Rock to new beats with Baybeats' budding bands scheme

Six of eight groups in Baybeats' budding bands scheme initially failed to qualify for a few years

Sphaeras' (from far left) Zakhran Khan, 22, drummer; Wun Chun Kit, 23, guitarist; Ong Qi Min, 26, bassist; and Lek Hao Kai, 21, guitarist.
Sphaeras' (from far left) Zakhran Khan, 22, drummer; Wun Chun Kit, 23, guitarist; Ong Qi Min, 26, bassist; and Lek Hao Kai, 21, guitarist. PHOTO: HARRIS SIM
Orangecove's (from far left) Alvin Wong, 24, lead guitarist; Kenneth Tan, 24, vocalist and guitarist; Sean Tan, 21, drummer; and Benjamin Zhu, 22, bassist and backing vocalist. PHOTO: ESPLANADE
The Livid Sun's (from far left) Hairul Fazree Sardi, 30, bassist; Lionel Liu, 28, guitarist; Abdullah Abdul Hadi, 29, guitarist; Maisarah Abdol Rahim, 27, vocalist; and Ashri Zainal Shaynaynal, 28, drummer. PHOTO: ESPLANADE
wyd:syd's (from far left) Aaron Pereira, 23, bassist; Jared Oh, 24, drummer; Marcus Tan, 23, vocalist; Eugene Huang, 24, guitarist; and Ridhwan Malik, 24, guitarist. PHOTO: JEREMY CHAN
Lost Weekend's (from far left) Ng Zheng Jie (in glasses), 22, drummer; Mark Cheng, 28, bassist; Arif Atmadja, 28, guitarist; and Rachel Tan, 26, vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist. PHOTO: ESPLANADE
Attention! The New Portsdown's (from left) Isaac Chew, 26, keyboardist and synthesizer player; Muhammad Nurikhwan Sahri, 31, bassist; Abdul Rahman Muhammad, 29, guitarist; Muhammad Nurasyraf Sahri, 24, vocalist; Muhammad Kamaruizan Kassim, 27, guitarist; and Muhamed Faizal Osman, 27, drummer. PHOTO: ESPLANADE
Stopgap's (from far right) Eldad Isaac Leong, 24, drummer; Calvin Phua, 23, guitarist; Grayson Seah Jian Xing, 23, bassist; Lee Yewjin, 23, guitarist; and Adin Kindermann, 23, vocalist. PHOTO: ESPLANADE
False Plaintiff comprise (above from left) Nicholas Phang, 21, guitarist; Sydney Long, 22, drummer; Bryner Tan, 20, guitarist; Brandon Tanoto, 21, vocalist; and Jonathan Nicholas Vincent, 21, bassist. PHOTO: ESPLANADE

If at first you do not suceed, try and try again.

That is the motto driving many of the upcoming home-grown bands who are performing at this year's Baybeats music festival at the Esplanade from June 27 to 29 under the budding bands programme.

Six of the eight bands who made it through the two rounds of auditions to score a mentorship as well as a slot at the festival are returnees who did not make the cut in the last few years. A total of 140 bands had auditioned to be part of the mentorship programme.

Among these are wyd:syd, who made it only to the first round of auditions last year.

The band's guitarist Eugene Huang, 24, says: "Watching the bands perform at past Baybeats inspired me to pick up the guitar. It has always been one of our goals to go through the mentorship and perform at Baybeats."

Indeed, Baybeats, which has been held annually at the Esplanade since 2002, has become an institution in the local concert scene. Besides the budding bands, the line-up this year also features acclaimed home-grown favourites such as alternative rock band Monster Cat as well as regional bands including Malaysian punk veterans Subculture. A total of 36 bands will be playing over the three nights.

Past editions have drawn crowds of up to 85,000 over its three nights, making it Singapore's most significant event to have a mostly local indie line-up.

The mentorship is part of the Esplanade's Baybeats Budding initiatives, which has been a distinctive part of the festival since its 2007 edition. This year, the eight bands are mentored by scene veterans Leonard Soosay, music producer and owner of music studio Snakeweed Studios; guitarist Daniel Sassoon from prog-rock outfit In Each Hand A Cutlass; and multi-skilled musician Bani Hidir, who performs in B-Quartet, YouthWreck and 53A.

More than just about bands, the Esplanade also organises mentorship programmes for other aspects of music such as music journalism, gig photography and entrepreneurship.

