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Sporting her signature turquoise turban, Yuna was all smiles as she was greeted by members of the media during last Saturday’s MTV World Stage Press Conference held at Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa. Even though there were visible signs of eye bags, the modelesque 27-year-old singer-songwriter was friendly and thoughtful throughout the Q&A session.
Since being signed to David Foster’s Verve Music Group, Yuna’s progression from a more gritty soulful tone to now having a pop-ier and upbeat (e.g.: Come Back) susceptibility can be heard in her music. Her sophomore album, Nocturnal, is prove of that. Not wanting to stay the same, Yuna has even ventured into electronic dance. The track, Gold, was a product of her collaboration with Adventure Club.
For the Los Angeles-based singer, music isn’t her only ambition. Yuna’s passion for fashion led to the launch of November Culture – an online clothing store featuring chic and modest clothing that are synonymous with her style. During the press conference, she expressed her desire to expand her business to neighbouring countries and subsequently internationally.
Check out the interview below to see how Yuna explains the coconut drinking method to her American friends, her dream of starting a family and making babies, plus why this Malaysian icon feels that it is her responsibility to empower not just women but all her listeners.
1. Yuna on returning to Malaysia to perform for the Malaysian crowd
It’s always fun coming back to Malaysia. These are the people that were there for me since day one, and they’ve seen me grow to this “thing” now. So it is nice to come back and meet them. It feels as if I’m performing for my family. I’m a little nervous, but mostly excited.
2. How would you describe your Kuala Kangsar kampung , to your friends?
Well, first of all I tell them that in my kampung [village or community] we don’t drink coconut water from a drinking packet. So I’ll explain to my American friends that we actually drink from the fruit. You know… stuff like that.
3. Yuna on her breakthrough and success
I try not to think about it so much because it could get to your head. I try to remember why I first started making music, like seven or eight years ago. I was just a 20-year-old law student, writing music for myself and I always take myself back to the spot whenever I go out to perform for all these people.
I think it’s important to always stay true to myself and not forget why I am here in the first place. Sometimes you tend to forget about something as simple as that but it should all come back to the basics. I’m blessed to be here and I still can’t believe that I get this crazy opportunity to travel, to perform, to go on tour. It’s nice.
4. On her music evolution
In the beginning, I started out as a singer-songwriter with just an acoustic guitar. I didn’t have the resources back then; I didn’t have a producer to help me work on my music. I think it’s always important to know what your strengths are and for me, I know my vocals are different. I try to use my vocals like a jigsaw puzzle – to fit it into different types of genres and see how it works out.
5. Capturing a sense of cohesive storyline in her album, Nocturnal
It’s not as easy as it sounds. Like when I was feeling [inspired by] a Malaysian tradition thing going on, I came up with Rescue [which was inspired by the Malay music form dikir barat], then you have Lights and Camera which is so different from other songs on the album. There was a conscious effort in wanting to make an album with a certain storyline but I think it just happen naturally.
I’m really glad that after we chose what songs to put in the album, there was a storyline maybe because we recorded it within a span of six to seven months where I was going through some stuff. That’s why you could hear a certain sense of cohesiveness.
6. Collaboration with Adventure Club
I don’t listen to EDM music but with Adventure Club, they music are so cinematic and I like epic sounds. And they were able to capture that in Gold and Lullabies. If I have the opportunity to work with them again, I would.
7. In 5 years’ time, what would she wish for – both personally and professionally
Obviously this is every singer-songwriter’s dream, and um, it’s okay to dream right? I would like to have a Grammy maybe? As crazy as it sounds, that’s what I would want.
Personally, I would like to settle down and have a family. And also I have a store here in Subang Jaya. Its call November Culture. It is my dream to see it grow into something special and expand to different states in Malaysia like Penang and Johor, or maybe even in neighbouring countries like Singapore. That would be cool.
8. Using this given platform to empower
Sometimes I write about love, sometimes I write about life, and sometimes I write uplifting songs. Mermaid was one of them. In the beginning of my music career, I didn’t understand that when you have certain amount of influencing power, there is a responsibility that comes with it. A lot of pop stars don’t see that, nor do they appreciate that or use it to do something positive.
The last couple of years when I met up with influential women a United Nations event, I finally understood that this is something that I have to do. I want my songs to empower not just women but everyone.
Despite being the last and final artist up for last Saturday’s MTV World StagePress Conference held at Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa, B.o.B in person is comparatively how you would expect to see him on stage – bubbly, fun and entertaining.
There was no arrogance what-so-ever. (Quite the opposite actually.) No f-bombs were dropped. In fact the 26-year-old American hip hop recording artist was surprisingly down to earth and jovial with everyone in the room.
