Where to go after releasing Telltale Signs in 2018, one of the most beloved Singapore indie pop albums in recent years? It’s a tricky space to be in and Celine Autumn, the vivacious frontwoman of Sobs – the three-piece band behind it admits as much. 2019 was a relatively quiet year for the group, though fans continued to lap up their work to the tune of 2.3 million streams on Spotify.
All that only cranks up the anticipation for their upcoming sophomore album, due to drop in the first quarter of 2020. Going by her introspective answers, it’s safe to say that the melancholic lyrics Sobs is adored for will remain. One twist? Autumn, 22, has been writing from a more mature space. “I do think that there’s a switch up from the last release in terms of the maturity of our songwriting and production,” she says. ”I’m not 18 anymore. I’m not spending all day worrying about girl/boy crushes or wishing that I could be on vacation, and I’ve learnt to better translate my narratives and experiences into my music with more depth.”
Here, a quick Q&A with the singer:
Hey Celine, how’s that sophomore album coming along?
It’s true what they say – the sophomore album is always the hardest to make. We’re currently still in the process of writing but the couple of songs that we already have on hand, I really, really like.
Walk us through the process of creating and conceptualizing this new album:
For us, the creating process comes before the conceptualizing one. A lot of times, you don’t truly know the extent of what the song means until you have the entire body of work laid out in front of you.
Personally, I’ve been trying to be more conscious of the sentiments behind my lyrics and finding new ways to convey my message. I like to find that balance between writing something creative, that people can relate to, and having words that flow well and be fun to sing along to.
Will you guys be experimenting with a new sound? Any titles or confirmed launch dates yet?
There isn’t a specific change in direction that we’re aiming for and we’ve never set boundaries when we write, so it can be surprising sometimes, the songs that we come up with.
With that said, I do think that there’s a switch up from the last release in terms of the maturity our songwriting and production. I’m not 18 anymore, I’m not spending all day worrying about girl/boy crushes or wishing I was on vacation, and I’ve learnt to better translate my narratives/experiences into my music with more depth. It’s all still a work in progress but I’d say we’re hoping to release it by the first quarter of 2020.
You’ve mentioned song-writing is an anxiety-inducing process these days – could you elaborate more on that?
We first started writing purely for the love we have for music and how fun it was, there were no deadlines or expectations, we just did what felt natural to us. Now, it feels like there are standards we have to live up to, and I’m scared. It’s hard to re-create that innocence we once had in the way we approached songwriting.
Growing up is too, anxiety-inducing in itself, the world around you start to sparkle a little less – and it’s up to me to use that to my advantage by translating that into the music, instead of having these feelings weigh down on my attitude towards it. Our listeners essentially watched me grow up through the songs and I’m so thankful for the ones that have stuck around since the beginning.
Velvet gilet, silk column gown, and wool pillbox hat, Giorgio Armani. Earrings, Autumn’s own
In your opinion, can song-writing or even the process of creating new music be separate from one’s own emotions?
I think it’s possible, but the music wouldn’t feel as personal and your listeners would know it. You can write about a narrative that isn’t yours, yet, convey what you feel emotionally.
What do you find inspiring as a creative, musician and song-writer? What are you obsessed with lately?
Honestly, everything around me feels inspiring if I manage to find my way into that headspace. Otherwise, I kinda just hate everything haha.
A friend once told me that it is our job as musicians to be inspired, that really shifted my perspective on *writer’s block*. Now I constantly chase that headspace and work hard to stay there. It also helps finding something else other than music that I’m passionate about. In response to what I’m currently obsessed with – I’ve been really into yoga 🙂
Where would you say you – and the band – are as musicians now?
Right now, we’re just super ready to get to work, as we haven’t been writing as actively this year. We go through periods where we feel inspired and come up with something really nice and when we’re just not feeling it, we don’t work on anything.
I’m ready to set aside all my self-induced anxieties and insecurities to just find joy again in writing.
What would you say have been your favourite gigs to play this past year?
It’s been quite some time ago already but I would say Japan, we did a mini tour in January in 2019. People there are just really passionate about music and it feels so surreal seeing the crowd sing along to the lyrics and guitar parts.
This article first appeared in the February 2020 print issue of FEMALE.
Photography Vee Chin Styling Imran Jalal
Hair Erin Nakajima/1TTo+Lim Makeup Sha Shamsi, using Dior