MONSTER CAT are on top of their ‘Tower’

After announcing the release of their debut full-length titled The Violet Hour, MONSTER CAT have been making impressive strides. They have opened for international acts Empire Of The Sun and Foals within one week of each other, and their lead single ‘Take Me To Love’ topped the Singapore iTunes charts in a matter of hours.

Now, the band’s latest single ‘Tower‘ has just been announced as Single of the Week on iTunes, making it the first Singaporean song to receive the prestigious title.

Their debut single ‘Take Me To Love‘ soared to #1 on the Singapore iTunes charts just one day after its release, and its accompanying music video can only be described as a psychedelic freak fest: bursts of colour and mirrored images perfectly match the apocalyptic dance party feel that the track gives off and, rather rnsurprisingly, cats are heavily featured.

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-rvgbY5he4[/youtube]

[spacer height=”10px”]The boys are now preparing for their upcoming shows at China’s JUE Music + Art Festival before returning home in April for their album launch, where all 13 tracks from The Violet Hour will be played.

By Ale Launech

‘Tower’ is available for purchase now via the iTunes store. Physical copies of The Violet Hour are available for pre-order via Bandcamp.

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

Monster Cat release new single titled ‘Take Me To Love’

Local art-rock band and Pirate Bay heroes MONSTER CAT have just released the first single from their forthcoming studio album, The Violet Hour.

Titled ‘Take Me To Love‘, the single is a spasmodic noise party, driven by a groovy beat and peppered with a stuttering of guitars and playful synthesizers.

The album itself is a lushly layered melange of sounds. Drawing from a host of genres and heavily featuring their trademark vocal harmonies, the band have created an intense compilation of melodic rock songs that at once, make for an exciting and emotional sonic trip that aims to give listeners new perspectives on the rock paradigm.

The 13-track debut album was produced by award-winning producer Tim Carr (Jay-Z, Flea (Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Julia Stone) and was fully recorded in Sydney’s top-notch Studios 301 and then mastered by London’s Dick Beetham.

Monster Cat release new single titled 'Take Me To Love'

In their recent Facebook post, the band has said that the album was “something we’ve been working on for the past two years” and thanked fans for the ongoing support of their Indiegogo campaign, which saw them exceed their $10,000 goal with the support of 271 funders.

The Violet Hour is due for release on 3 March 2014 and is now available for pre-order, which includes a bonus download of the band’s debut EP Mannequins as well as an advance download of ‘Take Me To Love’.

In the meantime, stream ‘Take Me To Love’ now on Deezer.

By Evan Woon

Blue Hour Sessions: HEIZENBERG is here to stay

OS: Hi guys! Let’s start off with names. That’s a real interesting band name there, Heizenberg. Is it safe to say that you two are huge Breaking Bad fans?
HEIZENBERG: Not really. We just liked the ring to it and what it seemed to connote, from the scientific principle to the television character and more. That said, we have clocked in our hours watching the show, though not religiously.

Heizenberg is a relative newcomer to the music scene. Were both of you involved in any projects or bands before this?
H: We’ve been involved in various projects, notably Syai was in Monster Cat previously and Nick in MUON.

How would you compare the local electronic music scene to other countries? What would you like to see more of?
H: We can’t say we know much beyond the ideas of a tourist what it’s like elsewhere. The scene here has certainly come into its own but there’s always room for expansion. It’s great to have different people into the things they do, creating little pockets of interest and experience, whether it’s in the form of collectives or communities.

Beyond new stuff, we’d like to see more continuity within stuff that’s been around.

We’ve heard the mix presented for the Good Times party. It’s got a real edgy vibe to it — almost an ethereal version of Death Grips. Are the vocals sampled?
H: Yeah, certain bits of vocals were our own and some sampled. We try to fit in stuff that we’d want to hear more of ourselves.

There’s an album in the works at the moment. Can you tell us a little about it?
H: We’re currently in the final stages of mixing for the album. It’s a collection of songs from a certain period and reflects a particular sonic approach and style — electronic and beat-driven with a focus on very simple and tangible arrangements.