B.o.B was candid about his fascination with female’s round buttocks and how he sees a bright future in her bootylicious behind. The whole room erupted in laughter! On what he hates about himself, B.o.B cites his own voice – calling it annoying. Well, we all have that one thing we don’t like about ourselves right?
The rapper shared his view on the gift and curse of being associated with a particular hit song, plus which song or lyric would he tattoo on himself? “The shortest one (Duh!)”, explaining that I’ll Be In The Sky speaks for everything in his career so far.
B.o.B also joked about his pet peeve of scouting for “cute girls” during his shows and being disappointed by his selections. Ouch! When asked how instrumental was Pharrell’s influence towards his musical career, B.o.B recalled Pharrell equating making furniture to success. Wait what?! Check out the interview below to get scoop on what went down.
On his fascination with women’s booty
I think the fascination with it, it’s because it is so round. And that’s what life is, the earth is round. So yeah, I see a bright future.
Underground hip hop scene: Then vs Now
Man, I think there has been an explosion of lyrical artists. Hip-hop goes through different type of phases. It started out real motivational happy; it went gangster, then it incorporate a lot of singing, especially with the young cast now.
Strange habits when watching himself on TV
That’s the first time I’ve been asked that question. It’s weird because I hate looking at myself during interviews. I don’t like my voice. I don’t like how it sounds. Ain’t that crazy? Um… that’s a strong word. Maybe not say I hate it, but it kinda annoys me.
Gift and curse of being associated with a particular hit song
For me, when I put my first album out, I would go to people and be like “Yo, this is B.o.B and they’d be like… who?” [starts to sing Nothing On You] and people would be like “oh yeah yeah”.
So it is a gift and a curse, but it is also a blessing to have that and to be able to continue to introduce people to the size of my music that they didn’t know before that or from mixtapes. It’s a fun process – doing it all over again. Retelling the story, so to speak.
Advice and learning from Pharrell Williams
It was around the time right before Get Lucky and Blurred Lines came out, and he was telling me about furniture. As strange as it sounds, he said “B.o.B, if you could write a verse, you can make furniture”. He told me a lot of crucial things about just being me really.
Musically, just to let everything come out, regardless of how it sounds or what era the game is currently in. He was talking about how he kept doing the music he enjoyed making. I swear like a week later, all his songs came out and it blew up the charts. So it was a testament for me to see it happen that way and you know, you just gotta stick true to your guns.
When you are performing, do you ever pick out anyone in the audience? You know, someone cute. And then when you bring them up… ok, not so cute…
*laughs* I mean you got about 8 seconds from the time they leave the crowd to the stage. But I’ll tell you what really happens a lot. When I call girls on stage to dance, and none of them can dance… That’s a kicker.
Ellie Goulding Lets Us In On Her Past Insecurities, Rebellious Phase, McFly And Working With Taylor Swift!By Joey Jun 17, 2014
Ellie Goulding is best known for her unique entrancing vocals, style of music and spunky personality – certainly none of that had changed when she performed for Prince William and Kate’s royal wedding.
Fast-forward 3 years. Ellie is awarded the Best British Female for the 2014 BRIT Awards, selling out shows and clearly rocking harder than ever at what she does. I had the privilege of speaking to her again since her trip to Singapore in February last year.
Waltzing in the room with a figure-hugging floral dress and wedges, Ellie looked every bit the talented songstress that she is. She didn’t look like someone who had toured around several countries and flew thousands of miles to grace our tiny island… and even attended her good friend Taylor Swift’s concert.
Needless to say, the long-distance running and vegan lifestyle have done her especially well. Her polite British accent and sweet demeanour never fail to remind me of how grounded she is, despite the flames of stardom burning her up.
It was indeed beyond cool when Ellie recognized me and blatantly pointed out, “I know you.” when I addressed her Instagram obsession out loud. Oops.
With an embarrassed half-smile and laugh Ellie replied my question, and it was just beginning to feel like I was just getting to know Elena Jane Goulding.
Q: How do you like Singapore?
E: I love it! I’ve been here once before, and it’s a really friendly place, and it's beautiful, and I’ve had nothing but – yeah, good memories here.
Q: Nice. So today is actually Friday the 13th…
E: Yeah, I found out on Twitter actually. Because quite a few people were saying that they’ve had a bad day. But I had a pretty good day. Went to the gym, watched Game of Thrones.
Q: Are you a superstitious person? Do you have any superstitions?
E: I don’t think that I am a very superstitious person. But I do, the only thing I don’t do is cross over three drains when I’m running. So I get pretty crazy when I run because I’m like dodging things all the time in London.
Q: And Game of Thrones, who’s your favourite character?
