It all feels right for Washed Out’s Ernest Greene

Ernest Greene, the man behind Washed Out, has recently taken some bold steps with his music: the warmer, more organic tones of his latest release Paracosm reveal a marked shift in creative process from the one-man, bedroom recording project that he started out with.

Getting some time off with his wife to retreat from the concrete jungle, Greene explains more about how his experience in the countryside and domestic delight have influenced Paracosm, among other interesting thoughts that might give us a better understanding of the man’s musical genius.

Lately, the sub-genre ‘chillwave’ has been said to have evolved tremendously into something more defined. It’s often represented by musicians such as Toro Y Moi, Memory Tapes, Teen Daze, and yourself – what do you think of this categorisation, and does it bother you?
I think there is definitely a “chillwave” sound — so I’m OK with the genre tag. But I never want to make the same album twice, so I’ve made a conscious effort to move on and try new things. However, I’m not even sure if my new record is chillwave or not!

I definitely try to come up with something new with each record while having it connected to my past work in some way. I guess that’s the challenge that I face.

How consciously did the shoeboxing of your previous releases effect the new direction you took with Paracosm?
A little bit. But it’s also a reflection of how my project has been changing. Washed Out live performances involves a band — not a solo, beat-driven studio project. We play shows probably eight months out of the year. So I wanted the album to be more of a reflection of that togetherness as a band.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about what makes sense for me so that it feels inspiring enough to spend three months working on.”

We have also read that making the album “playable” live was something you considered when writing Paracosm. Are there any other external factors that affected the creative process?
I set out at the beginning of the process to make an optimistic-sounding album, which is quite hard to achieve without it sounding clichéd or melodramatic. Wanting the album to sound warm and inviting, I had to make the choice of deciding on the album’s instrumentation. This meant I had to resort to using a lot of string instruments and other elements of an orchestra.

How much do you allow external influences to affect your output? Do you see it as a compromise?
I try to balance audience’s expectations with my own. At the end of the day, it’s all about what makes sense for me so that it feels inspiring enough to spend three months working on.

What is your #1 favourite concept album? What do you think of the “death of the album”?
I think YouTube and iPod culture have changed the way that people listen to music and it’s much easier to consume a catchy single than an entire album. Nevertheless, I think albums are still relevant. I enjoy telling a story over the course of the 40 minute record and my favorite albums do the same. OK Computer still pops into my head now and then as one of my favorites.

“I try to constantly remind myself to see the beauty and poetry in the world.”

“Paracosm” very literally describes the sound of the album. How closely does your music link to your real/personal life? Or is it something much more abstract to you?
The album felt very close to my personal life actually. My wife and I live out in the countryside and we sort of retreated away during the making of the album. The house felt like our own little paracosm so a lot of the songs have to do with that. Domestic bliss I guess!

If there is a Washed Out song that best described your current position in life, what would it be and why?
The song ‘Paracosm’ comes to mind. It follows the same idea as what I described above. Mainly the joy of being alone and being free to do the things you love (which for me is creating art and music). It’s a really special period in my life that I’m able to make music for a living.

Do you have a life philosophy that you live and create by?
I try to constantly remind myself to see the beauty and poetry in the world. It’s easy to become too carried away with a single aspect of life. I try to keep my mind open and do what comes naturally.

Lastly, name three artists that you think we should all know about!
A JUS TED: ‘A Brighter Light’ is a really amazing song.

Henry Darger: An incredible visual artist and story teller — he was a big inspiration for the artwork for Paracosm.

Eadweard Muybridge: Discovered his wonderful photographs the other day.

By Shawn Ng

Washed Out will perform as part of the Mosaic Music Festival on Saturday, 8 March 2014 at 7.30pm at the Esplanade Concert Hall.

The feisty few: Jake Pitts of the Black Veil Brides talks

The Black Veil Brides are no strangers to criticism, given their image and outspoken nature.

In anticipation of their upcoming debut concert here for Singapore Rock Festival, we felt there was so much more to the band than their reputation warranted.

We spoke to guitarist Jake Pitts and discovered along the way a human element to the rocker juggernauts: it turns out that they aren’t so different from me and you — just a bunch of kids who love their music.

Coming from your hometowns all over America, did you ever think you’d ever make it this big, let alone be playing co-headlining shows in Asia?
Absolutely. It takes someone with a dream, and the drive to make that dream come true. Why does anyone form a band? They want to “make it”. The difference between them and us is that we all wanted it more. We worked harder, longer, and had something special to offer.

