Being brought up in the infamous all-boys St. Patrick’s school, mischief and notoriety runs rampant in the veins of the members of Mannequins Singapore.

Darren John Aw, Gabriel Christopher Lim, Russell Andrew Clunies-Ross, and Timothy Lloyd Bracken fell in love with the same rock bands growing up.

They spent most days after school (occasionally skipping school) covering rock songs at a nearby jam studio in Katong.

Their music is inspired by the greats – Led Zeppelin, Queen, Beatles, Nirvana and Foo Fighters. Their new EP, “Four”, features dynamic guitar riffs and a steady beat, and are reminiscent of popular alternative rock tunes from the 90s when they grew up.

Sunbird” is an anthemic rock song and is named after the street adjacent to Gabriel’s estate. The lyrics capture the essence of the friendship that the band shares, and is intended to evoke a feeling of nostalgia in the listener.

Misery” enchants the listener with a catchy, relatable heartfelt singalong tune. It is a song about Darren’s close friend, who was going through a bad time in his life. Despite the amount of support received from those around him, Darren’s friend seemed most comforted by his own sadness, his own misery.

I’ll Stick with You” is a punchy four-chord blitz. It is a love song which was inspired by a comic strip that Darren saw about the reproductive cycle of anglerfish, and talks about sticking with someone for life.

Wrong Side of the Sun” ushers in the EP with an explosive combination of gritty vocals and old-school punk stylings, climaxing with a classic rock guitar solo. The song conveys Darren’s frustration with the lack of pop elements in their music. The lead singer was always skeptical that the band would be able to attain international recognition due to the genre of music they played.

POPSPOKEN speaks with the boys of Mannequins, who played at Baybeats in 2013, more about the return from their hiatus how they’ve grown since.

Mannequins Singapore

POPSPOKEN: What have the members of Mannequins been up to since playing Baybeats Festival in 2013?

Baybeats 2013 opened many doors for us. We played many shows prior to our hiatus when Gabriel had to enlist in 2014, followed by Bracken soon after. At that point, Darren already completed national service while Russell was still in Poly.

During the 4 year hiatus, Darren was perfecting his songwriting while studying in NUS, Gabriel was somewhere in the jungles of Brunei and found a full time job in design after completing national service, Russell is now almost done with national service and was pursuing a degree concurrently, and Bracken started an awesome punk rock band called Bouncy Castles.

POPSPOKEN: There is never a perfect time, but is there any reason in particular why you chose to make this return this year?

Our schedules started to align sometime in 2017. We had many good runs since Mannequins started in 2010, but we always wanted to have a “physical” product and felt that now would be a good time to finally record an album as we didn’t have the ability to fund it previously.

With the EP’s release, we now aim to bring our music further and hope to eventually represent Singapore internationally.

Mannequins "Four" Album Art

POPSPOKEN:Why the ken dolls in the album art “Four” EP?

The album art for “four mannequins” was to be taken at face value. The idea to use the four mannequins as the album art came after we settled with the album name being “Four”. We first settled with the four songs that best represented Mannequins.

At that point of time, those four songs clocked in at four minutes each. It was four years since we last played, and also our social media links had always used “four mannequins” in them. Gabriel tied it altogether with our concept of “four”, and decided that it was best represented by four mannequins. We are already in the works with writing new materials for the band and planning for a full-length album.

Maybe you’ll see 10-12 ken dolls on the next album art.

POPSPOKEN: Take a trip with us down memory lane – what do you miss most about playing together back in secondary school as St Pat’s students?

Secondary school marked the beginning of our journey as musicians, both individually and as a band. We were practicing, watching live videos, learning and sharing new skills, and discovering bands that would shape our music later on.

We were in very different bands – Darren and Gabriel in a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band, while Russell and Bracken in a Muse cover band. We joined forces later, united by similar tastes in Rock music and never looked back.

The teachers in St Pats were very encouraging and supportive of our creative expressions, and even provided us with opportunities to perform in school.

We definitely miss our daily recess talking about music, and jamming after school. Those were the carefree days, which is probably what we miss the most – the only thing that seemed to matter back then was music, and nothing else.

POPSPOKEN: There are many impressive punk (alt?) rock bands in Singapore right now. What’s so special about Mannequins?

The premise of Mannequins is that we celebrate youthfulness, energy and passion in the form of good ol rock and roll. We pay a deep homage to the great bands such as Led Zeppelin, Queen, the Beatles and more modern bands like Foo Fighters and Weezer in our craft.

Our taste in rock deviates slightly from convention, and that translates into another breed of music – it’s an infrequent occurrence for four millenials to have a shared appreciation in the oldies.

The Mannequins sound is reminiscent of the 90s and we love incorporating catchy melodies and harmonies into our songs: we try to find a way for our audience – fans and first time listeners alike – to sing along, feel involved, and to feel personally connected with our music.

Mannequins at Baybeats 2013

POPSPOKEN: What can we expect from your EP launch show?

If you’re wearing socks, get ready for them to be rocked off. For those who haven’t experienced rock, this is a great time to start!

Come for a good time, cheesy banter, and great music. We’ve also got a fantastic lineup of bands that will be performing with us – the exact details will be out in a few weeks time.

And of course, a wide variety of merch is going to be available: everyone’s going to have something to take home with them to remember us and all the other bands by.

After this milestone, you can also expect more from Mannequins over the next year at the very least. In the meantime, mark your calendars for the 23rd of June.

POPSPOKEN: Lastly, how would you like Mannequins to be remembered?

We’d like to be remembered as earnest, fun-loving individuals that had a penchant for writing and playing great songs.

It’d also be great if people would remember us as that rock band from Singapore, the one with members that were all so closely knit. But ultimately, our aim is to connect with people and to bring rock music back into people’s lives.

Just like how West Grand Boulevard, Caracal, and Allura inspired us to kickstart our musical journey, we hope that our passion and drive will do the same – we’d be extremely satisfied knowing that our music contributed to building a platform for the generations to come.

Mannequins EP Launch 23 June

==

For more information on Mannequins’ EP launch show, please visit their Facebook event page here.

Keep culture journalism alive, at just the price of a kopi. For a little bit more, get access to exclusives and a monthly gift box. Donate at patreon.com/popspoken

Stay updated and social with Popspoken: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram