Introducing Whitaker: This bromance will never surrender

Ryan Meeking, Brett Scapin, and Simon Rabl are the charming trio, Whitaker.

After launching their self-titled debut EP in 2012 with producer Nick Didia (famous for his work with Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Powderfinger), Whitaker took a transitional journey outside the studio. The result of this wandering was the five-track EP, Wichita. Sincere and drenched with soul, the EP spans from rock to folk, blending the genres without forfeiting the charm of either. Onstage, Whitaker are charismatic with a degree of comfort that comes with being true performers.

We caught up for a beer with the boys from Whitaker to talk about their second album, using the site Pozible and finding the vibe.

OS: You have been described as an acoustic pop-rock band, which is a bit of a mouthful. How would you describe your sound?
R: You could throw so many terms out there that we would agree with. Except heavy metal. Any kind of melodic-based genre will suit us. We have gotten our folky roots back with this EP.

It is quite an emotional album. ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Wichita’ are standout songs — it feels like you have opened a door for your audience into your memories. Where did you draw the inspiration for this EP?
R: Lyrically, the previous work we’ve done and the vibe of songs have been very intense emotionally. This EP was looking at the same emotional content but in a nostalgic way. It was observing what has been processed. It was more of, “this is what has happened and this is me making sense of it,” rather than raw emotion.

“We decided to embrace the vibe instead of worry about imperfections, because they add personality to the songs.”

Can you give me a run-down of the creative process for Wichita?
R: With the songs — I kept them secret and slightly unfinished so that each song itself could grow in the studio with everyone there, in a new environment. Doing it that way meant that we were not locked into traditional roles and the songs got what they needed and what they deserved.

S: Everything before this EP had been worked on until we thought it was perfected. This time around, we would rock up thinking “I don’t know how this will sound today.”

R: It was reactionary. We decided to embrace the vibe instead of worry about imperfections, because they add personality to the songs.

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What was it like parting ways with the studio to record in public spaces?
R: We wanted to move forward from the previous sounds we had achieved.

B: Abbotsford Convent was an experiment. We didn’t know what we would get done there. We used it for vocals and horns. We didn’t want the EP to come together in a sterile recording environment.

R: It would rain and be so loud we couldn’t record. In the studio, you can put on ‘reverb’ to make it sound like you are in a different place. We wanted this to be a natural sound. One of the spaces was a church hall that is now a ballet studio and we did all the drums and bass there.

The energy of the creative process translates to your live performances. Your onstage banter allows the audience to experience the ‘bromance’ of Whitaker. What vibe do you want your shows to achieve?
B: We don’t plan what we say onstage. The songs are serious but we’re not. We’re shallow and stupid and silly.

R: We have always been sensitive to wankiness. We have never wanted to appear as anything other than who we are. You come out with a sad song, but that’s not completely us.

“Crowd funding is not crowd charity. We were not looking for handouts. For everything that people pledged, they were rewarded in tangible ways.”

What was working on your first EP with legendary producer Nick DiDia like?
S: It was mind-blowing. He was the number one guy on our dream producer list. He taught us a lot. He brought us into his family. The sound we achieved there was blockbuster. It sounded enormous. He knew how to put everything together.

R: It was a musician’s dream. When it came to doing this EP, we really had the desire to do something local and grassroots, something that came from where we do.

Your name comes from the book, To War with Whitaker. After almost a decade of creating music together under various titles, how does this one represent where you are now?
R: We’ve been together under a lot of different guises. Part of how we got this far is from turning a page into a new chapter. Whitaker is the unlikely hero of the book. He is just a fat butler. There is a quote where he says, “We shall win this war for the likes of you and I shall never surrender.” He is just so persistent. That is how we feel about us.

B: We are the fat butler.

S: I thought we should be the Fran Dreschers, but there were copyright issues.

Wichita was funded by your fans using the site Pozible. How was the reaction to your project?
R: Massive. We were pretty much at our target in ten days. Crowd funding is not crowd charity. We were not looking for handouts. For everything that people pledged, they were rewarded in tangible ways.

