Here’s a disruptive thought for all you Millennials/Centennials: Singapore had a music scene even before Gentle Bones and The Sam Willows! That’s right, #supportlocal isn’t just another something cooked up for SG50, it’s actually been a long struggle.
Not to make them sound ancient, but The Fire Fight have been on the scene for longer than many of today’s acts. Returning from a five-year hiatus, the indie rock band will perform at this year’s Baybeats Festival; a weekend of concerts held all over the Esplanade.
Naturally, we’re expecting a large number of fans at their set on Day 3 of Baybeats – can you imagine if your favourite llao llao was returning after having suddenly closed shop five years ago? Yeah, exactly like that. So treat this interview like a chat with the bosses of the returning llao llao chain; we ask them where they’ve been, how the market is different now, and whether they’ll be offering new types of froyo.
Firstly, welcome back to the scene! What have you guys been up to during your hiatus?
Josh: Thanks Jovi. Well all of us have been immersed with our individual careers and life during the past 5 years, which has taken us to different parts of the world and back.
Joshua Barker: I’ve recently returned from 4½ years in London, where I finished my undergraduate and postgraduate research degrees in consumer behaviour. Iain is now officially an airline pilot, and Jon’s been working in finance.
Iain Tham: I was away in Australia clocking flying hours and training to be a pilot.
What is the most significant change in the SG music scene from the time you guys took a break (2010) and now?
Josh: I’d say fervour and ambition. Our music today is experiencing a renewed hunger for opportunities and success. From what I’ve observed and learnt from the artistes today, they work tirelessly to push their individual boundaries, continually seeking progress in their craft and the business alike.
Joshua Barker: Before coming back, I hadn’t spent anything longer than a weekend in Singapore since summer 2012, so a lot of what’s going on now was pretty new to me at the time. If I had to narrow it down to one thing, it would be that people here are now far more able (and aware of the need) to market themselves and their music to as many people as possible. YouTube, as a service, has helped a lot in that regard. I don’t know if you could narrow it down to change in just the music scene — there’s a lot out there in terms of both making music and getting your message out that’s been enabled by enterprising people, faster Internet, and better technology.
Iain Tham: I’ve been really out of touch with the local music scene, but I must say that based on what I’ve seen and heard in recent times – the standards have risen significantly in terms of talent, musicianship, and musical craft. Needless to say the PR and marketing are on a different level.
Now that you guys are back together, can we expect a new release coming very soon?
Josh: We’re certainly eager to see where this long awaited reunion may lead to. The jam sessions have been inspiring with lots of great vibes. We’ve been revisiting the old numbers and without a doubt exploring new ideas. Feels really good to be playing and writing as a full band again.
Iain Tham: Right now our priority is getting back our musical ‘mojo’ together as a band and naturally that will activate our creative juices to craft newer material. We’ll see…
What can we expect at your Baybeats performance this year?
Josh: That same familiar sound and energy. We’ve been getting many requests from old friends and listeners which means a ton to us. So we sure aren’t looking to disappoint. Expect to get footloose!
Joshua Barker: We’ve got a new song with a really ridiculous working title, which we won’t mention here; we’re also incredibly pleased to have Benjamin Kheng and Joakim Gomez – who we wrote a song with way back in 2009 – on stage for our first full show in five years.
Iain Tham: We’ve all grown older and bigger literally but I doubt anything has changed, it’s still very much energy driven, sweaty, emotionally engaging, rock out sets that we always aim to achieve every time we’re on stage.
Who are your personal musical influences, both local and abroad?
Josh: Splendid question. Personally my tastes covers a range of genres, but I do lean towards 80’s pop and 90’s rock. My evergreen staples are bands like New Order, A-ha, Our Lady Peace, Interpol, and Foals. This is a topic that we can truly discuss at great length. Thankfully, we’ve just done our Lush list with Lush 99.5 and I believe the folks at Lush will be uploading it online pretty soon. Jbarks and I got to share the band’s collective and personal musical influences for a full hour. Watch out for that.
Joshua Barker: Incubus, Wilco, The Roots, and Death Cab for Cutie have been a pretty consistent feature on my playlists over the years. Jamiroquai used to be on there, but I haven’t listened to them in quite a while. In terms of bass playing, these days I find myself gravitating toward people who keep things very simple for most of the song, and then throw in an extra note or two at just the right moment. It’s subtle, and chances are the audience won’t explicitly notice it, but they’ll definitely feel it.
Iain Tham: My musical influences haven’t changed much. Maybe I’m listening to more mellow stuff just to unwind from a long day at work. Local Natives, Shigeto…
How would you encourage today’s young Singaporeans to #supportlocal?
Josh: Always have an open mind to less familiar experiences especially if its closer to home. Musical tastes will be relative and often debatable. When compared to the mainstream stage, I believe each Singaporean band or musician has a heartfelt notion or context that would resonate deeply with another Singaporean.
Joshua Barker: I’m actually working a research project right now with Invasion Singapore (of School Invasion fame) that’s trying to answer that very question. Ask us again in a year or two — we hope to have something concrete by then. I don’t know about supporting something local just because it’s local, but I do know about supporting something I have a connection with. That theme of connection is a running thread in the conversations I’ve had with fans of homegrown music.
As a society we’ve got a massive inferiority complex when it comes to music and the arts in Singapore, and that’s something Invasion Singapore, with the School Invasion tour, is hoping to address with younger Singaporeans. You can’t tell them — you’ve got to show them.
Iain Tham: Our brand of music is no different or even better than the more upmarket mainstream material that everyone is familiar with… You just got to give it a chance and explore!
What are your favourite Singaporean hawker dishes i.e. what would you queue 2 hours for?
Josh: Good old Char Kway Teow and Hokkien Mee!
Joshua Barker: Chicken rice. I’ve had many conversations on this in London, with Singaporeans as well as non-Singaporeans who’ve been here, and it always comes down to the chicken rice. Hokkien mee comes a close second.
Iain Tham: I had daily cravings of Bak Chor Mee when I was abroad… second is Chicken Rice!
The Fire Fight will be performing unplugged on 987 Home with Joakim Gomez tomorrow (27 June 2015) at 5PM! Stream it here.
Catch The Fire Fight’s set on Sunday, 28 June 2015, from 11:00PM – 11:45PM @ The Lawn at Esplanade!
Find The Fire Fight online: Twitter | Facebook | Bandcamp