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By Evan Woon

Lomography Blue Hour Sessions
with HEIZENBERG, Intriguant, and Marcel Thee (ID)
Home Club
Friday, 24 January
8pm
$12 at the door

Lomography’s Blue Hour Sessions to put spotlight on Singapore music and art scene

Lomography Singapore has just announced the Blue Hour Sessions, a 6-part series featuring collaborations with local bands and graphic artists with an aim to document ground-breaking work in the local music scene.

Drawn from the French expression l’heure bleue, ‘The Blue Hour’ refers to the time before nightfall when the sun slips from sight and the sky falls into a deep blue – traditionally, this hour of day is seen to hold special significance because of the possibilities for unexpected collisions, liaisons and delirium.

From 13 November to 14 April, the Blue Hour Sessions will take place on the last Saturday of the month, with each session turning the spotlight on collaborative efforts between some of the most exciting bands and graphic artists of our generation.

Expect live sets with visual and audio installations, as well as the launch of special edition EPs (limited to a first-run of 36 copies) featuring rough cuts, unreleased demos, analogue prints, and zine artwork by the bands and graphic artists themselves.

Other Sounds is proud to be official online media partner of the the Blue Hour Sessions as it aims to put the spotlight back on local bands and graphic artists.

Blue Hour Sessions schedule

23 November
Tiramisu x fFurious
.gif x M-D-R-N
7nightsatsea x Heider of SSYSTM x Allison Marie Low

21 December
MUON x William Chan of TMRRW
Bani Haykal x Kristal Melson x SUSEJ

18 January
HEIZENBERG x Brandon Tay of Syndicate
Dream State Vision x StudioKALEIDO

22 February
sub:shaman x Marc Gabriel Loh
Space Days x Afiq Omar of Syndicate

29 March
Pleasantry x FROMPAMM
ANECHOIS x Izyanti Asa’ari x Wu Jun Han
Ellipsis x Ban-Fam

3 May
Astreal x MAKE
MONSTER CAT x DO NOT DESIGN x Afiq Omar of Syndicate
Chöd x Philipp Aldrup
Zirconia (feat. X’ho + Yeow of Zircon Lounge) x WHITELABEL x Lasse Marhaug

Update (17/12/13):

The Blue Hour Sessions exhibition and live showcases will now be held at Home Club:

27 December
MUON x William Chan of TMRRW
Dream State Vision x StudioKALEIDO

17 January
HEIZENBERG x Brandon Tay of Syndicate
Bani Haykal x  Kristal Melson

21 February
sub:shaman x Marc Gabriel Loh
Space Days x Afiq Omar of Syndicate

28 March
Pleasantry x FROMPAMM
ANECHOIS x Izyanti Asa’ari x Wu Jun Han
Ellipsis x Ban-Fam

2 May
Astreal x MAKE
MONSTER CAT x DO NOT DESIGN x Afiq Omar of Syndicate
Chöd x Philipp Aldrup

*Dates and line-ups are subject to change

By Katherine Pollock

MONSTER CAT launch crowdfunding campaign for new record

MONSTER CAT, along with KittyWu Records, are inviting fans (…or anyone) to be a part of their new record.

Launching a fundraising campaign via Indiegogo, the band are looking to raise $10,000 to go towards the making of their new album, to be recorded with ARIA award-winning producer Tim Carr (Matt Corby, Ernest Ellis) in Sydney’s Studios 301.

In return for their hard-earned cash, contributors will be awarded with digital, CD or limited edition vinyl copies of the new release. Also available are MONSTER CAT tees (made by Sifr), access to secret demos, and official Lomography cameras which have been exclusively pimped up by the boys themselves.

KittyWu Records says, “It’s been a long time coming. And they’ve worked really hard on this… We want this new record to sound the best it can, because that’s the least you guys deserve.”

To learn more about the campaign, head to MONSTER CAT’s Indiegogo fundraising page, or check out the video below, which features a sneak peek of MONSTER CAT performing four previously unreleased songs from the upcoming record.

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://youtu.be/XxetivBqY5Y[/youtube]
By Eleanor Turnbull

Are Singapore’s live music venues up to scratch?

Live music venues can far too simply be overlooked as the public spaces in which audiences and artists meet — but they are so much more than that.