S: Mostly, people received presale tickets for our shows.

Finally, what can your fans expect from you in 2014?
B: Inappropriate banter.

R: A new EP. Hopefully an EP that has pushed our sound somewhere new again and evolved us further.

By Lucy McPherson

Listen to Whitaker’s debut EP Wichita here.

The Caulfield Cult tour diary

#1: Saturday, 29 March


3:00pm, Nick
Arrived at Haneda Airport, Tokyo with Brian. Yuji, our driver and Waki, our booking agent, picked us up. We’re staying at a capsule hotel tonight at God knows where. The lady who works at the hotel said I had to cover up my tattoos, so I put on a jacket, but my wrists were still showing so she emphasised for me to pull my sleeves longer to cover them up and told me I couldn’t shower at the hotel as they have shared bathrooms. No biggie, I never liked showering anyway.

8:00pm, Nick
Found a super cool record shop called NAT RECORDS in Shinjuku, didn’t have much time to check everything out because Up and Atom finishes practice at 9:00pm. Found an Embrace LP and Neil Young’s Harvest at an insanely cheap price. A ton of second-hand punk/hardcore vinyl as well. I am in no way a record collector and I only own three records at home but something about finding my favourite records on wax turns me on. Will come back after our Shinjuku show on Friday if I still have any money left.

12.30am, Brian
Always been a dream to come to Japan and still can’t believe I’m finally here. Everything is weirdly familiar and somehow I’m getting by on broken Japanese I picked up from watching anime.

Staying in a capsule hotel has also been shockingly normal. It’s a really quiet country overall and I feel like I’m talking too loudly most of the time.

Been hanging out with our Japanese booking agent and his crew and the awesome dudes from Up And Atom around Shinjuku. The night ended at a restaurant with dollar beers and cheap sake and everyone got pretty drunk. Trying to take the train back was frustratingly fun. The train network is so insanely complicated, even the locals need to use apps to figure their way around. We managed to squeeze ourselves into a very crowded last train filled with drunk suit-wearing locals. Did I mention Nick and I were staying in a different area so we had to go back ourselves?

Food is awesome and people are awesome. We’ve been buying riceballs and microwave noodles from convenience stores all around and they taste so fucking awesome. The “feels” havent really set in yet because of the intense sensory overload. Things will only get more crazy once Skinny and Syahadi arrive. Can’t wait to play a show!

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#2: Sunday, 30 March


4:30pm, Skinny
Everything is so beautiful, it’s like they put a good Instagram filter on everything.

4:30pm, Syahadi
Touched down Japan. First time in Japan. Met with the organiser. Met Nick and Brian. Getting used to the weather. Walked around a little.

6:12pm, Nick 
SYAHADI AND SKINNY HAVE ARRIVED, party is gonna be hard tonight.

11:43pm, Nick
Three bottles of sake down, ton of beers, this is where we stop being functional.

1:20am, Syahadi
Skinny is drunk. Zzzz

2:50am, Brian
I carried Skinny’s shivering drunk ass back to the hotel. He was drooling ’cause it was so cold. I’m such a good friend

4:12am, Nick
I think tonight is not safe to talk about.

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Check back for more with The Caulfield Cult as their Japan tour continues until 6 April.

Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time

There has been a lot of buzz about a certain Sky Ferreira – from her touring with Miley Cyrus to her arrest for drug possession – but for those not familiar with the grunge-lite indie pop of the 21-year-old singer-songwriter-model, you might just recognise that very naked album cover instead.

Make no mistake – despite the darkness and vulnerability suggested by the sourpuss portrait of an exposed Ferreira in the shower on the cover (bearing a marked resemblance to Grumpy Cat), Night Time, My Time is, first and foremost, unmistakably a pop album.

The album’s fourteen tracks find their lyrics in vignettes of teenage romance and self-loathing in equal measure, but sonically Ferreira’s debut full-length is luminous. Night Time, My Time draws its influences from 80s dance synth-pop, 90s grunge and 00s indie rock. Hit-making producer Ariel Rechstaid (Vampire Weekend, Haim, Charli XCX) coats the record in a layer of sugared gloss; the combination of grungy guitars, bright synth lines and big choruses marks an album primed for cross-over onto mainstream radio with a bold, seductive edge.

