Sep 292015


Good melodies with interesting arrangements – hooks that stick in your head and convince you to listen again. This is what a lead track should sound like.

Danish band Lowly releases their debut EP Sink Way Into Me on October 30th (via Bella Union) and based on the mesmerising “Fire”, one would reasonably want to hear more.

It’s all about that memorable chorus with its singalong backing vocals and the insistent choppy piano driving its presence into your synapses. Does the trick for me!

Sep 292015

I am a simple man with simple tastes. I only need a song to sing to and I will be happy.

So I decided to put together a playlist of the songs I love to sing to, and so far I have come up with 20 tracks.

And I created this playlist on Deezer cuz I get the tracks streaming in wav. Yeah.

Might not be for all tastes but if you have been reading my writings for some time, you won’t be surprised by the choices.

Here we go! Will be updating so please check back!!

… still there’s more … 

Sep 282015

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Does life have to make sense? Does music need to feel complete? Or is it the inherent contradictions that make music the life-affirming force it can be?

Did anyone expect a new New Order album? Hooky out, Gillian back? In case you are not keeping score, Hooky (bassist Peter Hook) announced in 2007 that New Order was over and that he was leaving. Eight years later, Barney Summer and the rest of the gang (Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, Phil Cunningham & Tom Chapman) has somewhat taken up the challenge to prove Hooky wrong.

And whilst the end product is a sublime dance-rock album of the kind that the original New Order are considered the pioneers of, Music Complete is not really New Order, any more than Electronic or Bad Lieutenant were New Order. The name itself is meaningless – without Hooky’s bass, this is most definitely not New Order.

However, in the final analysis, it makes no fucking difference, does it? With all the electro-pop acts vying for attention in the modern rock wasteland, the old masters have come back from the dead to show the young upstarts how it’s done.

There’s no doubting Summer’s way with a melody (and dodgy lyrics) but it is in the rhythm and the beats that Music Complete excels – big beats, techno, house, disco all mashed up into a heady mixture. “Restless”, “Tutti Frutti” and “Stray Dog” (with Iggy Pop on vocals) all rise like cream to the top but it is in the final number “Superheated” that Music Complete well and truly soars with one of the finest New Order tracks since the glory days of the 80s. “Superheated” is five minutes of sheer electro-pop bliss. Close your eyes and it’s the mid-eighties again.


Sep 282015

MAAD Sounds - Oct

This coming weekend (October 2nd & 3rd), Power of Pop recommends the following live gigs for your rockin’ enjoyment. On Friday, Esther Lowless will thrill us with her art-rock stylings whilst Gareth Fernandez & The Momma Shop will get a groove on. That’s MAAD Sounds at the Red Dot Design Museum. On Saturday night, over at Hood Bar, Melbourne rockers EMPRA (with S-ROCKER frontman Sanny Veloo) will take no prisoners. Post-hardcore local legends Caracal will open the night!

EMPRA Oct 3rd

… still there’s more … 

Sep 272015


Regular PoP visitors will be aware that I am a massive Beatles fan. The Fab Four (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison & Ringo Starr) were the first band I ever obsessed over as a teenager and Abbey Road – the band’s final LP – was the first album I ever owned.

By that time, the Beatles had broken up a couple of years already and the individual members were busy releasing their solo LPs. I had friends who were equally besotted with the Fab Four and together we even formed our first band – the Beatles-channeling Hornets in the mid-70s! Like many Beatles fans, I dreamed of a reunion and this seemed even more possible when John came out of his 5-year hiatus in 1980 & released Double Fantasy with his wife Yoko Ono.

Of course, that dream was smashed into pieces when John was murdered outside his home on 8th December that year. It’s almost 35 years since that fateful day but the Beatles remain in my view the best band the world has ever seen (and ever will see). One could argue that the Beatles were at the right time and place as the universe conspired to provide the perfect conditions for the band to irreversibly change the world and to write their names into the history books.