E: I’ve only just started watching it. I’ve literally just finished the first series, but I’m finding myself laughing out loud and being genuinely gobsmacked by what’s happening. And I used to be really into medieval stuff, my favourite film in the world is Braveheart, of all the films in the world. God, I don’t usually admit that.
Q: Oh, that’s a great film, there’s no shame in that.
E: Yeah, so I kind of like the blood and gore and stuff.
Q: I would like to know about the future of work, musical direction and collaborations.
E: Thank you. I’ve been touring pretty solidly. This record, Halcyon, Halcyon Days, for the past couple of years and it hasn’t really stopped. So I think my next move is to travel a bit – not in the touring sense, not in the work sense, but do some travelling by myself. And get some stuff, inspiration for the next record.
It’s just been constant, as you know, if you’ve been following me. I think I need to have a little break. I think I finish around, this year in October, and then there’s still stuff kind of happening. But I’d like to stay in one place for more than a week that would be good.
Q: Where would you like to travel to then?
E: I wrote Halcyon in Southern Ireland, in a really beautiful place called Dingle. And I discovered it from playing a little festival there a couple of years before. I just took my guitar and myself and read a bunch of books, poetry, and that's kind of how I wrote a lot of – it was by the sea, so Halcyon is very sea-themed. So I’d like to go back to Ireland. And I’ve kind of been everywhere else. But I don’t know, I’ll see where the wind takes me, I think.
Q: What do you love about running and how does it contribute to your music?
E: It doesn’t contribute anything to my music. It’s pure endorphin release, it’s purely physical, and it doesn’t do anything for my music. I feel like I’m always running along thinking, “Oh that’s good lyrics” or like, you know, I’m only focused on the run. So I tend to just, my mind is just completely present, and not anything else. So I’m just thinking about how fast I’m running and where I’m heading and all that stuff. But I would say for my performances, it helps with being energetic and moving around and staying fit and agile. I think the fitness thing really helps me be a performer.
Q: You’ve worked with a lot of big names, Calvin Harris, Zedd, among all these names you worked with, what was your best experience and why? Who do you think is going to win the World Cup?
E: Oh God, the World Cup. I actually, yesterday I was reading a list of things to say if you don’t know much about football. So if there’s a free kick, there’s a list of things to say like “oh, that wasn’t a free kick” or if it’s a goal there’s a list of exclamatory things, and the rules of football, because I genuinely enjoy watching it, but I don’t know much about it. Hmm, I’ve worked with quite a few people now; Calvin was fun. We kind of went back and fourth, we wrote in his house in
London, and then we left it for like a year, and then we came back to it in LA, and this is quite a boring story actually, and we just went back to record it in London.
For a while, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with that song, and then yeah, I love it. I think we might work together again soon.
Q: Is there any chance of collaboration between you and Taylor Swift?
E: Uh, maybe. I mean, I love her. She’s great, she’s always an inspiration for me to watch her perform. She’s such an incredible, charismatic performer. It’s quite hard not to, as another female singer-songwriter, I guess. Maybe, at some point we might have a jam, we both play guitar and I love a girl who plays guitar. But I think I’m going to focus on having time off, and then there’s stuff like festivals and things, so maybe in the future.
Q: Moving forward, what is your musical direction? And what are some challenges you face?
E: Challenges – I had this whole idea in my head that I was going to write about science – that’s really vague, but I used to be – when I was in school, I used to be into math or science. Well, I was into it but I was never really good at it, I was only able to be good in writing and drama and more on the artistic side.
But lately I’ve been way more into science. And I’d quite like to write less kind of romantically, if that makes sense. Because all I’ve feel like I’ve really done is written songs about break ups and relationships and love. And I kind of, I really want to not write about that. But as I write down little things everyday,
I’m realising that it keeps going back to – in relation of something that I’ve been through or something romantic, so I don’t think it’s going to happen. But I don’t know, I really couldn’t tell you what my direction is going to be. It genuinely depends on where I am and what’s happened. I’m just going to go with it. But I have no idea, at the moment.
Q: Besides music, you’ve also done a lot of charitable work. What would you say is one issue in society today that you personally are very concerned about?
E: If we’re talking in days, of what’s made me sad recently, there’s – I’ve worked with Free Children for a few years, I’ve been to Kenya and I think what they do is absolutely remarkable and I think I’m going to go back – I’m going to go somewhere this year, I’m not really sure where yet, possibly India, I couldn’t tell you that for sure. But I think there’s a homeless problem in London – I live in London, I live right in the middle of London, so I see it for myself everyday. And I can’t walk pass a homeless person without genuinely getting a lump in my throat and wanting to cry.
There’s this thing that’s been happening where people have been putting spikes on the floor to stop homeless people from sleeping in sheltered places, wherever they could find – so those places that seem like it could be a shelter for the night, there have been these spikes appearing everywhere. Which I think is just horrendous. And I will go back to London and pull them up myself if I have to, because I never – it’s just the worst thing I’ve heard.
