This is quite an astonishing line-up of top top #sgindie bands. And all for a good cause – support local!
Pre-sale tickets can be purchased via channelsandterminals.peatix.com.
Only one contender for PoP Album of the Year. JPNSGRLS epitomizes the best hope for the continuing history of Rock ‘n’ Roll even as the tsunami of prefabricated pop threatens to wipe our beloved music off the face of the earth. Nothing remotely hipster-ish about Circulation and thank GOD for that! Find out why below!!
2014 has been a good year for music, make no mistake about that! And as the year draws to a close (yes really!), it’s time to take stock. Power of Pop will be announcing soon a tie-up with the kind folks at Spotify Singapore for you to share with us your favourite 12 tracks for 2014. Stay tuned for the details to come your way very soon. In the meantime, here’s a playlist of 12 tracks that made the Power of Pop alive again this year! Enjoy!
… still there’s more …
The best part of being in Singapore? The availability of awesome #sgindie music at my doorstep! MAAD Sounds has going for it two main things – a wonderful selection of S-ROCK and the presence of the effervescent Andy Yang – artist, musician & all-round fun guy! This Friday, MAAD Sounds returns with four exciting indie rock bands – The Psalms, MONSTER CAT, Spacedays and Ellipis! Don’t miss this!! Check out the music below and will see you tomorrow!
… still there’s more …
Which bands/artists will Power of Pop be focusing on during the next three nights of Baybeats 2014?
STOPGAP | Powerhouse 7.30pm SPHAERAS | Arena 8.00pm DEON | Chillout Stage 9.15pm
JAIME WONG | Chillout Stage 10.15pm GIANTS MUST FALL | Arena 10.15pm
ENEC.E | Chillout Stage 5.00pm LOST WEEKEND | Arena 6.00pm BANI HIDIR | Chillout Stage 7.00pm
SSIGHBORGGG | Arena 8.15pm LIGHTCRAFT | Arena 9.15pm INCH | Arena 10.30pm
PITCH FEATHER | Chillout Stage 5.45pm .GIF | Chillout Stage 6.45pm
PIXEL APARTMENT | Chillout Stage 7.45pm MONSTER CAT | Arena 9pm
Have a great Baybeats weekend!
Empire of the Sun‘s frontman Luke Steele promised an exciting adventure for his band’s performance for the opening concert in The Gathering series. And from a purely visual perspective, EOTS did not let down the sizable audience on Friday, 21st February gathered outdoor at the Fort Canning Park. An amazing light show and colourfully attired dancing girls guaranteed a feast for the eyes during their hour plus set.
Before that, local champions MONSTER CAT thrilled the early birds with a showcase of songs from new album – The Violet Hour – notably first single “Take Me to Love”. The band was somewhat squeezed to the side of the stage (due to EOTS elaborate setup) and thus, the band seemed a little awkward but that didn’t stop the boys from giving their all and doing their ambitious new numbers justice.
What excites me about new music? When my expectations are surpassed and a smile is left on my face gawking at the sheer audacity that caught me by surprise! MONSTER CAT‘s new single – “Take Me to Love” fits the bill perfectly. From it’s atonal opening chord progressions to its funky (?) chorus, “Take Me to Love” comes from left field completely and might possibly be the fucking best new song I’ve heard in 2014 so far. Don’t believe me? Well, listen to the song at Deezer now!
Off the band’s upcoming new album – The Violet Hour – to be released on 3rd March and which you can pre-order now at iTunes. What are you waiting for?
… still there’s more …
My regular readers will be aware of my love of hyperbole. After all, art and music should always be bigger than life and so I am always happy to oblige in that regard. So forgive me, if this post outstrips all previous in the hyperbole department.
No other way to describe the week that will forever be known as The Steve Lillywhite Production Week! As a huge Lillywhite fan (and SGMUSO EXCO member), it was going to be an amazing experience no matter what. However, even that did not prepare me for the surreal, seemingly out-of-body experience that it ultimately turned out to be! See what I mean about hyperbole?!?
I was fortunate enough to sit in the production sessions on the 1st and last day and was thrilled not only to see the legendary Steve Lillywhite in action but to witness the four bands (Atlas, MONSTER CAT, sub:shaman and The Sam Willows) have their collective confidence boosted sky high by a man who so obviously loves good music and music people.
