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Jan 092012

The first major rock festival this year arrives on our shores this weekend as The People’s Party takes place from 3pm to 10pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Looking at the wide array of bands, it’s comforting that the organizers have made it a point to spread the range of bands over several countries from local to regional to international. With top headliners like Metronomy, The Naked & Famous and Bombay Bicycle Club mixing it up with our very own Monster Cat, Plainsunset, The Analog Girl, Muon and In Each Hand A Cutlass, The People’s Party sounds like a groovy ground-breaking event not to be missed.

Tickets available at SISTIC.

Nov 222011

Fred Perry Subculture Night – The Perfect Fifth at Zouk, Singapore

The fifth time worked the charm – and shamefully, it was my very first.

Fashion and music reunited once again for another night out in this city, this time around for Fred Perry, well-known for its laurel wreath, tip and tennis connection. Head-turning performing bands were all dolled up in their latest apparel, while striking their very own musical stuff onstage. It was good to see them drenched (applicable to both bands and apparels here).

The night of music opened up with We The Thousands, rocking it out like true progressive and alternative rockstars do, and it could not have been a better way to jumpstart the night and the mood of the show into. Anthems-arising, punchline-worthy and heartfelt emotions were delivered rocksteadily throughout their set, and it would not have been a complete We The Thousands set without the lads leaving us begging for more with a rockout and “dramatic” finale that involved some very active pouncing about the limited space stage.

The Lost Hat serenaded the mixed crowd of some foreigners and mostly hippies next. With samples and background of different musical instruments, they engaged the crowd more so with their charisma, clearly knowing and hitting on the right notes and spots that the audience were all just out to have a good ball of a Friday night time. Lead singer Faizal Bohtiar did his best in pouring out his feelings into the microphone and onto the stereos, and nothing beats that with a smart cap (probably from Fred Perry, too) and an accordion in hand. Some soulful singalong, accompanying handclaps and bodies swaying were infectiously caught on. The Lost Hat looked more than pleased to have worked and engaged the crowd in this way and manner they did.

Heavyweights Plainsunset rounded up the enjoyable night, and was the main reason for the attendance of many out there that night. How did I know that, you may ask? The lips motioning and singing along clearly and in sync with the lyrics of their songs, and the noticeable male fanatic standing directly below Jonathan Chan, messy hair-banging to every tune, whom was also namedropped collectively by the band members. This definitely comes with the many years of experience and being in the local music scene, which we all have to give kudos to the band for staying and sticking around for some long, in something we all know could be tougher than meets the eye and a constant struggle to find oneself in. To all Plainsunset fans that were not there, here’s something to get jealous about – they debuted a new track that they had been working on for the first time.

Thank you to all the bands that performed and lit up the stage that night – rounding up: We The Thousands, The Lost Hat and Plainsunset – and not forgetting, making it possible, Fred Perry. And thanks for the Fred’s Punch, a special cocktail concocted by 42 Below given freely throughout the night! We had a blast, and till the next time.




 MUSIC  Comments Off
Nov 172011

Tis a good time to be a S-ROCK fan! Especially this weekend as two significant events take place which spotlight the local talents we have in our very own indie music scene.

First up, on Friday 18th November, the fifth installment of Fred Perry Subculture Night goes down at Zouk from 8pm (doors open at 7.30pm) with We The Thousands, Lost Hat and punk vets Plainsunset. On Saturday, 19th November, the likes of In Each Hand A Cutlass (above), Ingride, Run Neon Tiger, Obedient Wives Club, Cheating Sons and Plainsunset (once again!) bring S-ROCK to Tiong Bahru Park for LEPA(R)K!

So there you go – take your pick or take it all – the choice is yours. Fly the flag, come on down, see you in the pit…



 MUSIC  Comments Off
Nov 062011


No, this is not another whinge about how poorly Singaporean bands/musicians are supported in their homeland. At least, it’s not intended to be. As the manager of Cheating Sons, I have witnessed first hand how a Singapore band is received outside of its own country and it is often disappointing to come home from that high to play to less than enthusiastic audiences.

In my 20s, there was barely a local music scene (other than cover bands) and bands/musicians were treated with some contempt as useless good-for-nothing slacker hooligans who should cut their hair and get a proper job. Much has changed of course and even the powers-that-be are beginning to recognize that rock bands who play original English music (S-ROCK) have a part to play in the development of a vibrant arts, cultural and entertainment scene in Singapore.

