Singapore’s not the easiest place for musicians to thrive but despite that, numerous acts have persisted and earned a steady cult following throughout the years. The St Jerome’s Laneway Festival has been a platform for local and regional acts to gain greater public attention. This year sees a number of staple and new performers to Singapore. We caught up with some of them prior to find out what keeps them going despite the challenges. 

T-Rex
Like some of the post-prog rock bands, T-Rex doesn’t stick to typical music instruments. There’s a sax thrown in there and the music style is loud, almost violently elegant. The styles of their music is simply fascinating and unusual. Ahmad Khaliq, band guitarist, tells us more about how they invent their sound. 

Can you tell us a little more on how TRex came together?
It was actually our drummer’s recital, end of year exam, at LaSalle. It was nothing serious, it was only for the recital and we started writing songs and we had good chemistry between the three of us so we decided to go ahead and get a bit more serious and all these gigs came out and we’ve been very grateful.

I understand each of you were playing for different bands before this right?
One of the bands that Junaidi and I were in, it was called Amateur Takes Control, we left it because the band was on hiatus for 4 years and when they decided to come back together this year, personally for us it was the wrong time because we had so many things going on so we couldn’t continue with them and they replaced us. While Axel was still playing for Sphaeras who are now on hiatus as well so yeah that’s about it.

T-Rex’s music seems to have many elements to it, how would you describe your character?
Every one of our songs has a frantic moment filled with anxiety while the rest of it being pretty much progressive rock and we’re all huge fans of … Fusion? so we try to incorporate that into every track. Also, the three of us come from different backgrounds so it comes together as a totally fresh genre.

What can you tell us about your upcoming album?
Its called TRex: Volume 1, so it’s a 4 track album close to 30 mins which is a pretty long 4 track duration. Each track is different in terms of genre, feel and emotions there’s mixed feelings of hope, freedom and anxiety. So I feel it’s a good blend of feelings for the album. Every song seems like it’s being played by a different band which we like but some people won’t dig it because its super different but as long as we’re happy I guess.

Bottlesmoker
Indie electronic, semi-ambient duo Anggung Suherman and Ryan Nobie Adzani from Bandung aren’t just musicians creating great tunes. They also make cool toy musical instruments and perform with them, so every show is unique and different, with unexpected results. In our opinion, anyone who produces music with a Nintendo DS is definitely a winner. 

Can you tell us more about how this project first started out?
We first met in 2003. We were classmates studying Radio Broadcasting at Padjadjaran University. During this time, we learnt so much about how to make jingle radio, background music for broadcasting, audio mixing, and many technical skills about music for radio. We came to realise that we always had a great time while creating some tunes with Fruity Loops! For us, using music software is a decent media to express ideas and communicate our feelings. We kept composing music and messing around with so many ideas, until we decided to shared them on MySpace. Surprisingly, someone from Neovinyl Records, a label based in Spain, reached us out and they said that they would be happy to release our music for free. As we have similar values about music-sharing, we agreed to join them on 2006 until 2008, releasing 2 albums, and the rest was magic.

What/who have been your major influences with regards to your style of music?
Our biggest influence happens to be Múm, they’re really a big thing for us. Their music has incredible atmosphere and unlocks the listeners (and our) imagination. We also admire Lullatone, I Am Robot and Proud, and Dan Deacon. These are the sort of music projects and artistes who have influenced us about musical instruments. The idea to use and have fun with toys, and many other sound instruments come from them.

We understand many quirky musical instruments, do you have a favourite?
We have noise box theremin using a table-top Nintendo, of which we can control the sound by light. That one is our favourite.

What has kept you wanting to create more music?
It’s a medium of expression. We don’t have any medium to express and share our feelings and ideas except through music.

Astreal
Astreal has been around for 25 years, led by Ginette Chittick, former fashion designer and now a lecturer. Their success in remaining together for so long, according to Chittick, is by being careful about how regularly they work together and the productions they create in between. Chittick explains more about Astreal’s longevity. 

How do you stay together for so long?
One of the reasons we’ve been successful in being around for so long is that we don’t do things very often. We just want to make music and we have our day jobs so the whole purpose is just to be creative. Every time we “come back” so to speak is when there’s a gig and somebody is kind enough to let us play. So every now and then we’ll jam and we’ll write new songs but this time we really spoke to do an EP so we have new music coming out. This one is kind of happier and harking back to our shoegaze roots, so very Chapterhouse and a bit of My Bloody Valentine. After Laneway we’re going to continue recording and we’re hoping to go back to a darker sound but we have to dig deep into the depths of our miserable souls *laughs* to turn it out.

Shoegazing and indie pop has become a lot more popular in Singapore. Why do you suppose that’s so?
Shoegaze is a weird style, every year there’s a fabulous shoegaze band or every two years and then that’s when we get a gig and we’re like “Yay we’re back in fashion again” *laughs*. I don’t know I think there’s this allure to listening to very melodic tunes over a really harsh and dense wall of sound its kind of timeless you know it doesn’t sound dated (well atleast to me), even if it does sound dated its not in an annoying way. For me, when I listen to My Bloody Valentine it feels like I’m going to Mambo or something that is like very dated at one specific time it doesn’t feel that way so perhaps you know that’s the allure of shoegaze and dreampop.

To pursue an interest in music in Singapore is quite a bold move, what has kept you going?
Previously when I was a punk it was like “Yeah I keep the local scene alive”. Now that I’m older it’s basically wanting to be together with friends that you really love to write music and when you listen to a finished song and go “whoa we made that, we wrote that”. It’s an awesome feeling.

What have been your major influences when it comes to music?
For Astreal shoegaze and dreampop it’s really been Curve, it’s my all time favourite. My Bloody Valentine obviously, Chapterhouse and Lush as well so those were my heroes and musically in general, Kathleen Hanna was massive and changed not only my musical tastes but also how I thought. So she really shaped how I looked at the world then and even now. Punk music helped me a lot in that way as well so a lot of things I do are very DIY. I was not musically trained unlike many of my peers but I’ve very resourcefully written my own notations… I’m now heading the diploma in fashion at La Salle and a lot of what I’ve learnt from punk has been embedded into the curriculum such as creative methodology or processes.

Check out the rest of our interviews with Laneway Singapore 2017’s stars here. If you’d like to purchase tickets to Laneway Festival, click here. See the complete lineup here

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