Everyone in the studio was buzzing thanks to Lillywhite’s infectious enthusiasm. It was impossible not to be infected with the buzz! From the bands to the producers to the crew to bystanders (like yours truly), it truly felt like S-ROCK history was unfolding before our very eyes (and ears).
As much as we ourselves believe in S-ROCK, it is re-assuring and comforting to find someone of Lillywhite’s stature to be equally (it not more) excited about the potential and possibilities of the S-ROCK scene. It is validation of our efforts in the scene and our belief in the great S-ROCK bands that toil tirelessly in our sometimes thankless nation.
Best part of all was actually getting to know Lillywhite a bit better and chatting over his experiences producing some of the more important releases of the 80s and 90s. This was aided by Lillywhite’s own humble, down to earth manner – it was impossible not to think of him as a like-minded ally and these are some of the memories I will always treasure.
… still there’s more…
Garden of Youth is a fun-filled, super dynamic event, richly infused with good clean fun, to excite and engage the youth of our nation and bring their vigor and energy into the wonderful Gardens surroundings for a truly uplifting experience. An event bubbling over with the infectious vitality of youth. Especially for youths and absolutely anyone young at heart! 2013 marks the inaugural launch of Garden of Youth a youth-‐centric annual event set in the Gardens, designed for just about anyone ready for a bit of irrepressible fun & youth pop culture. This year, spanning three days from 15th to 17th March, get set for music gigs, bazaar, and a slew of other activities to get totally involved in. Come on down and play!
The Fantastic Picnic Gig: This event is a must for all music lovers out there. Curated by Tiramisu’s lead singer and performance artist extraordinaire, Rizman Putra, this wonderful event platforms English, Mandarin, indie Bands, up and coming young musical talents as well as offer Acoustic Sessions. Visitors can take in the music while lounging on picnic mats to complete the experience. It will be a great way to take in the music of local talents and celebrate the joy of music and life at the Gardens.
The line-up at SuperTree Grove: –
The Fantastic Gig 16 March 2013 Saturday 6pm-11pm
6pm – 6.30pm: Cashew Chemists
7pm – 7.30pm: Pleasantry
8pm – 8.30pm: ANECHOIS
9pm – 9.30pm: Tiramisu
10pm – 10.30pm: MONSTER CAT
The Acoustic Picnic 17 March Sunday 4pm-6pm
It is a good time to be involved in the S-ROCK scene. Interest in the scene is definitely growing as the media gives it attention it properly deserves. More releases, more gigs, more open mikes, more bands, more venues…more, more, more! In the last two weeks, I managed to witness two launches – first, by Another Sunday Afternoon and last Friday, by Obedient Wives Club. These bands are very different in terms of musical approach and execution but share the same passion, talent and ability to touch and thrill true-blue music lovers. Also worth considering – the fledging outfits that opened viz Victoria Street and Rocketswan, interestingly enough, both female-fronted! Exciting times, indeed.
What is S-ROCK in this new indie rock era? Bands that have risen to prominence since 2010 tend to be post-1988 babies and the sum of their influences seems to be the Post-Punk Revival that was crystalized with the arrival of The Strokes, The Killers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The White Stripes and others. Based on the 80s post-punk “movement” of the early to mid-80s, this style and sound is now the pre-eminent indie-alternative rock music of our times. In addition, this sound/style has been closely associated with the “hipster” demographic that is beginning to mark and distinguish this generation somewhat, fairly or not. In any case, here’s a bunch of new S-ROCK bands that come into this equation and it should be interesting to see where these bands will be, come 2015.
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…
KittyWu and MONSTER CAT are happy to announce the release of the official music video for MONSTER CAT’s single “Underwater”. The band has previously only released performance videos, and this marks their first music video production.
“The visual aspect of our music has always been really important to us,” said MONSTER CAT front man Hentai Cat. “From the packaging of our CD to the visual projections during a performance, we’re always interested to explore how our music translates visually.”
This video is yet another step in that direction. Working with a talented and young film crew, “Underwater” —— a haunting song about an intoxicating and destructive love —— was transformed into an equally riveting visual narrative.