A new component this year is the Budding Video Artists programme, where final-year students in Lasalle's diploma in broadcast media course are paired with four local bands to make music videos.

False Plaintiff

Genre: Melodic hardcore

Although they do not say it, many bands want to be rock stars and score with the chicks.

Not hardcore band False Plaintiff. When they take the stage at Baybeats, they want to be your friends.

Awww, so sweet.

Singer Brandon Tanoto, 21, says: "It'd certainly mean the world to us if the folks at the show could take the time to lend us their ears, check us out and hang out with us after the show because, after all, that's what shows are all about, aren't they? Making new friends and meeting new people."

Formed in 2012, the band have three EPs to their name: Enclasping The Cold Light Of Day (2012), Well Then, I Guess It's Time To Move On (2013) and their latest, Regression Is All That I Yearn For, which features their Baybeats mentor Daniel Sassoon of In Each Hand A Cutlass on guitars on two songs.

According to the singer, the band's name was inspired by his interest in the legal industry during his younger days.

Tanoto, who is serving his national service, says the band have forged a deep bond with Sassoon: "He's put in a lot of effort in helping us get our sounds right and achieving things we never thought we'd be able to."

Sassoon was also on hand when False Plaintiff did an opening set for American post-hardcore band La Dispute's recent gig at the Substation, making sure that the soundcheck and everything else ran smoothly.

Tanoto says they shared similar music interests and he was very hands-on at their recording sessions, and even took along his guitar and effects to help the band achieve a more layered sound in their songs.

The band are nothing if not prolific - they are already looking forward to heading back to the studios to record and release new songs after Baybeats as well as to play as many shows as they can.

"Looking ahead, I believe the Baybeats mentorship will mould us into better musicians and people."

Where: Powerhouse (The Edge)

When: June 28, 6.30pm


Genre: Alternative rock

The comments rock quintet Stopgap received last year when they tried and failed to make the cut at Baybeats have remained with them - in a good way.

Singer Adin Kindermann, 23, says: "We used what we learnt from last year to inform our battle plans this time around. We polished ourselves, carefully picked the songs for both the auditions and reminded ourselves to have fun too. It surely must have worked, since we're here now."

They decided to take another stab at earning a spot in the Baybeats line-up, even though they felt they were up against strong competition.

Kindermann reckons that their confidence helped them clinch a spot this year. "We've played many shows since then so we're not intimidated by big stages anymore. We're a lot more sure of ourselves when it comes to writing songs."

It must have helped bolster their confidence when the band - formed in 2011 by schoolmates Kindermann and guitarist Lee Yewjin, 23 - won the Noise Singapore Award last year shortly after being turned away by Baybeats. The award, which came with a $5,000 grant, was given at the Noise creative programme for youth organised by the National Arts Council.

According to Kindermann, the mentorship they received from music producer Leonard Soosay gave them "valuable stage experience".

"Our mindsets and perspectives on the local music scene were continually tested and challenged during the mentorship. I believe taking these lessons create a very strong, long-lasting effect on us and our music."

One of the things they picked up from the mentorship was how to tailor their songs to suit the gig and the venue.

"For a venue such as the Powerhouse stage," says Kindermann, referring to the biggest stage at Baybeats, where his band will perform, "we aim to give the crowds a show they can sway, dance and ultimately rock out too. The sound will definitely match the scale of the show".

Where: Powerhouse (The Edge)

When:June 27, 7.30pm

Attention! The New Portsdown

Genre: Pop-punk

Attention! The New Portsdown are one band that do not give up.

The pop-punk outfit were booted out in the final rounds the last couple of years they had auditioned for Baybeats. Undeterred, they tried out again this year.

Singer Muhammad Nurasyraf Sahri, 24, says getting rejected twice turned out to be a blessing for the band. "Each time we did the auditions, we listened to the feedback from the judges and mentors and we used their advice to improve ourselves."

One piece of advice that they took was to expand their sound, so the band added keyboard player Isaac Chew, 26, last year.

Unlike many of the bands that participate in the Baybeats mentorship programme, the sextet have been around for a long time. Formed in 1998 as Kreazi Drew Jerrie, the group of friends changed their name last year as "people were always spelling our name wrong".

The current moniker is inspired by the location of an army camp that two of the members were based at during their national service.

"We've been around a long time but we always felt that the band are constantly changing and evolving over the years," says Nurasyraf. "In our early days, our sound was slower and more influenced by emo bands. These days, we play upbeat, pop-punk music."

Their tastes in music also changed as they grew older, Nurasyraf explains.

Fans who turn up for their set on the first day of Baybeats can expect to hear them play all five songs from their recently released debut EP, Take Control. They will also sell copies of the EP as well as other band merchandise including T-shirts, sweaters and a customised skateboard deck.

Adds their frontman: "We're very excited about making our Baybeats appearance and we want to put on a really good show not just for people who've heard our music but also for those who are getting exposed to our music for the first time."

Where: Arena (Esplanade Outdoor Theatre)

When:June 27, 7pm

Lost Weekend

Genre: Indie-pop

When it comes to stage moves, indie-pop band Lost Weekend are firm believers in the credo that "less is more".

Of their upcoming set at Baybeats, bassist Mark Cheng, 28, says: "A lot of people will be looking forward to high-octane, high-energy performances from the other Baybeats bands. While we're not really one for jumping around on stage, we promise to deliver intense emotions and introspective lyrics on a wave of loud and powerful guitars."

No wonder the two-year-old quartet have professed to be "a bedroom band writing pop songs for the same group of five people".

Taking part in Baybeats changed that. Cheng says: "With the increased publicity that we've been getting through Baybeats, we've had strangers come up to us to show their appreciation for our music.

"To know that a song that we wrote genuinely resonates with people out there has been humbling and inspiring at the same time."

This year marks the second time the band tried out for the mentorship programme, after failing to make the cut in the final round of auditions last year.

The mentorship programme has been holistic, adds Cheng. "Aside from the technical elements such as songwriting and playing, we've also had crash courses in the often ignored non-music aspects of being in a band, including learning how to use social media to market ourselves and how to put on a good show. We're also getting practice with learning to answer interview questions."

He adds the band members are naturally shy and were not used to giving interviews and being asked to talk about themselves and their music.

Their mentor, music producer Leonard Soosay, also shared his years of experience in the music scene and encouraged the band to think long term and look at the bigger picture.

The prospect of playing at Baybeats is making the Lost Weekend members feel "heady, excited and slightly jittery all at once".

Cheng says: "Getting rejected the first time did sting a little bit, but that has spurred us on to improve on our music. Getting accepted this time around was especially sweet because it felt like a validation of all that hard work in that one year."

Where: Arena (Esplanade Outdoor Theatre)

When: June 28, 6pm


Genre: Alternative/Indie-rock

Barely half a year after they formed last year, indie-rock quintet wyd:syd (pronounced "wide side") were invited by the Esplanade to perform at its Outdoor Theatre as part of its Waterfront series - and the experience almost overwhelmed the new band.

Says guitarist Eugene Huang, 24: "It was a huge learning curve. There were so many things that we weren't prepared for, even basic things such as how to do a proper soundcheck and how to interact with the audience."

He says they were so green that they could not communicate their needs well with the Esplanade's sound crew and ended up being uncomfortable with the sound that they were hearing from stage.

They have come some way since being thrown into the deep end for that debut show.

They made it through the audition rounds for Baybeats' mentorship programme this year, after not making the cut last year, and they also took part in Noise, a creative mentorship programme for youth organised by the National Arts Council.

Their live experience has also been bolstered with more shows, including a gig with international acts at recent music festival Music Matters Live 2014. Singer Marcus Tan, 23, says: "We're a lot more confident about ourselves now. For me, I'm naturally a shy guy but I've learnt to interact more with the audience and put on a better presence when I'm singing on stage."

The band's rousing and layered tunes, found on debut EP Oval East, released early last year, as well as recent single Yesterlove have won them new fans, who sing along when they perform.

"That's the funny thing," says Tan. "I've never released my lyrics so I guess some listeners managed to figure out what I'm singing from our recordings."

There will be more songs to sing along to - the band will be playing a new batch of tunes at Baybeats and will also launch a new EP, Reverie.

Bassist Aaron Pereira, 23, says: "I think there's a newfound maturity in our new songs because we've not only grown as musicians but also as people in our personal lives in the last year and that's reflected in the way we make new music."

Where: Observation deck (library @ esplanade)

When: June 28, 4pm

Where: Arena (Esplanade Outdoor Theatre)

When:June 28, 7.15pm

The Livid Sun

Genre: Indie-rock

Despite having been around for a little more than a year, alternative rock quintet The Livid Sun have already clocked gigs at local indie venues such as the now-defunct Home Club, The Lithe Paralogue Studio and in Malaysia.

