St Jerome's Laneway Festival back for eighth Singapore edition

The St Jerome's Laneway Festival is back for the eighth time this year and going strong

Rain or shine, you can bet that masses of indie music fans will be congregating at The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay, for 12 hours of non-stop gigs at the eighth Singapore edition of the St Jerome's Laneway Festival 2018 today.

The annual outdoors event, which originated in Melbourne, Australia, in 2005, has consistently proven that good live music is weather-resistant.

Its first Singapore edition at Fort Canning Park in 2011 will always be remembered as much for the brilliant performances as it was for the torrential rain.

Instances of blistering afternoon heat have also not stopped the festival, which moved to Gardens by the Bay in 2013, from drawing crowds of up to 13,000.

This year features another class act of 23 bands, singer-songwriters and electronic acts.

They include renowned names such as American indie rock band The War On Drugs, British electronic act Bonobo and American singer-songwriter Father John Misty.

They will play over three stages - the Garden and Bay stages, which are side by side, and the Cloud Stage, which has been expanded this year.

  • BOOK IT / ST JEROME'S LANEWAY FESTIVAL 2018

  • WHERE: The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive

    WHEN: Today, from 10am

    ADMISSION: From $158 for single tickets at Apactix (www.apactix.com), $200 at the door

    INFO: For full line-up, set times and details, go to singapore.lanewayfestival.com

The Straits Times speaks to two Grammy-nominated bands, British alt-rock quartet Wolf Alice and American hip-hop/R&B group The Internet, as well as the five Singapore acts performing today - Amateur Takes Control, Obedient Wives Club, THELIONCITYBOY, MAS1A and Tim De Cotta.


Wolf Alice

Line-up: Singer, guitarist and keyboardist Ellie Rowsell, guitarist Joff Oddie, bassist Theo Ellis and drummer Joel Amey Genre: Indie rock and alternative rock Stage: Garden Stage Set time: 6.45pm

British band Wolf Alice have toured the world, released two acclaimed albums and scored a Grammy nomination.

Yet, founding member and guitarist Joff Oddie still cannot wrap his head around how far the band have come since he started it with frontwoman Ellie Rowsell in 2010.

"Right at the beginning, filling a little pub or a bar, or something like that would have been a huge success," the 26-year-old recalls in a recent phone interview from London.

In November, the band played their biggest headlining show to date to 10,000 fans at London venue Alexandra Palace. Compared to the past, when "it took us three years to fill up a room of maybe a hundred people", he says, the huge turnout is "completely bizarre".

The band released their debut single, Leaving You, in 2012 and by the following year, had built up significant buzz among music bloggers as well as BBC Radio and British music outlets such as NME for their brand of music, which is a discerning mix of genres including grunge, shoegaze and electronica.

After releasing two EPs (2013's Blush and 2014's Creature Songs), the band put out debut album My Love Is Cool in 2015.

Critics love their work. My Love Is Cool was nominated for a Mercury Prize while 2014 single Moaning Lisa Smile was nominated for Best Rock Performance at the 2016 Grammys. Their other accolades include Best Live Band and Best Track (for Giant Peach from My Love Is Cool) at the NME Awards in 2016.

Sophomore album Visions Of A Life, released last year, has also been garnering rave reviews - it made the annual best albums list in outlets such as the NME, Drowned In Sound as well as The Straits Times. The band are also one of the finalists in the British Group category at the upcoming Brit Awards.

Critical acclaim for their recordings aside, Oddie says that the band are also dedicated to putting on memorable shows.

"The set will be loads of fun," he says of their Laneway gig, their first in Singapore. "We put a lot of energy into the set, especially festival sets, we like to keep them exciting.

"We know people are at a festival all day, we want to put an effort so when people go home, they remember those guys who were jumping around with guitars and throwing their instruments about and having a good time."


The Internet

Line-up: Singer and songwriter Syd Bennett, keyboardist and singer Matt Martians, bassist Patrick Paige II, drummer Christopher Allan Smith and guitarist Steve Lacy Genre: Hip-hop and soul Stage: Garden Stage Set time: 5.05pm

The name of this band started out as a joke.

