No, it’s not some sort of beer festival nor is it an extension of the River Safari—Sapporo Safaris is a promising local band that has emerged in the Singapore music scene with their own unique blend of indie pop and anthemic rock with influences as diverse as the members themselves. The band played their first live show in July at the Prince of Wales — a 45-minute set of purely original songs, surely a feat for such a young band! Slowly gaining recognition and along with that one superfan, they have since moved on to bigger shows at The Pigeonhole, NUS Live Lounge and most recently, MAAD Sounds.
Lead singer Kevin met guitarist Roy in their time at NS (so maybe good things can come out of it!) five years ago and since coming together around March this year, the band has evolved through several line up changes into its current eight-strong roster of musicians. The pair likens their relationship to that of legendary couplings Morrissey/Marr and Albarn/Coxon, but they are quick to answer my follow-up question with a hasty, “Except we don’t fight!” The young band, with its current line up, “found” each other in March earlier this year, and it is clear that they have become close friends, like brothers and sisters in a pack of wolves.
“I had this idea to form a band that was ridiculously big and grand in sound,” Kevin said, “and I guess the rest liked the idea and jumped on board.” The super duo found the rest of the band in a matter of weeks, made up of friends, mutual friends, and even a sibling, with Kevin’s sister Jacq playing keys/synths for the band. Just one member stronger than Arcade Fire, their rehearsal schedules are planned months in advance, but getting the whole band to attend isn’t the hard part, the biggest problem lies in finding studios big enough to fit them all in!
“I had this idea to form a band that was ridiculously big and grand in sound, and I guess the rest liked the idea and jumped on board.”
It hasn’t taken long for Sapporo Safaris to gain fans, but the band members are still surprised when they are recognized. They elaborate on their first ever ‘superfan’ encounter with fellow musician Lennat, who discovered them at rehearsal at a studio. Lennat, drummer for fuzzy dreampop band Obedient Wives Club, was excited about the band’s musical direction, enthusing that it’s so great to find young bands diversifying the current pool of genres currently played in Singapore and bombarding Kevin with an intense set of questions about their influences. The band appreciates that there are people so genuinely excited about their music but also acknowledge that they have formed at a time when the local music scene is really buzzing, and bands are more easily being recognised for their work. “There’s generally a higher public awareness of local music and gigs have been made possible with the Internet”, says Kevin, possibly referring to Lennat’s support online when in true social media form, she took her enthusiasm to Facebook on the same day that she discovered the band, raving about this new gem she’d found.
All of the band members agree that it really is impossible to define their sound. All coming from different musical backgrounds and influenced by such a diverse range of genres, each one interpreted differently by each band member, bringing it all together in the writing process gives this hugely exciting “mishmash” of their sound the uniqueness that it has. Guitarist Justin tells us, “What I love is that while we try to make good music, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and I think you can hear that element of fun in our songs,” which is certainly clear when the band is on stage, all eight instruments including an ocarina, which Kevin says he hopes to change the weather with.
You will find in the list of the band’s influences a massive disparity, covering everything across the spectrum from baroque band Neutral Milk Hotel to some epic symphonic power metal! Have a look for yourself:
Kevin – Arcade Fire, The New Pornographers, Mumford & Sons, Fleet Foxes, Titus Andronicus, Neutral Milk Hotel
Roy – Blur, Radiohead, Oasis, Foals, Deerhunter, Mogwai, Arctic Monkeys, WU LYF
Justin – Radiohead… and Radiohead
Ed – Damien Rice, John Mayer Trio, King Lychee
Jacq – The Cure, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, MGMT, Vampire Weekend, Adam Lambert
Shaun – Xandria, Kamelot, Nightwish
Cheryl – Beirut, Beach House, Bon Iver
Scong – Arturo Sandoval, Maynard Ferguson, Dizzy Gillespie
Songwriting surprisingly isn’t a problem – amazingly, every song they have released so far has seen involvement from all eight members. The process starts with Kevin coming up with a few chords, followed by ongoing input from the rest of the band when they meet. They currently have five free demos on their Bandcamp – teasers to an EP they are releasing in January.
“We want to record this EP with our heads in the right place, so that we can deliver with the best that we are capable of. We’ve been waiting for this moment since forever.”
The as yet untitled record will be produced by someone the band describes as “the nicest guy you’ll ever work with,” Patrick Chng, whose well-acclaimed work includes production credits on records by PADRES and more recently, Shelves. “The moment we heard his production work on the Pep Talk record, we knew that he was the man for the job.” This will be the band’s first time in the studio together and while all the material has been written and everything is ready to go, the band is careful not to rush into it. Kevin says, “We want to record this EP with our heads in the right place, so that we can deliver with the best that we are capable of. We’ve been waiting for this moment since forever.” And some artists they hope will like the final product? Ellen Page, Kermit the Frog and John Lennon—apparently he will re-animate as a zombie just to hear and watch them perform!
‘Sasa’, as they are affectionately called, seem to have a good amount of creativity mixed in with a balance of savvy that is so crucial to new bands hoping to break into the industry. “It would be a dream come true if we could get a thousand people to sing along to our songs,” Kevin says, demonstrating the band’s determined and excited outlook. Perhaps what is most striking though, is the amount of fun that they seem to have, all the time. And as for the direction that the band is moving towards, it is a constant, organic evolution. As Roy’s hippie vibes permeate throughout the interview, “Things happen. And sometimes they just happen for the right reasons.”
Where do the Sapporo Safaris band members rate on this scale?
By Melissa Yong