Deafheaven @ Beep Studios (3.05.14)

Never trust Google Maps.

It could lead to you wandering around for an hour in the heat, eventually abandoning all hope in technology. “Where could this place be?”, you’ll wonder. After stopping and thinking for a moment, you’ll remember that you are going to a Deafheaven show, and scan the area for black t-shirts.

Upon arrival at Beep Studios, we could sense the anticipation from the fans waiting around the courtyard; smoking on the steps, arguing over album superiority and gathering around one of the men they were all there to see. George Clarke‘s usual persona was surprisingly absent; out among the people his demeanour was the polar opposite of what we’d expect from the vocalist onstage. Polite, friendly and more than happy to stand for photo after photo with fans, he was signing anything they handed over. I instantly regretted leaving my copy of Sunbather back in Melbourne.

George eventually headed into the venue and the majority of the crowd followed, ready for their first taste of music for the night. Singapore locals Paris in the Making were up first and, with a few words from the band, they began their set. After a massive build up, the progressive hardcore group burst into a barrage of heavy hitting riffs and screams from the band’s frontman. They were tight, however their heavier moments were eclipsed by their “prettier” passages which illustrated the bands intricate instrumentals.

After the set came to a close, the fans scuttled out of the venue for another smoke and some air before the main event. “KittyWu are on a roll,” I heard someone say, and it’s true. In recent months the label/promoters have been doing everything right, bringing in Irish post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar and Japanese math-rock girls Tricot for successful shows. Tonight was not going to be an exception.

wandered inside as the band was putting together the final touches before what was going to be a phenomenal set. The lights went down as the band (minus George) took to the stage, before bathing them in red. The band broke into ‘Dream House’ as George arrived on stage.  He commanded the stage entrancingly, and had all eyes squarely fixed on him. Part commander, part conductor, he flowed with the music, punched the air and gestured to the audience to creep forward. Once he opened his mouth, letting out a frighteningly high scream, the audience was putty in his hands.

What followed was a phenomenal assault on the senses as the band made their way through the rest of their highly acclaimed sophomore album Sunbather. It was great to see the somewhat timid crowd begin to loosen up, as they sang along to the melody of ‘Irresistible’. The band continued with extreme professionalism and energy, creating the most incredible wall of sound I have ever faced. With the band still playing, George jumped into the crowd and the devoted carried their “master”.

As George screamed the words “I am my father’s son” during ‘The Pecan Tree’, you could both hear the emotion in his voice and see it on his face. The power behind those words gave the whole audience a look inside the man in front of us. His veneer slightly cracked, and I was reminded of the guy I met outside before the show. Just a man, with incredible talent.

The room was still charged with energy when the band put down their instruments and waved thankfully to the crowd. It wasn’t the loudest cry for an encore I have ever heard, but you could tell the fans wanted more. After a quick “piss break” (in a beer can, apparently), the band returned to treat the dedicated fans to their 10-minute epic ‘Unrequited’, from their debut album Roads to Judah.

As the show came to an end, fans rushed to congratulate the band as they walked through the crowd to their dressing room. Deafheaven tore away all expectations, and hearing Sunbather in it’s entirety had left us drenched in the best way possible.

By Ale Launech

And So I Watch You From Afar @ Zouk (28.02.14)

Bands playing at nightclubs are nothing new, but I couldn’t shake the odd feeling I had walking into Zouk for a gig and not for a night of partying. It was unusual not only to walk into one of the hottest night spots in Singapore only to be greeted with an empty dance floor, but to be greeted by Mastadon playing through the speakers.

Zouk’s experience with electronic dance music was evident in its sound system. With a powerful bass pounding the audience’s ears throughout the night, it was perhaps not the best choice of venue for a post-rock concert. That said, you take what you get, and the sudden use of so many different and varied venues can only mean one thing; more bands, at cheaper prices.

Relative new-comers to the local scene, but plenty prominent nonetheless (especially with the release of their first EP just a week ago), sub:shaman opened for the night. Despite many of their songs sounding disparately different from each other, the entire act managed not to sound confused, but actually come off as a cohesive whole, with fairly spot-on performances from all the band members. Frontwoman Weish however, did seem to be struggling with the vocal parts in some songs, even if they were few and far between. Her high notes seemed strained, and her husky lows sounded forced.

