Meet Aggressive Raisin Cat, the band that thinks and play outside the litterbox
By Kaung Sit Hein
It is no secret that artists strive to create their magnum opus. But for these new cats on the block, the best is only the beginning. In this article, we explore the diversity behind the band as well as their music.
Aggressive Raisin Cat, previously known as just ‘ARC’, are not your average HDB strays, and – unsurprisingly — they’re not cats either. The unorthodox trinity of words is in fact reflective of what the band provides through their music. Through the interview, these 5 talented young lads have taught me what it means to be a progressive metalcore band.
For those who aren’t familiar with the genre, progressive metalcore essentially is an ideal combination of the loud and aggressive tone of Metal and the experimental compositions of progressive rock. Bands that usually identify themselves with the genre tend to incorporate techniques and sounds prevailing from different genres, with hardcore punk and heavy Metal being the main influence.
At the start, they were a trio made up of frontman Janssen Chang, guitarist Aaron Devoy and former drummer Reuben Lam. They played covers as well as originals together as a hobby. Eventually they picked up fellow guitarist, Casper Neo, whom Aaron met through an interaction on Carousell, as well as former bassist Jace How, and began performing under the name ARC as it was an abbreviation for each member's name.
After some roster changes as well as a rebrand, the group now goes by the fierce yet enduring moniker. Since the makeover, the band has acquired two new talents, Lin Yuxuan, a drummer who plans out his drum pattern on the computer before playing it organically, and Haidhir bin Jasmani, the newly recruited bassist who, according to the band, is the most financially stable.
“What attracted you to ‘Progressive Metalcore’?”
“Progressiveness is all about breaking down the constructs of modern songwriting and having full creative freedom,'' he added. I was told that they all have experience playing genres that differed greatly from each other.
Casper is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Jazz at Lasalle, while Janssen learned the ancient art of screaming from listening to deathcore. On the other hand, Aaron hailed from thrash metal roots and Haidhir dabbled in indie rock. As for Yuxuan, he has been a fan of the genre ever since he discovered Dreamtheatre at a young age.
The band has also been unstoppable this year, as prior to getting into the Budding Bands programme, they were also the Ignite Music Festival ‘22 audition winners. The show was their foray into playing to a bigger and more diverse audience. Having experienced playing for a larger and diverse crowd, I had to ask what we could expect of them during their performance for Baybeats.
“Better acoustics, better sound, better voices and definitely better timing on hitting the notes,” says Aaron as he chuckled.
“What’s to come for Aggressive Raisin Cat after Baybeats?”
“Well, Baybeats is a goal for almost every band in Singapore, and to know that we had the chance to play it, it's like ‘Wah, we legit now’,” says Janssen. “But it doesn't mean that it's the end for us, like we hit the peak,” Yuxuan added.
“It’s more of a launchpad for us, a huge stepping stone in our journey as a band that’s gonna push us to do more shows, both locally and regionally. We hope to become a household name in Singapore as a band at the end of the ride.”
The band is expected to release a four-track EP at the end of the month, with hints of a music video dropping accompanying the EP. ‘Ramen’ and ‘Cough Bin’ are but just two out of the 4-track EP that is available on Spotify as of today.
My personal favourite has to be ‘Ramen’ as the song is reminiscent of Pierce The Veil with a hint of Bring Me The Horizon. But what sets this song apart from the aforementioned bands’ discography is the range that Janssen had in his vocals. I was taken aback by how smooth he was with switching back and forth between his many voices, to the point I did not think it was the same person. The epic storytelling accompanied by the right tone of vocals and notes throughout the song really brings you back to your angst-filled teenage years.
Band Profile: Hijack Hayley
By Shearerlyn Mok
A nondescript white van pulls up to the foot of the block. The last of four men enters the vehicle and drops his guitar at the back of the van. He huddles up next to the other men on the narrow bench and pulls the door shut. Hijack Hayley is set in motion. Their next stop? Baybeats 2022.
The four-piece indie rock outfit was born in 2019 when the members, none of whom are named Hayley, started meeting to jam every week. And while their name evokes some level of chaos, the band reassures that they’re harmless.
