We caught up with up-and-coming singer Dameer prior to the launch of his latest EP, For We Are Distant. The 20-year-old shared with us about his past hit, Believe, which he also produced a music video for.
In case you haven’t seen it, check out the music video by Dameer below:
Opening with synth stabs, jazzy guitar chords and a propulsive drum beat, newcomer Dameer is showcasing his ability to blend infectious hooks with his laid back vocal style. As with his previous singles, it is the merger of simple and catchy melodies lovingly marooned in his raw production to reveal songs that are heartfelt, but deceptively joyous.
Born in Dhaka, Dameer was surrounded by music growing up, and learnt how to play and produce in his bedroom; being influenced to write songs that are both intimate and vast. And is seen to tackle issues from politics to mental health in a positive manner, by using the small absurdities in life to frame his narrative.
His move to Kuala Lumpur allowed Dameer to expand his horizons as a lyricist, by channeling new surroundings and his emotions into his songwriting.
The musically-inclined Dameer also plays the guitar, piano, drums, bass, and the Bashi (a traditional Bangladeshi flute) and pairs lo-fi tones with psychedelic guitars and mesmerising vocals, creating an ethereal bridge between the East and the West.
Here’s what Dameer had to say about himself and his music, in particularly Believe.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
Well I’m a singer-songwriter and producer who was born in Dhaka, in a household that truly appreciated music. While I’m currently based in KL, I’ll soon be moving to Montreal, Canada.
I first picked up a guitar when I was about eight, and since then I’ve taught myself the drums, piano and eventually digital production, and got into FL Studio around 15 years old. Then I started writing, producing and uploading songs onto Soundcloud, and once that started getting a bit of traction, I began reaching out to various YouTube channels, with the hopes that someone would like to feature my music. Eventually I got a break, and boom, here I am now, releasing my debut EP.
How did you learn all those instruments; which is your favourite, and why?
I took guitar and drum classes for a short while but didn’t stick to it long, I preferred learning independently via the internet, and I loved and explore all kinds of genres with no clearly defined structure. It’s still how I prefer to learn things!
I taught myself piano and kept playing guitar of course, which has stuck with me as my main instrument. I’d say because of this the guitar is my favourite. The electric guitar in particular fascinates me so much, there are so many possibilities. Guitarists like Derek Trucks, Julian Lage, John Mayer or Johnny Greenwood all sound like they’re playing completely different instruments and that’s a kind of versatility a lot of other instruments don’t have.
That being said, there is the right moment for every instrument, for every song. I would never force the guitar on a song that craves the piano, and vice versa.
What was your inspiration behind Believe?
Believe is about romantic PTSD; I had just come out of a deeply toxic and traumatic relationship, and wanted to move on badly, but the feelings lingered for ages. After long, I felt like I was finally ready to move on, and I met the perfect person; everything about her was a green flag, but I was instantly hit with the trauma of my past relationship the moment I tried to commit.
Believe is therefore actually kind of an anti-love song, but it’s wrapped in this dance-y doo-wop instrumental that contrasts that sentiment. I try to keep my instrumentals from completely reflecting the lyrics of the song. By creating that thematic dissonance, you allow for more levels of emotional complexity, you can now represent the absurd, contradictory nature of the human experience. And I paired Believe’s lyrics with that instrumental to make you feel the deeply simple and human irony that your mind can fight with your body, leaving you in a pit of hopeless indecision.
What was it like working on the music video?
This music video was an absolute dream come true. It was inspired quite heavily by the works of legendary filmmaker Wong Kar Wai, “Chungking Express” in particular. Adam Sinclair and I thought the song with its glistening synths, dreamy vocals and thumping beat was so in tune with Wong Kar Wai’s psychedelic 90’s Hong Kong aesthetics.
Everything from the costume, location, lighting and editing was inspired by him.
Sheena Liam, who is one of the coolest people on the planet, stars with me. I was like, really really nervous going into it but she was so chill and friendly that we got along instantly, I have the utmost respect for her. Nick Chin was on cinematography for my previous singles Believe and Sun, and he’s an absolute wizard on the camera. That top-notch production quality feel is thanks to him and his dope team.
We even had literal icon Yuna come on set and shoot some behind-the-scenes footage. I’ll never forget the moment: Adam was shooting an outdoor scene that didn’t require me or Sheena, so we sat in the car to catch some AC with Yuna. My mind was blown when she asked us if we wanted to hear a demo of a song she’d been working on. That song was Invisible. There was this moment of awe, that one of the biggest artists in Asia was playing me something she’s working on, and also this moment of empathy because I realised I do the EXACT same thing: playing my demos to friends and seeing what they think. At first it seemed to me that we were miles apart, but deep down, we’re both musicians. We love the same craft. I remember everything with such vivid detail that it’s hard not to overwrite this, it was just so electric.
Tell us a bit about working with Adam Sinclair.
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Adam Sinclair is a gem of a human being. He’s one of those people that I’ll always remember for leaving a massive impression on me, filling me with drive and ambition. You just get that feeling being around him, he doesn’t even have to try. For him to take up a project with a young, upcoming Bangladeshi artist like me, if you think about everything he’s done, is a testament to his love for his craft.
From the get-go, it was all about the message, about the aesthetic. He went out of his way to build a relationship with me, we were constantly sharing references and talking about our inspirations. By the time we were on set, I was completely at home around him. I can go on and on about how technically brilliant he is, but what I’ll remember most is simply being around his aura.
Does being your age work for or against you in the music industry?
As in any sector of the entertainment industry, it generally does work for you. I know I personally have a lot of privilege: I’m not even halfway through university, so I’m still financially dependent on my parents, I still have energy and more time to build a relationship with my audience, and most importantly, I have more time to make mistakes and learn from them than I would in my 30s.
Since pop culture is dictated by the youth, if you’re young enough to appeal to that crowd it’s always a bonus. There are obviously some disadvantages too, over the years we’ve heard many stories of young stars getting irreparably exploited, but in this day and age, artists have the power of the people through social media, so it’s a bit harder to get away with blatantly exploitive business practises. It’s difficult to say the positives don’t outweigh the negatives, but at the end of the day the art doesn’t care about who you are, just what you have to say. Youth helps in terms of learning and growing, but age and experience makes your art richer. At 20-years-old I have barely lived any life, and as I age I will have so much more to say, and for me that’s all that matters.
Why did you not choose to highlight your musical prowess within Believe?
I love a good shred – I’m a guitar nerd and in my free time I love to improvise for hours and try to improve on my technical skills. But how often does a song REALLY need a guitar solo? The only thing that excites me more than a 7-minute Guthrie Govan guitar clinic is a sharply efficient and effortlessly simple 3-minute pop song. That being said, if anyone’s down to start a math rock band you know who to contact.
What other songs have you worked on, or can we expect from you in the near future?
You can expect a lot more music and more collaborative work too in the near future. I want to keep exploring themes of mental health, love, trauma and politics, but I want to explore fresh musical avenues too. Stay tuned!
Till then you can check out the three other singles I have out from my upcoming project, Sun, Believe and Amar Jaan! We made an equally beautiful music video for Sun that was directed by Nelson Chong and Mandy Gioh, shot in Pulau Indah. Amar Jaan also has a video, which is a beautiful montage of my parents’ wedding in 1996, it’s also my first song featuring Bangla, my native language. You can also check out my first ever single Easier, which we shot a music video in Dhaka, Bangladesh for. That’s where it all began.