Even as the music industry evolves decade after decade and music revolutions come and go, the popularity of the Beatles remains constant and the music they created fifty odd years still resonate to music lovers worldwide. Though the band was once closely associated with the sixties, it’s might be said that they have transcended that epoch to stand alone and become truly timeless icons. Consider the immense popularly of teen idol Taylor Swift, a search on Youtube – probably one of the most popular websites that teens frequent – will provide about 6.1 million results. Guess how many results a Beatles youtube search will provide? How about 5.5 million! Not bad for a band that last released a new album in 1970.

And so… whilst it has been more than a good 40 years since I first heard a Beatles song, I rest assured that years may pass and the latest pop thing may disappear into oblivion (how long more for TayTay?) but one thing will stay the same – it will always be the Beatles Forever!

… still there’s more … 

Sep 252015

A PoP feature where we examine the influence on ART on rock and pop music, in particular album covers.


Dutch artist Piet Mondrian was a contributor to the De Stijl (the style) art movement and group. He evolved a non-representational form which he termed neoplasticism. This consisted of white ground, upon which he painted a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and the three primary colors. This type of abstraction has inspired many – especially music artists – to borrow liberally from Mondrian’s ideas. Here are some examples.

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Most recent instance of Mondrian’s influence on pop artists. The cover of the latest New Order album, Music Complete.

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An almost literal translation of Mondrian’s work, from The Apples in Stereo.

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An interesting 3D take from Silverchair.

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Colour scheme is somewhat inverted but the inspiration is obvious on this Coldplay album cover design.

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A rather clever way to represent Mondrian’s style, The White Stripes even entitled this album De Stijl!

Modern art and rock music constantly colliding! We will continue to be on the lookout for more.

… still there’s more … 

Sep 242015


I have been listening to rock music since I was an early teen. Back then, my access to rock music was via vinyl, cassette and 8-track mainly. This access was limited by one thing – money. In order to get access to the music, you had to pay for it! And that meant that you had to budget for the music you wanted to buy. Of course, there were ways of circumventing this limitation and expanding the amount of music you could listen to.

Pirated records was the main avenue – whether it was by purchasing pirated records (which were cheaper) or getting a friend to reproduce the record of your choice on cassette. If you were desperate enough, you could even try to record songs off the radio onto cassettes. Money was the problem and ways and means were devised to ensure that you would get maximum bang for your buck, so to speak.

This paradigm shifted with the development of digital music & the mp3. No longer did you need to purchase vinyl or cassette (8-track had gone the way of the dinosaur already) but mp3s allowed a music fan to listen to music on the computer or dedicated mp3 players. In 1999, with the arrival of Napster — a pioneering peer-to-peer file sharing Internet service that emphasised sharing audio mp3 files — the door was opened that led to a seismic shift in how music could be listened to, which signalled the end of the music industry that had enjoyed commercial success for decades (especially with the introduction of Compact Disc technology).

Imagine pirated music on a scale never before imaginable – the music industry basically crashed with sales dropping year to year at an alarming rate. This decline was partially arrested when Apple entered into the music industry with iTunes – initially resisted by the record labels and still rather reluctantly embraced.
In the decade following the launch of Napster, both MusicNet and Pandora were established in an attempt to monetise the new ways in which technology allowed fans to consume music. However, the main hinderance was that music piracy had ruined audiences to such an extent that fans were no longer willing to pay for digital music.

This is where Spotify and the concept of freemium took hold – allowing its members to have unlimited access to its music streaming catalogue for free but with advertising. Premium membership, of course, dispensed with the advertising for a monthly fee. This has caught on with fans with other services sprouting soon after (Rdio and Deezer). However, labels and artists remained less than enthused as the revenues were relatively modest compared to the heyday of the compact disc. Other streaming services like Tidal and Apple Music soon appeared as well – with a firm commitment to paid services although the jury is well and truly out on whether fans are willing to pay for music streaming.

Whichever way the streaming wars pan out and even if ultimately, the majority of fans are convinced to pay ten bucks a month – the future of the music industry will be in the hands of the streaming companies and not the record labels. It is hard to imagine consumers wanting to return to physical copies — even if vinyl has gone through a revival of sorts.

And what does that mean for bands and artists? Well, forget about music ever providing the golden ticket anymore (not that it truly did before but that’s another story) — the sheer size of the catalogue at these streaming services means that the competition is immense. Why would anyone listen to my music when they can access some of the best music ever made in the last 50 – 60 years?!? There is no longer the budgetary concerns anymore. As a music fan myself, I can spend hours at a streaming service listening to virtually all the 70s progressive rock or say, all the 90s UK techno (or whatever else) that has been recorded.