So I think that’s something that’s bothering me at the moment. Myself and my friend Hannah, who’s in here somewhere, we volunteer at Christmas Eve, and then I volunteered in LA a few Christmas Eves ago – and I think I would like to see more in London, for the homeless. I think that’s something I would try to figure out when I get back on Sunday.
Q: You had insecurities about the way you looked earlier in your career. How did you get over the insecurities and what advice would you give women who deal with insecurities with they way they look?
E: Goodness. I don’t think I’ll ever necessarily get over that, I think I just the way that I dealt with it probably changed a bit more. Because, I was – in the beginning, see I would not have been able to walk into this room this time three years ago. In fact, the only press conference I ever did I crawled underneath the table and left instantly. Because I was scared, I didn’t – it was all very new to me. And it was daunting. I think it was the same for photo shoots because – becoming a musician for me, I didn’t think it was going to come with having to look a certain way or having to be pretty or wear designer clothes or any of that stuff.
I think that maybe it’s my energy, because I got to a point where I stop really caring. And I stopped putting my face in certain ways or trying to hide my face or like – I feel one of the reasons I love having long hair is you know, it covers my face and I found it easier to do photo shoots and stuff. And I’ve cut it off!
I suppose it’s very easy to say things like you should embrace yourself and everyone is beautiful, but I think that I just changed my attitude – and I think that for that reason, I’ve been way happier with my shoots and seeing photos of myself and actually not looking at photos of me like “eugh”. I don’t know, I think it really – I think we take for granted what attitude to have towards it and just generally not caring what people think.
Q: Everyone seems to be fascinated with your new love life. Is he the one?
E: I don’t know why people are. It’s like – I don’t know, if my music wasn’t – because people want to talk about my music so often too, though I feel like that’s usually something that happens when there’s a – I don’t know, when my music isn’t interesting or they find something else. But I find it unnecessary really. I don’t know why people find it so interesting, like in the same way people find tabloids and gossip interesting – which I do, I’m not saying that I don’t.
Q: You need to come up with another album quickly, to distract them.
E: And then I’ll be writing about people on the album and people are like “Oh, who is that about?”
Q: But is he the one?
E: Tssssh, um, it’s going great, thank you.
Q: Where’s your favourite place to play and what’s your favourite song to play live?
E: God, I’ve been to so many nice places. I guess the hardest point of my tour in America, in North America and we went to –inaudible- and South America too, it got to a point where I’ve been touring for two months and I – I’ve been touring for quite a few years and I’m kind of getting used to it. But there was a point where I was pretty down; I didn’t think I could continue the tour. So I nearly stopped touring. That particular tour in Canada, it was. And the bus was just driving over God knows where through Canada, and I couldn’t sleep. Because
I was feeling a bit exhausted and I thought that I couldn’t continue. But then I looked out of the window and it was the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever seen and for like, maybe 20 seconds I just had clarity, and something in me just pulled myself together and I realised I was so lucky to be in such beautiful places. And so that was a real moment for me, I’ll always remember my bus pulling up into Calgary. So that was pretty awesome. But I’ve been to so many cool places –
South America was amazing – oh God, I’ve got a mind blank for some reason.
Q: And your favourite song to perform?
E: Probably Anything Could Happen, because for some reason it makes everyone very happy. I would look around and there’s not one person who’s looks bored or annoyed or – literally every single person has a smile on their face, and it kind of brings everyone together. I think it’s just got something about it – it makes everyone feel very positive and I like that.
Q: Which band would you rather be stuck on an island with – One Direction or McFly?
E: Well I guess I won’t get to see my boyfriend that often, so I have to say McFly just because my boyfriend is in that – although he’s now not in McFly but he’s in another band – yes! I think I’ll have to go with McFly, yes.
Q: What have you learnt from your relationship experiences, what’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt? What is one piece of advice you would give your teenage self?
E: I suppose that I learnt the thing that really matters is you and the other person, and not what people are saying or what people want to know about you. You sort of are able to distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t. You read things all the time, and it’s mostly rubbish, a lot of things.
So once you kind of accept that, I don’t know, I suppose when you find someone, or not – when you’re at peace with yourself, you’re at peace with what you do and you’re happy – I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing with my music and happy being on tour and all that stuff. Once you’re at peace, I think that you stopped really caring. It goes back to the thing about insecurities; it’s like – not much worrying. I’m generally like a happy person at the moment.
Q: And if you could advise 13-year-old Ellie Goulding?