I told everyone when I was in high school who asked me, “what college are you going to go to?” or “what do you want to do with your life?” that “I’m going to be a rock star” and I would just get laughed at. But I would just give them an evil stare and say, “Watch me fucking do it.”

After touring extensively for the past few years, do you guys still prefer the intimate club shows that you started out playing, compared to the huge festival stages you mostly dominate nowadays?
Both have amazing qualities. Obviously the intimate club shows are cool because you can be up close and connect with the fans, and it’s crazy just making eye contact with someone and then watching them freak out. I remember being that kid in the crowd. However, bigger shows mean bigger success. And we like fire, we like to blow shit up on stage, so I would have to say we definitely like the bigger shows just as much.

Also, the festivals are cool, because we get to see so many of our favourite bands/friends play and hang out with them, and play for a whole diverse crowd, some of whom may not even know who we are. It’s always important to gain new fans.

“Why does anyone form a band? They want to “make it”. The difference between them and us is that we all wanted it more. We worked harder, longer, and had something special to offer.”

What is your favourite city to play in outside of America so far?
Hands down, London. That city just absolutely throws down every time we play there. Also we have a pretty big following in the UK, so we get to play some of the bigger venues and have pyro and whatnot. So it’s always a fiery, good old hot time.

Have you shared stages with any of the bands that have been an influence on you musically growing up? What was it like meeting your heroes, and who were they?
Well, Metallica, being the band that made me pick up a guitar. I haven’t personally met them, but I’ve been real close to them. We played Download Fest 2012 main stage, the same day Metallica was headlining. So was pretty cool to be able to say I’ve shared the same stage as fucking Metallica!

Other than that, there’s probably way too many to name, but one that sticks out to me most was in November 2011 when we toured with Avenged Sevenfold on the Buried Alive tour, and I’ve always liked that band. I just remember hearing the ripping solos and duel leads, and was instantly like, “fuck yeah, this is awesome!” So not to only mention that, but those guys are so down to earth, and the nicest guys ever. We got to become friends and hang out. It was such an honour and just made me a bigger fan seeing what great dudes they are.

You’ve professed your love for AFI before – what is your favourite album of theirs?
That’s an Andy question, I can’t answer that. I never really got into AFI too much. I’m a metal-head. But don’t get me wrong, they are a great band.

And your top 5 KISS songs?

1. Detroit Rock City
2. Rock ‘n Roll All Night
3. Love Gun
4. Crazy Crazy Nights
5. Unholy

[youtube width=”450″ height=”340″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZq3i94mSsQ[/youtube]

[spacer height=”10px”]Do you hope to have as prolific a career and identity as bands like AFI and KISS have had over the years?
I want to be the next Avenged Sevenfold; the next Metallica; the next KISS; the next Mötley Crüe. I want to still be a band doing what we love 20 years down the road, you know. I’m getting into producing, and have been engineering for a long time, but mixing now. And if I’m not on tour, I’m doing something with music. So that’s my calling, and I won’t ever stop.

What do you make of all these new bands breaking out, and what the ‘scene’ and audience have evolved into nowadays?
I think a lot of it is complete bullshit to be honest. I can’t say we’ve nailed it quite yet, but we’re working on getting that number one record. It’s always striving to be better than the previous. I have lots of friends who I really respect and some really amazingly talented players, for example, Falling In Reverse. Jacky Vincent can shred like no other. That dude puts me to shame. I’m not saying they are part of the bullshit, I think they are doing really, really well, and it’s awesome to see!

Rather, the thing I hate the most is these “hardcore”/”screamo” bands putting “dubstep” into their shit. I don’t even know what you call it, but I think it’s horrible. I can’t even name a band that does it, but I know I’ve heard it, and it makes me think: “Fuck man, go listen to Aerosmith or something, they know how to write a good-ass song.” Or go listen to some fucking Dream Theater and Metallica. For you ‘metal elitists’, I’m a huge fan of Within The Ruins, and Joshua Wickman’s production. It’s just insanity!

“I want to be the next Avenged Sevenfold; the next Metallica; the next KISS; the next Mötley Crüe. I want to still be a band doing what we love 20 years down the road… that’s my calling, and I won’t ever stop.”

Is there any new material being written on the road at the moment? It must be hard to find creative space on tour.
Well on tour, it can be tough when our bus is crammed to the max with the band and our crew. Space isn’t something easy to come by. Jinxx has turned his bunk into a bunk studio; I’ve mounted my external drive and Xbox to then walls of my bunk, and I can just do simple stuff in Pro Tools.