It’s not impossible to carve a niche for oneself as a recording artist but that’s all it will ever be – a niche. Which means that expectations need to be toned down and a means to have time and money to write and record music become a premium. If this is not the attitude of young musicians, then they will be in for a rude shock.

So wake up. Technology now allows us recording artists to make music cheaply, but that also applies to everyone else and — in addition — access to recorded music has been at its highest level ever in the history of music. This present reality is what bands & artists need to assimilate and exploit in order to continue to have music making a satisfying proposition.

Sep 242015

KMGP001 by Jazreel-Anne

Well, that’s done and dusted. As much as I enjoyed playing with The Groovy People (Patrick Chng, Ray Aziz, Nelson Tan and Josh Tan), I must admit that the whole experience was tiring – especially with the haze complicating matters. Still, it was seeing all the wonderful people come out to support us that made it all worthwhile.

If I needed to compare, the gig at Artistry was more satisfying, although it was fun to finally play on the Barber Shop stage. I don’t know what it is but overall it seems as if this whole music game has lost a little bit of its lustre in the last couple of weeks.

I guess you could say all the marketing and promotional efforts getting very minimal response has worn me down somewhat. You could say I am fed up with all the selling when folks aren’t buying. Y’know, after a while rejection takes its toll. But when you are in your 50s, it’s never ever going to be the same as a twentysomething no matter how good you think the music is.

That said, I am not hanging up my guitar anytime soon so too bad haters! It’s just that I am going to take it easy on the promotion and let things happen organically (whatever the hell that means in 2015!) and enjoy the rest of the year. I do have some ideas already for 2016 musically and we will see where I go with that but definitely the music will never ever stop. How could it?

… still there’s more…

Photo courtesy of Jazreel-Anne.

Sep 232015


It has been a long & winding road to reach this point in my life.

22 years since I released my first album with Watchmen back in August 1993 and numerous albums later, I believe that Present Sense is probably my best ever. Why do I make that assessment? Mainly because this has probably been the most hands-off I have ever been about the making of an album. And I was blessed to be working with amazingly talented artists, who poured out their immense creativity to grant vitality to my humble songs.


Back in the early 90s, I was deeply envious of Pat – he seemed to have everything I wanted in terms of a music life. A number one single, a great debut LP and a breakthrough into the public consciousness of Singaporeans – The Oddfellows were the first Singapore band to accomplish that in 30 years! But when I got to know him, I realised that he was much more than his accomplishments – his humility, grace & generosity touched me immensely. Pat was never far away from being a part of the music since then – whether it be working on “Orchard Road” for New School Rock III, on the Love EP or playing second guitar in Popland on numerous gigs. Some of you might already know this but two to three years ago, Pat pushed me to record again – after a hiatus of about four years – and so we did, in his home studio (and the now defunct Thom’s Loft) and the ultimate result was Emo FASCISM (September 2013) – and that got the juices going again with #alpacablues barely six months later. With Present Sense, I wanted to keep my arrangement ideas to a bare minimum – with Pat not only recording but co-producing this time out, especially with his rhythmic contributions. But where Pat is now truly deadly is his mixing and mastering – which in my opinion is second to none. I am always amazed by how he puts everything together post-recording and I never fail to be impressed.


I have to thank ex-head honcho of Pony Canyon Singapore, Jimmy Wee, for introducing me to Ray. I was looking for a drummer in the mid-90s and Ray turned out to be a perfect fit! Like Pat, Ray is a veritable local music legend – having played with numerous top local bands. Ray played drums on the three Popland releases viz. Groovy, Action! and the Camouflage EP. But it’s his infectious enthusiasm that is always a joy – it is impossible not to be buoyed by his seemingly boundless energy, even after all these years. For Present Sense, Ray came in for a day’s session at Leonard Soosay’s Snakeweed Studios (thanks to Daniel Sassoon) and finished 8 songs in 4 hours! Listening to the album, one would be unable to tell for sure! I feel privileged that twenty years later, we are still making groovy music together!


