Quirky and not afraid to share their individuality is one impression FXTRT gives out when speaking about their musical passion. Their music also reflects their candid demeanor and their discipline in keeping their craft in check. When asked what is one quality they would like to see changed in making music, most shared a common hope to keep honing their skills before adding that having more studios in the west will be ideal. And then laughing at themselves.
They are one of the seven Baybeats Budding Bands chosen to perform on stage at the festival this year. Running for three days, FXTRT will be performing on 14th July at 8pm, Esplanade Outdoor Theatre.
This four-piece band is also due to release their EP “Bento Set A” on June 30th, at the Lithe House. Having released their first EP “Palette” on Bandcamp just last year, the band dived headfirst into making Bento Set A – producing physical copies as well as having their songs on social media. How exactly do they manage to write their songs, with all its technicality and quick beats?
“We can do one now!” Jack (bassist) exclaimed to the laughter of everyone else, “Pick a key, hey, this riff is cool. Then some mumbling. Hey James (drummer) give me a word! Okay, animals! Then add more words, and then a single is born. Our writing process is very haphazard actually. We don’t have the kind of ‘need to sit down and write a song’ kind of thing. It is more of ‘today I wanna write a song’. It is more spontaneous.”
“But it is not instantaneous. One song on our up-coming EP is a one and a half years of work,” Kadir (vocals/guitarist) added. Ming (guitarist) finished, “It is more conceptual, and theme-wise. Then we spend way longer refining the song.”
Popspoken sits down with FXTRT to find out where all the Os in Foxtrot went to and their genre of Math-Pop.
Popspoken: Just out of curiosity, why no vowels for the band name?
Kadir: The name initially came from a former bandmate. We thought it’d be cool to keep it that way as it has a nice ring to it when you say it out. Also it’s kinda easy to type out. Hahaha.
Ming: Os in cOOl
James: I guess you could say we wanted to be hipster, and stuck with the name since then.
Jack: All our ‘O’s were used up to make ‘O.o’s
PS: Share with us what exactly the genre math-pop means. And how does the band own this genre in your own way?
K: Math pop is actually a real sub-genre. Hahaha. I was surprised as well back then, when I first got into this. I think the ‘pop’ makes it something that’s not too technical and complex. To me, FXTRT’s math pop has lots of things going on but people can still groove to it naturally.
M: To me, it is a tasteful combination of the technical aspect of the mathrock/midwest influences such as the virtuosic guitar lines, complex rhythms and the catchiness and mood of indie pop music, done tastefully while still being generally accessible to bob along to.
FXTRT represents the genre rather well as we bring out the technical and virtuosity but yet there is an pop element to it that makes it all catchy and ‘bouncy’. The secret sauce is that there is this very strong musical chemistry among us that actually bring all of the above to life, with the right amount.
Js: Math-Pop to us is… I guess, a combination of musical technicality and an accessible sound to the general public. If you would ask the four of us about our favourite genres of music, I’m sure none of us would mention Pop, but somehow when we come together, our music ends up pretty Pop-like even though our influences are far from the Pop genre.
Jk: The math part of it comes from technicality, and it being used for expression I guess. Pop cuz we’re easily accessible, I hope. Previously we called ourselves progressive indie but I think Math Pop seems to be a better catch all term to the music we make. Mostly though, we just write music that’s fun for us to play, and have either a good story or relatable situations for lyrics. Since that happens to be a bit on the progressive side, but we’re a sucker for love songs and 4/4, we’re Math Pop.
PS: Do you think the local scene is diverse enough? If not, what else can we all do to help it go further?
K: In terms of genre definitely there’s a lot of things going on. There’re lots of local bands now that’s playing really interesting music, something that you can’t label as just one genre. And it’s pretty cool seeing all these different people playing shows together and supporting each other on the ground level. Though that’s about it. Pop still rules over here in terms of mainstream audience, and I have nothing against that. I just hope for more efforts in recognising these acts would give listeners a chance to hear something a lil’ different, and we’ll see from there.
