The Great Spy Experiment to split up after June 6 Esplanade gig; songwriter has lost all inspiration

Singapore indie band Great Spy Experiment. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Singapore indie band Great Spy Experiment. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Co-headlining a ticketed June 6 show at the Esplanade Concert Hall, the best and most prestigious concert venue in Singapore, is not just one of the biggest gigs to date for The Great Spy Experiment, but also their last.

In April, the quintet announced on their social media accounts that they will split up after the show, 10 years after they formed.

Guitarist Tan Shung Sin, 39, better known as Song, says: "Being in a band is like being in a relationship, you have ups and downs, but there comes a point when you need to reassess the relationship and where it's going, then take a step back and look at the bigger picture. And we all agreed that this would be the best decision for us right now."

Frontman and principal songwriter Saiful Idris, 36, says that one of the major reasons for the break-up is that he has been stuck in a creative funk.

He says: "Creatively, whatever it was I had that made the songs what they were, it's just not there anymore. I haven't been able to write a song that does justice to the band for a while now. And for me, the band are always about that creative outlet, that creative process, and if it's not happening, then it's very hard for me to keep wanting to do it."

Keyboardist Magdelene Han, 37, who says Saiful is "the brains" behind the band, adds: "When the brain is not working at its optimum, we can't carry on."

Each of the band members, including Han's husband, bassist Khairyl Hashim, 37; and drummer Fandy Razak, 36, also have "personal" issues to contend with.

Han and Khairyl, for example, want to spend more time with their two daughters, aged three months old and three. Their older child suffers from a rare disease called macrocephaly-capillary malformation, a genetic disorder which requires regular therapy for motor skills.

All the members have day jobs in the education, photography and media industries. They had delayed their break-up for a few years for one main reason - their sense of responsibility to their fans. Over the years, the band have clinched accolades, such as the Best Local Act award at the 98.7FM Countdown Special in 2007, and have been a repeat draw at local annual major music festivals Baybeats and Ignite.

Says Saiful: "In the past few years, I have been very much driven by that sense of responsibility to the fans, that was really the main driving factor."

Their second and most recent album, Litmus (2013), almost did not get released.

Saiful explains: "One year before the album came out, it was in a state of limbo, there wasn't much happening. We recorded most of the tracks, but didn't really chart out what to do next.

"But it was the desire to keep the promises we made that made us really push to see the album through to it being released."

He and his bandmates believe they have had a good run and left an indelible mark on the indie music scene here.

They pride themselves on having done things that bands in the mid-2000s were not able to do, such as taking their music overseas and working with corporate partners and brands such as French fashion brand agnes b., which, Saiful says, are "aligned with us in terms of how we want the music and the art to be connected".

In 2007, the band and fellow indie-rockers Electrico became the first Singapore acts to perform at leading American music festival South By Southwest (SXSW).

Litmus was the first English-language music release to top the Singapore iTunes digital music charts.

Many home-grown music acts have since followed in their footsteps - I Am David Sparkle, The Pinholes and The Sam Willows have also played at SXSW in recent years, while acts such as Gentle Bones, Shigga Shay and Villes have also topped the iTunes charts.

Saiful says the band "always demanded the highest level of professionalism" of themselves.

"We wanted to do more than just play music and have fun. We wanted to change the face of Singapore music and that kind of informed everything we did."

Asked if there is any possibility of them getting back together again, Saiful shrugs.

"Possibility, yes, but likelihood of that happening? I don't think so."