Nelson is a pure talent – he can do anything related to music. Music is his life and again, he plays in numerous bands and excels in each and every one. Nelson is a constant reminder to me that my music is not about sales or recognition but about the potential impact on people. When I finally sat down to have a serious chat with him, Nelson confessed to being a fan and shared that listening to the Democracy album as a 12 year old was one of the reasons he become a musician. Mind blown. How was that even possible? Far beyond anything I could have expected or imagined! It is an honour to be working with Nelson – apart from his wondrous bass playing – his passion and commitment to his craft and even to my songs – is an encouragement to keep going!


I first met Josh in 2007, when I interviewed his band The Fire Fight as part of Power of Pop’s Baybeats Festival coverage that year. Suffice to say, I have been a big fan of Josh and the band for its short lifetime and it was a memorable moment for me to share the stage with them on their farewell show in 2010 on “Train Song” (my favourite FF track). Present Sense was the first time collaborating together on the music and it was a revelation. Josh spent hours working on the guitar parts and his blood, sweat and tears are clearly evident on every track! Especially with “Magic” and “I walked away”, he made these songs his own, somehow tapping into the essence of my own artistic vision and painting in new vibrant colours! He is the soul of Present Sense – without Josh, Present Sense would not be what it is – my best album thus far!

Honourable mentions must also go to Eileen Chai for her stellar violin work on “Nothing Else” and “I walked away” and of course the voiceovers provided by Esther Low, James Khoo and X’ho.

Tonight, I will play the main bulk of Present Sense together with The Groovy People at The Barber Shop by Timbre in what might be my final show with the band for 2015. So I hope if you are free this Public Holiday eve you will make your way down and share this special occasion with us. The wonderfully talented melodic pop-rock band SUASION will be our guests, so please get there by 8pm.

Present Sense is out now at iTunes & streaming at I would greatly appreciate your support.

… still there’s more … 

Sep 222015

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With all the festivals springing up all over the place in Singapore, I thought I’d indulge myself with the fantasy of organising a Power of Pop Indie Rock Festival! My only criterion would be that my acts would have to have been formed no earlier than year 2000 (with one or two exceptions of course).

Here you go!

Besnard Lakes / Free Energy / Joywave / JPNSGRLS / Kevin Tihista 

LOVE X STEREO / Max Jury / Pugwash / The Courteeners / The Decemberists  

The Disappointed / The Paranoid Style / The Whigs / TOY / White Denim

Check out the first five on the list!

Next five tomorrow!

… still there’s more … 

Sep 222015


Battles – Beach House – Big Scary – Cashew Chemists – Cheats – CHVRCHES – DIIV – East India Youth – Flume – GDJYB – Grimes – Hermitude – Hudson Mohawke – Intriguant – METZ – Purity Ring – Riot !n Magenta – Shamir – The Internet – Thundercat – Tobias Jesso Jr. – Violent Soho

Apart from Singapore artists Cashew Chemists, Intriguant and Riot !n Magenta, the only other act that is of any interest to Power of Pop is pop-rock revivalist Tobias Jesso Jr. Beach House, CHVRCHES and Grimes are repeats & the rest – other than Battles and Flume – are of an unknown quality. But that’s the whole point of the Laneway Festival innit? Stay tuned as Power of Pop gives these artists its discovery quotient in the next few days, weeks and months.

Official Site

Tickets available from SISTIC.

Sep 212015


Pop band WALK THE MOON claim to be inspired by 80s bands like The Police and Talking Heads but one listen to their latest album, Talking is Hard, will make it clear that apart from taking their name from a Police song, there is no similarity whatsoever.

Actually, they remind me of crassly commercial fare like Modern Talking and Wang Chung, y’know the really shitty 80s bands. Which is fine but why can’t we call a spade a spade? This is certainly not indie rock, by any stretch of the imagination.

But of course, that’s not going to stop the horde of pop fans out there from enjoying this show when the band play in Singapore on 19th Jan 2016.

So… get your tickets kiddos from SISTIC now!