Album opener ‘Boys’ is an infectious anthem of young love, a haze of sledgehammer riffs and plummeting beats set against a delicious spoken word refrain, while lead single ‘You’re Not The One’ matches air-tight synths with a sashaying chorus with an undercurrent of girl power.

Lyricism may not be the album’s forte – the insular and prosaic diction of Ferreira’s song writing doesn’t break new ground on the flightiness of young love or youthful hedonism – but what the the album lacks in poetry, it more than makes up for in those big riffs. Her songs strut and swagger. They don’t just arrive; they announce their presence. ‘Omanko’ is an inescapable earworm, thanks to a restless bass line that propels the fuzz nugget through a hodge-podge of off-kilter musings about Japanese Jesus and Japanese Christmas.

It is only on ‘I Blame Myself’ that Ferreira comes close to the unflinching, transgressive self-cross-examination that the album cover offers. This head-bobbing number throbs with shame and anxiety as Ferreira ponders her complicity in shaping her reputation as a controversial alt-pop princess (“Is it because you know my name/Or is it because you saw my face on a cover”).

Night Time, My Time is an immensely pleasurable – if at times uneven – pop record, but disappointingly falls short of delivering the sucker punch of gritty and naked storytelling that marks other pop records with gravitas. That said, in a time when pop is making a comeback in the indiesphere (see: Lorde, CHVRCHES, Future Islands), there is nothing shameful about making straight-up top-notch pop.

7/10

Listen to: ‘Boys’, ‘Omanko’, ‘I Blame Myself’

Boys:

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rRwQLAigeM[/youtube][spacer height=”10px”]

By Chen Shanshan

White Lies @ TAB (22.03.14)

British rock concerts are well known for their raucous and chaotic atmosphere, where bands like the Sex Pistols would thrash venues all in the name of anarchy and passion. This time however, it was a last minute change of location that created the sense of upheaval. Perhaps rather naively, promoters had booked White Lies to play at The Coliseum, one of Singapore’s larger music venues. Unsurprisingly, ticket sales never met their expectations and so to save the band from the embarrassment of playing to a scarce audience, the show was moved to TAB.

Against this backdrop of disorganisation and poor market research, we began to wonder: what would the attitude of White Lies be? Surely there must have been a certain level of disappointment that came with the relocation. No doubt their promotors had puffed them up with promises of multitudes of fans.

This was their second attempt at a show in Singapore. The first was unceremoniously cancelled at the last minute (a common theme to their shows) in 2011. The crowd, having waited three years to finally see them strut their stuff, were unfazed. At first glimpse of the band, the screams set tone for the rest of the set.

And it seemed like White Lies were equally unaffected. Stirring the crowd into a sea of clapping hands, lead singer Harry McVeigh revelled in our adoration. At one point he stood centre stage, arms aloft in messianic fashion, soaking up the raw passion of the audience.

The band never failed to please the crowd, injecting their well loved hits ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ and ‘First Time Caller’ in-between the album tracks such that even a casual listener would have had a good time.

However for all the punch and bite that their set possessed, White Lies suffered the usual mid-set fatigue that seems to plague most acts these days. There came a point when the songs seemed to meld together as one long post-punk jam, leaving us feeling somewhat as drowned as McVeigh’s reverb drenched vocals.

They made us wait until the very end for ‘Bigger Than Us’, but it was well worth it. The good showing more than made up for the build-up. However it begs the question, how well do the promotors really understand the landscape of Singapore’s music scene?

by Andrew Koay

Going international: It’s a Big Scary world

This month marks the worldwide release of Not Art, Big Scary’s second full-length album. With it’s Australian release last year, Not Art has seen Big Scary receive wide recognition for their music, with nominations including triple j Australian Album of the Year, AIR Awards Best Independent Album and Best Independent Release at the ARIAs.

