Spin from Thai to English

Thai rock band Slot Machine comprise (from far left) Settharat Phangchunan (Auto), Karinyawat Durongjirakan (Foet), Janevit Chanpanyawong (Vit) and Atirath Pintong (Gak).
Thai rock band Slot Machine comprise (from far left) Settharat Phangchunan (Auto), Karinyawat Durongjirakan (Foet), Janevit Chanpanyawong (Vit) and Atirath Pintong (Gak). PHOTO: SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT SINGAPORE

After six hit Thai albums, Slot Machine are releasing their first English album produced by Grammy winner Steve Lillywhite

Thai rock band Slot Machine have made six successful Thai albums in the last 16 years. But the quartet are now ready to take on the world with their first full-length English album, Spin The World, due out in late March.

And it is produced by six-time Grammy Award-winning producer Steve Lillywhite, who has worked with rock pedigree such as U2, The Killers and 30 Seconds To Mars.

The sharply dressed band are made up of vocalist Karinyawat Durongjirakan (Foet) and bassist Atirath Pintong (Gak), both 31, and drummer Settharat Phangchunan (Auto) and guitarist Janevit Chanpanyawong (Vit), both 32.

They spoke to The Straits Times a day after they performed at and picked up an award for visual and pop culture at the Prudential Eye Awards held at Marina Bay Sands last week.

During the interview, their chemistry is apparent, as they constantly finish one another's sentences.

Foet and Gak are the original members and there have been other iterations of the band since they first formed in 2000. Vit and Auto joined the band in 2006.

Foet says: "We spend so much time together, even more than with our families."

While they usually take two to three years to put together an album, they had only a whirlwind month with Lillywhite at Karma Sound Studios, housed within a luxury residential complex in Pattaya and where the likes of British bands The Libertines and Jamiroquai have recorded.

"Because of his schedule, we had only one month with him to listen to our songs and decide if it was a yes or a no", explains Gak, who adds that the band and Lillywhite stayed on-site during the entire recording period. The gruelling 24/7 schedule involved the band having to do what Foet describes as "homework" every night - working on the arrangement and lyrics of the songs - and presenting them to their "teacher" Lillywhite the next morning.

They went from six demos to a full 10-track album in March and April last year. Even under time pressure, Auto says, they managed to get every song right on the first try.

"Steve loves first takes. For him, it wasn't so much about the process, it was about expressing the music on the first try".

Foet, who pens most of the band's songs, wrote lyrics in English for the first time - with help from Lillywhite.

"I had the ideas, but I didn't have the experience for English lyrics, so Steve had to help me," he says.

"It's good that we stayed together so that if the ideas came to us, we could work on them immediately."

The first fruit of their efforts was lead single Give It All To You, a slick, pop-rock number.

Moving from Thai to English songs seemed only natural for the band that have performed only in Thai but enjoy a challenge.

Foet and Gak go a long way back, having first played together in their high school band A-lum-a-luay (Compromise) - they changed the name to Slot Machine in 2003. Though they were only 16 then, it was apparent that they were no run-of-the-mill rock band.

At a national music competition, they had to play a cover of a Thai hit song and rearrange it in a music style of their choice. Gak recalls: "Every other band played progressive rock, but we played reggae."

Unconventional choices are still very much part of the band's manifesto. After their success in their home country - they have won several awards there and were nominated for Best Southeast Asian Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2013 and 2014 - they want to be the first Thai band to break into the global market.

Foet says: "We love challenging ourselves. We think that Thai songs are special too."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2016, with the headline 'Spin from Thai to English'. Print Edition | Subscribe