One of the best things to have is an iPhone with the voice recorder app qhen you have an idea — and I’m talking guitar part, vocal melody, lyrics, drum beat, anything. It’s what I like to call music talk, or drum language. Not everyone gets it. But the vocal chords are the most dynamic instrument, so being able to record a quick idea just humming it out is great. I can always pull that up and develop that idea into a song later.

My mind is always spinning and music is constantly going in my head, so I have to be ready at any moment to record that idea when it comes to me.

Anything you would like to say to your fans in Singapore?
Can’t wait to see you guys and meet as many of you as we can! It’s our first time coming to Singapore and I cannot wait!

By Louis Foo

Black Veil Brides will be performing at Singapore Rock Festival on 5 March 2014.

5 things we learned from the first Hostess Club Weekender in Singapore

We managed to pin down some of the acts at the inaugural Hostess Club Weekender in Singapore and ask them some questions (King Krule got away though — don’t kill us).

Here’s what we learned:

1. Ásgeir doesn’t care if you don’t understand Icelandic


When asked if he felt any pressure to write songs in English now that he’s breaking as an international artist, he said “Yeah it should be like that. I should feel some pressure, but I’m not that kind of a guy, y’know, I don’t want to feel under any pressure with artistic decisions, it doesn’t add up, so I always feel like I can do whatever I want, so that’s just what I’m gonna do.”

Has he even tried writing in English (as opposed to writing in Icelandic first, then translating)?

“Yeah we’ve done some songs after the album release that were written in English, but It’s something I don’t even think about too much. I think i’ll always keep the Icelandic, I love to sing in Icelandic, I think the Icelandic will always be there.”[spacer height=”10px”]

2. Buke and Gase use the same vocal effects as our very own Weish


We spotted Arone Dyer using a pret-tee fancy device to add vocal harmonies during her set, and asked her to tell us more.

“Our friend Reggie Watts passed that on to me, and I didn’t know what the fuck it was. Then we started like kinda started playing around with it before our last album, General Dome, and we ended up writing a bunch of songs with this thing. So it’s really influential in how the last album turned out I think.”

[youtube width=”450″ height=”340″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfpeLblhbeQ[/youtube]

It’s always always nice to hear of musicians being buddies with other musicians, and interesting to hear cases of songs being shaped by the sounds of specific instruments. Incidentally, sub:shaman and [.gif] frontwoman Weish also uses a TC Electronics Voicelive Touch, and she’s recently upgraded to the second version.[spacer height=”10px”]

3. Mogwai almost had a song called “Gravity Dong”


There was “too much alcohol involved”, says Barry.[spacer height=”10px”]

4. … and they have weird band rules too.


For a band that sounds like each member uses twenty effect pedals all turned up to 11, Barry says “no chorus pedals, that’s a horrible effect. We’re not allowed to use them”.

Also, band members are “not allowed to watch the movie Titanic. If you watch the movie Titanic then you’re no longer in Mogwai. It’s true”.[spacer height=”10px”]

5. Nirvana is the bomb


Despite playing completely different styles of music, Ásgeir, Buke and Gase and Mogwai all named Nirvana among their favourite and most influential acts. Therefore, Nirvana is the bomb. But wait, we’ve known that since 1989, right?

Okay, scratch that. This doesn’t count…[spacer height=”10px”]

5. Matt Berninger would do okay on reality TV


As we know by now, his brother Tom was in The National’s entourage for their High Violet tour, and shot a tour film while on the road. Except it’s not really a tour film, it’s more like an invasive, opportunistic cameras-in-your-face piece. But Matt says “I think we all feel totally comfortable with it and actually very happy with it because it shows a sweetness — except for me — for the rest of the guys in the band.”

[youtube width=”450″ height=”340″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNmprL3SOlM[/youtube]

[spacer height=”10px”]”It’s a funny movie, kind of a sad movie too, but I think everybody feels that it’s probably a better portrait of the band than if there had been a documentary specifically about the band ‘cos it shows us talking about family, and all that kind of stuff. You probably learn more about the band the way than hearing us talking about making records or whatever, so I think everybody is really happy with the way it turned out.”

By Don Shiau

Hostess Club Weekender @ Fort Canning Park (22.02.14)

Hostess Entertainment is a strange creature. They aren’t a concert promoter, in the way Chugg Entertainment, LAMC or Midas Promotions are. They’re a Japanese music label first and foremost, but they also organise elaborate shows–or ‘Weekenders’–thrice yearly in Japan. These events are showcases for their roster. And boy is it a huge roster, encompassing a broad sweep of established independent labels such as 4AD, Rough Trade and Matador.