Kristen Ong, the director, explained the concept behind the video: “We tried to lock down a simple storyline that mirrored what the song was about, but at the same time, we felt the mood of the song was an equally important element to represent. There are many scenes that act as montage pieces that stitch the whole video together and a lot of attention was also paid to getting the colours and treatment just right.”
The People’s Party is a music festival originally from Hong Kong, this year bringing their lineup of international, regional and local artists to Taipei, Jakarta, and Singapore.
Their two-day Singapore stop kicked off at *SCAPE on Saturday 14 January, with headliners Metronomy (UK) and The Jezabels (Australia), and local and regional acts including Plainsunset, Monster Cat, and Tenderfist (Malaysia). When I first got there, at least half an hour later than the stipulated starting time, there were still only about two dozen people milling about the place. It looked to be a rather dismal audience for the first two performers, Monster Cat and Tenderfist.
Local band Monster Cat’s acoustic-led set was quite a delight, the instrumentation tight and the vocals spot on (both lead vocals and harmonies). Electric guitar effects made up for the lack of a synth/keyboard. Also the sound balance looked set to be at optimum enjoyment level for the rest of the evening – fantastic job, festival sound crew!
By the time Tenderfist took the stage, several more people had filled the ranks of the “early” crowd. Tenderfist, who hail from KL, were a two-man guitar-keyboard band for this event, with a drum machine backing track and loop pedal providing the necessary musical layers. They were engaging and proficient enough in their craft, though not particularly memorable.
Side note: During these first two acts there were a few moments where I wasn’t sure if they were soundchecking or not, because they were signaling to the sound crew about volume levels and whatnot. It was a bit distracting.
Kevin and I missed Plainsunset’s set as we popped over next door to Mandarin Orchard for an interview with The Naked and Famous (to be posted… later). We also didn’t stick around for K8OTIC and Poptart after coming back for The Jezabels’ set, only returning for Metronomy to end off the night.
The Jezabels… where to begin? They were, for lack of a more descriptive word, rather amazing. Despite not having a bassist, this didn’t take away from their overall sound as the keyboards more than made up for it. Their stage presence was like an artfully restrained explosion, with lead singer Hayley Mary appearing lost in the melodies and yet intentionally drawing the audience in at the same time, and with electric guitarist Sam Lockwood giving quite the energetic performance. The effect of the octave-apart blend of Mary’s and keyboardist Heather Shannon’s vocals was intensely atmospheric.
Also, the lighting for both The Jezabels and Metronomy’s sets was mouth-watering; impeccable coordination with the music there.
Metronomy’s brand of electronic pop appealed slightly less to me but that sentiment obviously wasn’t shared by everyone else present – the entire crowd was pulsating with energy at the exuberant and exciting musicality that defined the set. Bassist/vocalist Gbenga Adelekan was a real treat to watch as he worked the audience and delivered every line (both vocal and bass) with infectious conviction. I liked the way they mixed it up by having drummer Anna Prior sing lead vocals (while still drumming!) on one song, and the sax solos by Oscar Cash were an entertaining touch as well.
So The People’s Party headliners did not disappoint, and I’m looking forward to more years of this festival to come, hopefully! It was just a pity – unsurprising, but a pity nonetheless – that the local and regional acts faced such a disinterested turnout and reactions from their home base.
S-Rock Will Never Die
This past weekend has been a eventful one for yours truly as my many different roles in Singapore music rather converged into one hectic three-day sequence.
On Friday, I was the singer-songwriter-mentor performing two sets at MAAD Sounds whilst helping Maricelle and Ming See as best as I could with their own short sets. In an intimate setting, I delivered few of my ‘oldies’ and a couple of new songs (Follow Your Heart, I Lost Myself, Less Than Home) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Then I had to pay special attention as Maricelle and Ming See played three songs each. Still work to be done before they ready for the Noise showcase in March. Thankfully, there’s still time.
On Saturday morning, I attended the Singapore Music Forum and had the pleasure of witnessing the continuing growth of Inch Chua, she was astounding in her delivery of two new songs. Certainly working in LA has improved her skills by leaps and bounds. So much more to expect to this talented young lady. As for the Forum, I was rather disappointed that most of the time was spent with panel speakers trying their best to sell us their products – ‘tooting their own horns’ (I will not even bother to go into detail) and hardly any time given to Singapore music itself. That’s all I am going to say about this…
In truth, I was feeling rather depressed and discouraged after the Forum and was thankful that I could forget and focus on Ming See and Maricelle as they played a couple of songs at OOOM. Maricelle was less nervy than the night before and the performance was better for that. Ming See played a beautifully haunting Reminds Me of You which underlined why I think that she is a songwriter with tremendous potential for depth and substance. I believe that you can catch part of these performances (and more) on Okto in February.
