They craft tunes that recall the sounds of the analog-heavy, pre-2000s and stand for the underdogs. Unlike alternative musicians of that era though, they are quintessentially post-Gen X in their commitment to collaborate, not judge and uplift the community (the youngest is 19; the oldest 29). Ahead, we spotlight four newcomers to the Singapore music scene redefining the way we make good old indie rock, pop and everything else in between.
WHO: The all-female, alternative progressive rock quintet made up of (from left) guitarist Zijun Kan, drummer Kiara Tan, vocalist Pearly Tan, keyboardist Ang Qian Shan and bassist Hong Jingmin
STARTED: Earlier this year. Before that, the girls were already playing together (they met in secondary school) under another name and more casual aesthetic – something they prefer to keep in the past to focus on the edgier and more stylised sound and look that they identify more with today (and that got us noticing them).
THE SOUND: For anyone into female rock groups of the 2000s, the five young women who make up Taledrops (they’re all in their mid-20s) ought to be your new heroines. Like their own musical idol Muse, they fuse alt and prog rock with bits of pop and lots of impassioned lyrics for one aggressive yet symphonic affair. Cue the debut single Kafka, a blistering anthem written to remind themselves to never lose sight of what they love even as they confront the mundanity of corporate life (“Sign away bits of our lives/ Contracts keep us alive/ Hands are searing from this drought/ Who cares that I am sucked dry?”) – Olivia Rodrigo fans would dig the brazen candour.
LISTEN UP BECAUSE: They’re not just riot grrrl in sound and style – they’re intrepid self-starters too. Last year, the band – in its former iteration – organised its own group show, Shut The Factory Up, as soon as Covid-related restrictions on live shows were lifted. The success of the event was what inspired them to aim bigger and try out for what some might call the mecca of indie festivals here: Baybeats. Fast forward to last month and the group debuted at the annual showcase staged at The Esplanade under its Budding Bands programme.
WHAT’S NEXT: Taledrops’ next single Surrender is due to launch by the end of the year – keep your eyes peeled on the band’s namesake Instagram account.
WHO: Producer Ian Lee (far right), 24, founded this record label-meets-production studio to offer production services as well as other forms of support to local musicians, roping in the likes (from near left) visual production manager Farizi Noorfauzi, arrangements handler Daniel Alex Chia and finance head Melanie Tiong – all aged between 19 and 25, and indie musicians or music aficionados themselves.
THE SOUND: PK Records’ artists – most of whom are emerging names – tend to learn towards the intimate and introspective regardless of genre. Think the indie pop singer-songwriter ALICIA DC, soulful alt R&B duo Nkei (of which Lee makes up one-half), and the melancholic folk soloist who goes by the moniker Benny’s. Even the jazz superstar Aisyah Aziz has come under its wings, roping in PK Records to produce her upcoming EP.
LISTEN UP BECAUSE: While Singapore has no lack of music production studios, PK Records sets itself apart with its highly personal approach. Instead of simply executing the technicalities of a brief, Lee and team make it a point to help shape a more definitive and distinctive sound that reflects an artist’s identity. In addition, they help with bookings, distribution and marketing with the artist – not commercial needs – taking priority. So humanistic is PK’s ethos that artists are not required to sign any contracts. Says Lee: “It may be idealistic to believe that we can drastically change the music scene, but we do hope to inspire as many people as we can to make the music they want with as little artistic compromise as possible.” Could this be the makings of our very own Sub Pop?
WHAT’S NEXT: A show for the debut EP of indie folk artist Fatbear in January 2024
WHO: The solo synth-pop project of Daryl Hor, who studied and worked in landscape design and horticulture (or, as he puts it, “I was a farmer”) before turning to his main love of producing music.
THE SOUND: Hor’s lush, hazy yet utterly danceable soundscapes evoke at once a sense of melancholy and a romantic twinge of nostalgia. After all, the 29-year-old cites ’80s New Wave icons New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen as his key influences – and he does a good job of living up to their names with his brooding vocals and sophisticated synth layers.