Sep 212015


In my preparations for week 3 of WRITING ABOUT ROCK MUSIC, I had to conduct research on electronic music subgenres and re-discovered my love for 90s UK Techno. Interestingly enough, after Synthpop had tipped over into saturation in the late 80s, I had sworn off electronic music but the discovery of Aphex Twin (above) re-ignited my interest in all things electro again.

Compared to the popular electronic dance music of the modern era (viz. Trance, Hardstyle and House), 90s UK Techno seems to be an artistic expression and not merely serving as pure dance music, with exponents of the genre dealing with both electronics and sampling very creatively.

With that firmly in mind, I put together 40 of my favourite electronica tracks with a bias towards 90s UK Techno viz. Chemical Brothers, Orbital, The Prodigy, Future Sound of London and of course, Aphex Twin. This, to me, is what electronica is all about – so, please enjoy and share!

Sep 202015


Ex-Pink Floyd singer-guitarist returns with a new solo LP that follows last year’s pointless Pink Floyd release – The Endless River – and Gilmour’s previous solo work, the magnificent On An Island (2006).

Sadly, Rattle That Lock – despite the promise of the excellent title track – is not a patch on On An Island and finds Gilmour trying out (rather unconvincingly) different musical styles that are far removed from his solo and Floyd work.

All of which is frustrating because on tracks like the instrumentals “5 A.M.”, “Beauty” and “… And Then”, Gilmour’s trademark guitar stylings shine through and all is well. Elsewhere, the choppy dance rhythms of “Today”, the anti-war balladry of “In Any Tongue” and the sprightly blues-romp of the title track remain the highlights.

Sadly, there are at least four tracks – “Faces of Stone”, “A Boat Lies Waiting”, “Dancing Right In Front Of Me” and “The Girl in the Yellow Dress” – where Gilmour’s attempts at eclecticism somewhat fall flat. Especially on that last named track where Gilmour fancies himself to deliver a pseudo-jazz standard with appalling results.

Presumably, Gilmour wanted to demonstrate his songwriting versatility but only emphasised his paucity in this department. Sobering to realise that it took Gilmour almost a decade to come up with enough songs to produce a new album. Floyd fans will enjoyed the highlights previously mentioned, which makes Rattle That Lock somewhat half-baked overall.

Sep 182015

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New band The Quartermasters has a deliberate air of mystery surrounding it – no photos and a cryptic descriptor like “indie supergroup” given on its official press. But listening to its debut single, “Catch On Fire” it’s clear that at least in this song, the music is unadulterated country music – nothing ‘indie’ about it!

But seriously folks, I don’t give a fuck about the labels – only the music and in that respect, it’s great to hear a Singapore band playing this kind of pop-rock music. Truth be told, I recognise a Charles J Tan song when I hear it – so mystery solved! Not that far removed from his solo work, which has a strong country-folk vibe running right through it.

Anyhoo! The debut EP can be pre-ordered from now.

The EP will be officially launched on Saturday, 10th October 2015 at a ticketed show in Lepark, Chinatown. More details to follow.

Listen to the new single at Official website

Sep 172015


It has been 45 years since The Beatles broke up but the Fab Four still set the standard for pop success – which explains its continued relevance and appeal in 2015.

1 was a compilation album, originally released on 13 November 2000. The album featured virtually every number-one single released in the United Kingdom and United States from 1962 to 1970 by the Beatles. Issued on the 30th anniversary of the band’s break-up, 1 was their first compilation available on one compact disc. 1 was a commercial success, and topped the charts worldwide. 1 has sold over 31 million copies.

This November, Apple Corps Ltd/UMG will re-issue 1 but this time, also with a comprehensive restoration of the promotional films and videos of The Beatles #1 songs after the band had stopped touring in 1966. Thus, the re-issue will come in CD, DVD and Blu-ray formats and will no doubt satisfy Beatles fans, old and new.

I have seen restored clips of “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” (see below) and they look crystal clear – almost as if seeing them for the very first time. It is good to know that The Beatles continue to be recognised for being ahead of their time and provide a benchmark for all pop artists to emulate.