E: I already had my lip pierced when I was 13! I had like really long, dyed black hair, down to my bum. I suppose I was a bit rebellious, but I was more insecure then than ever. I wish I could have told myself that everything was going to be all right, because I was stressed out big-time when I was a teenager. I didn’t think I was going to be a musician, I didn’t think there was anything I was able to make a living off making music. So I was very stressed not knowing where I was going to go, so I guess I’ll tell myself everything was going to be cool.
Q: And when you were a little girl, did you have an alternate career in mind?
E: Apparently, I wanted to be an actress or an actor when I was really young. I can’t remember that – I’ve blocked out a lot of stuff and I’ve got a terrible memory – I can’t remember but apparently I wanted to be an actor, and then
I wanted, for a second, go into politics, and I went to the House of Parliament for work experience. There was a lot of stuff I wanted to do. Then eventually I thought I’ll be a personal trainer, I’ll do something to do with that. So random, I know. I’m pretty happy doing what I’m doing.
Q: You’re a real Instagram addict –
E: Am I?!
Q: If you had to condense your entire career in one Insta-video what would you show?
E: Goodness. I don’t think it’s possible. I think probably me jumping off that thing the other day.
Q: What did you jump off?
E: Sky Tower in Auckland. And it basically involves you throwing yourself off a building. And at least when you sky dive, you sort of, you fall into clouds and you don’t really know what’s beyond so you kind of fall into the unknown and you kind of get a bit of a romantic feeling about it – if I die it’s a pretty awesome death. Sorry to be morbid. But then when I jumped off that tower I could see everything, I could see concrete. I was – I’m falling to that.
And that video – I would not show anyone that video of me – I had a GoPro thing on my arm, and no, that’s never coming out. I literally thought like I was going to die. Sorry, I won’t be showing you all that. But I think that just shows how crazy my life is, really. I end being in all these places and wanting to do the scariest thing and the silliest thing. There’s too much, there’s too much –inaudible- mental my life is.
Q: If you could re-live one moment in your career, what would it be?
E: There’s two things that I genuinely was in my element and so happy. One was actually when I sang, I did some busking for, damn I totally forgotten it – it’s gone out of my head – The Big Issue! Which is a magazine in the UK, and that was so much fun. I love busking, we just went out and I played songs and people would just turn up. That was genuinely a really happy feeling. And the other one, of course, was when I sang at the royal wedding. Which was, is still the craziest thing that has ever happened to me. Buckingham Palace is pretty rad.
Q: What are your opinions on musical experimentation, in terms of genres?
E: Oh, musical experimentation. Well, I suppose it’s key to everything – or it’s key to what I do. I wouldn’t be here without experimenting like crazy. I like different types of music and I hope that I can get away with including one of those different influences on my first record. And I think I got away with it, and maybe on my second as well. But I mean I would say that I’m a pop artist, I make pop music. But, it’s not without a lot of experimentation and also risking – writing something that maybe isn’t very good or is silly. My voice is my instrument, so sometimes I sing things that just sound crazy but then, one take out of twenty will be really, really cool – and then I keep that one, and that’s that.
So yeah, experimentation is everything for me as a musician.
Q: Well, we’re excited to hear the experimentation in the future.
E: Gonna get weird.
Photo credit: Shahidah Adriana for Spin or Bin Music
Leaving promoters slightly exasperated with instances of tomfoolery and mischief exhibited by We The Kings over the short span of mere hours, head honcho Travis Clark was built up to be quite the colourful character. Just ask anyone who managed to catch a glimpse of the ginger blur that wreaked havoc at Universal Studios. Cheerfully striding along the halls of the Hard Rock Hotel, the zesty frontman was in high spirits as he coaxed this interviewer into exhaling a few deep breaths (in true yoga style) before taking a strategic swig of FIJI Water: Artesian Water.
“What’s up man? Relax! Let’s do this. I’m ready. Hit me!” Buoyed by the gasoline he undoubtedly had for breakfast (“It’s what… fuels me”), Clark was full of praise for “the three buildings with the surfboard on top,” before diving straight into the impetus behind WTK’s latest LP, his leanings towards Game of Thrones and some really sagely life advice everyone should be inspired by.
Q: This is your first visit to Singapore. How’re we treating you so far?
TC: Well, Singapore has treated us like royalty. Like kings, you could say. Everybody who has actually been a part of bringing us here has been so accommodating which is really nice. We go all over the world but on this trip we’ve had amazing people to work with and amazing fans so it makes an incredible work environment. We got to try durian? We were told that if we drank (beer) with durian, we would explode and die. I would like to go on the record and say that that’s horrible. And I did try. I gave it a fair try. It smelled like baby diapers and a Band-Aid mixed.
Q: The band is still fresh from Slam Dunk Festival. What did we miss?