It’s hard to appreciate how unique this label-cum-promoter concept is, since most music festivals in Singapore are already watered-down, single-day, city-based, no-camping affairs (to wit, Laneway Singapore is really ‘Laneway Lite’, and Big Night Out is a tiny spin-off from Big Day Out). It’s just as hard to appreciate how diverse Hostess’ acts are, since punters normally associate bands with their international, and not regional, distributors–if at all. The upshot is that Hostess Club Weekenders are virtually indistinguishable from ‘proper’ festivals held here.

This is no complaint, of course. The inaugural Singapore Weekender brought back heavy-hitters Mogwai and The National to our shores, and brought in what many felt was a glaring omission from Laneway Singapore 2014’s lineup: King Krule. Coming on midway through the proceedings, the I-can’t-believe-he’s-only-19 Archy Marshall bristled with loose-limbed, adolescent restlessness. The sublime combination of his gruff, assured vocals, classy jazz stabs and the evening glow provided enough reason for the Fort Canning crowd to get off their picnic mats and jive along.

Earlier, Icelandic flavour-of-the-month Asgeir delivered a surprisingly underwhelming set, whisking through tunes from his English debut In the Silence dispassionately. His five-piece backing band reproduced everything from the strident majesty of Torrent to the laconic longing of Going Home note for note, but without the scale and intensity of the recorded versions. We couldn’t tell if it was his inner glaciers reacting uncomfortably to Singapore weather, but Asgeir just seemed out of it, acknowledging neither audience nor event, and walking wordlessly off the stage after he was done.

Perhaps he should’ve taken a cue from Buke and Gase, who opened the Weekender with aplomb. Sitting in the centre of the stage, in the direct glare of the sun, the Brooklyn duo snapped and banged away enthusiastically at their homemade instruments. They persevered on through the scorching heat, multiplying their output through effects pedals, creating a buzzing, angular and playfully melodic racket many times bigger than themselves. Pixie-like singer (and ‘buke’ player) Arone Dyer paused between songs to towel herself, drink water and exclaim lighthearted disbelief at the weather, eventually tumbling backwards in relief at the end of the set. It was a charming, casual start to the event, and a reward to the few who bothered to turn up early.

Of course, if anyone was going to make an even bigger noise, it would be Mogwai. As night fell, the Scottish post-rock pioneers launched a full-on aural assault, alternating between tense, sparse notes and sledgehammers of sound. Material from their mellower synth-driven latest release, Rave Tapes, sat comfortably with ear-splitting classics like Ithica 27 ϕ 9, though song order hardly matters for a band whose primary weapon is an endless tug-of-war between loudness and softness. When they were soft, you could easily carry on a conversation. When they were loud, their dense, searing riffs, lurching drums and spectral vocoders threatened to burst every speaker at the venue. In fact, they probably did, because The National’s closing set suffered from an unsatisfying sonic mix.

Sound issues aside, The National closed the night–and coincidentally, the Asian leg of their Trouble Will Find Me tour–with a typically grandiose performance. Looking equally dapper and dishevelled, Matt Berninger was the perfect avatar of his band’s whiskey-fuelled first-world misery. He played his part to the hilt, striding uneasily around the stage as if to work off his agitation, taking dramatic swigs from a wine bottle, slamming his microphone into his chest, and dropping to bended knees when the weight of the world got too much. At the show’s climax, Berninger disappeared into the crowd, pushing all the way to the back, like a man who had finally lost both his mind, and his way. Given how much Trouble Will Find Me resembles preceding album High Violet, there was a strong consistency of mood throughout the 19-song performance, though hardcore fans would decry the (necessary) displacement of many of High Violet‘s finer moments, such as Runaway and Conversation 16. Nothing on the new album tops Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks as a lighters-aloft closer, however, and Berninger and Co. sang us home with that number just as they did in 2011, leaving its heartbreaking refrain “All the very best of us / String ourselves up for love” lingering in the air long after the close of the event.

By Don Shiau

Cheatahs – Cheatahs

Shoegazers are a peculiar lot. Approach one and you’re likely to catch a whiff of superiority complex veiling a tolerance of song-oriented albums. Some even display a hint of individualistic pride in enjoying 120-decibel feedback. Cheatahs, on the other hand, disregards the artistic psychedelia of the gods of ‘90s shoegaze, and skips straight to the noise pop aspects of the genre.

Cheatahs is a debut record dressed to impress, filled with a reasonable mix of edgy guitar and buzzing vocals. Somewhere through the engaging hooks of ‘Mission Creep’ however, it almost feels indulgent in its influences, synthesising old feelings a bit too unabashedly. Its dye drizzled album art even, lies just a few shades more orange than that of a familiar 1991 record. 