Their upcoming Baybeats set will be their most significant show yet, they say. Guitarist Lionel Liu, 28, says: "As Baybeats is already an established music festival in the region, our performance there would make us look a lot more credible when we approach organisers and promoters in the future."

Having attended Baybeats as music fans in the last dozen years, the band members are stoked about getting a chance to perform this year. Liu says: "We have always been a part of Baybeats, but mostly as the crowd. So when we learnt that we will be playing at Baybeats this year, the room was filled with our squeals and screams. We are extremely elated and excited about playing at the festival."

The mentorship they received under guitarist Daniel Sassoon pushed them beyond their "comfort zone". Sassoon had the band - who are influenced by American rock acts such as Foo Fighters and Incubus as well as British indie band Two Door Cinema Club - reassess their objectives as a band and provided constructive comments during their jam sessions.

One of the things he challenged them to do was to think hard about the band's direction.

Liu says: "The mentorship had us thinking positively about how we can shape the band's future. We became much more serious as a band and our commitment to the cause has never been stronger. Though the learning curve has been steep, it had led to much progress and we have matured a lot in this short time."

Where: Arena (Esplanade Outdoor Theatre)

When:June 29, 6pm


Genre: Pop rock

Pop rock quartet Orangecove are party boys - they are all about rocking out and celebrating the jubilant side of music.

Frontman Kenneth Tan, 24, says: "We always emphasise three things at our shows - everyone has to sing, dance and have fun. So at Baybeats, you can expect something more than that. Just think of partying at a rock show on a great weekend."

This is not what you might expect of a band that used to be called Nerds Of Loserville when they first came together in 2006. The band changed their name when they solidified the current line-up in 2009.

Orangecove are no strangers to the local gig circuit, having performed at various venues including Fort Canning Park and Home Club. Yet they failed to impress the judges when they auditioned for Baybeats' mentorship programme last year, paling in comparison with other bands in the same genre who were more cutting-edge.

"The first time we tried out for Baybeats' mentorship programme, we had only started writing our own songs and had yet to muscle up experience together as a band.

"But it isn't a case of 'once bitten, twice shy' for us. Instead we practised a lot more and did more shows and here we are," says Tan, adding that they have plans to perform gigs in South Korea and Japan.

Mentored by veteran music producer Leonard Soosay, the band will also launch a new EP, Our Time is Now! at the festival, a follow-up to the singles I Can Dance, You Can Dance! and College Girls.

Their music is influenced by upbeat American bands such as Boys Like Girls, Paramore and We The Kings, whom they opened for when the American band performed at The Coliseum earlier this month.

Of that show, Tan says: "The audience came for We The Kings but when we came on stage, they were so supportive, it was intense. After the show, we met the guys from We The Kings and they told us they liked our music. It was a crazy night."

Where: Observation deck (library @ esplanade)

Where: June 28, 4pm

Where: Powerhouse (The Edge)

When:June 29, 6.30pm


Genre: Post-rock

Post-rock quartet Sphaeras stand out from the rest of the acts under the Baybeats budding bands programme this year - they are the only ones without a singer. Instead, they count on writing and performing dynamic songs that grab the attention of fans with odd-time signatures and unconventional structures.

Bassist Ong Qi Min, 26, says: "Although we might seem to be at a disadvantage since we lack a lead singer, we'll let our music do the talking or singing. The audience at Baybeats can expect from us an energetic and passionate set with a perfect blend of musical intricacy and simplicity."

The band, whose name is a Latin version of the word "sphere", count as influences Irish post-rock outfit And So I Watch You From Afar, American post-metal trio Russian Circles and Japanese post-rock band toe.

Having scene veteran Daniel Sassoon as their mentor is apt as he is the guitarist of In Each Hand A Cutlass, also an instrumental band. "Daniel's advice for the band thus far will guide us for years to come."

According to Ong, besides helping the band with their song arrangements and working out guitar parts, Sassoon gave tips on how the band can promote themselves and reach out to a wider audience.

Having attended previous instalments of Baybeats as music fans, the band say they feel "honoured" to be given the opportunity to play at this year's instalment alongside other acclaimed bands such as Giants Must Fall from Singapore and Earthmover from the Philippines.

Fans of complex instrumental music can expect to hear a lot more from the band after their Baybeats set. Ong says: "We will be working on new material for our debut studio EP which we hope to release by the end of this year or early next year. Being a nascent band, we also hope to play more shows locally and regionally if possible."

Where: Arena (Esplanade Outdoor Theatre)

When: June 27, 8pm

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