K-pop covers a trick to win fans

Trick, comprising Richard Jansen (far left) and Marc Lian (left), have released a new single, Sunshine, and will perform it live on Sept 27.
Trick, comprising Richard Jansen (far left) and Marc Lian (left), have released a new single, Sunshine, and will perform it live on Sept 27.PHOTO: SONY MUSIC

Local duo Trick write original music but put out English versions of Korean pop songs on YouTube to gain attention

They have some snazzy, original pop tunes that have charted on local radio but on YouTube, two-year-old Singapore duo Trick get a lot more love for their K-pop covers than their own songs.

That is all fine, though, the duo - made up of singer-songwriter Marc Lian and rapper-songwriter Richard Jansen - tell Life!.

"It's always good to put in songs that people know," says Jansen of their YouTube page. "And from those songs, we can push the viewers to our originals. So the covers are basically our stepping stones."

Their top two videos, covers of popular songs by K-pop idols G-Dragon and Taeyang with the lyrics translated into English, have each racked up more than 300,000 views.

Lian, who also plays the guitar, says the duo came up with the English translations themselves to set them apart from other K-pop covers.

He adds: "They're not exactly direct translations of the Korean lyrics, we try to make the songs our own, with our own words."

Their fans - whom they dub "Tricksters" - can expect to hear a lot more original tunes from the duo, who have just signed their first record label deal with Sony Music and released a new single, Sunshine.

The pair, who are both 25, will perform the song live for the first time at a showcase gig at Hood Bar and Cafe on Sept 27.

While their previous single, Up All Night, was a synth-heavy, beat-driven, dance-pop ditty which has clocked 150,000 views on YouTube and has topped the charts on local radio station Hot FM91.3, the new single sees them going down the reggae and dancehall route, with more live instrumentation than their previous tunes.

Lian explains: "Whatever we feel like doing next, we just do it. We don't really care what the sound will be. Whatever we're listening to, we're influenced by it. That plays into why we call ourselves Trick, it's like a new trick every time we release a new song."

Adds Jansen: "We just go with the flow."

The duo are no newcomers. Jansen is a familiar name in the local hip-hop scene. Hailing from a musical family, he was inspired by an older sister who used to perform at hip-hop gigs under the monicker Val, and started writing his own rap verses at the age of 11. Four years later, he won a rapping contest that was part of the Singapore Street Festival, a feat he repeated the following year.

He has also made inroads into the Malaysian hip-hop scene and was briefly signed to a music label, Kartel Records, there.

Lian, who plays several music instruments including drums and piano, and has written songs for other local artists such as Mandopop singer Derrick Hoh, was a member of pop-rock outfit Quick Quick Danger.

He and Jansen first worked together when Jansen contributed rap verses to one of Quick Quick Danger's songs. When the band split up due to musical differences, they decided to collaborate as a pop duo.

Says Jansen: "There was a point, from 2010 to 2012, when I took a break from music. When Marc called me up and suggested working together as a duo after his band broke up, I just jumped at it. I wanted to try something different."

Lian says he wanted a change from playing in a band. "I always liked the idea of being part of a duo, so this was just a no-brainer for me."

Having performed at events here such as Music Matters 2014 and YouTube Fan Fest 2014, the pair have set their sights further and plan to play more shows in the region.

They played their first gig outside Singapore, an opening set for Korean-American singer Jay Park in Kuala Lumpur, in November last year.

That performance not only netted them new fans, it also made radio stations take notice and start playing their songs.

Says Lian: "We really want to break out regionally, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia. We were surprised by the reception we got when we played in Kuala Lumpur and we've been going back there to push our singles and get our music out there."

dinohadi@sph.com.sg