“Actually, there is nobody called Hayley to be honest… it’s just these two words that fit very nicely together,” says Terence Tan, 28, frontman and guitarist of the band.
When brothers Terence (vocals, guitar) and Val Russell Tan, 25 (drums), and long-time friends Randy Goh (bass) and Syed Munir Alsagoff (lead guitar), both 28, formed Hijack Hayley, they had been out of the music scene for several years. None of them are full-time musicians and in the past several years, they found themselves working on their careers and building families.
The band credits their manager, Rizal Selamat, for bringing them back into the industry. Even as they identify as “newbies” in the local scene, the band has been making their mark over the past two years, having won the IGNITE! Band Auditions in 2021 and playing at several livestream and live gigs.
When it comes to developing their sound on record, the band is deliberate. Dressed in all-black outfits, the members might appear cool, but their music is where they reveal their unapologetically flashier side.
“Hijack Hayley’s style and sound is mostly inspired by envisioning our songs being played to a huge crowd, lights flashing at us, fireworks going off… festival stuff,” says Terence.
Their debut and sophomore singles Burning Bridges (2020) and Inside (2021) feature rousing choruses with melodic sensibilities. These are combined with an edginess reminiscent of British rock bands like The Strokes, befitting the band’s name.
The group is currently working on a four-track EP, which they describe to be similar in style to their first two singles, but they promise more variety and stand-out moments. Listeners can look forward to more anthemic choruses and riffs, but also “heavier” and “head-bangable” elements. They are hoping to release the EP’s first single by the end of the year, before its full release early next year.
But audiences won’t have to wait till 2023 to hear those tracks – because the band will be playing their entire discography, including the unreleased EP, at Baybeats this year, where they are one of five local bands chosen under the Baybeats Budding Bands programme.
It is a decade-long dream, and one that has finally “come true” for the quartet. The opportunity to play at the festival this year was unexpected and is even more significant for the band, whose success was their second attempt after they failed to make the final cut at last year’s auditions.
“Now we're at this age now and we're living the dream, going to Baybeats… for myself, it's like an accomplishment… it's sort of surreal,” says Goh.
However, the self-taught musicians are cautious not to put expectations on themselves for their biggest show yet. “For all of us, we just get on with it. You know, just be on the show. Just strike your instruments, strike your mic, strike whatever and just get on with it,” says Alsagoff.
And Hijack Hayley strikes hard indeed. The members recall frontman Terence Tan’s enthusiastic stage theatrics with fondness, while the band’s manager secretly worries.
“Every time we go up on stage and there's an expensive sponsored mic, my heart drops. I don't know whether he's gonna go there and drop it. But then in the corner of my eye when I see him [performing, I think] ‘just go do whatever you do’.”
Tan does not hold back on stage, but there’s one thing he needs.
“I have my own mic stand and I feel I cannot perform without this.”
Selamat chimes in: “The frontman has a talisman.”
The singer credits his trusty mic stand, which is equipped with a non-toppling mechanism, for the band’s success. “I brought it for both [this year’s] auditions. That's why, last year … the one time we performed and I didn't bring the mic stand, [we didn’t make the cut],” he jokes.
Tan seemed almost sheepish to admit that he practices with it and brings it to all of the band’s shows, rehearsals and auditions. He confirms that the mic stand will feature at their Baybeats show this year.
It is also impossible to talk about Hijack Hayley without mentioning the one “member” that holds the band together, Terence’s white van. The friends speak of it with much affection, a vehicle which the de facto “dad” of the band drives without fail to pick each of them up for practices, shows and suppers at Peace Centre, the self-proclaimed “foodie band[’s]” go-to hotpot hangout.
“That van brings us to so many places, to so many rehearsals and so many shows. It is an iconic member of our band. So if we lose the van, I think it feels like you're losing half of the members already,” says Alsagoff.
The band’s chemistry is striking as they banter and reminisce their favourite memories as a band - some took place in the van - completing each other's sentences as smoothly as if they were trading riffs and solos on stage. The group’s strong bond as friends is something they repeatedly emphasise.
