Weish (aka Chew Wei Shan) – one-half of acclaimed electronic duo .gif – looks set for a monster year. She’s just wrapped up Besides Ourselves, a surreal play-meets-live gig that aimed to tell her personal stories as well as that of others through experimental theatre and sound. Commissioned for last month’s M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, the performance represented her debut as a playwright and was a platform through which .gif premiered works from their long-anticipated second album Hail Nothing, which launches this month. “A lot of our older stuff was about lamenting the tragedies of the world, but I think as we grew older and came into our own, we just started to celebrate the absurdity of everything,” she says of the album. “It’s more liberated. There’s still a tinge of depressing notes, but in a more confident way.” Plans for an accompanying tour are still in the works, but consider us 100% psyched already.
Here, a quick Q&A with the singer:
Hi Weish, the last time we talked, you mentioned that your multi-disciplinary show for the recent M1 Singapore Fringe Festival was “completely out of your comfort zone.” Could you elaborate on why this particular work deviates so much from your usual works?
“We were approached by Sean Tobin (the festival’s director) to create a music-centric work for the Fringe, which hasn’t been done for a long long time – they mainly deal with theatre-based works. We’ve put together a bunch of stories that we collected from real people that we interviewed ourselves, while others are my own stories, stitching them together using songs that we wrote. And I’m also going to be semi-acting – my first in six years. I also wrote the script (her debut as a playwright) and we’re telling our own stories, so there’s a lot of pressure and more ownership.”
Would it be accurate to state that that was your most experimental work to date?
“Yes, I definitely haven’t put myself out there this much until now and it’s also experimental in the sense that it plays with different forms… so at times it feels like a live gig but other times it’s purely like a play and sometimes it’s in-between. I’d say it’s a surreal, experiential piece.”
You mentioned that your upcoming second album will be very different sonically from Soma (.gif’s debut album). Could you describe how your new sound might be like?
“With Soma, it was end of 2015 and so much has changed in our lives since then. Some of these songs have been sitting in our folders for years and I guess we’ve sort of chucked out the old and started afresh. The new album is called Hail Nothing and what Din (other half of .gif) likes to say is if Soma is The Smiths, then our new stuff is more like Joy Division – more aggressive, more sure of itself and less lamenting the world but celebrating nonsense and absurdity. We’ve also delved deeper into dirty synths and analogue sounds.”
How many tracks can we expect?
“There will be nine tracks in total and we’re actually previewed 7 of them during the show for M1. It’s funny because when we were conceptualizing the album at the same time as we were working on this M1 project, so a lot of the themes and feelings of both kinda blended into each other. That will be the first time we’re previewing the songs – they’ve been adapted and worked into the production, so slightly different from the album.”
Walk us through the process of creating and conceptualizing this new album – what were you intending to explore with it?
“A lot of our older stuff was about lamenting the tragedies of the world but I think as we grew older and came into our own, we just started to celebrate the absurdity of everything. It’s more liberated – there’s still a tinge of depressing – but in a more confident way. “
Where would you say you guys are as musicians now?
“We’re at so many crossroads now, this year especially (2019) both in our personal relationships and the scene as well… and I don’t have a good answer for this question actually. We’re finding new footing… we’ve been so lucky all these years to have work and to have such varied work with poets, visual artists and now with theatre.. and I think where I am now is quite special in that I can work with not just other musicians but also with many creatives across various disciplines.”
For me personally, I see .gif as more than just musicians – would you say that is accurate?
“Yeah, I think that’s quite accurate because we’ve been doing composing for lots of non-music-centric things. Personally I really enjoy it because it’s really freeing to work on someone else’s vision and art and learn how to balance having your own voice but still make sure you’re in a supporting role. It teaches you so much; they hire you because they want your uniqueness but at the same time you have to make sure it’s not about you, and I really like that process. It forces you to learn new things, pick up new software and work with completely different types of people, which has been really amazing.
Finally, do you have any other projects you’d like to share that you’re working on for 2020?
“I am excited to work on my own solo music sometime next year, which I’ve neglected for such a long time – no concrete plans yet that I can share.”
This article first appeared in the February 2020 print issue of FEMALE.
Photography Vee Chin Styling Imran Jalal
Hair and Makeup Benedict Choo, using Nars