TC: You missed out on a lot of rain. (The UK) rains all the time. The fans over there are crazy. I think when an American band comes overseas no matter where it is, people come to the show expecting maybe they won’t see them again so they all make it a point to come out. In the States, when we play shows the fans are kind of spoilt because we’ve played there so much. For Singapore, this is our first time in 7 years that we’ve ever been here. No matter how many people come, this is a big show for us because this is another point in the world we’ve hit. Slam Dunk’s fun - there’s a lot of people and bands to compete with but for Singapore’s show, it’s just us! We’re so excited just to be here and to play for so many people who have never had the chance to see us, ever, in their entire lives. [I think it’s because the Singaporean fans perceived it as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?] But I wanna come back! I love Singapore! It’s awesome - everything about it is so beautiful, the people, the scenery. I love that it’s a port and that there’s ships everywhere. I love the food. We went to Newton Circus and that was awesome. Those people are crazy! I walked around filming for my vlog and to see the different shops and every single stall owner was like, “Come here! Come here!” and I was like “I don’t wanna buy anything! I just wanna see it all.”
Q: WTK is immediately returning to the US for Warped Tour after this. How different do you think the 20th anniversary will be and which bands are you most excited to catch/hang out with?
TC: I actually don’t think it will be different. The Warped Tour is the type of tour that will be around for a hundred years so the 20th year is equally as exciting as the 19th year. For us this is the fifth or sixth year that we’ve been a part of it - we feel like family now, we feel like veterans and we’ve done it so many times that we know exactly what to do and how to do it. The bands are always amazing whether I’ve heard of them or not, it’s always fun to find new bands it’s always fun to see the other bands that we’ve been playing with. WT is such a great festival and such an enjoyable time that I can’t wait. Touring Asia is incredible, you feel like you’re so far away - and we’re from Florida, it’s probably the furthest you can get from Asia. But it’s really nice to come over here and have fans of We The Kings and also to be able go back and play a two month Warped Tour in front of 5,000 people every day.
Q: Somewhere Somehow features a more prominent presence of synths and elements of hip-hop. Were you ever hesitant about your fans’ reactions since they were responsible for crowdfunding the project?
TC: The album to us is one of the most important we’ve ever written especially since it was one we did by ourselves with the help of our fans. It’s like saying “Help me out!” and then putting out an album, hoping that they like it. It made us anxious because we wanted the fans to love it as much as we did. We were nervous and we wanted to impress everybody. Even this interview, when you write this interview, you want people to love it and respect you as a journalist. It’s the same thing for a band – we want people to respect us as lyricists, guitarists, drummers and bassists. We’re putting all of this together and putting out an album we really care about but sometimes you get reviews that aren’t the best and it’s them saying like, “I don’t approve.” It’s tough but we just have to keep going because the fans are the reason that we’re here. It’s not for the journalists or the publicists; we do this music for ourselves and for our fans. As long as you understand that then you can just keep on going and playing. For us it was a nervous experience but I think the album came out incredible and it did have new stuff – it did have things that we weren’t use to ever trying and I think that was really beautiful.
Q: You mentioned vlogging which seems to be an integral part of WTK now. As much as it is an excellent platform to interact with the fans do you think as musicians, you’re more obliged to perform music and does it ever comes off as intrusive?
TC: I think it’s all-intrusive. But it’s another way for us to connect with our fans. I love Blink-182, Green Day, Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World. If I were to go on the Internet and type in any one of those bands, you would see [a lot of] live shows and I would wonder, “What are they like outside of the live shows?” I’m in love with these bands - they’re the reason that I’m who I am however it’d be difficult to find out who they are as people. For us, we want everybody to know who we are we, want people to understand why we write the lyrics that we write. I think it is intrusive, 100%. But it’s the right kind of intrusive. Its saying, “Hey, we are here to show you everything about us. We’re not fake, we have these vlogs that show you who we are as people so that you know that we are real as musicians and also that our lyrics are true.” We’re all hopeless romantics, we all love what we do but it’s tough sometimes. Sometime you listen to music and you feel like “How can that person possibly feel that way?” when they’re in a band and have an amazing life but they’re still singing about sorrow and hatred. We’re just not that band. The vlogs only help to bring the fans closer and state that, “This is our music and also, this is who are.” We believe in love, honesty and honour – all the stuff that I think is important in life.
Q: I heard the Art of War was inspired by The Hunger Games. Are you invested in the likes of Game of Thrones and whose talents do you think will be instrumental in surviving a dystopian universe?