Don’t fret though. ‘The Swan’ and ‘Cut The Grass’ are fresh tracks definitely worth staying for. The former opens with an anthemic line so catchy even the most die-hard of stoned Ride fans can’t help but nod their heads. (Speaking of Ride: Hey! That sounded much like a Ride guitar lick!)

A second listen flags out the closing song as one adopting the ‘Shoegaze fuzz-out’. Yet, it adopts phrasing so satisfying that any angry fingers jeering a lack of invention are quickly quelled. Maybe this record deserves some points for using the right inventions?

By no means is Cheatahs entirely bad, surely no respectable artist would trash an eponymous work. It is a record that hits all the right notes provided you haven’t gotten into shoegaze yet.

It does a reasonably good job of blending influences and more crucially, avoids regurgitating an incredible genre. In point of fact, it does accurately tighten lyrical structures intentionally left loose earlier by My Bloody Valentine’s landmark album (not that anyone finds awe in improving lyrics as nonsensical as “sleep like a pillow, downward and, where she won’t care, anyway where”).

Cheatahs will be a band to watch as soon as it’s done rehashing old ideas, and those chugging, spinning, guitars can attest to that. Its new album is a pleasing first step, especially to those new to the concept of spacing out amidst colourful swirls of distorted guitar. And most importantly, Cheatahs feels good. Californian-sun-good.

6.5/10 

Listen to: ‘The Swan’, ‘Cut The Grass’… and then there’s always Nowhere and mbv.

The Swan:

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0t6mI8vnzY[/youtube]

By Edward Eng

Empire Of The Sun @ Fort Canning Park (21.02.14)

It was only 6:30pm and there was already a line of fans waiting at the entrance for the doors to open. Some were dressed in their best “Empyrean outfits” in hopes of winning a chance in a contest to meet Luke Steele, also affectionately known as ‘Emperor Steele’.

The turnout was surprisingly small compared to the relatively large size of Fort Canning Green, which is meant to hold a capacity of thousands; getting in after the line had dissipated, there was still ample space to get a good view and early comers were sprawled on the grass, waiting for the show to start.

Singaporean band Monster Cat was a strange starter for the night as their music couldn’t be more different from the electronic/synthpop music of Empire Of The Sun. As they stepped on stage and waved, the band only managed to muster cheers and claps of encouragement from a handful of people right in front of the stage.

The band performed older songs from their debut EP Mannequins, and of course, ‘Take Me To Love’, the lead single off their forthcoming album The Violet Hour. Individually, the band members were skillful musicians — each of their instruments shone through equally, thanks also in part to the more than decent soundsystem — but as a band, they didn’t have much success in capturing the crowd’s attention.

“You guys are the best fucking audience we’ve ever played to. You, you guys right here, this is why we do why we do,” they told us, unconvincingly. Were they pandering, patronising, or being sarcastic? We’re not sure — but we’re fairly certain that we couldn’t have been the “best audience they’d ever played to”. Opening slots are ruthlessly unforgiving, and tonight was proving no different.

Empire of the Sun were finally up and suddenly, there was an air of excitement and anticipation as people clamoured toward the stage. Though it was no surprise that Nick Littlemore was a no-show, Emperor Steele held the fort in the company of his warriors: the guitarist, drummers, and dancers.

They opened with the instrumental ‘Lux’, the first track from their new album, Ice On The Dune, and launched right into ‘Old Flavours’, the perfect track after the dramatic, cinematic intro to get us dancing. Just like the band’s thoughtful album track-lists, their set list for the night was designed to take us on a cruise through the futuristic dreamscape they had so carefully conjured, and the disco ball, lights, and the giant, costumed skull-headed creature blowing smoke out of smoke cannons only added to the experience.

Steele strutted from one end of the stage to the other so we could all get a view of him as the musicians worked through old favourites like ‘Standing on the Shore’ and ‘Walking on a Dream’, when Steele actually came down to the audience and encouraged — almost, urged — the front row to sing into the mic. Dancers then came out air strumming pink guitar-shaped props that lit up during ‘We Are The People’, before electro-influenced tracks like ‘Breakdown’ and ‘Swordfish Hotkiss Night’ turned the concert into a proper dance party.

The night finished with a bang as they saved the best for the last with the lead single off Ice On The Dune, ‘Alive’ as their encore.

Steele and Littlemore are undoubtedly talented musicians and producers: Steele even sounded exactly like he does in the studio versions of their songs — but the whole display and total accuracy with which everything was executed almost made the whole affair seem unauthentic, begging questions: was he lip-syncing, or did he very magically, sound Concert Pitch perfect live?

