Interviews  |  Baybeats Budding Band 2017: Subsonic Eye

Young, dreamy Singaporean local band Subsonic Eye to play at alternative music festival Baybeats 2017

By Winifred Wong

Subsonic Eye

Photo credit: Patrick Elicano

Watching local Singaporean dream-pop band Subsonic Eye on stage infects you with a strange sense of self-consciousness.

Co-founder and frontwoman Nur Wahidah, 19, touches her hair frequently, unsure of what to do with her hands. Band leader and guitarist Daniel Castro Borces, 19, looks down at his guitar pedalboard in typical shoegaze style for most of the show. The band members look everywhere other than the audience’s watchful eyes.

Subsonic Eye

Photo credit: Patrick Elicano

Off-stage they’re unabashedly themselves, and they poke fun at each other through breakfast. Today they are welcoming guitarist Jared Lim, 18, who replaces Zhang Bo, 20, after the latter left the band recently.

One could say they’re too young to be nostalgic. Although they’re apparently not too young to bag a music mentorship with Noise (which they completed in 2016), or to have a full-length album under their belt.

Subsonic Eye

Photo credit: Patrick Elicano

Out of all the Baybeats Budding bands this year, Subsonic Eye are simultaneously the youngest band (in terms of average age) in the line-up, and the only band that are signed to a record label, courtesy of Daniel’s initiative.

Back in 2015, he was awed by the acts that local independent concert promoter Symmetry Entertainment were bringing in, among which were indie acts Explosions in the Sky and Foals. Then 16, he reached out to Symmetry and asked if they would give his newly-formed band shows.

Daniel did not get a reply, but he would soon hear from Nigel Lopez, then 22, who had just started his own label, Middle Class Cigars.

“All (the label’s Facebook page) had was five ‘like’s and a photo of a goat and a field as profile picture,” Daniel recalls. “It wasn’t much at that time.”

“Afterwards, I met Nigel at Kult Café and he was chain-smoking and he had this… flask containing hard liquor, and I thought, wow, this guy is so shady,” Daniel laughs.

Two years on, the band would reach their first major milestone as a band.

Their debut album Strawberry Feels, released in mid-April this year, is a reference and tribute to the jamming studio at Singapore Polytechnic (SP), where three of them are schooling presently.

Daniel says, “(The jamming studio) is called Strawberry Fields, after the Beatles’ song. A lot of stuff happened there, especially this time last year when we tried out for Baybeats. We didn’t get in but we grew a lot, and matured a lot (in the) studio.”

As to why ‘Fields’ was changed to ‘Feels’, Wahidah points to the emotional saturation of the album. “It’s the vibe… that’s how our music sounds like.”

That they recorded, mixed and produced the album all by themselves shows remarkable stamina and drive, and what they are studying currently have definitely helped.

All the band members are enrolled in music-related courses at the moment.

Daniel, Wahidah and bassist Spencer Tan, 19, are in their third and final year at SP’s Music and Audio Technology course. Lucas Tee, 20, and Jared are reading Performance and Audio Production respectively at Lasalle College of the Arts.

Subsonic Eye

Photo credit: Patrick Elicano

On how she usually gets inspiration for lyrics, vocalist Wahidah says, “I just blurt… whatever’s on the surface of my thoughts and try to decipher what I’m singing afterwards.” The bespectacled singer calls this “Björk-ing it”, after her favourite artist.

For their latest album, however, she admits putting more effort to make the lyrics more straightforward, even though it was daunting.

“Putting (my) straight thoughts out there… I feel very vulnerable and exposed,” Wahidah says.

When I point out to Wahidah that she is the only female musician in the entire Baybeats Budding Bands programme, she gives a puzzled look.

“Oh really? That’s weird. I don’t look at genders, you know. I don’t know if anyone judges bands ‘cos of gender. Do people do that?”

Subsonic Eye

Photo credit: Patrick Elicano

Wahidah encourages bands to be more open, and to “go get your own opportunities”. “Be more confident, go out there (with the mindset that you) want to get shows, and not just Soundcloud for your whole life,” she advises.

The band have been busy promoting their debut album but have already set their sights outside of Singapore. “I’m still figuring out how this whole tour thing works,” Daniel says. “I’ve been emailing all these people and no one is replying me… it’s still quite a mystery how you put a tour together.”

Their long-term goals as musicians seem to converge, and all of them want to continue doing music, regardless of Subsonic Eye’s success.

Spencer says, “Personally I just wanna keep doing music… if Subsonic Eye lasts for a long time then why not?”

Daniel hopes their music will be timeless. “I don’t want to be a passing, forgotten kind of band… hopefully ten years from now people will look back and call (our music) classic.”

Subsonic Eye will play at the Baybeats Festival, which happens from 14 to 16 July 2017 at the Esplanade.