Singer, songwriter and producer Syd Bennett, also known as Syd Tha Kyd, did not like to be asked by interviewers where she hailed from, so she would answer "the Internet".

The 25-year-old decided to use the name when she formed the band with keyboardist and singer Matt Martians, 29, in 2011. Back then, both were members of Los Angeles hip-hop collective Odd Future, although Bennett left in 2016.

The band's musical output is no laughing matter though and they have been making waves with their unique style of R&B that mixes both vintage soul and modern electronic sounds.

Their most recent release and third album, Ego Death (2015), was nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the Grammy Awards. Their discography also includes debut album Purple Naked Ladies (2011) and sophomore release Feel Good (2013).

A stunning live band, they are also one of the few acts that get invited back to play touring indie music festival Laneway, which has stops in cities such as Singapore, Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney. They last gigged in Singapore at Laneway in 2016 and will play in tonight's edition.

For Bennett and bass player Patrick Paige II, playing a festival like Laneway is also a way to let their hair down.

Paige II, 27, says: "It's like summer camp. It's the most fun kind of tour."

True to the band's name, both answered via e-mail.

Last year was an especially busy one for all the members of the band, as each of them released solo albums.

Bennett, for example, put out her debut solo album, Fin.

Making music both on her own and with The Internet have its ups and downs, she says.

"It's more collaborative when we make music as a group.

"When I'm working on solo music, I have the final say-so on everything, and there's added pressure in that."


Amateur Takes Control

Line-up: Guitarists Adel Rashid, Ahmad Ariff and Field Teo, bassist Isa Ong and drummer Martin Kong Genre: Post-rock, progressive rock Stage: Cloud Stage Set time: 1.35pm

In the last dozen years, home-grown band Amateur Takes Control have evolved from a one-man-act to one of the local scene's most prominent post-rock outfits. Change has always been part of their DNA, says founder, songwriter and guitarist Adel Rashid, 27.

After releasing two EPs, a debut album titled You, Me And The Things Unsaid (2008) and playing countless shows, the band went on a hiatus in 2013 when Adel left Singapore to study in the United States.

After he returned to Singapore, the band got together again with new members in 2016 and performed a string of shows. Late last year, they released a new EP, ATC EP2.

Adel says: "Back then, I used to write all the songs myself. But over the years, we've been writing together as a band, and the songs have gotten heavier and a lot more complex."

The wide range of sounds in their instrumental songs reflect the fact that the band members also play in other groups such as indie outfit Pleasantry and post-hardcore act Caracal.

"Everyone has equal say when it comes to contributing ideas," he adds.

He hopes that playing at Laneway can be a springboard to more gigs overseas. "We're planning a tour of Australia this year, but we're also hoping that our set will help us be more visible to promoters who can get us more shows outside of Singapore."


Tim De Cotta

Genre: Funk , soul and R&B Stage: Cloud Stage Set time: 5.15pm

Singer, bass player and songwriter Tim De Cotta never expected to get the call to perform at Laneway this year. In fact, he had already bought tickets, expecting to attend the festival as a part of the audience.

The line-up of acts this year includes one of the Singaporean's favourite artists, Grammy nominated hip-hop/R&B/soul singer, rapper and songwriter Anderson Paak.

"To be on the same roster is like validation of who you are and how far you have come as an artist," says the 32-year-old. "If I'm playing Laneway, it must mean that I have some standard, it's very flattering."

While the upcoming set will be the first under his own name, it will not be his debut on the Laneway stage.

In the 2016 edition of the festival, De Cotta was a featured guest during home-grown electronic music producer Intriguant's performance.

De Cotta is active in the local music scene and is also a member of jazz, R&B, hip-hop and funk groups such as L.A.B, Neodominatrix and TAJ. He also regularly organises music events and projects such as the Getai series of live shows held in places including rooftop venue Lepark and Pearl's Hill City Park.

