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Four Young, Rising Alternative Rock Bands To Watch — In Singapore

By Joie Goh

Pictured above, members of Disco Hue. From left: drummer Billy Chua, vocalist Sherlyn Leo, founder and keyboardist Auzaie Zie, and Rush Ang.
 
Tung Pham/ The Projector
Pictured above, members of Disco Hue. From left: drummer Billy Chua, vocalist Sherlyn Leo, founder and keyboardist Auzaie Zie, and Rush Ang.

Disco Hue

“Youthfulness with a dash of danger”, “fun, energetic and really colourful”, “tongue-in-cheek and glitzy” and “like kids with coloured glocks” are what the members of throwback synth-pop band Disco Hue describe their music. “It’s a nod at the cheesy but completely iconic sounds and visuals of the 1980s,” explains vocalist Sherlyn Leo.

Founder and keyboardist Auzaie Zie credits his love for bands like Panic! At the Disco and My Dear Disco (which also inspired the band’s name) for the creation of Disco Hue. A graduate of Singapore Polytechnic’s Diploma in Music and Audio, Zie recalls recruiting several classmates and course juniors into the band, such as current guitarist Rush Ang and drummer Billy Chua. The band found early success winning band competitions, but it wasn’t until finalising the lineup several years after graduation and National Service when Disco Hue officially debuted with an EP, “Arcade”, in 2016.

Their debut full-length album will feature a slight departure in sound from the original, and is inspired by the music of Bobby Brown, Boyz II Men and Backstreet Boys. “Our sound has definitely shifted as we’ve been experimenting with genres old and new to come up with something that best represents us,” says Leo. Adds Ang: “We wrote our slowest song yet in this album.”

Signed with Warner Music, the band has toured internationally and performed alongside the likes of Sigur Ros, Foals and Blood Orange. They are currently working on a full-length album, slated for a mid-2019 launch, and will be collaborating with other local artistes as well as shooting new music videos.

“Life will continue to surprise us at every turn, but it’s important for us to live young and have no regrets,” says Leo. “I’m pretty sure I speak on behalf of the band that we will make our 20s the best years of our lives.”

Gan Kah YingCosmic Child members from left: Lee Zhe Ren, wearing Paul Smith T-shirt; Genevieve Chong, wearing COS top; Daniel Pei, wearing Paul Smith shirt; Joanne Cheah, wearing Prada top and trousers and Zhang Bo.
Cosmic Child members from left: Lee Zhe Ren, wearing Paul Smith T-shirt; Genevieve Chong, wearing COS top; Daniel Pei, wearing Paul Smith shirt; Joanne Cheah, wearing Prada top and trousers and Zhang Bo.

Cosmic Child

“Daniel (Pei) and I started sharing music quite a bit in secondary school and soon we had the idea to start a band,” recalls, co-founder and frontman of Cosmic Child, Zhang Bo. The self-taught duo scraped together the cash to purchase old instruments and began by playing covers of their favourite songs, recruiting classmates to join their band, which is named after “misheard David Bowie lyrics”. After being signed to local indie label Middle Class Cigars, the band subsequently went through several lineup changes, an album launch and a few tours in China and Taiwan before solidifying itself as the bilingual shoegaze quintet it is currently.

Today, it consists of vocalist Zhang and guitarist Pei, as well as keyboardist Lee Zhe Ren, drummer Genevieve Chong and bassist Joanne Cheah, who is also the frontwoman of another local band, Specific Islander. The band most recently released their sophomore album “Blue”, a project described by Pei as the “product of two years of strange and heavy emotions”, characterised by a heavier, more distorted sound compared to the relative innocence of their debut album “Untitled”. The album includes tracks in English and Mandarin Chinese languages.

“We recorded most of the guitar tracks for ‘Blue’ in my bedroom and had to get everything done in three days,” says Pei. To his family’s chagrin, the band converted his bedroom into a makeshift studio by propping his mattress against the door to insulate the sound, although he decides that the effort paid off.

The album cover art is by friend and photographer Christopher Sim, who sent the band a few snapshots he had taken around Geylang. “All of us decided immediately that one of his shots, that we affectionately nicknamed ‘Longkang Bird’, would be the album art,” says Chong. “That felt like the final piece of the puzzle in the making of the album; to put an image to the music.”

