St Jerome's Laneway Festival Singapore - already one of the most anticipated events in the live music calendar here since its launch six years ago - is about to get bigger.
A fourth stage has been added for the sixth instalment of the indie music event, to be held tomorrow at The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay, and more than 28 acts will be performing over 12 hours - the festival's biggest programme yet.
The names on the line-up range from British alternative rock band The 1975 and Canadian electronic artist Grimes to American virtuoso musician Thundercat and Australian electronic act Flume.
This year's Laneway, which originated in Melbourne, Australia, in 2005, also features the largest line-up of Singapore acts to date - seven. Besides indie acts Cashew Chemists and Riot !n Magenta at the main stages dubbed Garden and Bay, electronic act Intriguant will perform at the Cloud stage, while home-grown collective Syndicate has programmed Singapore talents Fauxe, Mean, Rah, and Kiat (featuring Kane) at White Room.
Laneway, whose attendance rose from 6,000 in its first outing here to a sold-out crowd of 13,000 last year, will also feature not just the usual food and activity tents, but also more ways for fans to interact with performers.
In another new initiative , festival-goers can get a chance to meet and hang out with acts such as British electronic artist Hudson Mohawke and Canadian punk trio Metz in a 5m-tall shophouse installation located on the festival grounds.
Growing up with Beach House
A day-long rain soaked fans and bands alike at the inaugural Laneway Festival in 2011, held at Fort Canning. It made the event so memorable that Victoria Legrand of American duo Beach House hopes it will pour again when the festival takes place tomorrow.
"Everybody had umbrellas and that was really cool from the stage, it was really beautiful," says the 34- year-old singer, keyboardist and songwriter in a telephone interview from Baltimore. Beach House, a dream-pop band comprising Legrand and multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alex Scally, 33, will be back to play at Laneway at Gardens by the Bay tomorrow.
"We are excited and I feel very lucky to play for people in Singapore again and, hopefully, it will be raining," she adds with a laugh.
Beach House are riding high on their fifth and sixth albums, Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, which were released within three months of each other last year. Depression Cherry topped Billboard's US Independent Albums and US Top Rock Albums, and Thank Your Lucky Stars made the top 10 on US Independent Albums, US Top Rock Albums and US Alternative Albums charts.
Legrand says: "Making two albums was incredible and intense and I'm glad we did it."
Since she and Scally met in 2004 and started making music together, they have considered adding members to the band. But she is adamant that at their core, they will always remain a duo.
"The songs change, we change, but the way we work together has not changed. It's probably more fluid now than it's ever been - we still work very well together," she says. "Our friendship and our ability to write together, I think, is as strong as ever."
Session musicians bolster their sound when they are performing live shows, though.
Beach House are touring in support of their two recent albums. When it is over, Legrand hopes they can write more soundtracks. They have done it for a 2013 short film, This Must Be The Only Fantasy, featuring actor Elijah Wood.
"I think we'd be good at it," she says. "You are utilising a different part of your musical mind. When you're looking at images and coming up with a theme, it's very different from making an album. It's more liberating in a certain way, but I'm sure it has challenges of its own."
Beach House, known for lush, moody tunes characterised by Legrand's compelling vocals, have loyal fans who have grown up with them. She says they recently met fans who have been listening to Beach House since they were nine.
"I'm starting to see that there are people who were children when they started listening to us and are now 19 or 20, it's pretty crazy."
Singapore cool place for Grimes' music video
Singapore is featured in one of the best albums of last year in the Western pop music world.
Canadian electronic music artist Grimes created a stir among her fans here when she released the music video for her song REALiTi. It featured scenes of her dancing at familiar spots Gardens by the Bay and Haw Par Villa.
It is a song from her fourth and most recent album, Art Angels, which was released two months ago to much critical acclaim and made many best albums of 2015 lists.
Grimes - the nom de plume of 27-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter Claire Boucher- filmed the Singapore scenes in the REALiTi video when she was here to play two sold-out sets at the Esplanade's Mosaic Music Festival in 2013.
Her brother, whom she says studied at the National University of Singapore and lived here for a while, had recommended the locations to her.
Singapore is actually one of my favourite cities because I had more free time here... It was really fun.