They are the spaces in which the audience can form opinions, and discern for themselves their own tastes; spaces in which artists are perhaps given the validation or encouragement to continue with their art; spaces in which promoters, students, organizations, can come together in the spirit of collaboration — spaces in which ultimately, commerce can arise from creativity to spark a whole new and sustainable cycle of creativity.

And with a growing furnish of venues in the Lion City, we set out to understand how big of a role they really play in our own slow-burning industry, and the ideas and hopes of members of our own music community.

Joseph Zhang
Owner, Hood Bar and Café
Our aim is to promote original, local music in the hopes that one day we can revive a local music culture reminiscent of the 80s, when local bands were held with the same regard as overseas acts. We hope to offer a space where musicians can showcase their works — but there will always be limitations for live venues.

For example, while almost all genres and acts are welcome, due to the fact that we are located in a shopping mall, the only genre we accept less of is death metal as it gets too loud and would turn a bulk of our customers away.

More venues allowing local bands to perform their originals during ‘prime time’ instead of on the quieter nights would definitely create a more vibrant movement in our music community, similar to the ‘live house’ culture of Japan and Taiwan. Being a live music venue that pays extra attention to hosting local music, our biggest challenge is in enticing a new crowd for our Saturday Originals Session (SOS), especially for the newer bands, so it’s just as important for the crowd to seek out new music as it is for venues to facilitate it.

MONSTER CAT
Artist
In terms of numbers, we’ve definitely seen a marked increase in live music venues, but not all of them are quite up to scratch yet. And if you’re talking about the ones supporting original music, that number dwindles significantly.

Programming-wise, we are also seeing a very encouraging increase in the number of performance avenues for original music, from corporate-sponsored platforms such as the Ben Sherman Sessions to the very regular Identite gigs at Home Club to “imported” concepts such as the recently concluded first edition of Sofar Sounds. But there’s something to be said about putting local music in unexpected places like schools, ‘heartlands’, or trailers on TV, and not enough Singaporean artists have experienced the thrill of hearing their music on the radio for the first time.

It is not as much about the number of venues than it is about making local music more prevalent in the average person’s life. Perhaps it is in our Singaporean nature to think that music is not something that we take as seriously or something that we can call ourselves “professionals” at. We don’t seem to be very used to paying for local shows — a fact not lost on certain gig organisers — which ultimately serves to devalue the very bands we claim to support.

On the flip side, even bands that can pull a paying crowd cannot expect to do so week-in-week-out. The market is just too small. That said, if bands do their part in delivering great music, and if venues make sure that there are other draws for customers besides the live music, it just might be possible for everyone to come away happy.

Mae Ng
Founder, Upsurge Productions
The availability of live music venues has a massive impact on our music industry, especially if Singapore wishes to be a core part of the South East Asian touring circuit for international bands.

I think we could do with a bit more variety and open-mindedness in terms of programming, especially when it comes to what some venues have titled the ‘heavy-music’ genre — we’ve been turned down before simply because they were afraid that the music would disturb surrounding residences, and have had to reject some band offers because we could not find the right venue to hold the show in. Ultimately, it’s a real shame for the fans.

More live music venues gives promoters more choices, but it does not necessarily mean growth for the scene in the long-run. Venue owners need to be open to a variety of programmes. Take House of Blues, a premier live music venue that has 13 different chains of live music halls around the US. It may be called ‘House of Blues’, but they often hold shows ranging from pop-punk to hardcore, and have played a huge part in helping many up-and-coming bands succeed.

Music could really be a lucrative industry for the government, especially for tourism. Festivals, like Belgium’s TomorrowLand, that are packaged with flights and hotels, draw a sea of tourists — perhaps Singapore could be the next music mecca destination in Southeast Asia.

Mish’aal Nasar, Box Office and Outreach Executive; and Nur Khairiyah Bin Ramli, Programme Manager
The Substation
MN: Our venues can do a lot more to support local bands by offering more opportunities to perform original material. The Substation has always been open to local bands, whether it’s with our in-house programmes or venue hirers, and we’re always on the lookout for performers who are willing to push the boundaries and create their own material.

