It’s certainly heartening to see Singapore Rock (or S-ROCK) finally begin to get its dues in its hometown in 2015. It seems that suddenly everybody in Singapore loves S-ROCK! Well, that’s an exaggeration of course but we have come a long way from 2005, to say the least. But whilst it’s great to see all and sundry jumping on the bandwagon now (including an app by that very name!), I just want to put on record that Power of Pop has been supporting S-ROCK for over 15 years and we will never ever stop! So, here’s your S-ROCK flashback for today. Enjoy!


Big Music for the Golden Age

“Our vision and mission is such that we want to change people with our music, in a sense to bring people together and to learn how to love. Music is something that engages every individual’s emotions, very directly in fact. In this way, we can have very personal contact with the listener, even without them being in our presence. That’s what we hope our songs can do” – Josh Tan

As a mission statement, I’d wager that there are precious few corporate entities, never mind fledging Singaporean rock bands, that can boast such vision, such singleness of purpose. But that’s exactly what the Fire Fight is all about. Believe it!

Currently serving their country in National Service, this quartet of quiet yet strident souls, has its eye firmly on the ball and are convicted about giving the best of themselves, when it comes to life and music.

When I first meet the Fire Fight, I am a little taken aback by how fresh-faced they all look. Singer-guitarist Josh, drummer Iain, lead guitarist Jon and bass player JBarks come across as decent, well-groomed young men which belies the fire in their collective bellies (sorry…).

I put it to them that the proverbial “man-in-the-street” in Singapore has very different views about Singapore music – that it is negative, dark, dissident. Is it a conscious choice to do something different? To that, the band expressed that they don’t really associate themselves as part of the local indie scene (such as it is) in the sense that they feel responsible for the music they create – that it should come from a positive (as opposed to) negative place.

This leads on to a thoughtful discourse on music making – on how positivism can be conveyed and communicated through the tunes or lyrics, which makes an emotional connection with the listener. The band endeavors to touch their listeners on both levels. Thus the music is structured to enhance the emotional impact of the lyrics.

The band got together in June 2005 but made their debut public appearance at the Baybeats 2007 auditions in January 2007! Principally, the Fire Fight came together through their mutual association with Sonic Edge, a church-affiliated organization that reaches to young people inclined towards arts and music. Except perhaps JBarks, whom Josh knew through his other band A Vacant Affair.

Despite being singular in purpose, the guys in the Fire Fight, bring diverse talents and abilities to the table, so to speak. Iain is the calm and collected one, who sees the big picture, without fussing too much over details. Josh, is the obvious leader, the focal point who drives the band forward. Jon brings a lot of energy, a kind of hyperactivity that keeps the band going, especially when heads may be tempted to drop. JBarks is the quiet, phlegmatic one, who knuckles down to get the job done without complaint. “He’s our Adam Clayton!” three voices chorus…

So, why did it take two years for the Fire Fight to surface?

Less of a concerted plan than a product of circumstances, as half the band had just commenced their National Service, only weekends were available and as the Fire Fight was just a new band, it took time to come up with material and to hone the songs to something the band felt could be presented to a live audience. Since January this year, the band has managed to get themselves on high profile gigs, like opening for Anberlin & Copeland and a spot on the recently well-received Rock for Wayne event. And of course, Baybeats 2007.

Generally, word of mouth on the band has been very encouraging and no wonder, when you consider that the anthemic quality of the songs bear strong imprints of epic 80s bands like U2, the Police, Tears for Fears and Big Country. The band mentions Death Cab for Cutie, Maritime, Promise Ring, Velvet Teen & Jamiroquai, whilst Josh namechecks A-Ha and Manic Street Preachers for his vocal stylings.

I ask the band to comment on a certain view that local bands nowadays were a spoilt and complacent bunch. That they have so many opportunities to perform that they believe that just because they’re on stage they deserve appreciation and applause.

As Josh responds, I sense a little bit of indignation – “the local indie scene here did not receive any aid from the government or the people. I’ve been playing for six years in the scene, none of our shows were backed by the government or the people but by organizers who believed in the scene and the bands. I don’t think we are spoilt – especially the slightly older generation of bands – we fought really hard for what we have now. Maybe the newer bands – due to the hype about the local scene – may have that attitude but this is probably because there is no mentorship within the scene, to guide them along. Nonetheless, the public does not appreciate local bands and everyone expects our music to be free. They don’t consider the fact that we are sacrificing a lot of our time, our youth and our finances, when we are so limited in funding and they expect us to give something so freely and I feel that it is the general public who has misunderstood us. Every body is willing to pay, even to for MTV to watch American bands when honestly, not all of them are good.”

An excellent answer, if I say so myself!

Articulate, thoughtful and intelligent – the Fire Fight is exactly the kind of band, the Singapore music scene needs to shake off stereotypes and mindsets currently entrenched in the general public. If we are to have a liberal arts and entertainment scene in this vibrant, global city, we must engender an environment where bands like the Fire Fight may thrive and grow to their fullest potential. Who is to say that the Fire Fight will find a place in the hearts of Malaysians, Australians and Japanese rock music fans? All they need is the belief and the support. The big question is there anyone out there in Singapore listening?

You can, of course, when you make your way down to Baybeats 2007 on 5th August at Nokia Arena from 7.30pm.

(Originally published in 2007)