Then it was off to the first day of The People’s Party (with Desiree) – a solid mix of local, regional and international acts, with each accorded due respect. I was particularly struck by Monster Cat’s powerful display of nuance and dynamic and was impressed by their calm assured stage presence. The band is certainly ready for bigger things. I also liked Metronomy’s rather atonal and quirky style (very XTC and Wire influenced) although the standard (jaded) disco beats spoilt it for me somewhat – I am getting so tired of that rhythm now. But the prize for the best performance of the 1st day clearly was won by The Jezabels. The Sydney quartet simply blew the audience away with singer Hayley Mary channeling Belinda Carlisle, Chrissie Hynde and Kate Bush, there was something special going on here and some transcendental moment brought me to tears. A band to watch, no doubt!
Desiree and I took some time off The People’s Party to interview The Naked and Famous (courtesy of Universal Singapore). I found the band down-to-earth – they were pleasantly surprised when I could name a couple of NZ bands (the others in the room had probably heard of) and generally found that ‘cool’. Nice touch! Pity I had to miss their performance…
When I finally got to 2nd day of The People’s Party (after piano class), I caught the kids grooving to psychedelic rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra, which I found strange as the band did not utilized the overused disco beat. The last Singapore Rock band of the Party was the wonderful In Each Hand A Cutlass and it was heartening to see the crowd totally get into IEHAC’s intense instrumental rock. There is still hope for you, Singapore music fan!
I decided to miss TNAF and Bombay Bicycle Club in favour of Lunarin’s launch of The Midas Sessions at the Pigeonhole and definitely there were no regrets on my part. After all, these were people I knew and loved and music made in our very midst. The band played most of the new album and the intimate settings suited the gorgeous ‘chamber’ music to a ‘t’. I was particularly tickled by Linda’s comparison of Singapore Rock to a cockroach. No matter what the challenges may be, Singapore Rock will always survive. That alone was worth being seated right in front of the band savoring every second. Make sure you got hold of the album!!!
And that for me, was the perfect way to end the hectic weekend – with a positive affirmation of Singapore Rock. In the final analysis, even if the government or the record labels or foreign interested parties ignore us, WE will still be hear making our music for ourselves and whoever is interested enough to listen to…
BACKSTAGE after the gig, a flurry of conversation has descended, not unlike the excited chatter of children coming off a roller coaster as they relive the past few minutes in their memories.
Being here as we are at Zouk for the Sport B. Plugged Asian Music Festival 2011, the term backstage is a bit of a misnomer; really we are at a cordoned off section of the club, with only a curtain to protect our privacy.
That’s not stopping any of the band members from fiercely dissecting what went right–and what went wrong–with the gig earlier on.
“We were already having problems with the system during the soundcheck earlier on, though we were hoping it wouldn’t come back during the actual show,” says keyboardist and co-vocalist Black Cat, speaking with an animation that is quite contrary to her languid body language on stage.
“There wasn’t really an ‘oh-shit‘ moment for us on stage because of that, even though the feedback was really bad, and Psycho Cat couldn’t hear his guitar at all. You just have to pretend it’s part of the show though; you can’t show any panic to the audience.”
Black Cat goes on to break down the performance, visibly wincing as she talks about the vocal performance aspect of the show. Unfortunately for the band, Black Cat had passed on a virus to frontman Hentai Cat before the show, one serious enough to pose difficulties for the two singers in the band.
True enough, midway through our chat Black Cat gets up and apologises before rushing off to the washroom.
In the midst of all the bustle is the quietly exhausted Psycho Cat, sitting wordlessly on the couch with the hood of his jacket flipped up to shield his face, his neck resting on his guitar’s.
I focus on this image for a while, shutting out the noise and putting the surroundings into blur for a second, admiring the mise-en-scène of this particular moment, wishing, not for the first time, that I was a photographer instead of a writer.
