A Chat With The Façade
We chat with alternative pop band The Façade about music, lyrics and their upcoming gig at Starker Music Carnival 2017.
In the words of legendary rock n’roll band AC/DC:
“It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock n’ roll”.
That was one of the many insights we got from our conversation with up-and-coming pop rock band The Façade, one of the many talented local acts performing at Starker Music Carnival on 4 November 2017.
Held at Tanjong Pagar Park, this year’s Starker Music Carnival will be headlined by Taiwanese pop sensation A-Lin, and feature various stalwarts of the local music scene, including The Façade, Alfred Sim, Lingkai and Disco Hue.
To whet our appetite for music, we sat down with the lads from the Façade to talk inspiration, perspiration and what makes local music tick.
In case you haven’t heard their music (gasp), it’s easy to describe a quintessential track from The Façade: infectiously catchy, unabashedly pop-influenced, lyrically earnest.
Honestly though, the proof of their talent lies in the listening, so go ahead and check out one of their tracks.
Don’t worry, we’ll wait.
Pretty impressive, huh? Don’t let their youthful demeanor fool you, though: The Façade has been around since 2011, when Brendon (the frontman) befriended Jereld (the guitarist) at Nanyang Polytechnic, where they were both studying.
What started out as a duo soon evolved into a four-piece alternative band, with Shawn on the drum kit and Benjamin on bass duties. Since then, the band has cut some slick music videos, recorded Vanity – their first EP – and rocketed to #2 on Singapore’s iTunes Charts with their hit single, ‘Better Than This’.
“[The band] actually started as something we were doing for fun, playing covers, going for competitions,” Brendon tells us. “It was only after several years that we started to experiment with writing our own songs.”
While making music fulltime is an aspiration rather than a reality right now, the members of The Façade seem wholly committed to making their passion work out for them. Here are their insights on the local music scene, the challenges up-and-coming local acts face, and the best way to torture a musician.
First things first:
Why pick the band name, The Façade?
We settled on the word 'facade', because we managed to find some beauty in the term: The whole idea of it being used as a mask, implying many faces; the mystery of the word.
There's also a lot of coherence in terms of our daily lives: We wanted to be represented by [the music] in our lives, rather than as just individuals going about our day-to-day routine. It represents that other face of us.
Your EP, Vanity, launched earlier this year in June. What was the most challenging part of creating it?
Honestly, the music’s the easiest part, because that's our passion in the first.
The difficulties lie more in the other elements that crop up when you're producing something for audience: The marketing, what kind of music videos, the concept, the album art, venues for launch. There's a lot of back-end planning.
The actual production of the CD, for example. It's time-consuming, it's expensive, and it can be very stressful. It's something created out of nothing, and you want it to be the best that it can be.
Lyrically, what themes does your music cover?
[Lyrically], it's more urban, more modern and kind of relevant to today's context: How today's generation wants to portray themselves as on the Internet. Everyone's saying 'hey, I'm like this, I want you to notice me'.
If you listen to the tracks, there are some parts that talk about how our generation is so focused on the image they present. It could be good in some senses, but it can also consume you if you're too worried about how people perceive you.
What bands or musicians inspired you guys to start playing music?
The one that got all of us started was John Mayer. But that was a long time ago. We still love him, but we can't replicate his sound. -Laughter around the table- Yeah, we’re all consumed with this obsession for John Mayer.
Along the way, Jason Mraz came along, and we really liked the first few albums from him.
Those are the artistes who got us together and excited to play the songs that they had, and... our versions of their music, in a sense.
What are some of the biggest challenges that music makers face in Singapore?
The difficulties change from stage to stage [in a band’s evolution]. When we first started out, we just wanted to do anything that we could. We didn't really think about how the scene is doing, how the gigs are being set up, the organisers.
What stays constant is that we all have to struggle between making the music that we think we're good at versus making music which is trending.
Honestly, there have always been trends in music: Hip hop, R&B and so on. There’s always music that the market is into, and it's a constant struggle to figure out how to balance between the two.
10 years ago, the conversation about local music centred mostly on the lack of audience support for Singaporean musicians. Has that changed much?
It's become quite a bit better. There's still a bit of a stigma, but it's definitely becoming better, especially with the rise of social media like Youtube.
10 years ago, if you asked someone on the street: 'Do you know of any musician or bands in Singapore?' They wouldn't be able to give you any names.
But when you think about it, we live in a time where you could go to any teen on the street, and ask “who's your favourite musician?” And they'd be able to give you specific names: Gentle Bones, Sam Willows, Charlie Lim.
The audience base has definitely increased. But for musicians like us to make a decent and sustainable living out of it, the local audience has to be more open to listening to local music.
What's the biggest reward of being a musician?
People who come up to you or drop you messages online, saying that they like your music, or that they know every word to every song that you’ve written.
It’s really gratifying; that's the best feeling you can get as a musician. Especially in Singapore, where a lot of people are listening to the stuff from overseas, Western pop culture.
To have a fellow Singaporean come up to you and say, “Hey I really like your stuff, I like your MV,” that's the best feeling you can get.
Do you have any advice for up and coming musicians? I'm not trying to make you guys sound old, by the way.
-Laughs- Hmm… focus on the music. Really focus on the music. If the track is good, people will listen to it, no matter how tough things get in terms of creating the physical production, or the MVs.
You definitely have to diversify your skills, but don't try to be somebody you're not. Find out what you're good at and stick to it. You Just keep hustling! It's hard, and you're in Singapore, which makes it kinda harder.
Do you think there's growing support for local music with regards to, brands, business and corporate organisations from outside the music industry?
I believe we've been seeing an emergence of brands and companies coming on board to support the local music scene. It’s really cool!
Starker has been here supporting upcoming and aspiring musicians for the past few years, and we're really looking forward to Starker Music Carnival at Tanjong Pagar Centre.
People don't know how tough and expensive it is to create a track and the music video that comes along with it. These initiatives go a really long way in helping local musicians.
If you could jam with any musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Michael Jackson! Locally, we'd love to jam with Charlie Lim.
5 Awkward Questions With The Facade
How do bands overcome stage fright?
We don't. We just avoid it until the last minute and then have massive nervous breakdowns.
-Laughs- Jereld is really a master of having last-minute panic attacks on stage. Half an hour before [the gig] he's like 'actually, I'm cool...'
And then at the last moment he's panicking, like 'oh s*** I'm having butterflies now, help!'
How do you really make money?
The way musicians make money has evolved a lot. Back then, there was CDs and merchandise. But we live in a generation where listeners use digital streaming platforms like Spotify, so that's one huge portion of income that's been killed off.
In a local context, going out to play shows is one of the ways a musician can bring in income. You also wanna be more like a personality, rather than just a band, so that doing endorsements and collaborations with other companies would be a way of making money as well.
What's the four-stringed guitar really called?
-Laughter around the table- You mean the bass guitar?
It's super important: It's the backbone of the music, the bridge between the rhythm section and the guitars and vocals. It's the thing that makes the whole song sounds full. Try listening to a track without bass: It just sounds weird!
How are songs written? Music first, or the lyrics first?
For us, it's melody first. When Brendon was in the army, we had a group chat. Sometimes we'd get a notification: "Brendon has left a voice message".
And it'd be just of him humming, with water splashing in the background, so we figured he was showering while recording the idea.
What would be the best way to torture a musician?
That’s easy: Make them listen to songs they can’t stand, or play them music through a faulty earpiece!
Head on down to TPC Park to experience Starker Music Carnival on 4 November 2017. To read more details and buy your tickets, click here.