SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: KEVIN MATHEWS – PRESENT SENSE

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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.

PATRICK CHNG

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.

RAY AZIZ

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 TAN

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!

JOSHUA TAN

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 rdio.com. I would greatly appreciate your support.

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PoPTV: THEODORA – LINES

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“Old soul” is probably an apt description of singer-songwriter Theodora’s muse.

This 18 year old has a perceptive creativity beyond her tender years with an artistic sensibility that reflects a subtle maturity. This is already painfully obvious when listening to her debut single “Lines”, written about the loss about a loved one – “I sit in silence in the memory of you”.

Now here’s a thoughtful video – lovingly crafted by director Leonard Soosay – that represents visually the emotions that “Lines” evokes, with style and finesse.

Theodora’s debut EP is planned for the end of the year – keep a close watch on that, dear readers.

In the meantime, check out the gorgeous video for “Lines”.

Purchase “Lines” from iTunes.

BAYBEATS 2014: DAY TWO

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Typically, I find that the second day of Baybeats is the best of the Festival. I guess it’s part of the programming being on a Saturday and all that. But for me personally, it was day of discovery as well as pride in our local musicians (now, that’s a cause I really get behind!)

It began with lunch with Sean and Dee from Ssighborggg – two expat Americans making a name for themselves in the Seoul indie scene. As always, with music people there is an inexplicable connection that I never take for granted. Fun-loving and humble the duo might be but dead serious when it comes to their music as proven with their distinctive set later that night. One of the most unique aural experiences I have ever had. Kudos!

The absolute highlight for me was the performance of my former NOISE mentees ENEC.E at the Concourse and naturally I was emotionally invested. Just so you know, it was love at first sight with the songs and sisterly harmonies of Lisa and Michelle when I heard them at Thunder Band Slam and I have been a fan since. The stripped down environment suited them somewhat with more emphasis on vocals and ‘feels’ (as the kids like to say) – I must confess that I welled up quite a few times during their spine-tingling set (“Ghost”, “Satellite” & “Crystallized” OMG). Magic!

Lost Weekend – like a few budding bands – had to handle rejection the first time it tried out but the group never gave up and came back stronger. I liked the eclecticism within the band’s early 90s alt-rock vibe and certainly Rachel did her best to capture the crowd’s attention – which she did. Some of the banter was a little awkward, and the band could have been tighter but my feeling is that Lost Weekend is a work-in-progress and that once they hit their stride, they are going to take some stopping. Mark my words!!

Now what can I say about Bani Hidir? I still remember marveling at his drumming skills with the immortal B-Quartet back in 2007-2008 (barely 20 years old) and then falling in love with Page (wherein he sang and played crunching power chords) but last night he impressed the Concourse audience with a set that showcased sophisticated songwriting, mad skills and a boyish confidence that charmed us all! Backed only by the impeccable Naz on piano, Hidir blew everyone away with his seemingly effortless display! So glad that he will be releasing an EP of his new material very soon. Best!

One regional band I was really looking forward to was lightcraft (Indonesia) and they certainly did not disappoint. It was basically unadulterated 90s shoegaze with a hint of the post-punk revival peeping over the reverb-drenched soundscapes. Heavenly! Frontman Imam was intense and driving the band forward with 150% commitment – some of his banter was really emotional and despite the odd technical hitches, the band melted my face many times over. With an epic new song – “The Art of Acceptance” – sweeping me away with waves of white noise I was hypnotized! Best part was that after the show, Imam came up to me and passed me the band’s latest CD – Colours of Joy – humbled! (Glowing review to come…)

Somehow it all came full circle with Inch. My very first Baybeats in 2007 was spent very much hanging out with Allura and living the experience through the eyes of someone like Inch. Hard to imagine how much she has grown up to become the very person she said she would be way back then. Amazing. PoP readers will know how much I loved her sophomore solo effort Bumfuzzle, and “Dear Paramour” had me in tears with the chills running down my spine (not to mention, new song “California”). With a crack band of musicians behind her, Inch ruled the roost and had the audience eating out of her hands – again all I could feel was pride and gratitude for being given the best view in the house for the ongoing development of our indie music scene!

Once again, this post has been personal and confessional and well, nostalgic but honestly I don’t give a fuck. It’s my website and I’ll cry if I want to…

My final word on Day Two goes to Leonard Soosay. Again, I recall chatting with him at that 2007 Baybeats Festival and regret certainly not spending more time with the man since then – he is truly one of the leading legends of our indie music scene when you consider the sheer number of bands and artists he has shepherded in his time as one of our top producers and I really enjoyed our short but insightful chat last night. Something I hope to rectify in the near future – what say you, Leo???

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