“As a band, I always tell Terence, we still have to keep this element as friends rather than a bandmate because it totally destroys the purpose,” says Goh.
Following Baybeats, the band will be focusing on producing more music and content in the coming years, with hopes of releasing an LP and another EP. They plan to continue performing shows and have several local gigs already lined up.
And when the lights dim and yet another show is over, you will find the white van pulling up at Peace Centre, with Hijack Hayley toasting to another good night of music-making.
Local band motifs are prepared to show off their transformation as musicians
By Carrie Woo
After a hiatus on social media, the quintet make their long-awaited return with their new melodic single, “fluorescent”.
Having met on the Internet via the long-established music forum soft.com.sg, and finding their lead singer through Carousell, up-and-coming band motifs are probably the most interesting Budding Band of this year's bunch yet. The local kaleidoscopic dream pop act, made up of Elspeth Ong (lead vox), Tan Jit Jenn (guitar), Mohamed Badrul Amin (guitar/vox), Paul (bass) and Jolin (drums), debuted in October 2019 with their lush-sounding demo Summersad, before being mentored by Noise Singapore the following month.
“It was an opportunity that shaped us till where we are today.” Badrul recalls. Indeed, with the band landing a concert at the Esplanade only three months after their debut, it's easy to say that they were, and still are, on the verge of stardom. It’s almost surreal to witness their come-up in real time, as they drop their new single “fluorescent”, which blends hazy vocals, elegance and distortion, while making plans for their upcoming album.
When questioned why they chose to participate in another mentorship program like Baybeats, they gave an answer that everyone in the band collectively agreed with: that playing for Baybeats is a dream that all local musicians have.
"We came in with the mindset that if there's an opportunity out there, we would go for it. We want to seize every opportunity to showcase our craft." Badrul explains. "It's a stepping stone towards playing live shows. It's also a good way to promote our upcoming album, allowing the general public to listen and support us."
When asked about the difference in the mentorship programs, they said there wasn’t any. But it was surprising to them when they passed the Baybeats auditions.
“Out of all bands, why us?” says Badrul as the rest of the members laugh.
Exploring intimacy and existentialism
Rooted in a 1990s-indebted shoegaze soundscape, motifs evoke memories you never knew you had through their music. With reverb-drenched guitars and resonant vocals that can be only described as nostalgic, their music construct an ethereally captivating experience that sets them apart from other Singaporean indie bands. The Circuit Breaker last year gave the band some mental headspace to think about their lyrics and songwriting critically, and the experimental shift in musicality can be heard in “fluorescent”. Drummer Jolin describes it as a “blessing in disguise”, as she took over the role of drums from a previous member of the band just last December.
"Els (referring to lead singer Elspeth) sent me a DM on Instagram, I went to the practice session, and the rest is history," she recalls while stifling a laugh, as the rest of the band recalled how awkward their first interaction was. They remember being intimidated. "But personally, I think the hiatus made our sound better. More mature."
“COVID was hard for most people. For us, as well, because we preferred live music rather than playing on live streams. It allowed us to focus on ourselves and churn out more music,” Badrul explains, before JJ continued, “Lyrically, I think we evolved with our songwriting as we started putting more thoughts into the sounding textures and dynamics of our music. We mainly got inspiration from our own experiences during the pandemic.”
When they’re writing, the band members don't concern themselves with sticking to their so-called roles, opting instead for an open, unrestrained process. Even as they've grown in popularity, the band has worked hard to keep the authenticity and coming-of-age sound that define motifs. Vividly heard in their music are not only the melodic influences of Slowdive and Life on Venus, but the member's personal anecdotes, their retrospections, and ultimately their stories.
"Time management is crucial so we don't burn out, and still continue the creative process.” Badrul explains.
The members of motifs are aware of how fortunate they are to have family and friends that support their musical journey, the influence it has had on the band, and express gratitude towards them. With the exception of Jolin, whose parents have always supported her doing music as a career, it took time before the others warmed up to the idea.
