Known figures in the local scene, Charlie Lim and Gentle Bones (Joel Tan) come together for the first time on a track that explores the frustration that comes with having feelings for someone, yet stuck in a constant loop of being misaligned when it comes to communicating a point across. Since both of them broke into the indie scene professionally in 2011, they have each achieved successes in their own right, with Joel becoming the first Singaporean artist to sign on to Universal Music, whereas for Charlie, having sold out two shows at the 10th Mosaic Music Festival.
Even though their musical tastes are in contrast with each other, the shared respect of each other’s musicality allowed their voices to meld seamlessly in this track, conveying a sense of “unique and imperfect beauty”.
“I’ve build you up inside my mind with promises you can’t keep. We’re playing out the years of wasted opportunity”, coo both of them melodiously in “Two Sides”
Poetically written, “Two Sides” describes the silent tensions that remain unspoken when situations don’t get resolved, but at the same time, “not completely giving up on a person, even though you’ve been wronged or hurt by them”.
Drawing references from production techniques by Max Martin, popular Swedish producer who has consistently written hits for different artistes such as “I Want It That Way’ by Backstreet Boys, and “That’s The Way It Is” by Celine Dion, the song follows five main structures that are consistent in all of Max’s 23 Billboard No. 1 chart toppers. Namely, all choruses start at the very beginning, the lyrics are easy to understand, simple harmonic structures are used with not more than 6 chords, all the introductions start uniquely and give context of what to expect in the whole song and finally, it develops gradually after each structure adding one element at a time. “Two Sides” is indeed a dream collaboration between two beautiful minds.
Popspoken: Of all the things that you could have chosen to do creatively, why did music become both your outlets?
Charlie Lim: I’ve always enjoyed tinkering on the piano and singing since I was a kid, I guess performing was one of the few things that I could really just pour myself into as a means of expressing myself, so I stuck with it for a while until it just became what I do for a living. Sometimes I don’t even know if it was a choice rather than a calling. Or maybe I’ve just deluded myself into thinking that so I’ve stuck with it for way too long.
Gentle Bones: I’ve always been the biggest fan of music, one of those who would spend too much time burning mixtapes and saving to buy an album a month. When the internet came along, Pandora opened her box and it was really the only hobby I had for the large span of my teenage years. Next thing I knew, I bought a guitar and started to try this singing thing on my own by doing covers online.
Popspoken: How has your creative relationship evolved through the years? The similarities are the love for cheesy 90s/00s tunes, what are the differences and what other factors inspired the recent collaboration?
Charlie Lim: This is our first time working together, we haven’t really hung out much before! There wasn’t much pressure to put something out for the sake of it, but our first session was quite productive. I do enjoy the process of collaboration when certain tastes overlap each other but the differences make it all the more interesting, and Joel was easy to work with because he’s got a good sense of melody so it was easy to help write and build the song around that. I think we both like stuff that is very melodic and catchy and earnest for sure, hence the whole early 2000s boyband/Max Martin reference.
Gentle Bones: I’m a huge fan of Charlie’s. He was one of the artistes from Singapore that really got me inspired to make music on my own, so I was a lot more excited than I let my face show when we were in the studio working together on Two Sides. It was such a smooth process writing this song together with him and it really helped that I knew so many of his songs by heart! We wanted to come up with our own version of an early 00s ballad but with an electronic touch to it. And the rest is history, I’m a huge fan of the song.
Popspoken: With all the successes of touring, do you two still feel like there is something to do or to prove?
Charlie Lim: There’s always something to do. As long as we can afford to, I’m sure we’d always want to keep working on our craft. For me, I feel like the older I get, the less I feel the need to prove anything to anyone. Or more like having the realisation that there was never any need to do so in the first place.
It’s such a cliché but so much of what determines what success means, especially in this strange industry, is really outside of our control. Even with touring; I wouldn’t call that success by any means. We’re very blessed to be able to play shows overseas, but it’s not always easy to pull off and I suppose it’s completely impossible during this period now with the current pandemic.
Gentle Bones: Doing this song with Charlie was something I definitely wanted to do for a long time. It’s really a milestone for me and I guess was something I proved to myself was possible. Charlie is right that success is really outside of our control and comes to you in a way that can never really be imagined or decided beforehand. What I’ve come to realise feeds my soul is simply making the best music possible and I think we really pulled this one off.
Popspoken: Did you face any heartbreak recently? Could you share with us more about the path to healing and what inspired “Two Sides” which talks about “hurt and after all the times you still get emotional”.
Charlie Lim: Those lyrics just came naturally to me when we were writing the chorus together, Joel was humming a few things that I picked up on and just tried to string a bunch of lines together that made sense. It’s nothing deeper beyond what it is, really. (laughs) But it does sound and feel good when sung.
Gentle Bones: We were trying to encapsulate an emotion of a type of misalignment in any type of relationship that pervades both individuals. I think it would be a little simplistic to think that it was only about romance but maybe I’m just a huge fan of Charlie’s lyric writing. It was a great experience capturing a time capsule of emotions into song, I want others to be able to be experience it too.
Popspoken: What headspace were you in when you wrote the song together?
Charlie Lim: In terms of crafting a narrative around those lyrics, I guess I wrote from quite a frustrated place, about living in that strange tension of trying to be empathetic and not giving up on a person, even though you may have been wronged or hurt by him or her before. It’s not necessarily heartbreak or anything overly dramatic that I draw from, because even family or friends will do stupid shit that make you want to pull you hair out. And express your frustration in a 2020’s boyband ballad. (laughs)
Gentle Bones: I was channeling Charlie’s song “Bitter” for this one.