Meet 53A, the band behind this year’s National Day song

53A, known for doing covers, have received requests to perform the NDP song at their gigs

Less than three days after this year's National Day Parade (NDP) theme song was released, the band behind it have already gotten requests to perform the tune at their usual Tuesday night gig at Timbre @ The Substation.

The song, Tomorrow's Here Today, was written by composer Don Richmond and performed by a six-member cover band called 53A.

The youthful pop tune features a catchy whistling refrain and the upbeat, forward-looking lyrics speak of hopes and dreams .

The NDP song is the band's most high-profile gig yet. Formed 14 years ago, they are familiar faces on the live music circuit, known for doing covers of anything from soft rock to top 40 hits at either The Substation or Hive by Wala Wala three times a week.

The band comprise vocalist Sara Wee, 30, lead guitarist Alvin Khoo, 37, bassist and vocalist Bani Hidir, 29, drummer Helman Kamal, 29, keyboardist Nazaruddin Mashruddin, 27, and percussionist Serena Chen, 34.

The brief given to me at the beginning was that we needed some fresh faces because they didn't want to use the usual suspects.

DON RICHMOND, on choosing a lesser-known band to sing his song

The music video has garnered 294,000 views on Facebook and 85,000 views on YouTube since it was released last Sunday.

"It's really cool that they're giving the underdogs a go," says lead singer Wee, speaking to The Sunday Times in between sets at Hive by Wala Wala. "This also opens up the opportunity for younger artists who are up-and- coming to be part of NDP the next time."

Wee, who often works with composer Richmond, 39, did the female vocals for his demo for Tomorrow's Here Today.

He, in turn, recommended the band to the NDP committee. "The brief given to me at the beginning was that we needed some fresh faces because they didn't want to use the usual suspects," he says.

While he had been involved in the production work of last year's NDP theme song, Our Singapore, by JJ Lin and Dick Lee, this is his first time composing the music and writing the lyrics for one.

The feedback for the new song has been mostly positive, though some people have criticised it for being more of a radio-friendly pop song than a National Day song.

In response, Richmond says: "Singaporeans don't need to be told, this is the part where you take out your flag and wave it, or this is the part where you turn to your friend of the other race and look at him and smile. Singaporeans have grown up and matured as a listening audience, we don't need things force-fed to us."

Singer-composer Dick Lee - who wrote 1998's Home, the gold standard of National Day songs - acknowledges that it is "extremely tricky" to write a theme song that works across the board.

"This is why I tend to approach the song by targeting emotions, as I've found that an emotional pull in a song can unite a diverse audience."

Jeremy Monteiro, who composed 1990's One People, One Nation, One Singapore, says he has always wondered what would work as an alternative to "rah rah, heart- thumping national songs".

Describing Tomorrow's Here Today as a nice departure, he says: "Among all the attempts to do a catchy National Day song, this is the one I like the best. It's not tacky, it's a really nice pop tune."

At the National Day Parade, where there will be a potential crowd of 55,000, the band will perform the new song along with all the classics.

Wee says: "We're going to bring in the old and the new and I think that's what the concept of the next 50 years is about."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 26, 2016, with the headline 'The fresh faces behind NDP song'. Print Edition | Subscribe