You have got to hand it to Deon Toh and his merry band DEON. For the last couple of years, the singer-songwriter has built a steady following at home and made a life for himself and his band as touring musicians. Read what Deon has to say about his latest adventure in Toronto.
It’s always a pleasure working with singer-songwriter Deon Toh cos the man is genuine, down to earth and serious about his art. His new album is one of the best I have heard in 2015 and thus, it was illuminating to pick his brains for the stories behind the songs. It’s really in-depth so buckle up!
What was the primary inspiration behind making Oceans a concept album?
As a songwriter, I’ve always viewed the creation of an album as the process of creating a standalone piece of work; a piece of art. I’m one of those musicians who still believe in coming up with a good 10 songs LP, and making sure that those songs make a collective statement.
As such, I did not craft singles and slap them together, but rather, I crafted an entire album. With that intention in mind, I dedicated myself to the challenge of coming up with something magical.
No disrespect or offense to musicians who launch singles, or demos, or EPs that are just a collection of unrelated songs (there’s nothing wrong with that); on my part, this was a personal challenge to push my songwriting limits and come up with a concept album.
The theme of circles and cycles seems alien to Singapore where the seasons remain constant – so is the music a product of travelling beyond Singapore?
I traveled with the intention of personal growth. I wanted to discover more about myself and see the world, and to understand the value of coming home better. Back home, life was changing at a rapid pace, with my graduation from university, evolving relationships, and aging parents. I had constant emotional and rationality debates, epiphanies. And at the end of everything, I walked away with a deeper understanding of myself.
What was the motivation behind incorporating post-rock and ambient electronica into your pop-rock sonic agenda?
During this period, my band and I had the privilege to witness one of the best musical performances during an Iceland Airwaves showcase at Canadian Music Week. We stumbled upon singer-songwriter, Asgeir, and fell in love with his brand of music. He incorporates loads of ambient electronica, which influenced us eventually.
The post-rock aspect came out of listening to loads of music from local band Caracal. We are huge fans of the band, and also spent a short period traveling with them, it was fun.
As for my pop-rock roots, I still listen to loads of Rachael Yamagata, Brooke Fraser, and Coldplay, which always keeps me grounded to my roots.
When one listens to Oceans, it becomes abundantly crystal clear that for singer-songwriter Deon Toh, it’s all about the music. In this digital age, Toh has gone against the grain to approach the album as a viable artistic expression, like in the days of yore. There are eleven one-word titled tracks on this, his follow-up to the well-received Antiphobic, bookended by “Circles” and “Cycles”, which speak to the impact of seasons in our lives.
There is beauty, grace and strength in compositions like “Summer”, “Fall”, “Winter” and “Spring” where Toh is able to conjure the experience of the seasons, whether it is something physical or symbolic. The over-riding emotion might be melancholy but it is not defeatist but reflective. Whether it is in the piano harmonic structures, fragile guitar arpeggios, arranged percussion, ambient soundscapes or Toh’s falsetto, there is a deliberate intent to evoke a sense of longing and yearning in the presence of natural splendour.
It is a significant achievement that Oceans is an album one can (and MUST) listen to from beginning to end and then to start all over again. A gorgeous song cycle that once again sets the bar higher for Singapore artists to emulate.
In the meantime, check out the music video for “Summer” below.
Look out for the Power of Pop interview with Deon Toh coming soon…
Local folk-pop artist DEON has been invited to play at the prestigious Canadian Music Week 2013 this 21st March. Part of the crop of talents taking their music into foreign ground, DEON will be representing Singapore alongside local bands Inch Chua, The Sam Willows and Eli T.
Dan Chan, frontman of Xingfoo&Roy brings us his unique perspective of being a performer and audience member at Identite 8.4
I met Amir through a fellow local musician named Chris(also known as Bravepaper). After exchanging emails, Amir asked if our band would like to play at Homeclub’s Identite 8.4 and we gladly accepted!
We played Homeclub’s Big Night Out Launch party along with The Livid Suns and Deon Toh on the 25th (last Friday) and it was great. A fairy large crowd showed up and The Livid Suns kicked the party off with some of their original tracks. Ending with a cover of “Gold Lion” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Their fierce musical style reminded me of comparable local acts such as Fire Away! Samson and Caracal.
Xingfoo&Roy played next and we can’t express the amount of gratitude we have towards Homeclub and the crowd. The crowd was warm and cheerful which vanished our anxiety almost immediately. The sound was also the best we’d ever had, so props to Homeclub for that! The show was amazing mainly due to the crowd as they danced and sang along to our songs. Pleasing the crowd drove us to play so much better than we ever have.
