APRIL 7, 2021 – Today, Alt-R&B artist Hong Kong Boyfriend releases his long-awaited third single “Sharlene” with a music video, directed by Aamir Khuller. The release follows shortly after his song “Cold Waters” passed half a million streams on Spotify. With only two singles out so far, he has been the cover of Spotify’s Fresh Finds and caught the attention of Ones to Watch, Coup de Main, Lyrical Lemonade, and more.
Hong Kong Boyfriend makes music with the hopes of bringing representation to the Asian American community, while mixing his classical violin training with his love for R&B/Indie music. “Sharlene” is about keeping the people you love close. “I think I could die happy if everyone I cared about knew that I loved them. Somethings you don’t get to say to people, so I wrote a song.”
ABOUT HONG KONG BOYFRIEND:
As a self-described “orchestra kid,” Rob was born in Japan and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, spending most of his youth focused on classical violin training. Born with perfect pitch, he was always drawn to music but admits he didn’t get interested in contemporary songwriting until much later. “I was so focused on the violin that I didn’t really learn about popular music until high school.”
After discovering his love of contemporary music, Hong Kong Boyfriend found himself drawn to the emotion of Bon Iver and the lyricism of Frank Ocean and soon became hooked on writing his own songs. “Classical music was no longer an effective outlet for what I was feeling,” he admits. But growing up in Mountain View, California – a town of about 80,000 people – there was no other musicians to work with. “Everyone was pretty orthodox there. It’s not like I could join a band or anything,” Hong Kong Boyfriend says.
The isolation of his hometown caused the budding young artist to search for inspiration online instead. “I used to spend a lot of time listening to music on my computer, but there were practically no musicians who looked like me,” he says. “because of that, there were a lot of stories that were left untold… I hope my work can expand the possibilities of being an Asian-American.”
Drawing influence from these online sources, Rob slowly formed his own musical identity from scratch by tinkering with Logic and Garage Band. Ultimately, the need to be self-sufficient helped Rob make songs that feel all his own, lying somewhere between R&B, folk, and alternative.
A few years later, Rob relocated to Los Angeles and began to take his work more seriously. “After being in LA for a while, it was time to drop the music. I held on to it for so long,” he recalls. When searching for an artist name, he thought back to a girl he was interested in a years ago. “The feelings were not mutual,” he laughs. “She had a long-distance boyfriend who was in Hong Kong. That’s who I wanted to be.”
His new name, to Rob, is an aspirational choice. Under the moniker “Hong Kong Boyfriend,” Rob Sanders gets to be whoever he wants to be – whether that’s vulnerable or confident or shy. For Hong Kong Boyfriend, there’s no holding back, and the music he makes feels akin to that ethos.
In his work, Hong Kong Boyfriend is always brave, self-assured but honest enough to admit his true feelings. He is who we all wish we could be. In those inevitable moments of awkwardness or failure, Hong Kong Boyfriend acts as the antithesis.