Band manager Errol Tan soon comes along to break Psycho Cat’s reverie, all business-like, efficiently conducting a debrief of the gig while at the same time updating them briskly about their upcoming Esplanade show.
The band members trade wisecracks, and then as quickly as it was convened, the debrief breaks up into a flurry of packing.
The club is clearing rapidly now, the music festival well and truly over. It’s still too early in the night for Zouk to morph into a party haven, which leaves us with the curious and sad sight of an empty venue.
Stripped of the beautiful people, the dance floor looks pitifully forlorn, beckoning ineffectually with its lights and smoke for bodies to come hither.
In a few hours‘ time, it will be business as usual for Zouk, with alcohol-fueled strangers pressing tight against each other in time to the pounding subterranean rhythms.
It will be all too easy then for one to slip into the crowd and feel lost in humanity and hedonism. Right now, though, in the empty bricks and mortar, all one feels is alone.
TWO weeks later, we are charging down the corridors of the Esplanade backstage, preparing ourselves for the Monster Cat invasion of the Bay.
Tonight marks the second day of Spread The Love, an event which will also see the likes of Inch Chua and B-Quartet gracing the same stage.
There is nothing unremarkable in the air, but this is something of a game-changing weekend for local scene buffs, with Inch soon to leave the country for greener shores and B-Quartet about to take an extended, indefinite break.
Earlier on I had met up with the band at the Outdoor Theatre, where they were conducting the post-mortem of their soundcheck with friend and Leonard Soosay, going over minor technical details while the band members stood in a circle smoking.
After that was done with the programme had proceeded swiftly: backstage to the dressing room to dump their stuff, then dinner.
Because I am technically not a member of their entourage, we have opted for the rock and roll thing to do, sneakily smuggling me past the Pearly-Gates-strict security of the Esplanade, where once again the security guard gave me a suspicious once-over before letting me through.
(It seems I have no luck with guest passes, legit or otherwise.)
As we march past the checkpoint and into the elevator, I ask the band if this particular performance holds any special significance to them, seeing as how it was their rejection from Baybeats that kickstarted this whole meowmeow shebang.
Hentai Cat shrugs.
“It’s not very special, honestly. We’ve all played here before with our respective previous bands, so for us to play here again as Monster Cat doesn’t make much of a difference. I suppose Baybeats might be something else because of the glamour around it, but tonight is just like any other night for us.”
Be that as it may, that doesn’t stop the band from trooping into the dressing room with the glee of school-kids.
Black Cat heads straight into the luxuriously large bathroom, reveling in the acoustics as she lets her voice soar free. Psycho Cat is next to follow, except he unleashes a cat-like yelp, which sounds especially feline drowned in the reverb of the bathroom.
Hentai Cat too is not immune to a bout of playfulness: he sits down at the dressing mirror, inspects the lights surrounding it, then mimicks a choir of angels singing Handel’s Messiah as he flicks the switch on and off again.
(Though notably more subdued, the rhythm section are not altogether free from antics.
Later on after dinner, while Black Cat is in the bathroom changing, drummer Zen Cat will do the same outside, nonchalantly dropping trou in full view of Psycho, who disbelievingly declares his outrage at the indecent exposure.)
AFTER the band has settled in comfortably Hentai Cat rises to his role of the US again, ordering dinner upon a coalition of the willing. On the way out backstage we pass a well-known local classical musician throwing a huffy diva fit, and we just about manage to hold it together until we reach the elevator, where we explode into girlish giggles.
We regroup with Leonard at the food centre. Having spent months in the studio with him the band obviously hold him in high affection, none more so than Black Cat.
Theirs is an easy friendship that manifests itself in the inside jokes and the effortless repartee. They talk about the mutual friends they have from the local scene, about each other, about nothing at all in particular, shooting the breeze. The rhythm is only broken when an auburn cat with golden eyes enters the scene to distract everyone.
Presently a plate of cockles arrives for Leonard’s dinner. Save the man himself most everyone reacts with dismay, Black Cat in particular. He starts upon the plate, polishing
the cockles off with impressive efficiency while the band looks on worriedly.
This will not do. Apparently health issues are at stake, and besides, the horrors of Hepatitis B are ever-present. Fueled by righteousness and worry and visions of Leonard’s poor liver, Black Cat launches into a bout of Soosay-nagging. This goes on for a while until Leonard takes a break and takes the mickey, faking a heart attack, grasping his chest, eyes rolling upwards while his tongue lolls around.
