POWER OF POP INTERVIEW: LUNARIN

(Answers by Linda Ong)

Now that Duae is out and the Baybeats performance history, what’s in store for Lunarin in the months ahead?

We are busy planning for the album launch on 1 October 2010. It will be our first full length concert in 4 years, so we are really excited about it and hope to put up a good show!

Going forward, we have a bunch of b sides that we have been really wanting to record and release but haven’t had the time. We will probably be working on those with a view of releasing them later in the year.

What is your gauge on the overall reception to Duae?

It may still be early days yet to gauge, but already we see a difference in the way mainstream media has reacted to the album as compared to the people who come to our shows and know us (I hazard to use the word “underground”). We have had a few laughs reading the reviews of the album in some of the mainstream newspapers. No hard feelings (of course) but I imagine the local paper reviewers going through a hard time trying to digest all 12 songs in order to write something coherent about the album. I don’t blame them – it is certainly not an easy album to absorb.

On the other hand, we have received wonderful response from the people we know or from people who are already familiar with our material.  It heartens us and really makes us appreciate the fact that the time and the hard work that we had put into the album has paid off. At the end of day, we wrote the album for these people, so what they say matters the most to us.

That said, we are pleasantly surprised by the number of people who like The Sky (Algiers). We wrote that song by accident!

What are your own feelings about Duae now in hindsight? Are you satisfied with the final product, so to speak? if you could change anything about the album, what would it be?

I think vocally I could have done better. Coralline for instance, was a track that I thought the vocal tone could be better delivered, but we kept that final take because we all agreed that the emotional delivery in that take was the best (every song had at least 3 to 4 different vocal takes). But that’s the struggle that I have with vocals all the time – I am not a natural singer and therefore find it a struggle to balance between having a vocal take that is in tune and with an acceptable vocal tone against the need for an emotional delivery that would resonate with the listener and express the pathos of the song.

Lunarin has been quite busy in promoting Duae with media appearances and performances, what has been the experience like so far?

To be honest, I think we did far more publicity for the Chrysalis than for Duae. My sense is that mainstream interest in the music scene and especially in rock music is waning, hence we get fewer requests for interviews and write-ups for mainstream media than previously. We have since only done one proper interview with a mainstream newspaper and that was for Lian He Zao Bao. The album was reviewed in the Business Times and the Straits Times and we had a feature on ChannelNewsAsia. We are expecting a write-up on the album for the October issue of FHM (which will come out in mid September). We didn’t specifically target radio this time so we haven’t as yet gotten any airplay on the radio stations. My sense is that radio will not play the songs off Duae (in fact radio is unlikely to play any Lunarin song, period), so there is no point trying.

In so far as mainstream media is concerned, we had the most fun doing the Lian He Zao Bao interview as well as the ChannelNewsAsia feature. I think it helped that the reporters who covered the story were young and enthusiastic, so I think they were able to appreciate the passion we had for the music and that helped in the way the story was delivered.

On that point, I think the main shift in our publicity campaign for Duae was to focus more on harnessing the power of the internet as well as on social networking platforms to plug the album than to rely on traditional mainstream media. I personally find it far more rewarding to do interviews with music websites like insing.com and powerofpop.com where the interviewer has done his research, the questions asked are more in-depth and the targeted audiences are people who WILL read and appreciate the article and the issues raised. The beauty of the internet is that the people who run the websites are people who are true music lovers and can therefore cater to a niche group of like-minded people who knows specifically what they want and will therefore be genuinely interested in the material that is presented.

Our intention to focus on social networking platforms is also based on this principle as well. I think it is more rewarding to build relationships and establish a rapport with people than to try and spam the world at large to listen to your music. In an age where information is so easily accessible and we are confronted with advertisements (read: spam) everyday, I believe people are conditioned to shut out most information/ advertisements that so frequently assault their senses. They become selective in the information they wish to acquire and this is more so for something as personal and as subjective as music. Bearing that in mind, and especially in light of the fact that our brand of music is clearly not for your average pop listener, I think it is more effective to maintain a dialogue with people, get their feedback on the music, invite them to come to our shows, and to trust that, if they like our material enough, they will recommend it to their friends the same way I would not hesitate to recommend a good CD or a good movie to my friends. Part of the fun about releasing an album and playing shows is to get to meet people and to hang out with old friends who share a common passion for music. The internet has made this so much more convenient to do so.

How would you compare recording/releasing an album in 2010 and four years ago, with Chrysalis? Are there more or less opportunities to promote and support the album now?

I think there are less shows now (I could be wrong). During the run up to releasing the Chrysalis in 2006, the guys and I were playing at least 2 shows a month (sometimes one show every weekend). This explains why when the Chrysalis was finally released, more than half the people who bought it (and it’s a fairly small number) already knew the songs well due to the live shows we have had. I also think there is less emphasis on local music in mainstream media now than back in 2006. I recall us having more write-ups in the papers as compared to now. We also had a few radio appearances (yawn), albeit in short one hour radio shows, not on regular rotation, under our belt in 2006 and 2007.

The only difference between 2006 and now is technology. We would not be able to focus the bulk of our promotional efforts using the internet and social networking platforms if this was 2006 because back then we only had Myspace. Fast forward to now when we have Facebook, Twitter and the iPhone. I find myself being able to engage with people and talk about music as I am waiting outside chambers for my turn in court. This would be unheard of in 2006.