This all culminated in the announcement earlier this month that they’d won the prestigious Australian Music Prize (AMP), beating competition from more than three hundred entries and boasting previous winners like Hermitude, The Jezabels, Cloud Control and The Drones. “We were all so shocked… it’s cool,” says Jo Symes, drummer and one half of the Melbourne-based duo. “We’ve had a bottle of really nice champagne on ice for months. A fan gave it to us as a gift ages ago, and we’ve never had the opportunity to drink it together after something exciting.”

The other half is vocalist Tom Iansek, known for his ‘evocative falsetto’. The pair run their own label, Pieater, along with their manager Tom Fraser and this has been the platform through which they’ve released their two albums, Not Art and 2011’s Vacation. The label also houses Iansek’s side project, Dads, and new recruit Airling.

“The finished product is all ready and it’s just about giving it its best shot overseas…”

It’s not all smooth sailing for the band however – in Australia, they could be regarded a big fish in a small pond. Taking it international is a whole different ball game, with logistics that need to be considered. “We play with four people on stage these days, but we don’t have the dollar bills to bring them to America for this tour,” says Symes. “So we’ve got to do some rehearsal, Tom and I, rearranging the songs again… and then we’ll be rehearsing with a local guy for a week in Seattle before the tour.”

Luckily, the duo have done most of the leg-work for the release already. With their Australian release out of the way, Big Scary get to skip the frantic lead-up. “Its all there,” Symes says. “The finished product is all ready and it’s just about giving it its best shot overseas. We wanted to make sure we would be there to actually play some shows and promote it properly.”

This time round, they’re focusing on the touring aspect – making a priority of the US. “Because we’re independent, we don’t have a million dollars so we’re focusing our resources [there] and we kind of figure if we do have some success in the US, it really pours out to the rest of the world,” says Symes.

“It was a long, long process, and we had no external kind of influence.”

The tour in question kicks off 4 April, with a hardcore schedule entailing 32 shows over 35 days. Unfortunately, this means the trip will be somewhat of a whirlwind, with the band staying in most cities only one night. “We’ve never toured like that so it’s going to be a quick learning curve I think,” Symes explains. They’ve also never explored the US to such an extent, having only briefly visited the US for South by SouthWest back in 2012. “They were really good shows – there were people at shows which we were shocked about. But this will be our first proper American ‘roadtrip’ – you know, we’ve never driven from city to city. I just can’t wait to stop at cheesy roadside diners and get bottomless coffees.”

Not Art itself explores relatively new territory for the band, in terms of inspiration and the process behind it. The recording of Vacation was an efficient affair, Symes says, with little studio time to play around with the tracks. “There wasn’t much room for listening back and stuff and that was quite stressful,” she explains. On the other hand, Not Art was a more gradual project; more “chipping away” at a sound, according to Symes. “It was a long, long process, and we had no external kind of influence.”

The production on the album was taken on by Iansek and mixed by Tom Elmhirst (who has previously worked with artists including Amy Winehouse, Haim & Mark Ronson) all the way from New York. “We were literally sending him the finished songs, recording during the day (his night), and he’d wake up and we’d finally send the next song,” says Symes. “But we needed that deadline to be like, ‘Alright, this is the decision, it has to be this’.”

“All of these facets have nothing really to do with writing a song and shouldn’t have anything to do with writing a song.”

Not Art was influenced heavily by the hip hop genre, and it’s clear when you take a listen. The title itself is a bit less obvious – seeming to take a dig at the hype around music and the industry.  “It means different things to both Tom and I,” Symes explains. “For me, I guess the bottom line is that you know people are going to judge the purpose behind the song, people will just make up a purpose behind the song, and you know it’s going to get reviewed. All of these facets have nothing really to do with writing a song and shouldn’t have anything to do with writing a song, so its trying to forget any of the repercussions of making it, and just making it.”

2014 holds many possibilities for the band, and they’ve got two big priorities for the near future. “Definitely more writing, that’s a huge priority,” says Symes. “I think we’ll try and start getting some songs pieced together and even start recording more material by the end of the year.” They’ve now also got some extra resources thanks to the Australian Music Prize, and they’re already brainstorming ways to put it to good use.

