Sat on the brick-laid floor along Robertson Quay, the band members were in a circle having their dinner and chatting while doing so. We almost did not want to interrupt them for the interview, since they were so comfortable and in their own world – an atmosphere of a dreamscape from afar. It is no wonder that Subsonic Eye plays dream-pop from “hazy, rainy Singapore” as they aptly put.
They released their debut album Strawberry Feels back in April this year, and plenty of their merchandise on Bandcamp are sold out, with supporters leaving lovely messages of their favourite track and how they feel.
“It is really nice that all these people we don’t even know tell us that ‘hey, this song means a lot’ and they use the lyrics as bios or captions on social media,” Daniel (guitarist) gave his thoughts on making music for people. Wahidah (vocalist/synths) jumped in, “Or when people tell us that our music helped them through a time. It is good and you kind of make music as therapy for yourself, and it turns out to be of some help to others as well. That’s very nice.”
“Bottom line is kind of selfish, because it is kind of for yourself. But you enjoy the process of constantly getting better at performance and playing after every gig,” Lucas (drummer) said, “And when people are down to come for your shows and listen to your music, it is damn sick.”
However, it is true that in Singapore, turn out for shows may sometimes be weak despite efforts from local bands to push for publicity in whatever ways they can.
“I think Singaporeans still don’t really take music or The Arts seriously. It is like, you tune in to some television shows and just wonder what exactly is this showing. In general, The Arts is still looked down upon, not taken seriously and it is always compared to Western standards for some reason,” pointed out Spencer (bassist).
So, what is one sentence they will say to convince anyone else to listen to local music?
Daniel quickly chimed in: “Why not?”
And everyone else agreed, especially when local music is so accessible. He went on, “The great thing is that if you love local music, you can watch the bands anytime. And the guy probably lives in the same neighbourhood as you. It is probably more relatable too. We all live under the same weather.” We simply have to agree too. Why not?
Popspoken hangs out with Subsonic Eye to know more about their preparation for Baybeats and their process of the music video Sun-Kissed Skin.
Popspoken: Tell us more about being under a label. What does it mean for the band, and what’s the biggest difference compared to being independent?
Daniel: Being under a label definitely helps a lot more with the administrative side of things. They also helped us out immensely with the overall branding of the band and opened up our eyes to a lot of things that we didn’t think about beforehand. This gives us the opportunity to focus more solely on the music side of things, and I would say that’s the biggest difference compared to being independent. It’s also really cool that it’s not just a label-band relationship but we’re actual friends.
Lucas: The way we work with our label is pretty cool in the sense where it’s just 2 responsible young adults helping 5 of their really irresponsible friends, so it’s pretty chill. But they really put us in the right direction when it comes to anything other than the music; if we DIY-ed Strawberry Feels I’m almost completely certain that it wouldn’t have done as well as it has.
Wahidah: I think with the label, everything we chaotically do gets organised in nice little boxes. It’s kind of great because at the end of the day we only have to worry about the content we put out but the proper promotion goes into the hands of much capable people. The label kind of nudges us to get a more cohesive ‘image’ too, which most definitely helps.
Jared (guitarist): I’ve only just joined the band a couple of months ago, so I wasn’t involved in the process of the album or the band at least up until recently, but seeing what the people at Middle Class Cigars do for Singaporean music is very inspiring and I think they’re setting a great example for what independent artists in Singapore and around the world should do to promote their music.
PS: How did the concept of Sun Kissed Skin’s music video come about?
Zoe Fan (the amazing woman who actually made the video): Just having pretty pictures never do cut it for me when I work on projects. Sure, they are important, and they make me happy, but the highest priority would go to making sure that every single piece is an experience.
Films and videos seem to always be made with projections on screen as their final destinations, and these screens seem to naturally be on top of a table or fixed against the wall. But if nowadays one of our main screens is the one on our phones, (data limits be damned) why are we not creating for our little portables instead?
So with that question, coupled with the want to create something alive and filled with surprises, the music video was born. *poof*
PS: Most challenging part of filming it and putting it together?
Z: You mean apart from being essentially bed-ridden for about one week with my lover The Laptop, doing pretty much nothing else but these three things: editing, editing and editing?
It’ll have to be that I simply had too many ideas and too many beautiful humans dedicated to this project, so it became the most difficult to cut pieces of my heart away to leave out enough to guard a certain unity to this film.
It’s Subsonic Eye’s fault really, for being so inspiring and for creating something so evoking. More than anything, it was the interactions with the humans of the band and their collaborators of Middle Class Cigars that made this music video possible at the end.
PS: What do you love best about being a musician in Singapore?
D: I love that everyone sort of knows each other, and it feels very welcoming especially for young kids just starting out like us!!
L: The best part is that the scene is pretty small (although it is steadily growing), so everyone knows everyone pretty much so it’s a cool little community.
W: I love the community the best. People in the music scene are so willing to help all the time and there’s always local musicians who stand to be inspirations. It’s pretty surreal. On good days I really enjoy meeting new people – it really opens me up to different personalities.
J: Everyone knows each other, and it’s an incredibly close-knit community that thrives on constant collaboration and inclusiveness.
PS: If you could travel anywhere in the world and write an entire album based on one place, where would it be and why?
D: Amsterdam so I can ingest nature’s magic and write amazing music.
L: Switzerland or anywhere with a lot of fields and open space. I guess it’s like a blank slate kinda thing, when you have so much space you can do anything with it, it can be anything you want it to be.
W: For some reason (for many years) I’m very passionate about Iceland but I’ve never been before. Something about the people in Iceland really pulls on my heart – it’s a pretty tightly knit community in such a big space. I also know that it’s pretty gloomy and harsh but I’m sure the colourful houses, the vast fields, mountains, people and everything will get me writing almost immediately.
J: I would stay in Punggol because all my creative energy stems from being at home.
PS: How are you preparing for Baybeats (which is happening this weekend)?
D: By working on songs and making sure they’re the best they can be and not half-assed… and trying to become a better guitar player.
L: Practicing more on my own to improve on the technical aspect of things, and trying to apply those things to full band rehearsals.
W: After every gig we play, I think about how everything went with me – vocally and presence wise. I think it has to do with being mindful. I learn from every show and rehearsals we do to avoid making the same mistakes again and again. I do a couple of vocal exercises too, if we’re talking about being technical. I’ll probably bring that up a couple of notches up to prepare for Baybeats ahahaha.
J: Taking the time to perfect my guitar tone…
PS: What exactly does Baybeats represent, to you?
D: I’ve been going for Baybeats every year ever since I was 14 and it’s a very special thing to me because it’s kind of the only thing I look forward to in Singapore every year… and now we get to play it…. damn surreal.
L: So far I believe it’s the biggest stage we’ll be playing so that’s pretty exciting. But I think it’s also a milestone for all (if not most) local acts to play Baybeats.
W: This year will be my third year going to Baybeats but I feel like this festival really made me admire how local musicians have such a dedicated space for them annually. It’s actually pretty inspiring to gather with other like-minded music fans to enjoy live music – I love that the most. I was really pumped to find out that we’ll be playing this year ahahaha
J: Some of my favourite sets by my favourite local bands were at Baybeats over the years so I guess it’s pretty cool.
Subsonic Eye will be playing at this year’s Baybeats Festival that is happening from 14 to 16 July 2017!
They will be on for 15th July 2017, 6.30pm at the Arena (Esplanade Outdoor Theatre).
Photography credits: Darren ‘Merovign’ Tan