"I did remember wanting to pursue music at a young age, but my parents were not so supportive. Only after I was making my own income then everything changed. It was a phase of life mostly, when you're independent they acknowledge that you know what you want to do and become supportive," says Paul. Other members have similar stories, citing the all-too-familiar Singaporean focus on a traditional educational career route as the main reason.
The post-punk band also opened up about how getting into the Budding Bands programme gave them a platform post-COVID to showcase their new-found musicality and, hopefully, solidify their place in the local music scene. With their unique sound and free-spirited chemistry, it'll be hard to ignore motifs and their music.
What happens after they play at Baybeats?
No expectations, just ride the wave, says Badrul. Being cited as an influence of the next generation of music in the future would be an honour, JJ reflects.
“To be held with the same regard as bands like Electrico, and the likes,” Paul jokes, when asked about what he hopes people will remember them as.
When hanging out with them, it was clear to me that their friendship has grown into something more meaningful than youthful fervour. Apart from Jolin, who’s a full-time musician, the rest of the members are mainly in their late 20s to early 30s–working in unrelated industries, looking for an escape from the harsh realities of life's work.
They come together from different parts of life, knowing that instead of monetary gain, motifs is a pure passion project to express their trials and tribulations of their individual lives–which you can tell just by how genuine and bona fide their music sounds, and that’s what makes them special.
They say that the truest artists create because they have an earnest desire to manifest a unique vision, and motifs are a band that do exactly that.
motifs’ new song "fluorescent" is out now on Spotify.
Underplayed Tunes of Singapore’s Music Scene - Metalcore Bands
By Shay FloReda
Metalcore Music in Singapore
The music scene in Singapore has always been a topic of discussion when it comes to the kind of value it brings forth to musicians, as well as the messages it sends listeners.
While our music industry is populated with a variety of genres, there are many local bands that have yet to be discovered by people beyond their respective communities built based on the music genre their songs stem from.
Metalcore is one such growing genre in Singapore. Although not popularised by local media, there have been multiple metalcore bands in the music scene in Singapore just waiting to be discovered by more locals and concert goers in our community.
Reserate is an example of a band in the genre of metalcore. Formed in 2017, the band comprises five seasoned musicians, who are all passionate about reaching out to the crowds through their music - Kevyn, Linus, Ridwan, Jian Liang and Imran.
Members of Reserate
Despite having officially formed in 2017, the members of Reserate are no strangers to music and playing with metalcore bands. The band’s drummer Ridwan played for past bands such as MRTNS and Aquila Vasica - a band from Baybeats 2015. Currently, he is also drumming for the Chinese-Indie band called ‘Goose’.
Reserate’s Lead vocalist Linus also doubles as a vocalist of another Metalcore band called ‘Tariot’. Interestingly, this band is currently signed to the German Music Label called Out of Lines Music. Prior to Reserate, Linus has also served as a vocalist of two other metalcore bands - ‘A Town In Fear’ and ‘For Better Endings’, both of which being part of past years’ music lineup for Baybeats.
Beyond his work as a vocalist in multiple bands, Linus has also embarked on his own solo project on Spotify and YouTube, where he does mainly vocal covers under the moniker 666Linus666.
Reserate’s very own music producer, Jian Liang, who also doubles as the band’s guitarist and vocalist, also plays in other bands such as ‘AARCADE’ and ‘God Code’.
Music by Reserate
In their early days, Reserate’s music comprises tracks that are made up purely of metalcore elements such as distorted vocals and heavy guitar riffs. However, as some time went by, the band took to collaborating with various other artistes in order to give their subsequent songs more variation in flavours and slightly different feels to give off while maintaining their trademark metalcore tones of the band.
In their EP ‘Infinte Entity’ released in 2020, Reserate collaborated with Charles ENERO on their song ‘Ethreal’. The track started off with a light music box opening and led into their metalcore vocals with hint of rap brought in by ENERO.
In their similar track ‘Cynic’, a single Reserate released in 2021, the band took on the same approach by collaborating with another artist to give the song a similar sound and feel.
”We wanted to make a song that has more of a rap and trap feel, since our other song ‘Ethreal’ also had some rap parts to it.’ Kevyn commented when asked about ‘Cynic’. “Then I worked at a club called Fleek and met JJDROY.”
