NIGHTS out with Adrian Jones, the always-colourful frontman of power trio Basement In My Loft, are invariably bound to turn surreal.

Here I am, the Singaporean army boy slash music writer, seated at an Irish pub along East Coast Park with a Welsh skinhead and his respiratory disease specialist girlfriend.

A minor furor has conspired to occur here tonight; a favourite vegetarian burger has gone AWOL from the menu. Foul play is suspected.

Said Welsh skinhead is currently engaged in a half-serious heated discussion with the manager, who faces the daunting task of trying to account to the punk rocker the mysterious disappearance of the veggie burger.

Not an easy task. This is, after all, the same man who roars against guitars, bass and drums until the earth shakes. Nevertheless, Mr. Manager remains unmoved, prompting the hungry Welshman to try a different tack: cajoling, charming, guilt-tripping.

“You can’t take the veggie burger off the menu,” Adrian protests, “Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a decent vegetarian meal around here?”

The manager stands firm; the vegetarian burger might have been a personal favourite but it was never a big-seller and so the poor thing had to be put down, God rest its soul. Would Mr. Jones prefer to have another set meal instead?

No, no, nothing less than the veggie burger would do, please, please please.

This manner of thrust and parry goes on for a prolonged period before Adrian gives in and settles for a less-favoured set meal (even punk rockers must eat). As a parting shot, however, he addresses the manager with a solemn straight face.

“Listen,” says Adrian mournfully. “I’ll have you know that my heart is broken into a thousand little pieces.”

A COUPLE of hours prior, we are watching the sky burn orange-blue from Marine Parade, a short distance away from Adrian’s home.

We’re on either side of a small round table, untouched lattes set before us, having earlier found each other in the crowded sea of bodies at Parkway Parade before proceeding here for our interview.

Here is a small café set across the mall; Adrian likes the coffee and ambience here, and having settled himself down comfortably with a hot drink and a fag, proceeds to plunge in deep into conversation.

We start off at the most obvious place. It has been an eventful year for Basement In My Loft. Less than 12 months ago, the band was a little-known power trio, catching only the ears of attentive listeners through the walls of Backbeats Studio where they were recording their debut record.

Fast forward a couple of months, though, and the band have risen to the position of current scene it-boys, following an exhausting blitzkrieg attack on the city’s live music venues that culminated in an explosive Baybeats performance.

Even by the standards of the small scene here in Singapore, where everybody is a friend and fan of everybody’s band, that is a remarkable time-frame–not least when you realize that the band was formed quite literally just over a year ago.

The seeds for the first edition of Basement In My Loft were first sown at a series of encounters at acoustic open mikes with fellow musicians Zhongren Koh, 19 and Guillaume La Malet, 30.

Adrian had first met La Malet in August, where the Frenchman was taken in by the strength of the material Adrian had written, despite the rawness of the performance.

With neither party being the sort of people to do things by halves (Adrian describes La Malet as a “typically intense French character”), an alliance was quickly formed to work together.

“We were still kicking things around at that point of time,” says Adrian. “The idea of the album hadn’t even come up yet—it wasn’t until I met Zhongren that things started getting serious.”

A month later, Zhongren filled in the position of bassist. Despite a working knowledge of the guitar and classical training in the cello, however, Zhongren had never owned a bass guitar before joining the band.

“The first time we played together, things sounded horrible. I had to take Zhongren aside to explain to him how to play with the drums. I told him: ‘Everytime you hear a hi-hat or snare, that’s your cue to come in.’

Adrian pauses, like a proud father savouring his son’s accomplishments.

“By the next rehearsal he had nailed every bassline to perfection. Ah, that boy, he’s a fucking genius.”

WITH the line-up now complete, an idea emerged in November that year to record an album with all of the songs Adrian had been writing.

Although the band was still in its infancy stages, the songs had already been a few years in the making—the culmination of two years of emotional turmoil, spiritual journeying and general life experiences.

“These songs are kind of descriptive of a time in life where the shit hits the fan, and you have to surrender and think,” explains Adrian.

The catalyst for the songs took place aboard a flight back to Singapore from his home city of Cardiff, where for the first time in years, Adrian had stood up in public to perform a few songs at a pub, to uproarious applause.

“The songs that I had been kicking around up till then went down really well, and people came up and congratulated me after that show. For the first time in a long time, I felt empowered by trust.”

It was well-needed validation for Adrian at the time, coming as it did on the back of two tumultuous years for him that Adrian declined to reveal more about on record.

More importantly, though, the song in question, Bad Times, changed his perspective fundamentally on his circumstances.

Written in the afterglow of that life-affirming gig, the song also catalysed a train of thought and songwriting that would ultimately lead to what Adrian describes as a “concept album”.

“Bad Times is basically a song about laughing at struggles, as well as about understanding that your thoughts shape your world.

“There is a storytelling aspect of the record, which comes from the singer-songwriter influence—you can hear Sir Neil (Young) in there—and also from me being autobiographical with my own life.

“The music tells its own story—originally, Bad Times was intended as an album-closer, and the thunder that you hear on Rut Shaped Room was meant to run into Bad Times.”

Instead, it was decided that the song’s uplifting mood would work better earlier on in the record, and the tune with its themes of change of perspective and empowerment became the opening salvo instead.

“The way you think affects the way you relate to people, which changes the way that they relate to you. It’s a vicious cycle and you have to break out of it. Bad Times is the essence of that thought.”

To be continued…

(Samuel C Wee)