It is great to see the government investing more in local music, but what is really needed is the cultivation of an audience that supports the local music scene and some of the more experimental gigs where performers challenge conventional forms of sound. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s something government intervention could have a very big impact on.

NK: Our programming is geared at giving performers an opportunity to try something new. The last thing we want to do is limit artists — we want to encourage new works, new approaches and new sounds. We also try and keep ticketed shows as affordable as possible, for example the Tribal Gathering of Tongue Tasters, a collaborative series curated by our Associate Artist Bani Haykal, is keep it to $10 to $15 a ticket, which seems to have worked well so far.

For other series that tend to be more experimental, venues can try to encourage more people to come along by making the events free.

By Sylvia Koh

Four bands to collaborate with legendary producer at Steve Lillywhite Production Week

The Singapore Music Society (SGMUSO) has just announced the four bands who will join five-time Grammy award-winning producer Steve Lillywhite in the studios next week for the Steve Lillywhite Production Week, an idea conceived by president of SGMUSO, Graham Perkins.

The four personally selected bands are folk rockers Monster Cat, pop group The Sam Willows, experimental band sub:shaman and newcomers Atlas; all of whom are relatively new but familiar names in the local music scene.

The bands will spend one day recording with Lillywhite before one of them is chosen to collaborate with and be mentored by the producer for the rest of the week. The three remaining bands will return to the studios with three additional producers who will also be mentored by Lillywhite, Roland LimDon Richmond and Jason Tan.

The Steve Lillywhite Production Week will conclude with SOUNDCHECK, another new initiative held by SGMUSO where Lillywhite’s selected band will perform.

Monster Cat
These five cats have quickly made a name for themselves shortly after their formation in 2010, playing several gigs in Singapore, touring Japan and the US, and performing at the Reeperbahn Festival in Berlin in 2012. Their debut release Mannequins is available on their website as a free download.

The Sam Willows
Formed in May 2012, The Sam Willows are one of the newest bands on the list. The soul-folk group have since released a self-titled EP and are supported by major record label Warner Music Singapore. The band has also appeared on national television with a performance at ‘Celebrate 2013’, Mediacorp Channel 5’s New Year’s Eve countdown event, and recently performed at a showcase at renowned music festival SXSW in Austin, Texas.

sub:shaman
sub:shaman may have only made themselves known in the past few months but they are not newcomers to the Singapore underground music scene. The band includes members of established local band Pleasantry; and singer-songwriter Weish, who has performed solo as well as with MUON.

Atlas
Formed in January 2011, indie-experimental band Atlas has just recently performed at the Mosaic Music Festival.

By Cindy Tan

Technology wars: Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Music technology has, no doubt, made it a lot easier for new bands and musicians to produce and promote their work. More and more bands are using home software for recording or mixing and platforms such as SoundCloud or Bandcamp to promote their music. However, though ever-advancing technologies have the potential of easing the stress of an aspiring band or musician, should we be wary of the risk of crossing the line towards complete reliance on technology to make music?

We find out from our own tech-savvies — Fauxe, Seyra and MONSTER CAT — what aspiring bands or musicians should look out for when it comes to exploiting music technology.

Bedroom studio VS professional recording studio
For electronic music producer Fauxe, the rise of home recording studios, or ‘bedroom studios’, has given more flexibility for him to work independently. Producing his music through software such as Reasonand Recycle has helped him to speed up the production process while still allowing him to push his creative and musical boundaries. The ability to work in his bedroom studio also means that there are less distractions.

He hasn’t completely neglected the (costly) idea of working in a professional studio though, but for now, “working around my means is the only option”.

Striking a balance is Seyra; the experimental folk/indie rock band uses Ableton Live for sound design and composition, Logic Pro for tracking and mixing, as well as a buffet of plug-ins such as Waves, Native Instruments and SoundToys. But instead of a bedroom, Seyra has created their own makeshift studio, housing their own equipment. And similar to Fauxe, they are given the flexibility to make real-time decisions on their music experiments before hitting a professional recording studio for a well-prepared and productive session, helping them save time and money.