The live production, costumes, stage design, and props were undeniably jaw dropping, but the novelty quickly wore as smoke cloud after flashing prop after frenetic light display became almost difficult to keep up with. Their interaction with us too, was neither sincere nor engaging, at times it felt like we were at a kids show being told to, “Clap your hands, come on! You know the lyrics, sing along!”

Whether or not Steele was lip-syncing, it did not matter: Empire of the Sun don’t simply perform a show, they are the show. And you go to see them for their theatrics, to be entertained, and to be taken on a journey.

By Cindy Tan

Amaya Laucirica releases double A-side single ahead of new album

Melbourne artist Amaya Laucirica, known for her restrained and ethereal sound which encompasses the folk, pop, rock and psychedelia genres, has been steadily building up a solid fanbase since her 2008 debut.

She’s now got two EPs and two albums under her belt, and has just released a double A-side single titled ‘Prettier Than The Sound | On The Air’. Both tracks are taken from her upcoming album, Sway.

Amaya Laucirica releases double A-side single ahead of new album

Diverging from her earlier work musically, the release retains Laucirica’s penchant for inventive and abstract lyrics, whilst showcasing her haunting vocals.

Sway features the work of Dave McCluney (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds), Victor Van Vugt (PJ Harvey, Nick Cave) and Ray Staff (Spiritualized, David Bowie) and will be released on Friday, 18 April via MGM.

Listen to ‘Prettier Than The Sound’ and ‘On The Air’ here:

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/22343664″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

[spacer height=”10px”]By Eleanor Turnbull

And So I Watch You From Afar: Spirituality, being human, maturing, and memories

Irish post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar have come a long way since their early days in late 2005, with their distinctive sound earning critical acclaim for their second album Gangs.

Nine years and countless countries later, they have earned a reputation for transforming their massive soundscapes into electrifying live performances, and have gained a following around the world.

Indeed, it takes a lot for a band to stick together for so long. Despite the departure of guitarist Tony Wright in 2011, the band continues to stay strong, grow, and mature, producing music that pushes boundaries and redefine the genre. What is their secret? Exposure from the far-flung countries that they have toured, such as India and Russia?

The band finally arrives on the shores of Singapore next Friday for their first live show here. We catch up with founding member Rory Friers to find out more about his inspirations, idols, and his most memorable travel experiences.

You have a brilliant band name. Did anything in particular inspire you to call yourself that?
Thanks very much. It was I who came up with it actually. There’s kind of a dual meaning behind the name. I’m not religious but I guess I can be pretty spiritual at times. I like the idea that “something” is steering or guiding us along a path. It’s also what I thought was a Team Sleep lyric but upon listening to the track again realized it wasn’t so I decided to use it for a band name.

And your logo, the isosceles triangle, features heavily in your album art too. What’s the significance?
Our designer friend Tim Farrell came up with it. We wanted a symbol that would eventually be synonymous with the band. It’s like the small triangle at the top is being hit by a light source and the rest of the logo is the shadow; A play on the phrase “from afar” in our name. It also resembles the A in ASIWYFA.

Each one of your albums seems to have a different sound. Do you sit down and discuss the direction that you want to go on an album before you start, or do you let the album grow organically?
Sometimes we sit down and chat about tunes before we start jamming in the room. It’s usually a while into the writing when we realise our favourite ideas are kind of similar and then we decide to take the album in that direction. It doesn’t always work that way and we have so many ideas that didn’t fit at the time of recording. We’ll release all of it someday, I’m sure.

“We have always tried to push ourselves and push the boundaries of our music, so we decided to go all or nothing.”

It’s always interesting hearing how bands work together – especially so for a band like ASIWYFA with such free-flowing song structures. Could you share with us a little more about your song-writing process?
The band starts from talking about ideas, and then jamming to get some idea of where we were musically. It’s a natural process and has pretty much stayed the same since 2005. One of us generally has an idea that we jam out for a bit first, though. We also share ideas on Logic (author’s note: for those who don’t know, that’s an audio recording and processing software) so that when we get together we have at least some idea of what our parts could be.

Over the years we’ve grown to become pretty brutally honest with each other as far as musical ideas go. We feel it’s the only way to grow as a band and know not to take it personally. If you can’t take a little constructive criticism from your best friends, you are in the wrong business.

Would you say that this is the band’s secret to staying together for almost ten years?
Well, it is pretty difficult at times. You start bands with your friends but at some point you’re going to clash over ideas or whatever. You just have to be honest and thick skinned. You also have to really love each other and believe in it. Some people can’t deal with life on the road. ASIWYFA are a functioning, dysfunctional, family!