The focus will be largely on him at this year's Laneway though and his setlist will comprise tunes from his solo discography that includes an album released last year, The Warrior.

"The journey that I've had as a solo musician in the last four to five years has made me really comfortable with who I am onstage."


Obedient Wives Club

Line-up: Singer/synth player YinQi Lee, guitarists Keith Tan, guitarist and singer Cherie Ko, bassist Sulaiman Supian and drummer Lennat Mak Genre: Indie pop Stage: Garden Stage Set time: 1.45pm

Home-grown band Obedient Wives Club are known for their lush, melody-driven songs inspired by modern indie acts as well as vintage girl groups from the 1960s.

Their inclusion in this year's eclectic Laneway line-up might well be the start of a new artistic journey for the band.

Guitarist Keith Tan, 37, says they hope to be inspired by other acts on the festival programme, such as American hip-hop and soul singer-rapper Anderson Paak, as well as Malaysian electronic artist Alextbh. "I've been listening to a lot of hip-hop and R&B recently," he says.

Singer and synth player YinQi Lee, 34, says that the band might incorporate the new influences into their future songs.

"We're trying to see if it will work. After Laneway, we're planning to go into hibernation and start writing new songs."

Meanwhile, the quintet have been hard at work rehearsing for their Laneway set, which will comprise songs from their self-titled debut EP released in 2011, their 2013 EP, Murder Kill Baby, as well as their newest EP, Cinematica, released last year.

Lee says: "We've chosen to play more of the upbeat sets, it's better to keep the energy up for an outdoors festival like Laneway."


THELIONCITYBOY

Genre: Hip-hop Stage: Cloud Stage Set time: 10.40pm

For home-grown rapper THELIONCITYBOY, performing on the Laneway stage will be a dream come true.

"As a solo artist sometimes it's hard to figure who you are, and the kind of music you want to do. But I knew what my goals, ambitions are, and playing in a festival such as Laneway is one of them," says the hip-hop artist whose real name is Kevin Lester.

Formerly a member of hip-hop acts such as Sixx and Bonafide Vintage Flav'r, the 34-year-old released his first solo EP, Let's Talk About Kevin Lester, in 2010.

He has since released two more EPs, Everything You Love, You Hate (2013) and Put Your City On (2014) as well as a full album, Paradise, in 2016, which featured hit single Yaya.

When the Laneway organisers invited him to perform at the festival late last year, Lester was excited but decided to keep the news to himself.

"I was superstitious about it. For a couple of days, I didn't tell my manager and my wife and told them only when the confirmation e-mail came in."

"Laneway has always had appeal to a certain type of music lover with its quirky mix of genres. I always saw it as one of my goals, that would be the place where I can show people who THELIONCITYBOY is."


MAS1A

Genre: Hip-hop, dancehall and reggae Stage: Cloud Stage Set time: 9.25pm

Singapore-born singer, rapper and songwriter MAS1A built up her music career in the United States and Jamaica, but she has never lost touch with her roots.

Raised in Canada and having shuttled between New York and Jamaica for five years, she came back to Singapore in 2014 and has been based here since then.

Her Laneway set will be a reflection of the cornucopia of cultures and sounds that make up her artistry.

Speaking of her music, she says: "The roots are hip-hop music, I fell in love with hip-hop when I was eight years old.

"I also lived in Jamaica for a while, so there's a little bit of dancehall and reggae flavour to the music."

MAS1A, who has worked with an impressive list of collaborators that include hip-hop luminaries such as Pharrell Williams, RZA from the Wu Tang Clan and Talib Kweli, as well as former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, has been doing plenty of shows in regional countries, including Japan and China, since coming back to Singapore.

"Being in South-east Asia, you learn so many languages.

"My Bahasa is getting better, my Chinese is getting better, so I hope to begin releasing music in which I can explore these languages," says the singer, who also organises reggae events as the creative director of show promoters The Singapura Dub Club.

"In the end, I hope to spread music that makes people feel really brave, sometimes loud, but brave."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2018, with the headline 'Laneway hits the high notes'. Subscribe