TC: Yes, it was inspired by THG. We were actually up against another band – you might have heard of them – they’re called Coldplay, to win that one spot [on the soundtrack]. They won and I’m not even offended because I love Coldplay and I even loved the song they put out. GoT: That girl is so naturally beautiful (Dany, probably), that’s how far I’m invested in it. This band as a whole has been on survival mode – that’s why we’ve been around for so long. In the music industry, you have to be on survival mode, it is the Game of Thrones. We love what we do, we would do what we do even if we made no money but the truth is we wouldn’t be able to tour Singapore or anywhere else in the world. We’re so fortunate to have amazing fans and people that believe in us that it makes us who we are.
Q: Since the band is called We The Kings, what’s the first thing you would implement if you were the rulers of the world?
TC: There’re a lot of people who’re suffering for no reason and it’s really upsetting. (This is going to get a little political!) I remember the fifth grade me, would probably say something like, “Oh, free McDonald’s for everybody!” But now that I’ve grown up, I [realise] how fortunate I am to possess the life, family and friends that I have. I want everybody to have that. There’s no reason that everybody shouldn’t - we’re all the same in our own completely unique ways. I guess our utilitarian policy would be to really bring happiness to everybody – no matter walk of life you’re in, everybody deserves happiness.
Q: What’s the one song you really like but have yet to play live?
TC: On our album Smile Kid, I believe its track 8, it’s called Spin. We haven’t ever played it and I love that song so much. [Would you consider playing it tonight?] We wouldn’t play it tonight because we haven’t practiced it. We love our live show, we want it to be awesome and we would never just pull it out and be like, “Alright, let’s try it!”
Q: You mentioned some bands that inspired you to play music. What would you say to them if you had the chance to meet them?
TC: Oh man, I mean, I have had the chance to meet them and I got really, really nervous! I’m assuming it’s the same way for fans when they come up to meet us; they shake and don’t know what to say? [When meeting bands] I’ve always been like, “Ah… I love your music and uh, you make me, me!” I wanna say like, “Hey you guys have influenced our music, we wouldn’t be where we are today without you and that’s really special,” but that never comes out.
Q: WTK tours for extended stretches of time, what are your tour necessities that keep you going or remind you of home?
TC: With phones and social media we’re able to stay connected with those we love so that’s a huge part in our lives. I just got engaged - my fiancée’s back home, I love and miss her to death and wished she was here, but she’s doing what she loves and I’m doing what I love and I respect that about her. You kind of have a mutual trust with family and friends so any way to stay connected to them is a good way to stay connected to your own head when it comes to touring and being away.
Q: To end off, what’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your career so far in order for budding musicians to learn from you?
TC: My thoughts on life are that there are no mistakes. I love everything I’ve done great. I love everything I’ve done badly. [Both experiences] have led me to be right here and doing this interview. The advice I would have would just be advice that I’d been given. My father told me about success and he said, “Whatever your idea of success is, don’t stop at anything. Just go for it.” If music is your idea of success or if you wanna be famous and have a lot of money then go for that. But I remember he said, “If you’re anything like me and you just want to see your work appreciated, go for that.” And that’s what we did. All the other stuff which followed didn’t matter. You don’t have to be the most famous band or the one that makes a ton of money you just have to have a couple of people who love you who you are and what you do. You should just do what you love. Whatever comes comes and whatever doesn’t come doesn’t come. But if you’re happy, it’s all worth it.
Photo credit: Alvin Ho
Everyday Robots is one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of 2014, with good reason. Having long been removed from his role as Brit-pop pin-up, Damon Albarn has developed over the years into a well-respected, diverse and multi-cultural musician. His lo-fi, trip-hop influenced animated band Gorillaz released three critically and commercially successful albums. The list of collaborators during his career reads like a music geek's fantasy - Tony Allen, Flea, Toumani Diabaté, Afel Bocoum, Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack, De La Soul, Little Dragon, Lou reed, Mark E Smith amongst the many heavyweights he has collaborated with. It is no wonder that Everyday Robots won the hearts of critics as soon as it was released last month.
We've managed to score an online exclusive interview with Damon Albarn recently. Check it out below!
Q: Everyday Robots had an interesting way of getting Richard Russel (Owner of British Record label that worked with Adele) on board. How did this relationship influence the album?
DA: We have a very good relationship. We were just finished Bobby Womack’s record and thought we should do another – and we even thought that it might be good to start another band, be it anonymously, all that bullshit. But then Richard came in one day and said “What I would like to do is produce a record of you”. So I let him be the producer. Making a solo record it is an absolutely necessary thing to have on board – an editor: someone to talk about personal things with. So, I got out of the producer’s chair and sat in the artist’s chair. I was always resolute that he should make a very autobiographical record because I enjoyed the melancholic aspect of what he’s done so much.
Q: This album has a very melancholic tone overall. Are you a melancholic person by nature?
DA: I am musically, yes.
Q: You described your use of drugs on one of Everyday Robots best songs, “You And Me” – the line about the tin foil and the lighter. Tell us about this track.