A family that has seen a couple of big changes recently! Was that a difficult adjustment?
When Tony left, we had a chat about whether we should stick to the recording schedule; we agreed to at least try it. This was our first time writing as a three piece, so initially it was a bit daunting. We have always tried to push ourselves and push the boundaries of our music, so we decided to go all or nothing.

We never intended to be purely instrumental and a lot more of these new ideas had space for vocals so that’s what we did. Four part harmonies or rhythmical chanting, whatever we felt was required, we tried out on this record.

Are there any artists who have had a particular influence on your music?
We’ve had the pleasure of meeting and playing with some incredible artists over the years. Some of the stand outs for me would be, Them Crooked Vultures, Nine Inch Nails, Mike Watt, Pelican, Russian Circles, Clutch, I could go on.

I’ve met quite a lot of them and you realise very quickly that they are human beings too and are very approachable. We supported Them Crooked Vultures in Europe, which was unbelievable hanging out with Josh, Dave, John and Alan. They started chatting to us and invited us to their dressing room for drinks, I’ll never forget that. Those guys are rock royalty!

“You start bands with your friends but at some point you’re going to clash over ideas or whatever. You have to be honest and thick skinned.”

You have a Tumblr that documents all of these tour experiences and there are some amazing photographs on it. Can you tell us a little about more about it?
We all take quite a lot of pictures on the road and share them through social media with our family and fans. Graham Smith, our tour manager, takes a lot of photos of what life is really like out there.

People like to see what you get up to and see what you see whilst on tour. It’s a great visual record of where you’ve been and what you’ve seen. In years to come I can look back and re-live these memories and show them to my kids or grandkids.

And speaking of your tour experiences, you seem to venture off the beaten path a lot. What are some of your most memorable moments?
Our first time on Russian roads was pretty scary. Our driver was used to the conditions but for us driving at 70 plus mph in snow, on ice, was terrifying. China was an unforgettable experience for architectural, cuisine, and people reasons. I can’t wait to see more of Asia.

Most recently, in India we all had an eye-opening trip. The level of poverty some people live in is frightening. I watched as a woman washed her kids in a small bowl of water at the side of a really busy street in a city centre. Then we were driven to our 5-star hotel. It was all very surreal. These experiences remind me of how fortunate I am to be me and make me really appreciative of where I’m from.

By Joel Teo

And So I Watch You From Afar will be performing at Zouk at 8pm on 28 February 2014. 

The rise of Lucy Rose: “Everything and more than I imagined”

English singer-songwriter Lucy Rose Parton is a 24-year-old pocket rocket, with credits including backing vocals on Bombay Bicycle Club’s third album A Different Kind of Fix, her song ‘Don’t You Worry’ appearing in season six of British drama Skins, and tours in the UK, US and Canada supporting Bombay Bicycle Club and Noah and the Whale.

Her first album, Like I Used To was released in 2012 to praise across multiple platforms, and she’s now looking forward to 2014 and a new album.

We spoke to the songbird, to hear about her touring experience, getting signed and her inspiration.

You were in the US late last year. Had you been there before and was it everything you had expected?
Yeah, I had been there a few times before – once early last year when I drove across America playing solo shows which was pretty amazing. This time, I had the band with me so the shows felt a lot more exciting and we were lucky enough to be supporting City and Colour, who are awesome. The tour was everything and more than I imagined.

What’s been the biggest change you’ve noticed going from being unsigned to signed (to Columbia Records)?
I’ve been able to do a lot more than I would have been able to without their funding, like being able to go to America and other places in the world. Also, I’m currently recording my next album so this one feels very different now I have the support of Columbia behind me.

“I tend not to read anything that is written about me, but the positive comments… give me confidence to believe in myself and carry on writing.”

What’s the sign for you that you’ve ‘made it’? What are you waiting for in terms of success?
I definitely know I haven’t ‘made it’, but hopefully this next album will reach more people who I hope will connect to the songs. I’m not aiming for success as such, just hoping to continue making and playing music.

You’ve been highly complimented by a whole plethora of sources as, I quote, “one of the country’s most promising new voices”. Does this put any pressure on you as an artist and as a songwriter?
I tend not to read anything that is written about me, but the positive comments like the one above gives me confidence to believe in myself and carry on writing. It’s easy to doubt yourself.

Where do you draw your key inspirations from? Do you think your upbringing has influenced your style?
I feel like I’m constantly evolving through what I’m listening to, reading and learning everyday. I’d like to draw inspiration and influence from everything I can.

“I’m not aiming for success as such, just hoping to continue making and playing music.”

