Local music packs plenty of varied punches these days – Gashaus speaks to four bands. Find out who they are and why you should hear them out!
With the recent The Straits Times’ “School of Rock” competition cum nation-wide search for young and promising local band musicians amongst our student population, it was not surprising that they were flooded with over 200 applications and a total of 1,000 contestants in mere days.
Offering over S$10,000 in cash and vouchers, the juiciest carrot for those who aspire to be professional musicians would be the promise of a management contract by local company Music & Movement, which has accomplished Singaporean artistes like Tanya Chua, Najip Ali and Dick Lee in their stable. This competition has helped put the spotlight on local music. Having the same effect would be the recent music festival Baybeats, a three-day gig feast from 15 – 17 July featuring local, regional and international band sounds.
A total of 32 bands (19 local, 13 foreign) performed – some from Malaysia, Thailand and even from as far as the USA! Like the three previous Baybeats since its 2002 debut, admission is free and serves as a platform for bands to showcase and share their music. This year, three bands have specially chosen Baybeats to let the audience preview songs from their upcoming albums.
In line with the Esplanade’s continuous efforts in organising events big and small for local musicians to perform their compositions in public, all is done in the hope of bringing about greater awareness, excitement and support for our local music scene.
And judging from Baybeats, the message seems to have been hitting home. BayBeats Programming Officer, Neo Kim Seng said, “BayBeats caters to growing indie-rock scene in Singapore. Few places have organised indie band gigs on such a large scale. Since its initial audience of 9,000 at our first festival in 2002, it has multiplied by almost seven times to about 60,000 this year! We hope that these bands will benefit from this platform and that the thriving indie rock scene will capture the imagination of not just our local youths but also those from the region.”
Indeed, here’s a band who has managed to capture the ears and eyeballs of not just the Singapore market but also music lovers alike in countries like Australia and Thailand. We’re talking about Electrico, who toured 6 Aussie destinations in 2004 to promote their debut album So Much More Inside and also played to an electrifying crowd of 13,000 at the Pattaya International Music Festival earlier this March.
Their accolades include being the 1st local band to garner a prestigious nomination for Favourite Artiste: Singapore during the MTV Asia Awards 2005 and the first local band in a long time to score with chart hits on Singapore radio and to receive radio and MTV airplay throughout Asia.
Electrico revived the interest of music stations here, in playing local music with irrepressibly addictive ditties like “Good Time”, “I Want You” and “Runaway”.
For me, the last notable times that local bands achieved that probably dated back to 1996 when Force Vomit found sweet airwave success with their surf-rock tune “Spacemen Over Malaysia” and made bigger news when the late radio legend John Peel of BBC Radio featured the track and in the following year, another recognised local band Concave Scream had three songs that received airplay on 98.7FM.
As agreed by members of Electrico, the local music industry seemed to have slipped into kind of a hiatus towards the new millennium but picked up again around 2003. Desmond chipped in, “It was kind of a wave pattern and we caught on at the peak itself. Luckily our tunes are good enough to carry us through”.
Lead vocalist David summed it up by saying they wished to show that local music can be commercially viable, even if Electrico is not the one to make it huge, at least they have tried and hope to open the door for the next person to push it further.
Indeed, they have broken new ground and had the media laud their debut album with comments like these:
“Electrico have mastered the art of ‘no filler, all killer’.” – Life!
“The songs are produced very professionally and if you didn’t already know they’re local, there’s no way you could have guessed by listening to the album. This just goes to show that our local artistes are fully capable of making great music. We’re looking forward to more such quality releases.” – LIME
Signed under Universal, Electrico’s debut album was mastered in Los Angeles by Stephen Marcussen of The Rolling Stones and REM fame, just to name a few. They are currently busy preparing for the sophomore offering slated for October.
On biggest takeaway from Electrico:
Daniel: The closeness, performing together, doing crazy sh*t, seeing each other at our best and our worst …(Desmond interrupts at this point by adding on “like slipping on each other’s puke!”) *all chuckle*
On most memorable moments:
David: Walking the red carpet at MTV, doing the Hi 5!
Desmond: Esplanade New Year’s Eve gig with the fireworks going boom! Everytime we do a show; we give all our energy and do our best, we’d like people to participate, sing and dance with us, do crazy things with us. To see people react to it, woah!
Daniel: To me, one of the most fun gigs was at the Chung Cheng High School Prom at Marina Mandarin Hotel. We were wearing school uniforms rocking and we thought they would be covering their ears and running away but they actually went insane till the dance floor caved in!
On future plans:
“There are Japan, UK and music festivals around the world that Asian bands haven’t gotten the chance to explore ‘cos it’s usually Western bands. It’s still a long way to go but we’d like to aspire towards that though our primary concern is still to focus locally because no one is going to take a foreign band up unless it does extremely well at home”
“We would like to prove the critics wrong and if Taufik can sell double platinum…of course, he had the whole hype machine of Singapore Idol. Others can do it too but probably might take longer and work twice as hard. If we can do that, it will be a significant thing for us and doors will open.”
Where can you be electrified by Electrico? Fri. 26 Aug 9.30pm Esplanade Recital Studios. Preview their new songs before everyone else!