Technology too is the main reason why we were able to record the album ourselves. I don’t think we would have been able to do this at home and get the sound that we have on Duae back in 2006.

But back to your question – are there more or less opportunities to promote the album? I think the answer would be: there are fewer opportunities now if you are relying only on mainstream media and shows. However, technology gives you the power to create your own alternative opportunities.

This is a fundamental question for all musicians but especially for Singaporeans but what is it about music that makes you so passionate?

It’s funny you should ask this because I just caught the movie “Sandcastle” last weekend and it touched a raw nerve because it so accurately captured the “sickness” that afflicts my generation. What does it mean to be Singaporean? My generation is one that is disconnected from our history, with little to be proud of or to call our own, but are told, constantly, that we need to work hard to keep the country afloat for a vague and artificial promise of a utopia which may or may not arrive in our lifetime. My generation could well be a generation made up of drones. I see my peers lose sleep when they fail to get that increment. They marry because they need to apply for that HDB flat. They divorce because they never knew what it was to love. They have babies and lose babies (I suspect) because they need to be part of an actual physical cycle of life to make themselves whole, otherwise life is a cycle of Mondays to Fridays and then Mondays again. Quite often, only the pain and dread of the monotony of our lives remind us that we are alive.

I believe so many of us create music, despite the fact that financially it will never make sense, because of a need to reassure ourselves that this is not all that there is. I believe this is also the reason why rock is the predominant sound of the local music scene and most local bands play music that will not be widely accepted by the masses – the music that we play is a symptom of how we feel as a people.

I mentioned in the video ]the space between[ that we need music to remind ourselves that we’re still alive. I still stand by that. Any music lover will agree with me that when you go to a good gig and you are amidst a sea of bobbing heads grooving to a band playing on stage that is expressing the most perfect sound you have ever heard for the longest time, nothing can describe that sense of exhilaration, that feeling of being part of a larger living breathing organism that feels as you do and is moved as you are moved.

That’s why we keep at it. We do it not because of a promise of an unseen utopia – we keep at it because we have, through the music, “felt” utopia – one that is created entirely on our own terms.

Duae addresses many macro issues – religion, war, destiny, trust etc – what do you hope to achieve when you write songs dealing with these weighty matters?

I am not a smart person who has answers to everything. I am not well read and my knowledge of social issues and politics are rudimentary at best. When I wrote the lyrics for the album a large part of the process came about from ideas that I was toying with at the time and which had troubled me. All that I can hope for is that the songs may inspire the listener to consider these issues and make up his or her own mind about them as well.

When someone listens to Duae or catches Lunarin in performance, what is the one thing you hope that that someone will bring away from the experience?

I hope people will listen to us and go, “I know this emotion”/“I feel this anger” / “I understand this pain.” I want them to walk away with an emotional connection to the music. That’s the key word – connection. Otherwise we would have effectively played to no audience and all our efforts would come to naught.

Are there any plans to bring Lunarin & Duae beyond our shores, like the region or even further?

There is an intention to sell the album overseas but there are at present no firm or concrete plans as yet. We are not exactly a very mobile band. I don’t know why.

What are your views on the current state of the Singapore music scene? Can anything be done to improve it?

The music scene is akin to the attrition rate of a large law firm. Every year you have a large influx of wide eyed innocent young people wanting to form bands and play music because they believe in the music the same way a young law graduate fresh out of law school thought he would be a lawyer for life. Eventually life gets the better of them and the same wide eyed young band members disband because they decide to focus their attention on other things; or they simply give up because making music in Singapore is a thankless task. The fact that Singapore music has never been accepted as a mainstay of Singapore art and culture has a part to play in this. Save for a few bands that have been able to enjoy mainstream success, most Singapore bands, ourselves included, are deemed too “alternative” or “too underground” for common consumption. You need a degree of foolhardiness and a high threshold of pain to keep doing this and find meaning in what you do because the environment here is simply not designed to assist the struggling artist.

Education, I think, is the key to ensuring longevity and vibrancy in the music scene. As it is, music festivals like Baybeats and various arts/music outreach and mentorship programs have helped develop this area. We need to continue with these programs and work towards getting mainstream media to play a more active role in promoting and sustaining our local talents.

What can your fans expect to see at the official album launch on 1st October at the Arts House?

I think we have had enough of dabbling in pseudo-artsy type shows for a bit (in our last album launch we had tree branches as props!) so this time round we aim to put up a straight ahead rock show as a cathartic release / denouement to the album release. The good thing about having two albums now instead of one is that we at least have a catalog that can last a full 2-hour show. We have been playing some of our older material during jams and it has been fun, so we are really looking forward to playing both the new and the old material together to see how that works. Are we wearing costumes? For that matter, are we wearing anything at all? That’s a secret!

More information about Lunarin, new album Duae and the album launch at www.lunarin.com.

One Reply to “POWER OF POP INTERVIEW: LUNARIN”

  1. Wow Linda – re: your reply to the question “This is a fundamental question for all musicians but especially for Singaporeans but what is it about music that makes you so passionate?” is absolutely spot on – I think you totally hit the nail on the head there. Brutally honest, but it’s an inconvenient truth if i ever heard one.

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