The band felt that it was a good idea to get the local rapper JJDROY on board to spice things up and add some new rap elements to this specific track.
Reserate’s Journey as a Band
This band seen several milestones throughout its journey – some notable examples include their live debut at ITE’s Rock Central in 2019 and the release of their first Spotify single ‘Subversion’ in 2018. However, they’ve also weathered several challenges over the years as a band.
It started from the beginning. Reserate’s drummer, Ridwan, recalled how he found himself scrambling to prepare for a huge gig, which was scheduled a mere few days after being confirmed as a member.
“I had a short span of time to learn the challenging songs,” recounted Ridwan. “I remember the stress I felt because I take my craft very seriously, and I wouldn’t want to let down the guys.”
Prior to the birth of Reserate, all members of the band found their love for music through their life experiences as well the tunes they were exposed to and grew to love. While they progressively made steps to begin their journey as a metalcore band, they were met with concerns voiced out by their families.
“I remember my parents telling me to place greater focus on my career instead of pursuing music on the side,” the band’s vocalist, Linus recounted.
Beyond the pursuit of music, Linus holds down a career in the healthcare sector. “Beyond simply just focusing on my day job, I think music is truly a way to express my thoughts and emotions as well. Sometimes, when we’re growing up, we may find it difficult to share our emotions with people of different age groups and values. Music is definitely an outlet for me to express it all out.”
Final words from Reserate to aspiring musicians
As stereotypes generated by mass media and our conservative culture may dictate the narrative of how metalcore music could be like, and that it was the genre of the goths and horror fanatics, Reserate offers a different perspective on the impact they strive to give to all their listeners through their music. To Reserate, metalcore music does not necessarily have to be the music of the dark-minded just because of its heavy tunes and intense vocals. Metalcore music, just like any other genre of music, could definitely be related to by anyone at any time, and the stereotypes that surround the perceived aesthetics around the kind of music they produce do not worry them.
Through the work they produce and the songs they perform, they collectively aim to inspire listeners and aspiring musicians to go ahead and pursue their dreams regardless of what people may think, especially when they truly feel passionate about it.
“Even if you’re afraid to pursue music, just try.” Linus added. “If you don’t take the first step to try, you’ll never know how far you’d go with your passion.”
Trusting the Chaos in a World Gone Crazy
By Almira Farid
Once a budding band, Trust the Chaos returns to Baybeats after four years. What’s changed since then?
Singaporean band Trust The Chaos (TTC) returned to play at this year’s 21st edition of Baybeats, Esplanade’s three-day festival spotlighting indie rock and alternative music from Singapore and beyond. In 2018, the then-budding Baybeats band was one of the last to perform on the iconic Powerhouse stage just before it closed, as it made way for construction of the new Powerhouse² (Singtel Waterfront Theatre).
In 2022, they will be one of the first to play the venue alongside local veteran and international acts. This metamorphosis from Powerhouse to Powerhouse² could not be more symbolic for TTC, who have gone through their own evolution over the years. From changes in band members, to the isolation of the pandemic, to making time for music while juggling day jobs, passion projects, and even parenting responsibilities for some – life could not be more chaotic for the band.
Standing strong as the only constant against this backdrop of change is TTC’s vocalist, Chan Li En (33, Junior Art Director), who is the only remaining original member of the band since its inception in 2015. Holding down the fort with him are guitarists Nicholas Yoon (29, VFX Artist) and Jing Lee (30, Data Analyst and Freelance Personal Trainer), who both joined the band a year after its inception.
Baybeats 2022 will also featured two members from local alt-rock band Efficient Public Transport; Christal J. Kuna (32, a private drum teacher and drummer of metal band Sangriento) who fills in in for TTC’s drummer Jake Chan, along with bassist Yeo Ren Kang (38, ITE Lecturer), who has joined the band permanently. Christal and Ren Kang are no strangers to TTC and are, in fact, long time friends and listeners of the band. Ren Kang, who has seen the band evolve since its early beginnings, recounts; “I see the maturity in how they present themselves now. I feel that working with them has become less chaotic because they know the vibe that they’re looking for. Even though, yes, there’s still an element of ‘Trust The Chaos’ in them!”