''Grimes, whose music video for the song REALiTi was filmed here
She says in a telephone interview from Los Angeles where she is based: "We came in early and we had like a week without any shows and so we were just walking around and kind of started filming our music video because the places looked really cool.
"Singapore is actually one of my favourite cities because I had more free time here than I had, I think, anywhere else we have been on tour. We went down to Gardens by the Bay and a couple of other places, it was really fun."
Grimes, who is one of the eagerly anticipated acts at this year's edition of music festival Laneway, says the critical acclaim Art Angels has received was "unexpected".
"It's hard to distance myself from caring about what the press thinks, so it's definitely an honour. But I care more about what fans think than what the press thinks and the fans liked the album, so that is good," says the singer who is managed by hip-hop star Jay Z's management company Roc Nation.
Born in Vancouver, she started making music and performing while she was studying neuroscience at Montreal's McGill University.
She released her first two home- recorded albums, Geidi Primes and Halfaxa, in 2010.
Like Art Angels, her third full- length album, Visions (2012), also ended up on many top albums of the year lists and was named Electronic Album of the Year at the Juno Awards, Canada's equivalent of the Grammys.
While much material from her previous releases was recorded on her computer, Art Angels features her learning and playing instruments, including the guitar, drum and violin.
"You get a lot more confident and you just get better at your craft," she says of her evolution as a singer, musician and songwriter.
"I used to be a lot more nervous. Now it's a lot easier to just play shows and stuff."
Her live shows have become more elaborate over the years too. Unlike her previous sets here, where it was just her and her instruments on stage, her Laneway gig this year will feature two back-up dancers. "I just try to make my shows as dynamic as possible. I have a great lighting person and good dancers, so we try to make it as entertaining as possible."
Might she feature Singapore again in her future music videos? "Sure, why not? We'll probably bring a camera," she says.
Changing sounds of Cashew Chemists
These are good times for homegrown indie band Cashew Chemists. Not only have they released a new EP, Previously On... Cashew Chemists, but they are also set to play one of their biggest gigs to date on home-ground, the Laneway festival at Gardens by the Bay.
To mark the milestones, they took a leaf out of Roald Dahl’s literary classic, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. They hid free golden tickets to Laneway inside some of the 20 CDs of their EP, released last month.
The copies were given away free, but fans had to find them using clues on social media platforms. They were hidden in places such as coffee shops and the CBD.
The enthusiasm of fans surprised the band. Frontman Yuji Kumagai, 26, says: “Five minutes after we posted a clue, someone would message us on Instagram and say he has found the CD. We were like, ‘Wow, these guys are really into it.’”
Cashew Chemists are joined at Laneway by other Singapore acts – electronic artist Intriguant, electronic/indie band Riot !n Magenta, rapper Mean, and electronic acts Fauxe, Rah, and Kiat (featuring Kane). Cashew Chemists will perform at one of the festival’s main platforms, Garden Stage, at 4.30pm.
This is the third year the indie music festival from Australia has featured Singapore acts alongside bands from the Western pop world.
BOOK IT / ST JEROME'S LANEWAY FESTIVAL SINGAPORE 2016
WHERE: The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay
WHEN: Tomorrow, from 10am
ADMISSION: $180 from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)
Much has happened to Cashew Chemists since they came into prominence as a band which received mentorship as part of the Esplanade’s Baybeats music festival in 2012.
They released their debut EP the following year and chalked up experience on stage, playing at prominent Singapore gigs such as the 100 Bands Festival, and also regional shows in Indonesia (SoundsFair 2014) and Malaysia (Urbanscapes 2014).
In June last year, the band – originally comprising Kumagai; guitarist Brian Chia, 27; his brother, drummer Zachary, 20; and bassist Elliot Sng, 25 – welcomed another Chia sibling, Ulrich, 25, on guitars.
Compared with the buoyant brand of melodic, Beatles-inspired rock ’n’ roll sound that they were first known for, the band’s recent repertoire features more progressive overtones, says Kumagai.
While studying in Britain, Brian and Zachary had jammed with blues musicians in bars and clubs. The experience inspired them to bring new influences to the band. Their new approach will feature in a full-length album they are working on, slated for release later this year.
The audience at Laneway will get to hear their old and new sounds, says Kumagai. “It was a big shock when we found out that a local band like us would be playing at one of the big stages,” he says. “But I’m stoked. It’s going to be a fun show.”