What’s the coolest experience you’ve had working in music?
Singing with Manic Street Preachers on [Later with] Jools Holland was one of the most terrifying but exciting things I’ve ever done.

If you weren’t a musician, who or what would you be?
Who knows? I think I’d work in a cafe down by the sea.

What’s on the cards for Lucy Rose in 2014?
Album two and more touring, I hope!

By Eleanor Turnbull

Hellogoodbye: 13 years on and still standing the test of time

It’s been a while since we last really heard from American electrosynth pop darlings Hellogoodbye; more notably, it’s been eight years since their smash winter hit single ‘Here (In Your Arms)’ was released.

After four EPs and two albums, a few member line up changes, epiphanies, and experimentation combined with a whole lot of perseverance and heart, they’re back, and heading to Singapore for the Mosaic Music Festival next month.  We talk to lead singer Forrest Kline about bongos, recording technology, and fighting horse-sized ducks or duck-sized horses…

OS: Hellogoodbye has been a band since the early 2000s and has stood the test of time. What is it that’s allowed the band to stick around for so long?
Forrest: Whether or not anyone is necessarily asking for it, I’ve just continued to make music. I’m certain that helps. I’ve seen so many people embarrass themselves (at least in my eyes) trying to play what they think is the music industry’s game and then eventually lose anyway; I’d much rather stumble along or get lost by my own internal compass, than try to guess what direction other people’s compasses are headed.

Through the years, you’ve had a few line-up changes and have even changed labels. What do you think was the biggest change that’s affected the band?
Those were all pretty core-shaking changes that affected the way people viewed us or how and when people found us, but it never really changed the music.

I’ve been lucky to have always had the creative freedom — under whatever structure we’ve lived in — to follow my whim and like I’ve said, I’ve just continued to make music. In that way, external circumstances haven’t outrightly played a role in what gets put down on record, although I’m sure I’ve internalized those things and they’ve likely come back out musically in ways I couldn’t describe to you.

Lyrically, you’ve obviously grown up and moved past teenage crushes and first love angst; musically, can you tell us about how band’s sound has matured? Electronic and guitar influences from the first EP and album can still be heard on your newer material, for example, except now it is much more polished. 
When I began making music, it was basically the dawn of bedroom recording. I thought it was incredible that you could build these full productions with one mic and a laptop and I was enamored with it, but every day that passed, I started to see its shortcomings. It’s really no way to make music.

I still discover new ways in which programmed MIDI music sucks, it’s a very deep well of wrongness. So for me, the biggest breakthrough was when I kind of threw my whole process out before recording Would It Kill You? and built a studio in my garage where I could record things more properly.

It was as pretty conscious decision, to change the process by which I made music — it unconsciously makes you create different music. Like being a guitarist vs. being a pianist, you write differently even if you don’t mean to.

And looking forward, what’s next for Hellogoodbye, from this year to the future?
We haven’t had a chance to go out and tour this record, so we’re really itching to do that sometime this spring/summer. We’re going to take it out to a few other countries — Singapore included — which is really exciting because we’ll be visiting a few places we’ve been before and loved. This will be our first time in Singapore though!

What are your impressions of the country?
Seems like a lovely place to live. I’m excited to get a deeper vibe.

What have you been listening to recently? Have you discovered anything new lately that you’d like to try in your music?
I’ve been listening so tons of Motown, soul, and R&B lately and I don’t think I’ve ever had bongos or much hand percussion down to stay before — it’s the next frontier.

“I thought it was incredible that you could build these full productions with one mic and a laptop and I was enamored with it, but every day that passed, I started to see its shortcomings.”

And your favourite artist right now that isn’t getting enough recognition?
Jonathan Richman. He’s been around for decades and I know he’s got a loyal following, but it’s too rare you run into someone on the street who knows the name or has the love.

Sometimes when you hear tunes from some band or other, 9 times out of 10 you can’t make out the words they’re saying, let alone figure out what the point of the song is — it’s just some nice sounding chords with some ‘verbed out anonymous vocals about nothing — but with Jonathan Richman, you know exactly what he’s singing about the first time through and he’s always saying something incredible. To me, that’s the purpose of a song.

Finally, I’ve always really wanted to ask: Did Jesse end up going to prom with you…?
Jesse is actually our old keyboard player who wrote and sang that song, and he wasn’t asking me. But the girl we made that for? Yeah, she went with him.

By Dawn Chua

Hellogoodbye will perform two shows as part of the Mosaic Music Festival on Friday, 7 March 2014 at 7.30pm and 10pm at the Mosaic Club (Esplanade Theatre Studio).