Laneway goes local

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 21, 2013

Experimental rockers The Observatory, singer Vanessa Fernandez and electronic producer Gema will be the first local acts to take the stage at Laneway, Life! can exclusively reveal, when the popular indie music festival returns for the fourth year in January.

The event had previously featured only foreign musicians, many of whom are acclaimed in the indie music scene.

The Singapore acts were chosen by Laneway co-founder and curator Danny Rogers, who described the three acts as "truly worthy of their position among this incredible group of artists".

He tells Life!: "My pals on the ground sent me their music and I felt they all had a genuine international feel to them. I am also assured that all of them could more than hold their own on a festival stage."

Fernandez, 31, is "completely over the moon" about getting to play at Laneway.

"It is a great opportunity to present Singapore acts side-by-side with acts from around the world. I talked to Danny Rogers and the rest of the organisers and they are true music fans. Laneway festival is known for focusing on up-and- coming artists and music that is new and exciting," says the ex-singer for homegrown hip-hop/pop/rock acts Urban Xchange and Parking Lot Pimp.

Her recently released debut EP, Fly, has received favourable reviews from the American music media, with LA Weekly praising her voice for its ability to do "volitations ranging from angelic hymns to caged bird blues".

The upcoming line-up at Laneway, to be held at Gardens by the Bay, comprises 15 global bands, including major names in the indie scene such as American trio Haim, British band Savages and Scottish group Chvrches.

St Jerome's Laneway Festival, to call it by its full name, has its beginnings in Melbourne in 2004 and has since gone global.

Held annually in Australian cities such as Brisbane and Adelaide, the festival organised by concert promoters Chugg Entertainment has also branched out to Auckland, New Zealand, as well as Detroit in the United States.

In 2011, it made its debut in Singapore, with 6,000 fans braving the rain at Fort Canning Park to catch nine bands in an 11-hour show.

It has become bigger over the years. This year's edition at The Meadow in Gardens by the Bay attracted more than 10,000 fans and featured 14 bands.

While the past two local editions featured two adjacent stages, next year's Laneway will feature three stages. The availability of a third stage is the primary reason for the addition of home-grown acts.

Says Mr Rogers: "We have wanted to showcase local talent since we started but this year, with an addition of a third stage, we finally had the actual room to do it."

Gema and Fernandez will perform on the third stage, alongside other electronic acts such as Australian trio Jagwar Ma and English music producer Jamie xx, while The Observatory will feature at one of the two main stages.

A Laneway spokesman says all three Singapore acts will be paid and given entitlements just like the other bands on the bill, but the organisers declined to reveal details of payments and agreements between the bands and the promoters.

The programme has not been finalised but Life! understands that the home- grown acts will be spaced out throughout the 12-hour long festival.

Keyboardist/vocalist Vivian Wang from The Observatory says that the band are looking forward to their set at Laneway.

The quartet, formed in 2001, started their Asian tour last Saturday in Manila, and will perform in Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul, Busan and Tokyo until mid- December.

She says: "We've been on the road a lot and playing more overseas in the last two years, so every opportunity to play at home is exciting."

Besides tunes from their most recent and fifth release, Catacombs, Wang, 42, says the band might also include new songs from their planned release next year.

She adds: "It will be a new experience for us. We are very used to smaller, more intimate gigs. Hopefully the songs translate well in this festival setting."

The band's current line-up also comprises vocalist/guitarist Leslie Low, 41, guitarist Dharma, 44, and Bani Haykal, 28, on drums. Known for their constant musical reinvention, the band take in folk, electronica, noise and progressive rock.

Gema is an up-and-coming producer who, like Fernandez, is part of electronic music/visual collective Syndicate.

The 22-year-old, whose full name is Gema Putra and who made his live debut at The Substation last year, was surprised when he got the invite to play at Laneway.

"There are many places and festivals that I would like to play at and Laneway is definitely one of them. I have mixed feelings about this gig. I'm excited, nervous and at the same time really glad that I have been invited to be part of Laneway 2014."

He plans to include tracks from his five-track debut EP, Before, released late last year, in what he describes as an "intimate" half-hour set.

Rogers says he does not rule out taking the Singapore acts along for other Laneway editions overseas.

"We'd love to. It's a possibility."

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 21, 2013

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