The highlight of the night was, of course, Belfast math-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar, who came on shortly after sub:shaman finished their set.

Playing a good mix from all three of their albums, it was evident how their musical style has evolved throughout the years. In fact, the difference in sound was perfect pacing for a show. The band segued effortlessly from heavy, bass-driven, songs such as ‘Like a Mouse’ to more technical but mellow tunes like ‘BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION’.

The setlist was flawless, bringing the audience on an aural roller-coaster. There was never a time when the periods of high-energy lasted for long enough that fatigue set in, or when the mellow sections were extended to the point of boredom.

Technical difficulties were rife on the night, with frontman Rory Friers’ guitar cutting off during the second song. Friers announced to the crowd that it was the end of their set and proceeded to pretend to walk off the stage as a technician worked on getting his equipment working again. This happened again halfway through the set, though the band took it in their stride.

One sometimes wonders what makes a good show: is it the band or the crowd? In this case, it was a good portion of both. The band has toured extensively throughout the world, including far flung countries like Russia and China, and it shows. Even on the tiny stage, they commanded the attention of the entire crowd from the first note they played. The live performance brought to the songs an energy not evident from their records alone.

Even as the band’s guitarists dueled, taking turns playing their guitar parts and playing back-to-back, they were absolutely flawless, never missing a note or beat. At one point, Friers jumped off the stage and ran into the audience, playing right in the centre of the crowd to everyone’s delight.

And So I Watch You From Afar is one of those bands that remind you that there is no need for a thousand-strong crowd to experience an absolutely stunning show. The electricity in the air, the energy flowing through the crowd, is as much a product of the band’s performance as it is the crowd’s enthusiasm. And for a band like that, we’d much rather be watching right up close than from afar.

By Joel Teo

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. 

Japanese post-rock band tricot to perform in Singapore

Singapore-based record label/concert promoter KittyWu has announced that Japanese alternative rock band tricot will be performing at Home Club on 14 March.

The band consists of its 3 female founding members, Ikkyu Nakajima (vocals/guitar), Motoko “Motifour” Kida (guitar/backing vocals), and Hiromi “hirohiro” Sagane (bass/backing vocals); soon after its formation, the current drummer and only male band member Kazutaka Komaki joined in May 2011.

Known for championing post-rock in Singapore and following the recent announcement of an And So I Watch You From Afar show, KittyWu has presented bands such as Envy, Toe, Mono, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, as well as I Am David Sparkle and Amateur Takes Control, who are both are part of the label’s artist management roster.

tricot’s experimental music fits perfectly within the label’s specialized roster, consisting of melodic post-rock-inspired sounds and complex rhythm reminiscent of math rock with perfectly mixed elements of pure, fragile, but strong vocals and unpredictable song transitions.

And yep, you can be guaranteed their live show is just as intense as their description:

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[spacer height=”10px”]tricot (local support TBA)
Home Club
Friday, 14 March 2014
$20 at the door

Limited advance tickets may also be purchased online here.

By Cindy Tan

And So I Watch You From Afar make Southeast Asian debut in Singapore

Irish band And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA) has just announced their debut show in Southeast Asia, to be held in Singapore on 28 February.

The four-piece from Belfast is one of Ireland’s most beloved alternative musical outfits, receiving overwhelming critical acclaim and accolades for their dynamic post-rock and trademark guitar riffs.

Forming in 2005, they have released three EPs and three albums to date, also touring at an unparalleled pace for over five years building a legion of fans around the world from Belarus to China, and most recently, India.

In the band’s latest record, All Hail Bright Futures, there is a new colour scheme in place: new textures, emotions, sounds and voices — a positive uplift that more closely matches the euphoria the Northern Ireland quartet has been instilling in audiences through their music in a live setting.

All Hail Bright Futures is ASIWYFA’s first recording done as a three-piece following the departure of Tony Wright. They will head back out on the road as a four-piece with their new, full-time member Niall Kennedy on guitar and perform songs from the new album — their boldest statement yet — that states a renewed case for a magnetizing band at their best.

And So I Watch You From Afar
with sub:shaman
Friday, 28 February 2014
$45 (early-bird), $55 (regular)

Tickets are available now.

By Melissa Yong