The video starts with a soft male voice humming to a Bieber-like beat. The artist appears on camera awkwardly dressed in a series of ridiculous costumes: first as a big white fluffy yeti, and later as a mechanical Godzilla towering over a replica of Hong Kong with the International Finance Centre rendered out of a rotating fan. “I’m not the type to be noticed because I’m barely 5’7”,” he sings, almost winking at his dorkiness. “I’m OK good-looking but lacking on fashion.”
Gareth Tong, who goes by the stage name Gareth.T, made his singing debut earlier this year under the Warner Music Hong Kong label with his breakout hit, Boyfriend Material, in which he sings about being hopeless at love and gripes about dating. “It was cool,” he says about the filming of the quirky music video. “The yeti costume was hot. I was sweating. And the Godzilla one, I actually couldn’t move that much.”
Sitting on the second floor of Blue Bottle Coffee in Central, the 20-year-old is wearing his signature large frames, and is a little shy, but articulate. The Hong Kong-born musician speaks with an American accent picked up in his teen years when he learnt English by listening to R&B and rap songs by Eminem and Rihanna. He became fluent studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
He describes his experience at the college as akin to being at Hogwarts. “So many people are good at certain things there; there are people good at lyrics, good at mixing, and they show you their stuff. You learn from them as time goes on,” he says. Tong, who is classically trained in piano and violin, has been writing music since his secondary school days, having first dabbled in making beats and tracks using Garage Band, software available in Apple computers.
During his third year at Berklee, the young artist reached out on Instagram to Dough-Boy, one of Hong Kong’s most popular rappers and producers. “I made this song, and he was a recognisable figure, so I was like, ‘Hey, you want to check out my song?’” It wasn’t long before Tong was introduced to Nicholas Cheung, head of hip-hop and R&B at Warner Music Hong Kong, and his journey to producing songs for the city’s biggest names in music was under way. Tong has written tracks for hip-hop artist Tyson Yoshi and Keung To, lead singer and the face of Hong Kong’s most in-demand boy band, Mirror.