For the briefest moment, an expression flickers across Black Cat’s face, flashed and smothered within the same second, too quick to be read or noticed by anyone else at the table.
Then we lapse back into the same domestic dynamic. Black Cat nags at Leonard about his medication, who responds only in grumpy grunts in the affirmative until she is finally satisfied.
The cat with golden eyes watches all this in quiet, then stretches slowly before ambling away, disappearing into the nearby bushes.
Tonight sees the band going out even further on the avant-garde front than they did at Zouk. Earlier, during the soundcheck, Jun had taken the liberty of setting up four television screens and a projector, except…unlike Zouk, here at the Waterfront’s outdoor stage there is no video wall for his images to dance upon.
This proves to be a small issue, necessity being as it is the mother of invention. In lieu of the video wall Jun projects onto the band and the stage itself, turning their bodies into canvas, the artists into art.
This time he spares not even himself: in a tacit acknowledgement that the visual element is a crucial component of the live experience, tonight Jun is on stage with the rest of the band.
To start off, we are treated to a short clip of a man talking about eating little boys (nothing sets the mood quite like pedocannibalism) before the band starts on Initiation, the dissonant, ambient opening track of the EP.
Black Cat, who has changed into an achingly beautiful grey dress that flows down to her feet, is gently shaking an ornament not unlike a miniature temple gong, whispering softly into her mic as Jun conjures up distorted images of shadows and tall trees.
Presently the band rustles to a stop and the shot stabilises. Foliage gives way to a camera gliding above a road as Black Cat swells up a ghostly intro to Mannequins, a stark and urgent number that is all frenetic piano eighths and snarling vocals. On top of the instrumentation Hentai Cat intones a warning to the audience to run for their fuckin‘ lives, while Copy Cat stomps around the stage to the march of Zen Cat’s insistent beat. (Interesting point to note: at any one time, Copy Cat is bound to be the only member on stage who does not look miserable.)
As I watch the show before me unfold I marvel once again at Jun‘s brilliance. In his own understated way, Jun is as much a musician as any of the other band members on stage, mixing rhythmically, layering image upon image, jamming along brilliantly in visual key.
As Black Cat plays a piano interlude, he overlays faces with city lights that give way to water, foreshadowing the majestic and magnetic intro of Underwater.
I suddenly understand that the band has been counting on Jun to transform their barebones visual look into something terrible and beautiful. In the dressing room earlier on, the face paint the band had been applying had looked garish and slightly ridiculous.
Under the glow of art things look quite different. Hentai Cat is seething with barely restrained emotion, the watery images combining with the make-up to create an unsettling, vampiric effect.
One is used to pre-recorded visual elements being used to enhance live performances, such as with the likes of Pink Floyd, U2 or Nine Inch Nails. Here, however, the human element of improvisation wins out: the effect is both hypnotic as well as gorgeously organic, live in a larger sense of the word.
Live is also the arena for some interesting, if subtle, changes. The Courier is a shy and subtle creature on the record; tonight however they have traded in some of the studio atmospherics for a relentless martial cry.
This makes for an interesting marriage between softness and violence that continues through to their next number, a cover of Nirvana’s You Know You’re Right.
Talk is at a premium tonight; musical interludes fill the spaces that other bands would have used for banter. This time Hentai, Psycho and Black sigh in three-part harmony, ebbing and flowing not unlike the waves breaking at the Waterfront behind them.
Psycho Cat takes the vocal for this one, leading the band into a rendition that is a tad more finessed and atmospheric than the original until halfway through Zen Cat raps out a furious eight-count on the snare. Following his cue, the band erupts into a Pixie-like burst of noise and light that Black Francis himself would have been proud of.
Then we are into the closing numbers of the set, with the sombre outro mantra of These Hands punctuated by random drum shots that lead to a rhythmic interplay between Zen Cat’s hi-hat, muted strumming on Hentai’s acoustic guitar and light splashes of piano from Black Cat.
This is Salem, an as-yet-unrecorded track on which Psycho again takes the lead vocal, backed up by beautiful harmonies from Hentai and Black Cat.
