21 Creatives for #SGABF2018 — ASPIDISTRAFLY
SGABF: In your opinion, do you think that the trend of following trends has watered down the art of music?
April Lee (AL): Every individual has their own personal perspective as to what is trendy. I personally enjoy music labels such as RVNG Intl., Mexican Summer and Music From Memory, who I think have given new meaning to the art of music, so I would define them as trendsetters.
SGABF: ASPIDISTRAFLY has performed in countries other than Singapore. In your opinion, do the cultures of different countries affect the receptiveness of your audience to your music?
AL: The Japanese audience, in general, have been the most receptive to our music since we first stepped into Japan 11 years ago, and that receptiveness has come from not just listeners but also artists, musicians, and even fashion designers who were first drawn to our music, then eventually becoming close friends and collaborators. Several of them have contributed significantly to our past two albums as guest musicians, and are now currently working with us on our next album. Recently I've been working on our next music video with Japanese fashion label LAD MUSICIAN and director Daisuke Shimada. Last year, we were extremely surprised to find out that Goro Inagaki of popular Japanese group SMAP came to our show to watch us live, and later played our music at his radio show. This really brings the saying 'music transcends all boundaries’ to life.
SGABF: As a musician with a niche audience, do you think there are enough venues and opportunities for you to play in Singapore? Is there an equivalent of SGABF for the music scene that ASPIDISTRAFLY would like to see being organised?
AL: Years ago in Japan, we were looking for a resonant space for our concert, which led us to discover a church in Tokyo that would be perfect for our of music. Any church organisation would've been apprehensive about hosting a secular event, but once they heard our music they immediately saw how it would fit into the space, and understood our need for a conducive setting where music could be appreciated quietly and attentively.
On the other side of the world today, a movement known as Ambient Church has been bringing together legends like Laraaji and Windy & Carl with current generation artists such as Weyes Blood and Visible Cloaks at a church in Brooklyn, for the same reason of allowing an audience to enjoy music in its most suited setting. This has always been our ethos, regardless of wherever we perform in the world. If there are not enough venues, we can create them at the most unlikely places.
Speaking of equivalents to SGABF, we performed at the Seoul Art Book Fair in 2013 where it was interesting to acquaint with other Korean musicians including Oh Hyuk, the lead singer of Hyukoh. Vice versa, I'd like to see the same cross-cultural synergy at SGABF someday.
SGABF: You have worked at fashion labels as a Senior Art Director. Has your personal taste for the arts influenced your work? Has working with companies that are not your own contributed or restricted your creative direction in any way?
AL: I co-founded KITCHEN. LABEL with Ricks Ang, a design practice and record label, working as an Art Director for 10 years for both the label and clients. In 2013 I left to pursue my interest in art direction for fashion, while still contributing on a project basis to KITCHEN. LABEL. This interest has eventually connected back to my personal work in the capacity of ASPIDISTRAFLY, for example, in art directing a brand collaboration shoot with NARS for their Sarah Moon collection. At the moment, I'm working with local fashion label Love, Bonito (as the head of the creative department) which will unfold an exciting rebrand this year.
SGABF: What do you think is the current climate of the arts and culture in Singapore? And how can events like the Singapore Art Book Fair help propel things forward?
AL: In an age of digital clutter I'm glad to see tactility and printed matter still being revered. At SGBAF 2014, I was booth neighbours with Nguan, a Singaporean photographer whose work I really enjoy, having been online friends for a long time. Seeing how far he's come shows that the international community has no problem recognising artists no matter where they're from, as long their work has substance.
ASPIDISTRAFLY was founded in Singapore in 2001. Taking their name from George Orwell’s novel “Keep the Aspidistra Flying”, the duo was formed by singer-songwriter April Lee and producer-guitarist Ricks Ang. The duo play a flickeringly filmic mixture of ambient folk with gossamer-like vocal harmonies and guitar-based drone wrapped in a delicate lo-fi haziness. Best known for her distinctively smoky low alto voice, April’s lyrical storytelling and artwork form the backbone of ASPIDISTRAFLY’s vision.