Sep 162015

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Not sure what describing your band as ‘romance rockers’ does for your profile but there you go. Lady Low are not 80s ‘new romantics’ in case you are wondering. In fact, if nothing else this new single with its insistent beat and heavy strings is somewhat reminiscent of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”. Which might be a good comparison to have actually. In the final analysis, that beat and string hook is quite infectious and it will get stuck in your head, after one listen. Personally, I am thrilled that it’s a pop-rock track that has all the right influences – if that isn’t a recommendation, I don’t know what the hell is!

Sep 162015

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Well, here’s one way to get the attention of festival goers and piss off fundamental Christians at the same time! But considering that the organisers haven’t yet announced the lineup, it takes a step of faith to make that commitment of $111 at this early stage, don’t you think? Yet, the congregations of the previous festivals have been massive so I don’t think there will be any trouble achieving those 600 (why not 666?) packages on sale. I’ll be praying for you…

Sep 152015

Photo credit: Teck Io

(Photo credit: Teck Io)

Dr. Martens has announced the homegrown bands in its first South East Asia edition of the Stand For Something Tour 2015. Headlined by British indie-rock band CIRCA WAVES, the Stand For Something Tour will be joined by respective home-city bands: Riot !n Magenta in Singapore, Elephant Kind in Jakarta, and Up Dharma Down in Manila.

I love R!M to death but it does seem like an odd choice to me. After all, CIRCA WAVES isn’t an electro-pop outfit and in fact, are quite possibly the opposite spectrum seeing how they play retro Britpop music. To me, it would make more sense to get Cashew Chemists or Stopgap to open… but that’s just me.

Continue reading »

Sep 142015


Although it mainly consists of vocals, guitar, strings and a smattering of piano notes, there is a certain dynamism and power that distinguishes Brett Randell’s new single “Rise”. Randell’s voice isn’t too sugary and in fact is rather nasal at times but it conveys the emotion well on this uplifting song of encouragement.  I like how Randell resists the temptation of cluttering up the arrangement and keeps things very spare so that his lyrics shine through. In fact, I almost expect it to break out into a pop-punk anthem but thankfully that never happens. Definitely one to savour, if you are into edgy ballads that carry the weight of a meaningful life message.

Sep 042015


Present Sense started life as a germ of an idea earlier this year. I put together a rough lineup of songs written in the last couple of years and as I did so, I noticed that there was a story unfolding before my eyes. Which is why Present Sense ended up being a loose concept album of sorts. I don’t want to explain the story too much but it is imperative that you listen to the album in its entirety to get the full impact. Suffice to say that there are certain auto-biographical aspects but at its core it’s fiction.

I was very fortunate to be able to benefit from the contributions of Joshua Tan (The Fire Fight, A Vacant Affair) on electric guitars, Nelson Tan (In Each Hand a Cutlass) on bass and my old friend Ray Aziz (too many bands to mention!) on drums. In addition, Eileen Chai also provided gorgeous violins on two songs. To embellish the storytelling, I also managed to add voiceovers from Esther Low, James Khoo and X’Ho to the mix as well. But the biggest credit must go to my partner-in-crime Patrick Chng (That Locked Door studio) who co-produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the album brilliantly. In addition, special thanks must go out to Daniel Sassoon and Leonard Soosay (Snakeweed Studios) for making the drums recording possible. Last but not least, an appreciation to film maker Tzang Merwyn Tong for his assistance with the lettering design seen on the album cover.

So we are here. Present Sense is now available for pre-orders at iTunes with a download of “Vancouver Gurls”. The album itself will be released digitally worldwide by KAMCO Music on 11th September. I will support the release (with The Groovy People) with two shows in September viz. at Artistry Cafe on 18th September (tickets available from Peatix) and at Barbershop by Timbre on 23rd September (free admission).

… still there’s more … 


Sep 032015

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British indie-rock band, CIRCA WAVES headlines the first South East Asia edition of the Stand For Something Tour 2015 – touring Jakarta, Manila, and Singapore – with support from home-city respective band acts, soon to be announced.

Dr. Martens Stand For Something 2015 presents Circa Waves tour dates and venues:

22nd October – Jakarta: Foundry No. 8
23rd October – Singapore: 72-13
24th October – Manila: 12 Monkeys

Tickets to Circa Waves are complimentary. Free ticket release date and homegrown guest bands to be announced soon.

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