21 Creatives for #SGABF2018 — Sobs
SGABF: Being a relatively young band, what your opinions are on the music industry in Singapore?
Sobs: There’s this interesting thinking about what the "Singapore sound" is. Recently, we’ve been looking at bands in Singapore from the 80s and 90s and seeing how different it was last time. It’s interesting to trace your roots in a way, seeing what inspires the bands now and seeing how music developed as well as the different generations of bands and movements coming through. The whole concept of a "local band" is inherently unhealthy for the scene and for musicians. Ultimately, music is so much more democratic and so much more accessible, anyone can make music in their bedrooms and that’s what we did. Anyone has the access and the means to bring their music out of Singapore as well.
SGABF: There is a misconception that Singaporean musicians have to make it big overseas before becoming known in their own country. Do you think it’s true?
Sobs: People would say, "Oh, this band is pretty good for a local band." That's not very nice but we are guilty of that sometimes as well. We have come to embrace local music as we come from a country that’s not often seen as beach rock, indie scene, etc. It does help that the music we’re doing now is the trend and there’s a scene for that as well. If anything, we are a band that’s very much born out of democratisation of music, the means of making music, and the whole bedroom music thing, which can feel very pretentious but it’s about making do with what you have.
How we started was that Jared and I (Celine) used to be in this project that does poppy-dance music, like indie-pop, but it didn’t really go anywhere. Then one day, Jared sent Raphael this instrumental piece and I sent my vocals and we were like, "Woah, we have something here." That was gold. It was all quite organically done. There were considerations when it came to how to promote it, but the whole process of writing and recording was very spontaneous and that’s something very characteristic to bedroom pop. I mean, bedroom pop doesn’t have to sound bad. It’s not really an aesthetic or a sound, more like a state of mind.
SGABF: You draw inspiration from bands and musicians like Frankie Cosmos, Crying, and Dum Dum Girls, and there are definitely parallels in your sound. Are you going to keep to this style moving forward?
Sobs: As we mature musically and lyrically, things start to get more and more intentional, which is a fear that we have with the new album. In our first EP, we didn’t know what we were doing, we were just sending each other ideas. Now we are surer of what we want to do and what our sound is. At the end of the day, we’re not going to put out something that we don’t believe in. There is a certain beauty in something that’s unplanned and spontaneous as well, and that is really something that we need more.
The same thing with art books - a lot of musicians and artists started from fanzines and simply wanting to share this love of things with others and creating communities around it. That’s something we believe that our music should possess - a childlike wonder towards life and things.
SGABF: Each of you seems to have your own specific role in the band, how do you work to sound cohesive as a collective?
Sobs: Our roles started out being specific but after that, we just kind of gelled and worked together. One thing we’ve learn is that communication is important. Celine likes to do things alone so it’s a bit hard if we were to come together to write songs on the spot. Usually the rough idea starts when we work individually and then things get tightened up when we get together.
We still make it a point to record in a bedroom. If we were to record in a studio, we feel like we won’t be as comfortable. But that does not mean recording in a bedroom is worse than recording in a studio because technology has gotten so good that you can deliver the same things anywhere. It’s really not an excuse if you don’t have a studio. Gear does not dictate the work but aids the process. It’s a Singaporean condition to want things to be perfect and that shines through in the art. In Singapore, what you put up has to be the best and we all feel that pressure and it’s not a bad thing, but we have to learn to let go sometimes.
Q: Your first album was released almost a year ago and it hit a popularity that was fast and wide, especially among the younger audience. Do you feel that when you’re creating new works, you have that at the back of your head that you need to match up to a certain kind of success?
Sobs: Yes, but it’s not very apparent. We just want to make sure that it does well. If you take pride in your work, there has to be an intended effect in the work you put out. We are not doing this for other people, we are just having fun.
SGABF: Do you think there are enough venues and opportunities for you to play in Singapore?
Sobs: We wouldn’t say that there aren’t enough but we feel that they aren’t doing it right. At the same time, there are only so many people in Singapore that do music so we completely understand that it does not make sense to have more venues because it's going to be left just empty most of the time. The same can be said for art galleries and other creative spaces. There’s just not enough audience, that’s why it’s no use having more venues, you know?
A Singapore-based bedroom pop outfit born out of a fondness for off-kilter and playful melodies, Sobs embodies a kitsch, yet instantly relatable charm through honest, straightforward and quintessentially pop songwriting. Driven by snappy, gleaming guitar lines and unassuming yet endearing vocal delivery, their songs tell everyday stories steeped in a characteristically lo-fi fashion.