The band also recently contributed to a compilation album of Asian shoegaze covers and is embarking on their second tour in China this month, playing alongside Asian bands like Thud, from Hong Kong, and Manic Sheep, from Taiwan.

Gan Kah YingLocal band Cadence. From left: Dominic Goh, Angus Sham, Japheth Ng, Nathan Huang and Seth Chiam.
Local band Cadence. From left: Dominic Goh, Angus Sham, Japheth Ng, Nathan Huang and Seth Chiam.

Cadence

Made up of five friends, Cadence’s camaraderie is evident onstage and in their airtight musical delivery, which is inspired by the sounds of emo rock bands like Death Cab for Cutie and the Foo Fighters. With a heavy focus on guitar riffs and intense vocals, the band already has two albums under their belt, the 2015 post-emo “Heights” and the more musically diverse “Pendulum”, released just last month.

First formed by vocalist Seth Chiam and bassist Japheth Ng, who bonded over similar tastes in music during National Service and began casually jamming, it wasn’t until the inclusion of mutual friend and guitarist Angus Sham, that the band became reality. Soon after, another guitarist, Nathan Huang, who attended church with Chiam, and drummer Dominic Goh, a school friend of the former, was roped in to complete the band. Since then, Cadence has performed at multiple music festivals locally, such as Baybeats and Ignite.

“We’re first and foremost good friends,” says Chiam. “We don’t just jam and play shows, we’re also quite in touch with each other’s personal lives.” The fraternal bond amongst the five was apparent when the band conspired to help guitarist Huang propose to his now-wife, as well as the unquestioning support for Sham’s Mandarin side-project, despite their poor grasp of the language.

“Pendulum”, their sophomore EP and also the name of its final track, is the result of the band’s attempt to expand their sonic territory. Still rooted in rock, the tracks incorporate elements of post-rock, indie, pop and dance. “As a drummer, making this new EP forced me to get way out of my comfort zone,” says Goh. “Seth (Chiam) placed a lot of effort in writing these rhythmic parts so I wanted to do them justice.”

Justice did come in the form of a “Best of the Week” ranking on Apple Music for “Pendulum” that surpassed Drake’s, as well as a spot on Spotify’s “New Music Friday” playlist for local musicians. A music video for the song, directed by cinematographer Basil Tan, accompanied its release.

At the moment, the band is working on remixes of their existing music, as well as an upcoming collaboration with newcomer rapper Axel Brizzy. “We’re merging one of his songs with one of ours for a sort of mashup or remix,” says Sham.

Gan Kah YingFour-piece band, FERS. From left: Ridhwan Malik; Aaron Pereira, wearing Paul Smith shirt; Ferry and Kenneth Koh.
Four-piece band, FERS. From left: Ridhwan Malik; Aaron Pereira, wearing Paul Smith shirt; Ferry and Kenneth Koh.

FERS

Newly minted early this year, the band comprises of vocalist and songwriter Jean Low (who goes by the moniker Ferry), guitarist Ridhwan Malik, bassist Aaron Pereira and drummer Kenneth Koh; the latter three were members of local indie bands Enec.e and wyd:syd prior to forming FERS.

“As a band, we’re a cross-stitch of interesting sonic and rhythmic palettes originating from four individuals,” says Ridhwan, who initiated the band and subsequently roped in the other members. “I really wanted to do something that delved into shoegaze and dream pop.”

“The band started off as kind of a ‘Hey, let’s jam and try stuff out’,” adds Pereira. “We were all familiar with each other’s projects and work and liked what everyone else was doing, so we had a common sound and vibe that connected us from the get go.”

The result is their first single, “Neverland”, launched in June this year. A dreamy, atmospheric track reminiscent of the work of French electronica duo Air, the tune was birthed from a “catchy pulsating riff” from Ferry, who also penned the lyrics. “Personally, when I write, it’s always very visual heavy,” she explains. “When we wrote ‘Neverland’, I saw the entire tropical terrain and naturally connected it to Peter Pan.”

The launch of the single is accompanied by a music video, shot by local photographer and director Lenne Chai and styled by fashion designer Josiah Chua. The whimsical vignette, star- ring four local models lip syncing to the song instead of the elu- sive band members, aired on MTV Asia upon its release.

The band is currently working on its first album, a five-track EP, to be launched early next year. A second single is due to launch in October later this year.