Big Scary are yet to hit our shores as a band, having only visited the continent for a four-city tour of India as part of the Aussie BBQ series in 2012 (though Symes did visit Singapore briefly as a twelve-year-old).  “I hope that winning the AMP means we can do more overseas touring, and hopefully include other regions – Asia and Europe – as opposed to just the USA,” says Symes. I’ll speak for everyone when I say that we hope so too.

By Eleanor Turnbull

 

Five things we learned from the Future

It was a brief couple of days for KL’s Future Music Festival Asia.

Here is what we learned:

1. People will brave the elements for music


Three words: Haze rain zombies.[spacer height=”10px”]

2. Armin van Buuren loves Disney


It has been revealed that Armin will be doing a remix of ‘Let It Go’, the smash hit from the Disney movie Frozen sung by Adele Dazeem (also known as Idina Menzel). When asked about his thoughts on the whole experience, he had heaps of praise for the company that he says is “more than Mickey Mouse”. Now a father of two young children, Armin told us that it’s been great to be able to sit down and watch all the old Disney movies again.

The track will feature on Walt Disney Record’s Dconstructed, a remix album of classic Disney songs, which will also feature the likes of Avicii, Kaskade and many others.[spacer height=”10px”]

3. … he is also a lawyer and is set to become a wax statue


When asked what he would be doing if he wasn’t making trance music he quickly replied with, “I’ve finished my law degree, so a lawyer… so watch your words!”.

Along with accomplishing this great achievement, Armin van Burren will be cast in wax at Madame Tussauds (obviously the highest honour for any person in the entertainment industry… right?).[spacer height=”10px”]

Armin van Buuren Wax

4. Don’t be alarmed if you hear the same song twice (or more than twice)


To be honest, it didn’t seem like anybody cared.[spacer height=”10px”]

5. Don’t take drugs


It’s really simple, guys: have a good time, but go about it in the right way. Don’t ruin it for everyone else.

Unfortunately a few young people will not have a second chance to think about it, so let’s all learn from this.[spacer height=”10px”]

By Ale Launech

Lucy Rose @ Esplanade Recital Studio (7:30pm, 16.03.14)

“This is so surreal,” Lucy Rose Parton says, adjusting the guitar strap over her shoulder and shaking her head as if trying to wake from a dream. “How do you guys even know who I am?”

She’s addressing the hundred or so people before her, but especially the ten in the front row who have worn their Lucy Rose merchandise tees to the gig.

It seems almost an odd question to ask after such an intimate gig — as if one had played songs written in a diary on the guitar to a bunch of friends then asked them what the hell they were doing in her living room. Never mind that these were friends who were half in love with her and who could sing along to every one of her songs, and scream ‘AAAHHH’ right on cue after that line in the refrain of ‘Bikes’.

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://youtu.be/xym69qVmrec[/youtube][spacer height=”10px”]

At one point, Lucy (we’re on first-name terms now, right?) also shares that she’s written a new song titled ‘Nebraska’, inspired by a book she’s read by Willa Cather, and we all feel as though we should ask her if we could borrow it for the weekend — we’d return it to her the next time we hang out.

Honest, fragile and personal, it was a set that made us all voyeurs to her emotions and insecurities. But as flawless as the set was, and as flawless as Lucy Rose was, and as flawless as her vocals were, one couldn’t help but yearn for a tad more bite in the music.

As one critic put it more aptly, Like I Used To creates “a hazy sound that leaves you feeling as if you’ve bathed in lavender oil – lovely, but lacking the acerbic touch that would elevate her to a leading role.” Lucy’s talent is quite apparent, and her rising fame quite unsurprising despite her own bewilderment at it; but if she were to shed the comparisons to Laura Marling (not that that’s not a compliment by any measure) there will need to be more elements of surprise — like that amazing version of ‘Shiver’ she played on electric guitar instead of an acoustic (“We were flying, so I couldn’t pack too many guitars”) that added a dream-like patina to heartache.

