a degree in Chinese studies.
Are sodagreen ever concerned that their songs might be too difficult to grasp? Wu tells Life!: "There might be such a concern for a fleeting moment, but that's about it."
The singer and prolific songwriter might show his work to his fellow band members to get their reaction but he would not want to change a song for that reason.
He muses: "That's what I want to write and whether people get it or not is secondary. When people don't get it, it doesn't matter how simple you make it, they still won't get it."
The band's line-up comprises Wu, 31; bassist and sole female member Hsieh Hsin-yi, 31; guitarist Ho Ching-yang (A-fu), 31; keyboardist Kung Yu-chi (A-kung), 33; drummer Shih Chun-wei (Hsiao-wei), 34; and guitarist Liu Chia-kai, 32.
Asked if it was more important to be true to themselves or try and appeal to a wider audience, Wu says tellingly: "There's no way of answering this question because there's no way we can't be ourselves. So there's no need to make a choice between the two."
The fact that the band have refused to pander to anyone is yet another reason why they are beloved by fans. And it certainly has not harmed their viability as a music act.
At this point in their career, they have consolidated their position as one of Mandopop's heavenly groups, says UFM100.3's Vincent Lim, 28. The deejay, who goes by Liangquan on air, says that their songs are very well received because of Wu's "poetic and captivating" lyrics.
He adds: "They have stood the test of time - not many bands can hold out for that long."