Home-grown pop quartet The Sam Willows' second album a result of 'confusing' times

(From left) Singer and guitarist Benjamin Kheng, singer Sandra Riley Tang, bass player Narelle Kheng and guitarist and singer Jonathan Chua.
(From left) Singer and guitarist Benjamin Kheng, singer Sandra Riley Tang, bass player Narelle Kheng and guitarist and singer Jonathan Chua.ST PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

SINGAPORE - In the words of The Sam Willows, one of the most successful home-grown English pop acts in recent years, their second album I Know, But Where is "a bit of a joyful mess".

"This album was written at a time in our lives when it was very confusing," says singer and bass player Narelle Kheng, 24. "I think we're all going through a phase where you're growing up, but want to stay a child, but at the same time, you're flooded with responsibilities. You want to play, but you are also confused - you don't really know who you are."

The 11-track album, now out on online music platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music, comes three years after their full-length debut Take Heart, made during a time when the band were feeling more "hopeful".

The new songs are more about them discovering themselves, says guitarist and singer Jonathan Chua, 28. "During Take Heart, we were at a different phase in our lives, we were transitioning from school and part-time work and, now, it's time to be adults."

I Know, But Where includes four singles released in the past year: Keep Me Jealous, Papa Money, Save Myself and Robot. The four songs have racked up more than 10 million streams in total and have all achieved gold status. The band were presented with the awards at the new record's press launch at private members' club 1880 on July 5.

CDs as well as merchandise, such as T-shirts and caps, will be sold at a pop-up store at *Scape on July 7 and 8. The band - which also comprises singer, guitarist and Narelle's older brother Benjamin, 27, as well as singer Sandra Riley Tang, 27 - will be making an appearance there on July 8 at 4pm.

As with the songs on Take Heart, the band travelled to Stockholm, Sweden, for the recordings and worked with producers such as Harry Sommerdahl, known for his works with acts like British-Irish boyband The Wanted, and Fredrik Haggstam, who scored a global hit with American dance music duo The Chainsmokers.

 

Unlike past works, in which the members wrote their parts individually, the new songs are the result of them writing and composing the songs together from scratch.

The music may sound like slick, studio-produced electronic pop, but the band say that at its core, it was designed to be played live.

Benjamin Kheng says: "Songs like Save Myself and Need Your Number started out with completely different instrumentation, more trendy and (in line with) what's on the market. But we were not feeling it, so we went back to what we liked - synths and guitars.

"Although it's a pop album, you hear a lot of analogue instruments. That's the mishmash vibe we settled on."

Formed in late 2011, the quartet released their debut EP the following year. Take Heart, released in 2015 after the band signed on with record label Sony Music, includes multi-platinum singles such as the title track, which has notched up 1.6 million views on YouTube.

Besides local shows, the band have done tours in North America, Australia and South Korea. In 2016, they played a headlining show at The Coliseum at Hard Rock Hotel Singapore to 2,500 fans.