Ending the event with a mix of alternative-pop tracks was singer songwriter Deon Toh. Deon sang as his backing band complemented his songs. His creamy and soothing voice toned the mood down quite a fair bit and left the audiences bobbing their heads to a set of his original songs which included the catchy, “Little Lives” and they ended with a cover of a Band Of Horses song. Deon Toh is a very talented individual with an immense amount of soul and we hope to hear more from him in the near future.
On the whole, Identite 8.4 was a success and we’d love to thank Homeclub for being such a great contribution to the thriving local music scene.
Another Friday, another Identite presented by Home Club and RSC. On 25th January, The Livid Sun, Xingfoo&Roy and Deon Toh take to the stage for the Big Night Out Launch Party. We managed to get hold of Daniel out of Xingfoo&Roy to respond to our queries…
What is Xingfoo&Roy?
Xingfoo&Roy is a band comprised of three boys, Gabriel, Jeremy and Daniel. We’ve been playing together since early 2011 and have been writing music ever since. The reason why we love to write music is because we’d like to share our views on certain subjects in the form of musical expression. The name came about from a short story Gabriel wrote about two characters. Xingfoo and Roy. We also decided on the name, as it was a reference to Sigfred and Roy, the magicians. We wanted a local sounding band name as well feel that many local band are trying to sound western. Got to stick to your roots man.
The line-up for this year’s Baybeats Festival (29 June to 1 July at the Esplanade) is decidedly Singapore-focused with 21 (!) local acts sharing the various stages with acts from Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan. The emphasis on Singapore acts befits the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Esplanade, a venue that has impacted the local music scene in a highly positive manner in the last decade.
So mark your calendars on the above dates and look out for Obedient Wives Club, For This Cycle, King King Jane, Black Diamond Folds, Godzilla, Rudra, Rachael Teo, ANECHOIS, Cashew Chemists, The Fast Colors, Embrace Them Ghosts, Great Spy Experiment, Plainsunset, Deon, MONSTER CAT, Pep Talk, Inch Chua & Metric System, Run Neon Tiger, Cockpit, A Town In Fear & In Each Hand a Cutlass.
An exciting time for the indie music scene beckons…
This was a relatively tough shoot as we (Pat & I) had to contend with the blistering heat, the erratic wind as well as the various school children running around but ultimately worth the effort! You can listen to more of Deon’s music at his Bandcamp page.
We spoke to young singer-songwriter on the banks of the Singapore River about his new EP, Letters and what he’s been doing in the music scene recently. Check it out!
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NOISE-TIMBRE SINGER-SONGWRITER PROGRAMME (2ND EDITION)
Another packed crowd at Timbre at the Substation witnessed the 2nd edition of the Noise-Timbre Singer-Songwriter Programme. In truth, the majority of the Timbre patrons may have been present for the excellent pizzas rather than the Programme itself but the whole point of the Programme is to expose Singapore songwriting (and songwriters) to audiences unfamiliar with it and so on that count, the Programme has certainly achieved its aim, thus far.
DEON TOH Letters (Self-released)
There have been a couple of drummers in rock history who have vacated the drum seat to step up in front to take the lead role – most notably Don Henley (Eagles) and Phil Collins (Genesis). Well, Deon is probably previously best known for drumming with S-ROCK outfit Flybar but has now well and truly put himself out there as a singer-songwriter in his right. And on this debut ‘demo’ EP, Deon demonstrates that he has made the right decision in doing so. Indeed, the S-ROCK scene has been made richer as a result.
It’s interesting that Deon has labelled Letters as a ‘demo’ release – perhaps to scale down expectations somewhat (?) – cos to these ears, Letters can be easily considered a ‘proper’ EP release (whatever that means). So please don’t let that self-effacing manner fool you, Letters is a well produced, well performed and well written debut.
Since discovering he actually could sing (according to Deon, whilst studying in Berklee College of Music), it’s obvious that Deon has taken his new vocation (as a singer-songwriter) seriously and has applied his skill and talents in the crafting of these four tracks (five, plus the ‘hidden’ track, Higher). Simply put, Deon’s songwriting is of the pleasing commercial variety with strong references to the British soft-rock of Travis, Coldplay and Keane – in other words, radio-friendly alternative rock. There is a good balance between faux-classical piano dynamics and acoustic guitar ambience that certainly is reminiscent of Chris Martin’s songwriting choices.
All told, Letters is an excellent debut – although probably more variation in styles might have expanded the palette a little. But taken as a first effort, Letters is ample evidence of Deon’s potential as a singer-songwriter of note.
You can listen/download the EP below.
Deon will be performing his original songs at the Noise-Timbre Singer-Songwriter Programme at Timbre @ Substation on Wed, 23rd March, together with Saiful (of the Great Spy Experiement) and yours truly. Don’t miss it!