The Sam Willows release debut album

For the multitasking members of The Sam Willows, the group will always come first

Benjamin Kheng of pop-folk act The Sam Willows may dabble in acting, his bandmate Sandra Riley Tang runs a yoga business, but the quartet of singer-musicians - including Jonathan Chua and Kheng's younger sister, Narelle - say the band will always come first.

Says Chua, 25 : "We always prioritise the band above everything else." Narelle, 22, adds: "It's like an unspoken thing where we always know that we are 100 per cent committed and that's why we've never broken up, no matter how many times we've fought.

"Because even though we fight and I'm like, 'You know what, I don't care about you any more', we know in our hearts that we do care and this is what we want."

Take Heart, their anticipated debut album, launches today. Sales of pre-album release singles have done well. The perky title track, released in May, topped the iTunes and Spotify charts across Asia and local pop radio station 987FM, the first time a Singapore band has attained such an achievement, according to The Sam Willows' label Sony Music Entertainment Singapore.

The song has also been streamed more than 1.2 million times on Spotify, while the music video, with close to 600,000 hits, is one of their most popular on YouTube.

Of the songs on the album, Tang, 24, says: "The entire album centralises and encompasses the idea of love and not just romantic love, but every sort of love, different kinds of love."

Benjamin, 25, adds: "It's a pop album. We have a wonderful fan base that ranges from kids as young as eight or 10 years old - which is incredible when we think about it - to university students.

"We wanted to infuse a bit of our old sound, folksy, a bit acoustic and yet grow and evolve as a band. We wanted to evolve with the times. It's a great opportunity to reach out to the kids."

The songs were written by all the members. Work began three years ago, after the release of their eponymous debut EP. Since then, the band have also been busy with high-profile gigs at major events such as this year's National Day Parade, the Singapore Grand Prix, as well as international music events such as the Musexpo in Los Angeles in the United States.

They admit that the debut album is a long time coming. Says Narelle: "We spent a lot of time on this because we wanted to put out something that we are satisfied with. The process is long, whether it's writing and rewriting songs or looking for the producer or sound we want. We didn't want to rush into it. This year, things just fell into place and Sony played a big part in helping to organise things."

The band members say that, despite each of them being "headstrong", they have learnt to work well together - a far cry from the early days, which they describe as being "dramatic" and "full of angst".

Says Tang: "We kind of know one another's strengths, so even though each of us has an opinion, we will listen to one another. We are democratic."

The band travelled to Sweden to record most of the album with Swedish producer Harry Sommerdahl, known for his work with global acts such as The Wanted, Pussycat Dolls and Ace Of Base.

Chua says working with Sommerdahl, who helped tweak the songs, was "organic, very natural".

"We went in with a very open mind," he adds. "We've been doing them live as well, so to be in the studio and to see it getting deconstructed and being built up again was a very interesting process."

Benjamin says their fans will be seeing and hearing a lot more from The Sam Willows soon. They are planning a big show in Singapore early next year and also a regional tour.

"We are going to travel as much as we can, as much as our schedules allow us. Obviously, we love Singapore and that's always a priority, but we want to see how far we can take this regionally with English-language music. We're going to work hard for it."

•Take Heart is out at digital music stores, streaming services and music retailers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'Band's No. 1 in their hearts'. Print Edition | Subscribe