While the band stands by their hope that their music is what defines the band, rather than their name, ‘Trust the Chaos’ is undoubtedly a meaningful ethos to which they wish to stay true to. “Generally, we don’t know what the heck we are doing, so we just go with the flow and… trust the chaos!” chuckles frontman Li En. “If we’re uncertain, nevermind - we just try. And if it fails, we move on to a better idea, and if it works then good. Even if it’s messy or chaotic, we just go with it”.
Staying true to the philosophy of their name, the band members of TTC have learned to embrace life as it comes. In the last seven years, the band’s lineup has changed four times. While some may see this as disruptive, TTC has welcomed its new band members as opportunities to explore new sounds as part of their constant evolution as a band. “Gradually our band members changed and each new member brought different tastes, so the music of the band organically evolved over time”, Li En explains.
Nicholas, for instance, recalls bringing in his musical personality of “weird chords and prog-rock inspired grooves” to the then punk-rock inspired band back in 2016. Six years later, Ren Kang is now open to the possibility that his remarkably eclectic listening history of “djent, prog metal, pop, new soul and jazz” might find its way into the band’s music in the future.
While there is an ethos of trust in life’s chaos, the band also doesn’t wait around for changes in band members for musical explorations to happen. Since Baybeats 2018 and their 2019 debut EP, ‘Unravel’ (which already saw a shift from earlier punk-rock leanings to a more alt-rock and alt-metal style), TTC has ventured beyond their comfort zone to experiment with electronics, synthesizer sounds and sound effects, as heard in their two singles, ‘Compass’ (2019) and ‘World Gone Crazy’ (2020) - the latter being inspired by the pandemic. The band also enjoyed their first foray into metal with their latest single, Uninvited (2021), which was not only an exploration into heavier music ideas, but also the first time they got their hands on producing for themselves.
Moving forward, Li En explains that the new music they are currently working on is more “old school and groovy”, citing a return to the style of their previous EP – “but groovier,” they maintain. They will be premiering their newest song, tentatively titled ‘Stasis’, at Baybeats this year, which is a step towards this edgier direction. Li En, who wrote the song before passing it on to Nicholas for arranging, speaks with an introspective honesty about the track:
“‘Stasis’ is reflective of our band. In some ways, I would say that the peak of our band was during the previous Baybeats and Noise mentorship - that was the band’s best days. Since then, it’s been a bit quieter. But are we satisfied with where we are now? Or do we want to try harder? That’s where the stasis comes in. You might be comfortable with where you are in life, but you also might be killing your motivation and passion. That’s how I see it”.
And it’s not just their sound that has been evolving. Having entered a new era of playing virtual gigs to audiences of cameras during lockdown, the members of TTC have also trusted in the chaos of the pandemic as an opportunity to reinvent themselves as individuals too.
For Nicholas, Li En and Ren Kang, the pandemic has helped them to deepen their craft. For Nicholas, this new “world gone crazy” had made him a more complete musician: “Before, I was more focused on staying in my lane and playing guitar, but during COVID, I couldn’t communicate in person that ‘I want the da-da-da-da’ - so I had to learn how to write what I’m trying to communicate and pick up skills along the way”. Ren Kang in turn shares how COVID has made him more intentional in other aspects of music beyond the bass. “One of the dreams that I had when I was young was to become a producer. So, COVID forced me to go into that lane. Now I can see the fruition of coming from recording a single track, to producing a whole song”, he reflects.
While life changes have led to musical curiosity for TTC, life has also changed for them as working adults. Some of the band are now in different stages of their lives since their last Baybeats appearance in 2018. Work commitments have unfortunately meant that there’s often “less mental space to commit to the band” (Nicholas), as “priority goes to the job to keep your rice bowl”.