The dilemma is a classic chicken-and-egg situation. Local music fans are very brand-consious when it comes to music and obviously Singapore rock bands have no brand value at the moment. But in order to concoct an image and build up a repertoire that will achieve a substantial fan base, these bands must first be given a chance to shine, that is to say, Singaporean audiences would have to – in George Michael’s parlance – ‘listen without prejudice’.

And as wonderful as it is for us to have top notch foreign bands playing in Singapore, wouldn’t it be amazing for local music fans to be living in a vibrant music scene similar to that in Iceland or New York or London? Imagine if you had been able to watch U2 or Radiohead grow from a local band (in Dublin or Oxford, respectively) to an international act – wouldn’t that be something to be proud of or to brag about?

Seriously folks, music fandom is the most important component of a thriving music scene, more than bands/musicians, promoters or government organizations. Thus, if you are reading this and you are a music fan living in Singapore, I would entreat you to give S-ROCK a chance! You can do so by coming down to LEPA(R)K! at Tiong Bahru Park on Saturday, 19th November from 5pm to 10pm when bands like Plainsunset, Cheating Sons, In Each Hand A Cutlass, Obedient Wives Club, Ingride and Run Neon Tiger will be performing. Existing S-ROCK fans, I would encourage you to take on the mantle of S-ROCK evangelists and try to get as many people as humanly possible down to LEPA(R)K to celebrate and enjoy some great rock music. Let’s make sure that this will not be the only time that a CC supports a S-ROCK event. It’s all in your hands…

Admission is FREE.



Tonight was the night of wrap party for the Rock Your World series at Timbre @ Substation. I was looking forward to the good food and company. But apparently, apart from the bands performing I was the only invited musician that turned up. Wonder what that says about me. Sadly, the Groovy Persons who were supposed to come both couldn’t make it. Wonder what that says about me…probably nothing.


Whatever, nevermind. The food was excellent and one serving more or less satisfied my craving. The music was good with Jack and Rai, West Grand Boulevard and Plainsunset providing great acoustic entertainment. Jack complained about the nightmares he and Rai have been having trying to their album out. It’s been awhile and I hope and pray that the prolonged delay will be over soon so that I can get my grubby hands on a copy of In Stores Now. 

West Grand Boulevard is a popular rock band in Singapore and they are known for their energetic live sets. But tonight I saw another side of them that I really liked. Without the sound and fury, I could really appreciate the melodies of their material and loved the harmonies of Brian and Dharma. Good stuff. Plainsunset closed out the night with a clutch of their beloved tunes. Strictly Jon and Sham, Jon weathered the effects of the flu to turn in a competent vocal performance. You do know that the band has an album out now right? And you do know that its an essential purchase right? Course you do.

More than food and music, it was fun to chat with Danny Loong on some future musical plans and enjoying good conversation with Jon, a real gent and an asset to the Singapore music scene. The man has a solo show coming to the Esplanade Rectal Studio in July – more of that to come. A shout out as well to Jon Hemsley, Sameer and Ben and of course good ol’ Aloy. 

… and there’s more …


Now you may have read me complaining before about how inappropriate Zouk is as a venue for a rock show. And last night’s launch of Plainsunset’s instant classic of a new album was no different, sad to report. Despite all that, Plainsunset really did put on a ROCK SHOW! 

After 12 years together as a band, Plainsunset knows what it takes to entertain their devoted fan base. With Jon’s affable stage presence, flanked by Sham and Nizam’s kinetic energy and of course propelled by the indefatigable Ronny, who pummels the drum set so effortlessly – the powerful modern tuneful pop-punk that radiates from the quartet can get quite irresistible. The new songs were received with enthusiasm – Johari Window, Interference, River Song and Children – all lapped up by their adoring fans. 

But… almost by cue, once the band launched into an extended selection of their earlier old-school punk material, the body-surfing began in earnest! This is what the fans were waiting for and Zouk was converted into a Singapore indie mosh pit – a sight to behold! 

Even as the band closed out its encore with their signature song – Plainsunset – the buzz in the packed crowd was palpable as all agreed that they had witnessed a monumental gig – despite the technical sound glitches along the way – the strong stench of sweaty bodies permeated the club as the throng made its way outdoors. A magical night – made all the more enjoyable by great company – Mike, Song, Fir, Audie, Josh, Jon, Iain and so on. Thanks also to the WakeMeUp guys viz, Esmond, John, Jon, Sameer for making it possible for Power of Pop to be a part of Singapore music history in the making…

Pix by Fir.



Not many Singapore bands manage to release 4 albums, how do you feel about that? 

Never really thought about that before, but now that I have, I’m quite chuffed!

What was the motivation to record this album? 