Nevertheless, it was an unquestionably beautiful performance made literally up-close-and-personal when the audience swarmed the stage within centimetres of her, in response to her quite misinterpreted invitation to ‘stand and boogie’.

“This is insane. Who knew?” She mutters into the mic but not to the audience. “Who would have known that my best show would be in Singapore?”

By Zixin Lin

Charlie Lim @ Esplanade Theatre Studio (10pm, 16.03.14)

You never leave a Charlie Lim show without feeling like your mind has been blown to pieces. It’s a phenomenon. Everyone who attended the show last Sunday stepped out of the Mosaic Club in somewhat of a collective daze, still trying to figure out what exactly happened in there, for that one-hour set. Suffice it to say, Charlie and his band members really know how to put on a good show.

Even before the show, the fact that tickets for the first show had been sold out, and another one had to be added afterwards, already hinted that this was not going to be an ordinary gig: as the Mosaic Club filled up, there was definitely some sense of expectation among the crowd.

Once the band emerged and settled into their places, it began with a short but intense prelude before seamlessly launching right into an old favourite ‘Pedestal’, off Charlie’s debut EP. There was little sign of lethargy from the band despite having played another set earlier that night – everything was right on cue, and the energy was irrepressible.

The Mothership, as Charlie’s band (Euntaek Kim, Jase Sng, Wen Ming Soh, Kerong Chok, Adam Shah and Mark John Hariman) is affectionately known, shared such a level of chemistry that only long-time collaborators are able to perfect. Clearly seasoned musicians in their own right, throughout the set they were able to support Charlie’s vocals and yet not overtop them.

‘Conspiracy’, a new single slated for release on the upcoming Time/Space EP, marked a departure from familiar territory: a swirling electronic haze of autotuned vocals, throbbing beats and a restless bassline. It was an invigorating change, with an observably darker mood beginning to set in for the rest of the show.

Compared to the confident and assured grooves of the earlier songs, following songs like ‘Bitter’ and the tentatively named ‘The Airport Song’ were far more controlled and considered; stripped down, the songs were laid bare to emotional honesty. The gently straining croon of, “But I won’t catch you if you let go, I’ll pick apart the things you let fold” evoked a bittersweet romance, the irony and ambivalence of love.

From full-on jazz to dreamy electronic tones, the versatility and musicianship of the band were again on display with the transition to a more alt-rock leaning Smashing Pumpkins cover, ‘1979’. The Mothership seemed happy enough to be playing along, taking a breather from the more musically challenging earlier songs and jamming easily to this classic tune.

The encore was, of course, a given: the crowd was hungry for more, chanting and shouting after Charlie disappeared backstage. Thankfully he came out again, obliging the audience with three more songs. ‘There Is No Love’ was perhaps the best song to end the set with, probably one of Charlie’s best songs and a crowd favourite.

The set had come full circle, from beginning with old songs off his EP, going on to explore new depths, new dimensions of sound, and then back to the well-loved favourites again. Alternating between the extremes of full-blown intensity and quiet restraint, Charlie and his band had traversed the entire spectrum in that one-hour set.

With the end of the show, the tenth Mosaic Music Festival was over – hard to believe, but nevertheless a deserving closure. Charlie’s upcoming double EP Time/Space will be highly anticipated, for sure, as he promised the audience that he would be back in Singapore at the end of the year with the launch of the new release. Till then we’ll be savouring the memory of this last night of the festival to tide us over.

By Li Shuen Lam

Atlas LP Launch @ Beep Studios (15.03.14)

Atlas launched their debut LP Here Be Dragons with an intimate performance supported by post-rockers Sphaeras and Paint The Sky Red on Saturday, 15 March 2014. Beep City Studios set the scene well with two softly lit Persian carpets that demarcated the stage and put the performers on the same plane as their audience. Perhaps it was this deconstruction, or simply the fact that many in attendance were family and friends, but it felt like you were slipping right into something comfortable and familiar.