Despite these struggles, TTC’s members have learnt to balance their day jobs with their band. For most of them, making sure that music is a part of their daily routine is crucial. As a father, Ren Kang shares how committing to practicing just 10-20 minutes of bass after putting his children to bed is integral to being committed to his craft. “It’s these little things, these small victories, of playing things you feel happy about, that shape you up to who you are today”, he explains. Similarly, amidst her busy teaching schedule, Christal shares how music making “has got to become an enjoyable part of one’s regular routine to be sustainable”.
For Nicholas, he believes that what is equally important is ensuring that the tools for music making are as accessible as possible. “I just turn on my computer and Pro Tools is already open. Then it’s like, ‘Okay, I’m here already. I might as well do something.’ You also need to put your guitar somewhere that’s visible and within reach”. Ultimately, Jing shares that for her, it’s important to accept that “you will have to deprioritise growth in certain aspects of your lives while improving in other areas that matter more to you now”.
While they have dreams of putting out a second EP in the future, TTC is more focused on playing a solid set for their return to Baybeats. The band expressed both gratitude for being invited back, as well as nervousness at playing live again after a while. “I still get stage fright”, Li En shares candidly. “I try to hide it. I try to appear confident but deep down I’m nervous as heck”. Much to the surprise of his own band mates, he shares how he has been skipping 500 times every other day for the past month, alongside doing push-ups and weights, to prepare his stamina for the rigour of performing under the hot lights of the Baybeats stage.
While life has changed in many ways for the band, Li En confesses what what has not changed for the earlier band members is their personality as “shy, introverted and very quiet people”, which is not too different from a Baybeats judge’s comment at their first failed audition five years ago of being “too inward”. Their soft-spoken openness, combined with a refreshing willingness to admit how performance insecurities have led vocalist Li En to take his glasses off when on stage so that he “can’t see them [the audience] looking” at him, are signs of how the members of TTC have learned to sail with the turbulences of life. It is perhaps this honest introspection that have found their way into Li En’s “unique vocals” and “raw emotion and energy that makes TCC’s music very heartfelt”, shares Christal.
Taking ‘Alternative’ To A Whole New Level
By Rytasha Raj
and her fellow “weirdos” defy the norms at local indie-alternative music festival 2022.
xena giam is one of the five bands that made it into 2022’s edition of the Baybeats Budding Bands mentorship programme, which identifies and further develops promising, independent local bands. At the end of this programme, they will bear the opportunity to perform at the three-day indie rock and alternative music festival Baybeats.
The funny thing is: xena giam isn’t exactly a band per se, neither do they create conventional alternative music. And yet here they are.
Put simply, xena is the band’s main character while her friends jam alongside her. Together they produce R&B music that is slyly seductive and smooth, contrary to the headbanger music you’d typically hear at Baybeats. Before we delve deeper into their work, let’s take a closer look at the leader of the pack…
xena, 25, is a third-year Arts Management student at LASALLE, and was formerly a student of Republic Polytechnic’s Hotel and Hospitality Management course.
Though she intends to pursue arts management, she has always been interested in making music. She would often sing along to the songs she listened to in her room, exploring a range of genres like R&B, country, disco, funk, and classic rock.
In polytechnic, she joined an acoustic club called Replug, and that’s when she first set foot on the stage. She performed covers for notable school events like Jam and Hop but didn’t perform original music until 2019, three years after graduating from polytechnic.
She underwent a breakup that year which inspired her to start writing her own songs as a means to express and document her feelings. Drawing inspiration from the music of Moira Dela Torre, Bren Joy and Samm Henshaw, she combines emotions, soul and groove in her music.
“I’ve asked people on my Instagram to give me a line or a word, then I’ll write a song based on it. That’s kind of how I started trying to write,” she said during a face-to-face interview.
“The first song I wrote (‘Wdym’, released in 2021) kept failing, like, I didn’t find it good enough to release. One day I sent it to my friends and asked: ‘Eh guys what do y’all think about this?’ And they were like: ‘Eh not bad eh, got potential.’”
“After that I met my unofficial-official music director at LASALLE. His name is Ridz, Ridz Razali. He wanted to try out music production, so he was like: ‘Can I try producing your song?’ And I was like: ‘Ok.’ So that’s how it started.”