I’d say it was natural progression. We knew we were in a different place musically, and to me, it was just a logical thing. We just wanted, and hoped people appreciated what we were, and still are about.

Why did Plainsunset break up in 2004? 

I guess we plead burnout, plus busy-ness, working life and all that. I think a little cabin fever was creeping in but it was more a case of working styles than anything personal. I suppose we never considered taking time off instead.

Why did you decide to reunite? 

I guess the summary was that we just missed it. Funny story; by the end of ’05, the idea was tossed around and we agreed to do a one-off for Baybeats in ’06. But then Nizam asked why we never thought of a full-on comeback for good. Sham asked me what I thought, and I said,” Well, if Ronny wants to…,”  Later, I heard Ronny said “I thought it WAS for good!?” So we decided to keep it a classified operation, top secret. 8 Jan ’06 was the first meet in TNT studios, the first time we’re in the same room at the same time in two years. We spontaneously managed to bang out what later became ‘Interference’. We decided to have a band meeting over teh and prata at Bencoolen straight after the jam, to discuss the why’s, how’s and all that about a reunion, and before we even sat down, someone across the coffeeshop yelled ‘Plainsunset!’. True story.

Plainsunset is one of very few Singapore bands from the 90s to survive intact, what do you attribute that fact to? 

We never really thought about that. It’s not been part of a mission for us to stay. It’s odd but we’re not as close as some bands are, like our lives do not revolve around the band, but at the same time we try to retain a sense of humor when we get together. Maybe that’s it, I dunno. Boundaries, probably? That does help, I’m told.

Can you tell me about the high points of your 12 year existence?

I’d say one thing was the very first tour in NZ. It felt like we were one of the guys we listen to in Lookout records or something- touring a tiny van, sleeping in people’s living rooms, eating instant noodles at gas stations, etc. For an unknown tiny Asian band touring a Caucasian-dominated nation, it felt great, like we did one for our side. Ronny would probably say the gigs. I reckon when they go well (and we’ve have bad days), it feels great.

Any low ones?

A low is when a set goes bad. We had one a long time ago, when one of us was in a bad mood, it was like quicksand- everything went wrong. We’ve had people believe stuff about us that isn’t true- a particular station thought we were arrogant, acting like bigshots. I looked back, and reviewed it, know it’s not true- the host and crew came out with us for a smoke right after. Ah well…what to do?

Was it easier or harder to record the new album compared to say, Runaway?

This was an easy album to write, but hard to record. We had to work to a metronome for the first time in our lives so it was a struggle at first. At the same time, we had to record it twice because something went wrong the first time. But it was a blessing in disguise because it sounded better and got easier the second time around. But we’re proud of this album, we really are. It truly is a milestone for us as a band I think.

What was the songwriting / recording process behind the new songs?

In the writing process, some songs came easily for us. One or two were straight jams starting from noodling and doodling. Others were me having a chorus, lyrics and a chord progression, bringing everything in and the boys adding their own magic.

Theme wise it was a clear-cut difference this time. I talked a lot about people I can’t stand, things like post-modernity which is inevitable, but still terrible for morality. Also themes like personality differences came in, had tons of material to write about.

Recording is fast for us- we usually already know what parts and arrangements we’ll play before we go in. It saves a lot of money for us that way.  

What do you hope to achieve with the new album?

My hope of hopes is that we’ll record something that is beyond fashion and trends in music- timeless. Whether we’ve succeeded, only time will tell. We also want to go for ‘evocative’ rather than ‘clever’. I’m also hoping that somehow people will hear this as a tribute to our eclectic taste and turn to music’s history, not just what they hear on the radio. There’s a lot that I’ve personally gotten into the last few years- Mission Of Burma, Bowie, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, besides like Fugazi and all…I have finally begun to understand what makes them great, and hope that the kids nowadays can share that experience and not limit themselves.

Why should anyone buy the album?

They should buy the album so that I can afford a BMW, HEH!!

I think they should buy the album because we’re hoping to represent the Lion City in a different way; patriotic without being propaganda-ish. I’m also hoping that they’ll expand their music tastes after this album. Of course, this is HOPE…

What are your plans to promote the new album?

We’ll do the launch at Zouk. It’s apt because it was where we launched the common favorite (LovesongsForTheEmotionallyWounded), and at the same time they really know how to put up a show there. Then we’ll do a couple of videos. All this on top of the usual appearances. It’s not quite as busy as before, but now we’re working stiffs, and one of the conditions of the return was to not work quite as hard as before.

Will the album be released overseas and do you intend to tour outside Singapore?