Over this intricately woven vocal tapestry, Jun spins a web from corrupted, stained film reels spliced with psychedelic colours.
This acid trip gradually morphs into a shot of a cat, lingering for a while like a Cheshire smile. And…fade to black.
LATER, while the band tears down, I head over behind the stage to say hi and also bye.
This will be the last gig of the interview, which has taken up almost three months of the year now.
By now Errol has arrived upon the scene, looking terse and stern.
I scuttle up forward to ask about the band’s upcoming tour of Japan. This puts him in a much more cheerful mood as he talks about November’s Japan Music Week, where from the 7th to the 16th the band will be playing at various locations in Tokyo, sharing the stage on occasion with local singer-songwriter Nicholas Chim.
“We’re trying to subsidize the trip by applying for grants (from the relevant government bodies), but at the moment it’s all coming out of our pockets,” explains Errol.
N.B. At press time, the band has already received grants from several government agencies such as the National Arts Council, Media Development Authority and Singapore International Foundation. They would like everyone to know that the funding is helping a great deal towards paying for their trip to Japan. Meow.
Copy Cat proceeds to elaborate a bit more on the preparations for Japan.
“It’s been very stressful because we’ve been working at preparing our posters and design material. We’re actually looking forward to seeing how the album packaging will be received there as well, because that’s another aspect of our art that we’ll like to bring forward. We take the visual and design aspect of the band as seriously as the musical aspects, so we consider the girl who works with us on the design stuff (Paper Cat) a part of the band as well.
“Because Japan is a place with such a rich musical culture, it’s a real privilege to be part of what’s going on. We’ll actually be concentrating all our efforts on Tokyo because unlike Singapore, Tokyo is more dense and different crowds go to different clubs all the time.
“Tokyo sets the bar. We have about 5 gigs lined up with two still to be confirmed, so if it goes through we’ll be playing 7 shows in 10 days, which is more than we have in Singapore!”
One gets the feeling that for all of their avant-garde aspirations, this is still a band that ultimately works by a certain strategic pragmatism which doesn’t keep its fingers crossed for favours.
At Starbucks (an interview that seems ages ago now) Psycho Cat and I had energetically debated the merits–or lack thereof–of a compliment from a friend.
“I think it’d be unhealthy to get carried away with good feedback,” he had said dubiously.
“It’s more helpful to think we suck! Most of the feedback we’ve gotten are from our friends anyway, so I don’t know if you can trust the good reviews.”
It seems the band is keen not to suffer compliments lightly.
I think back to my notes, where I had scribbled streams of consciousness about the soul and spirit of the band, about the girl standing quietly in the arms of her lover in the middle of The Courier, tears glistening on her face.
Black Cat takes this anecdote with a pinch of a salt.
“I don’t think we should take the credit for that, “ she says doubtfully, shrugging her shoulders.
“Maybe her cat had just died or something.”
P.S. In part one of this interview, we mistakenly attributed Hentai Cat with quoting J.K. Rowling (“…Poverty is romanticized only by fools…”). In actual fact this quote came courtesy of Copy Cat. We offer the band our sincerest apologies, and also catnip. Meow meow.
(Samuel C Wee)
I’m MIDWAY through my first ever Monster Cat gig, and things are not going too well.
The already incongruous sight of a rock band in full flight on the dance floor of local superclub Zouk is being compounded by a decidedly unwelcome screech of feedback.
The explanation is almost comically sci-fi, according to frontman Hentai Cat, 26: apparently, the electromagnetic waves from the strong neon lights on stage are creating a magnetic interference playing havoc with the electric guitars.
I am here with fellow PoP writer CJ, and there is something inexorably fascinating about watching a band struggle to fit into a system that is trying to spit them out, trying to expel the foreign bodies transplanted into its midst.
It’s the alchemy of a rock band trying to turn lead into gold, and slowly but surely the song is beginning to gel. Halfway through I turn to shout to CJ, who is standing by my side. As we are, though standing in front of the speaker stacks, he doesn’t hear anything, and besides he is already transfixed.
I turn my attention back to the stage, where Hentai Cat is busy bellowing into the mic, his voice struggling to find its key in the midst of the metal machine music.
Midway through however, he catches my glance and lets slip a grin and a wink.
Suddenly the mood shifts; suddenly the weight lifts. For a moment we are fearless.