“look at [technology] as the icing, not the cake; it is a mere tool to achieve your music vision, but what makes a great song depends on what the musician writes.” – MONSTER CAT

MONSTER CAT chooses to keep it as organic as possible when producing their lusciously emotive folk/rock genre. However, they do admit to experimenting through Ableton, Massive and Reason, and using the Roland SPD-SX drum pad for live performances.

But recording with a “professional producer in a well-equipped studio is something bands should work towards”, they say, stressing the advantages of working with a producer. “He/she is very often a sound engineer as well as an additional songwriter, giving you a fresh pair of ears, forcing you to rethink arrangements and [throwing] uncomfortable curve balls at you.”

Working from home has also allowed MONSTER CAT to engage in opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to, like  collaborations with Los Angeles hip hop group Dominant Genetikz and Michigan rapper Ajax Stacks — all thanks to the Internet.

They sum up their take on exploiting music technology by reminding bands to “look at [technology] as the icing, not the cake; it is a mere tool to achieve your music vision, but what makes a great song depends on what the musician writes.”

Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp
Now that you’ve made your music, it’s time to put it out there. Facebook, Soundcloud and Bandcamp make up the ultimate promotional mix for bands and musicians to engage with fans.

Fauxe agrees that technology opens the musician to a much bigger audience, however bands should remember that “once you post your music out, the world becomes your audience; it’s not just Singapore.” People from all over the world will be critiquing your music, so you have to be prepared for whatever feedback they bring — good or bad.

“…once you post your music out, the world becomes your audience; it’s not just Singapore.” – Fauxe

And always remember that engaging with your fans through such platforms is a two-way process. While you attempt to get to know your fans, you should allow them to get to know you too. Seyra keeps it “sincere and funny”, while actively engaging with their fans on their Facebook page as well as their recently launched website. Bringing the band’s personality across requires “a lot of self-intuition and time immersing in the social media culture,” which is a melting pot of bands trying to make themselves heard, making targeting important — “make your voice heard to the right people”.

Like technology, social media platforms are continuously advancing and bands who don’t keep up will risk re-starting their promotional efforts each time a platform collapses or becomes less relevant. MONSTER CAT aims to keep a step ahead of music platforms by making their music available on newer platforms such as Spotify — a music service that is not available in Singapore just yet — and recently registering with on-demand music service Deezer, which has recently become available in Singapore.

From technology to success
Ultimately, a band or musician’s success through technology is relative — it really depends on your goals. If you view YouTube stardom as success, by all means, go crazy with your video uploads and pray that a producer will spot you.

To Fauxe, success is being a musician that possesses a true and distinct identity. With technology, finding yourself doesn’t require a spiritual journey to India (though it did work wonders for The Beatles). All you need to do is hunt through SoundCloud or Youtube. By listening to the output of thousands of producers, you can discover a sound that reflects you.

Seyra believes that success depends on what you want your music to do to people, and to yourself — whether it is to inspire, preach or simply entertain. If you’ve achieved your goals, your endeavour has succeeded. Seyra adds, “No matter how niche or banal your music is, as long as you can find the right audience, you are more likely to be successful in reaching your goal.” They count on turnouts at their gigs (which they announce through their Facebook page and website) to measure their success, and also to gauge where they stand in the music community.

“While you attempt to get to know your fans, you should allow them to get to know you too.” – Seyra

Similarly, MONSTER CAT reckons that everything has to stem from the band’s long-term goal. “Be it cash, popularity or longevity, figuring this out will help you determine whether a band should be signed, stay wholly independent or adopt a mix of both.” For MONSTER CAT, their goal was to play in the band for a living, and that determined their decision to get signed to KittyWu Records, and to have their managers, Errol and Lesley, deal with the distribution and promotion so that they could continue to focus on their songwriting.

There is no winning formula for success in such a temperamental industry. However, knowing that the one thing to expect is the unexpected is an epiphany in itself. Technology has changed the way the industry works, opening up opportunities to those that may never have had them. But with increased opportunity comes increased competition, and so, perhaps, the best advice out there is to keep on top of who your fans are, where they are, and why they like you. Once you’ve figured this out, take the ball and run with it. And don’t look back.

By Nurl Azlea