M: I think the local scene is getting more and more diverse especially with the recent increase of amount of bands exploring niche subgenres such as math rock, midwest emo, post rock, hardcore, experimental avante garde, grindcore, djent. However the ratio of these ‘experimental subgenre’ to singer songwriter/indie acts are much lesser in comparison. E.g. 1 : 5 What could be done would be more public awareness, not just the pop acts or indie pop/ rock bands.
Js: I think that the local scene is actually pretty diverse, however, the underground/indie acts are not getting enough exposure to the general public. (Btw I don’t mean just giving exposure dollars) There are bands that are very good but I only got to know them because of friends and by attending gigs. Hopefully, more new upcoming acts get featured so that our music scene would be more interesting and get global recognition.
Jk: Our local scene is pretty similar to (my opinion of) other scenes elsewhere.
Sure we don’t have as much traction and sustainability, but like almost everywhere else in the world, there are predominant ‘pop’ genres, more underground bands, and an entire army of singer/songwriter types. Not good, not bad, but when we try to compete with other international acts for the same shows, musicians from places like Singapore have to sell themselves from a more unique angle.
(Let’s face it, it is a competition. Doesn’t mean it is unfriendly or bad but all the same, limited slots at large festivals vs hordes of worthy bands)
To me, I think it is pretty diverse, but for it to thrive and really allow more experimental artists to break out and make a name for themselves, Singaporeans have to not only accept local music, but also be receptive to other music as a whole. Do I make any sense? I don’t know.
PS: If four of you got to learn new instruments to experiment with your music further, what would they be?
K: Trumpet for sure! I love the way it incorporates so naturally into math rock, and how it just sounds so good. Plus it’ll be pretty cool to play something similar to bands like American football or clever girl. Apart from that it’ll be harmonica, mostly to accompany any future acoustic songs.
M: I’d prolly learn how to actually play ‘piano’ so i could actually make the noise coming out of hardware synthesizers actually pleasant and not a cloud of nonsensical noise.
Js: Definitely synthesizers, because it is fun and interesting to experiment with the different sound patches and ambient layers.
Jk: I’m torn between saxophone and harmonica. Or maybe a real theremin. So. Many. Choices. Or maybe cello. Just to mess around, not really define a new sound or direction for the band.
PS: How did you feel after discovering that you are chosen for Baybeats Budding Bands 2017?
K: Shocked. And quite speechless. Apparently the bassist from Tides was in NS training with me as well at that time. I remembered hugging him straight after we got to know about the news. That was pure happiness man. It was just a real shocker. That said, honestly I didn’t have high hopes and we were actually thinking about FXTRT’s future plans already if we weren’t selected.
M: I was pleasantly surprised as well. We had been experimenting with a different but yet ‘niche’ genre and to receive a rather warm reception at the audition and be chosen at the audition was a real good feelz.
Js: (o_o) -> (O_O) -> Σ(ﾟДﾟ) WE GOT IN?? *breathing intensifies*
Jk: I was pretty dumbstruck for like nearly a week. Still am, if I have to be frank. But it really feels amazing to be recognised by other musicians, other people in general. Though we aren’t the cool kids, we’re doing a cool kids thing and that gets me tingly in all the right and wrong places.
PS: Any surprise plans for your Baybeats performance?
K: Not much of a surprise if you know our full choreography routine.
M: Maybe. You can find it out by watching us! (keep your eyes peeled for our baybeats performance slot!)
Js: Surprise plans? Is it edible?
Jk: I think the best surprise we can give the audience is perfect pitch singing from me and Kadir. That being said, if we aren’t talking about miracles, then probably our hat choice or our dance routine. Gotta show my (lack of) kpop pride.
Check FXTRT out at this year’s Baybeats Festival that is happening from 14 to 16 July 2017!
For more information on their EP Launch happening on 30th June 2017, click here.
Photography credits: Darren ‘Merovign’ Tan