LISTEN UP BECAUSE: Hor could just be the anti-idol we’ve been waiting for: a gangly music geek whose combination of a super-chill personality, classic rocker boy style and a knack for creating edgy, oh-so-infectious tunes makes one can’t help but want to root for him. Prior to his debut as a solo artiste early last year, he had already been producing and mixing for other emerging musicians (clients here have included the pop-rock singer-songwriter Rene, the indie-pop trio Royal Estate and J-pop influenced AIJOU) since 2018, but took the plunge himself after repeated encouragement from friends to. It’s been a worthwhile move, some might say. Last year, he was invited to open for Linying’s solo concert and played at Scape’s Music Day Out! festival while last month, he held not one, but two performances at Baybeats.
WHAT’S NEXT: Get ready for Sun Cell’s debut album early next year.
Meet some of the folks who make up the growing New Mongrels music collective. Front row, from left: Hip-hop musician Cravis Chang aka Cravism (on chair); jazz-pop soloist Raine Chiew aka rhyu; indie pop singer-songwriter ALICIA DC; Aloysius Au of math rock band Woes; and folk singer Bernice Lee, who performs under the moniker Benny’s. Middle row, from left: Harist Sunil Singh of Saints Amongst Sinners; Raizel Gonzales of the alternative R&B duo Nkei; Shazuan Shiraj aka the rapper Abangsapau and co-founder of New Mongrels; Dominique Phua and Jolin Chiam of Saints Amongst Sinners; Mateen Azlan of both Saints Amongst Sinners and Intermission; and Edryian S. of the graphic design studio PIECENLUV that helps New Mongrels with its visuals. Back row, from left: Jerald Sim, co-founder of PIECENLUV; Danysh Sufyan Bin Mansor of Saints Amongst Sinners; Russell Seow of Woes; Mat Isham of Saints Amongst Sinners and New Mongrels co-founder; Khoo Shenen of Woes; and the male rapper who goes by the moniker Mary Sue.
WHO: Started by rapper Abangsapau (real name: Shazuan Shiraj; pictured second row, third from left) and Mat Isham (last row, third from right) – the frontman of indie rock band Saints Amongst Sinners – New Mongrels, or NM for short, describes itself as a movement that aims to support and bring together people from different fields and genres within Singapore’s music scene. Just clock everyone else here pictured with them – many of whom are Singapore’s most promising and experimental emerging independent artistes (for the lowdown on who’s who, head to femalemag.com.sg). Says Shazuan: “Singapore music as a whole is still considered pretty niche and the more comfortable we get in our own circles, the harder it will be to break outside of them and grow our community. There’s also so much we can learn from creatives outside our immediate network.”
STARTED: Eight months ago in March 2023
THE SOUND: NM’s debut show staged at GR.iD (the former PoMo shopping mall on Selegie Road) in August was a prime showcase of the collective’s cross-pollination ethos. Featuring 16 acts that spanned genres ranging from hip-hop to emo to dream pop and included heavyweights such as The Pinholes and Aisyah Aziz, the event was most notable for not announcing set times for each performer – the idea was to encourage the audience to stay and appreciate every act.
LISTEN UP BECAUSE: If what exactly NM does is unclear, it’s because its whole point is to not be limited by how artistes, record labels and other players in the industry traditionally work. Take how in addition to helping musicians with the likes of distribution and the organisation of live shows so far, NM has partnered with educational institutions to introduce to students the fundamentals of the music business. Says Shazuan: “Anyone who believes in the importance of community-building, good music and developing a sustainable ecosystem in the pursuit of the elevation of Singaporean music is essentially a New Mongrel.”
WHAT’S NEXT: NM’s third and next show on Nov 4 – held at Phil’s Studio on North Bridge Road, it will boast an eclectic sonic lineup that includes Indonesian bands Bedchamber and Glyph Talk as well as homegrown acts Subsonic Eye, Intermission and Carpet Golf.
Photography Lawrence Teo Art Direction Jonathan Chia Hair Tan Eng Chong/Kizuki+Lim Makeup Beno Lim
This article first appeared in the Nov 2023 Music Edition of FEMALE