Sphaeras opened the proceedings with a set that gave just the right taste of things to come. A recent addition to the scene, their sound tilted towards the textural, exploring emotions with urgency and filled with yearning to paint a landscape for the mind. This made for a nice contrast with the wordless narratives of Paint The Sky Red, who looked completely at ease delivering what felt like chapters of a tale well-told. Their set was composed and patient, revealing layers that spoke of the trials of experience. At the end of it, there was much anticipation for Atlas, who finally took to the carpets to belt out their unique brand of genre-bending music.

One of the most satisfying aspects of Atlas’ predisposition to combine elements across genres is that they have a keen understanding of how to make something coherent out of the fragments of their various influences — the carefully structured songs that made up their set all had a density of rich flavours that blended gently with each other.

The combination of acts for this LP launch – whether deliberate or by accident – provided a curious snapshot across time, with each band representing a different phase in their development. Atlas were marking new ground with the culmination of Here Be Dragons and at the same time sealing a memory of their present lineup. Sphaeras, still quite fresh from the cradle, were carving out their range and proving their mettle. Paint The Sky Red, on the other hand, displayed the quiet intensity that comes from playing together for years.

Highlights of the evening included the punishment that Sphaeras’ Zakhran Khan meted out to his drum kit, the eerily sampled fragments of conversation that framed the PTSR set. and the improv by Atlas’ keyboardist Zac Yeap. The venue and set-up was icing on the cake, and we hope that the success of this in-studio performance is the first of many to come at Beep City Studios.

By Manoj Harjani

The Big Pink @ Esplanade Concert Hall (14.03.14)

It would be too easy to write about The Big Pink’s gig at Esplanade Concert Hall in terms of size; too obvious to point out the irony in how everything about it was in fact small. Oh no, it would be artless journalism to dream up headlines like “The Big Pink Play To Tiniest Concert Hall Crowd Ever”, or “The Big Pink’s Short Set Disappoints, or “The Big Pink — Half The Band It Used To Be” (literally: they’re officially a duo now).

But it would also be wrong not to, because all of the above is embarrassingly true. The London electro fuzz-rockers were shockingly mediocre, putting on a show that felt more like a dress rehearsal than a proper concert. Where did it all go wrong?

Perhaps it was the poor attendance. It couldn’t have been very encouraging for frontman Robbie Furze, drummer Vicky Jean Smith and Furze’s wife-cum-sessionist Mary Charteris to be told they were booked at a world-class 1,800-seater venue, then walk onstage to see it less than a quarter full. Or for them to get only the first two rows on their feet, while the rest of the patchily-filled auditorium sat and looked on for the better part of seventy minutes.

Maybe the band was over-ambitious, debuting no less than four new songs. If The Big Pink were of — well, bigger — stature, like Radiohead or Arctic Monkeys, this would’ve been a defining moment, and the envy of fans worldwide. But they aren’t, and four new songs in a set of eleven seems more like an experiment by a band playing to a low-stakes audience they feel they can afford to alienate (especially considering how they aren’t currently touring, and the Singapore gig is a one-off). It wasn’t all bad, though. ‘Here I Am’ has a leather-clad badassery which The Raveonettes would be proud of, and signals a possible progression from the anthemic pomp of the first two albums. But there was a palpable hesitation in the way the new material was presented, with each song preceded by an uncomfortable silence, and marked by tense concentration.

Or it could be that The Big Pink is just one of those bands that sucks live. It’s clear enough from listening to A Brief History of Love on headphones that their massive sound is a contrivance of good production and electronic overdubs. This doesn’t always translate well in a live environment, least of all when you’ve lost two members, and you’re relying on the frontman’s model wife to pick up the considerable slack by triggering samples, sequences and vocal effects. Goodness knows what made The Big Pink decide not to bring along a bassist for the Singapore show, and relegate their low-end to a computer. The result was a really half-assed visual presence, and a noise which clearly aspired to be huge, but stopped short of it.

To be fair, Furze and Smith were most in their element with the older material like ‘Crystal Visions’ and ‘Too Young To Love’, slamming overfuzzed power chords and driving beats with full-on rock posturing. Alas, it was too little and too late, in a concert that simply lacked too much.

By Don Shiau