Moving on to experienced and established band Concave Scream, whose sounds have impressed folks like Electrico’s Daniel Sassoon so much that he wrote a rave review for their Erratic album which was considered both critically acclaimed and commercially successful back in ’97.?Having released three albums and currently having three new songs which they recently shared during Baybeats, Concave Scream has come a long way since they formed in 1994.
GASHAUS: How different are things now compared to when you first started?
Pann: Things are definitely more organised and professional. Last time, they did not have power supply on stage and you had to buy your own power extension. Now, before you even turn up for the gig, they ask for a whole list of things you require. We see a lot of young bands and quite a following, which is great!
Sean: There’s much more awareness and hype about gigs amongst poly, uni crowds. I’ve younger cousins and a brother-in-law in poly, yes, they’ve heard of us as an “old and ageing band” (chuckles). Seriously, there is this respect for bands like us who have been there since years ago. I think bands now have pushed the envelope so far from where we started. We are so proud of the fact that local music has sounded so professional through the years. (Pann agrees)
Later you see lah when we play; we’re obviously still more like a part-time band compared to some bands now, who take it almost like a job. Regional tours are common now, which is cool and unheard of previously.
GASHAUS:?How come the decision to re-group and perform again?
Sean: There’s this itch and you know something’s not right. Once you stop, you’ll miss it. Of course, we have more commitments now thus a lot less time to gig.
Pann: We do not intention to perform regularly but the intention to write new material, which is the most fun part! To be honest we all have our goals and families to feed, so we have to be realistic we are just doing this for the passion of music. We’re all married and our parents are getting old, so we need to spend more time with them.
GASHAUS:?Plans for a new album?
Sean: Yes, but we have not set any firm dates for ourselves. It’s just doing something you will cherish when you’re old. We’ve tried changing our sound but felt it’s not really us and we’re still trying to find our feet as it’s been so long. Maybe when we feel more confident, we might want to venture but we’ll still keep it simple – a four piece band with analog setup.
GASHAUS:?How would you hope to see the local music scene evolve?
Sean: People are more receptive now and if we keep going at this rate…but I think you’ll have a bigger target audience if you were singing in Mandarin, which is what you see from those who usually make it big.
Pann: Look at channel 5 and channel 8 locally produced dramas, which are more popular?
Sean: For Chinese markets, you can sell it in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China but if you sing English, you can’t really sell it there, and places like Thailand and Indonesia, they’re more of an alternative underground scene.
Pann: There’s also an import culture concept in Singapore as we’re a blend of cultures which is interesting and helps us progress but the other edge of a sword is ‘cos of the wide selections of English music and there isn’t much difference in pricing for local and international music, so which would you choose?
If you wish to keep supporting Concave Scream’s local music – do keep a lookout for their rare gem performances and new songs.
GASHAUS: Tell us a bit about Fuzzbox and how it evolved to Lunarin.
Linda: At that time, we kept singing Nirvana, Green Day, Pearl Jam and if you were to ask me to show you the songs we wrote back then, I think I’ll jump off the building! With Lunarin, it was the embodiment of everything we wanted to say and write back in Fuzzbox, in a much purer, matured and distilled sense, for the love of music.
GASHAUS:?Describe your music.
Eng Teck: It’s really hard to define our music, we’ve been called all sorts but we’d like to be known as a little romantic and melancholic with bittersweet, mature lyrics.
GASHAUS:?You’ve been working on a new CD. What can listeners expect?
Linda: They can look forward to embark on a musical journey which should be heard as a package, like an audio book from the first to the last track and even the artwork will be in sync. There’s actually a fourth member of Lunarin whom we call the Muse, who directs our musical flow for this.
GASHAUS:?How is the funding going?
Linda: Kah Wye is our main money guy. (laughs)
Kah Wye: We’re not going out to get sponsors so it’s entirely from our own pockets.
Linda: It helps that it’s spilt three ways and that gigs help to offset some overheads. The album should cost about $10K and if we can even break even, we’ll be deliriously happy – it’s kind of a kamikaze mission just that hopefully we won’t die before the final product is out!
So look out for Lunarin’s CD come Dec 22nd, a date they’ve targeted for themselves!
Last but not least, we grab a minute with the fun bunch that make up Serenaide!
Their music has been described as jangle guitar pop with a touch of 60s romantics and in their own words, they do “happy pop and are happy people singing happy songs to change the mindsets of people having suicidal tendencies”!
A chirpy, energetic and young sextet comprising students and job-holders, when asked about how they juggle, the cheeky Pheyroz said, “We don’t club or watch TV – music and performing is our leisure and agenda in life”
Despite been relatively new, they have toured places like Indonesia and created quite a sensation at Thailand’s Fat Festival 4 late last year, where they launched their debut album The Other End Of The Receiver, which spawned Beatlesque hits like “The Sweetest” and “The Hands Of The Doctor” and a locally-inspired track (obviously) by Zuremy called “The Girl From Katong” which is immediately identifiable with Singaporeans and makes you curious to hear what it is all about!
Serenaide’s Jakarta gig received generous and positive reviews in Indonesian media and was featured on A Mild On Tv and MTV Traxx. Their music has also praised by listeners in Japan, Germany and USA, with their album retailing in Japan and Indonesia. If you wish to experience Serenaide for yourself, catch them during the Indie-Pendent Weekend at the Esplanade’s Outdoor Theatre on Sept. 10th, at 10pm.