We haven’t really spoken of it yet, but we’re idly exploring possibilities. Right now we just want to scratch an itch that’s almost two years late. Touring and all is a hope, but reality may come at us like pie in the face.

Plainsunset play a great live show which is always received with enthusiasm by your audiences – what is your secret?

I think we’re all natural attention seekers! Heh! Somebody said that we sound exactly like our albums. That’s coz’ we record exactly like we’re live!

Do you have a message for your fans?

Take yourself seriously enough to practice lots and work hard, but recognize that at the end of the day, don’t take yourself too seriously and lose your whole identity in it. It’s not Jon Chan, frontman for Plainsunset first, son second, etc. If that’s it, there’s something seriously wrong.

Thanks to Jon for cool answers and to Esmond for setting it all up. Plainsunset’s eponymous 4th album is in stores now. Go for it!


PLAINSUNSET Self-titled (Wake Me Up Music/Universal)

I must say, right off the bat, that it has been an absolute pleasure reviewing this album. Honestly, it has been on heavy rotation on my iPOD since I received the advance tracks weeks ago and it has been loads of fun. So, here’s the play by play review.

Johari Window

A magnificent 6-minute opening introduction to the “new” Plainsunset. Eschewing its punk-pop roots, PS plunges into a throbbing amalgam of New Order, Weezer and Switchfoot that grabs your attention and never lets go, despite its length. You’re gonna be bopping.


Remarkably, PS ups the ante with this thoughtful rocker and a chorus that will have all and sundry singing along – “Who are we to interfere with you/Interfere with me/Interference”. Indeed. 

De Oppresso Liber

The mark of a first class songwriter – choruses that hook the listener and then reel them in. The chorus here is reminiscent of one of my favorite bands viz. Watashi Wa (a defunct Tooth and Nail band) and is strong enough to run and run. No mean achievement.


… and the hits keep on comin’ – Children is probably the song I go to the most on this album. It’s a mid-tempo beauty with yet another killer chorus and a wonderfully controlled vocal performance from Jon Chan. And the sweet dedication at the end is the icing on the cake…


Unusually, one of the weaker tracks here finds PS attempting a more classic rock sound. Doesn’t quite work out, guys. I appreciate eclecticism but the experiment doesn’t pan out.

Song of Achilles

… but here’s an experiment that does succeed. Progressive-punk is probably an unwieldy description but great instrumental performance from the band. Kudos to Jon, Sham, Nizam and Rony!) Debuted live at Baybeats 2007, it’s an inventive and interesting track.

River Song

Simply lovely. A song about the Singapore River. Hopefully, one day, this will be a National Day song. Dreamy and blissfully melodic. A nice change of pace to most of this rollicking album.

Postcards from Paradise

A little too much emo-punk by-the-numbers with a thin melodic line that doesn’t quite leave any mark.

Sweetest Nothings

I like this! Slightly folk-rock-centric with its twangy guitar and mannered vocal. Again, the tune could have done with beefing up but the overall vibe is pleasing.

Greatest Days

And so the boys end this heady trip with a back-to-basics punk pop hammering that will certain get the “indie” kids moshing! Good energy and attitude – old school style…

In the final analysis, one could safely say that PS has “re-invented” itself to suit modern times and has succeeded gloriously. Over the course of these 10 tracks, there are hiccups and missteps but all relatively minor when held up to the power of the many many highlights found here. It may be a cliche to declare that Plainsunset is an essential album for all fans of the Singapore music scene.

But it’s the honest-to-goodness truth


The punk kids are back!

Yeah, I know that Plainsunset has been around for 12 years and is described as a ‘veteran’ band but they’ll always be the punk kids that released that Runaway CD, back who knows when. 

What does that say about me, eh?

Anyways, the big news is come the 26th of May, Universal Music will release Plainsunset’s eponymous fourth album! Now, for a scene that chews and spits out young bands all too frequently, this alone is a tremendous achievement. 

The album showcases a very modern sonic approach from Plainsunset, maintaining its melodic thrust and manic energy but remaining relevant with the times at the same time. Not only that, there’s a certain commercial edge to the proceedings with tracks like Johari Window, The River Song and Children sure to prick up the ears of even the mainstream audiences. Loads of potential to travel outside of Singapore as well.

Another date to note is 13th June when the band hosts its album launch party at Zouk Club. Yeah, know what you’re thinking – Zouk is the WORST place for a band to play but there you go…

Entry is only allowed for those 18 and above. Every CD purchased comes with a ticket to the launch party (limited to first 500 free on entry).  Tickets will be sold at the door at S$15.

So, expect a gushing review here soon and hopefully a band interview as well…

… and there’s more …

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