DA: “You and Me” is a song embedded in the scenic urban sprawl of the area I lived in for nearly 25 years. There is a piano and acoustic guitar in “You And Me”, its fading carnival glories condensed to a residue of steel pans about four minutes in. “I met Moko Jumbie, he walks on stilts through the All Saints Road,” refers to the African carnival spirit co-opted into the Notting Hill Carnival, I first encountered in Congo. I’ve actually met the proper Moko Jumbie, when I went to Congo - he’s represented in Carnival by the stilted people – that’s an origin of the Congolese Moko Jumbie spirit, a traditional tribal creature who travels around looking into people’s houses. “Jab jab, digging out a hole in Westbourne Grove”, (sings over a woozy electronic club) “tin foil and a lighter, the ship across, five days on, two days off….” I started using heroine back on from touring with Blur to the house I was sharing with Justine Prischmann just around the corner from his current pile, heroine is what I found going on in the front room. The telly was on, so I just thought, “Why not?” I never imagined it would become a problem. I wouldn’t recommend that and I was incredibly lucky, but I did manage it.
Q: So did heroine eventually became a problem to you?
DA: It was. It was. You know I hate talking about this because of my daughter, my family. But for me, it was incredibly creative. It freed me up. If you’re talking about odysseys, then that was definitely on odyssey. A combination of that and playing really simple, beautiful, repetitive shit in Africa changed me completely as a musician. I found a sense of rhythm. I somehow managed to breakout of something with my voice. I can only say (heroine) was incredibly productive for me. Hand on heart. But it does turn you into a very isolated person and ultimately anything that you are truly dependent on is not good.
Q: Let’s talk about your second single, “Mr. Tembo”. Tell us about it.
DA: It is dedicated and first sung to a baby elephant in Tanzania, it’s a light, frisky ukulele number over a shuffle-rattle percussion groove, with a gospel choir from my childhood manor of Leytonstone brimming with upful exuberance on the hooky refrain. The elephant, apparently, was being transported elsewhere: “He’s where he is now, but it wasn’t what he planned”, creating a near link back to the Lord Buckley quote that opens the album. Over the years, I’ve written loads of songs for my family. I sort of keep them separate but I put it on playlist of demos for the record, not for one second thinking Richard would pick up on it. But he did. And it’s pretty much the same as it was the night I played it on a ukulele for this baby elephant in Tanzania.
Q: There’s a beautiful gospel vocal on “Mr. Tembo”, how did you tie up with that phenomenal singers?
DA: They’re from the City Mission on Colworth Road. It was the Pentecostal church literally at the end of my road, and it was a very bright childhood memory, standing outside, listening to the music coming out of there. I’m sure somehow it’s connected to songs like “Tender”, 30 or 40 years ago.
Q: Your Leytonstone roots are again referred in another standout track, “Hollow Ponds”. Tell us about this.
DA: Perhaps “Hollow Ponds” is the most ambitious attempt at telescoping time here. Brief glimpses whisk me back and forth: kids cooling a pond in heat wave of 1976, the road where I once lived in being severed by the M11 link road in 1991 and seeing the graffiti “modern life is rubbish” sprayed on a wall in 1993. The flugelhorn lends a touch of a wan yearning over acoustic guitar harmonies and organ, with evocative children’s playground voices summoning us back to simpler times.
Q: About the track of “History Of A Cheating Heart”- Do you think the pursuit of an artistic vision is damaging to emotional stability?
DA: I think it definitely can be. Because, as a songwriter, you need to feel stuff for it to come out honestly. And how do you do that? You do that by being curious, and curiosity is a very open book for a lot of f’-up life.
Q:It takes a certain type of track to close a set of songs which have thematically fit into a particular suite. The full stop on an album can make or break that spell. The comparison between Brian Eno’s fruity vocal style and yours brings out just how melancholy the rest of the album is in the track “Heavy Seas Of Love”.
DA: Yes, we talked about what we could do, listened to where Richard Russel and I were with the record, and he’s like to contrast our voices. I was just excited to get him singing again, because I love his voice. And it’s sure a realization that leads me to close the album with “Heavy Seas Of Love”. It’s a song to the restorative powers of my seaside residence in Devon. Whatever the weather, I always jump in the sea there. And the hopeful tone of this song of fellowship points to another aspect of my character (the outgoing and organizational spirit) that pulls together diverse companies to create musical links between continents. For the most part, Everyday Robots is a less ebullient, more intimate and reflective affair, as befits the tentative revelation of a man’s soul.
Q: Tell us your general feel of recording this album, Everyday Robots?
DA: I’m really very happy. And I was very happy when recording it too. I’ve made very personal records before but none with this kind of chronology.
Photo credit: The Guardian