Singapore-bound: Johnoy Danao

Armed with his acoustic guitar and distinctively captivating voice, Filipino singer/songwriter Johnoy Danao has been making people sigh with awe with his performances. After a successful show in Singapore last year, he, along with the good guys of Requiem Rising, decided that it’s time to bring yet another night of spellbinding music to the Lion City. With a loyal group of fans based in the little island state, we caught up with the crooner before he sets off to his musical journey.

23971_113466055341207_6270368_nHi Johnoy! As it’s your second time to perform in Singapore, is there anything you’re looking forward to come back to?

Hello guys! The first one was successful enough that Requiem Rising decided to do it again ahead of time – we were [supposed to be] planning a February show next year. Of course, I’m looking forward to performing again for my screaming fans in Singapore, haha! And tour the city a little bit more than the last time that I was there.

 

As a former member of a band how do you think has your direction changed from being a member of a group to being a solo act?

I think Bridge (his former band) helped me a lot in developing my songwriting. Playing with a band could be really tough at times since you have to be on the same page musically, all the time. Going solo was really going back to what my heart really wanted. I grew up listening to James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel and the likes so this is what I envisioned myself doing when I first picked up an acoustic guitar – sing my heart out.

 

A lot of the Filipinos in Singapore are there to find greener pastures or better opportunities. Have you ever thought about packing your bags and living in a different country at least once in your life?

Nope. With the industry I’m in, I think staying put is best for me since I write songs that reflects what I am as an individual and as a Filipino.

 

How’s the crowd like in Singapore? Is it any different from your fans in Manila?

I guess since they don’t see me in Singapore that often, I’ll give the Singaporean crowd enthusiasm points. But they both are very warm and avid listeners to my music.

 

Have you listened to or performed with any Singaporean bands when you visit? Any of them you’ve grown to be a fan of?

Unfortunately, I have not listened or performed with a Singaporean act yet. I have more time now so maybe Monx (of Requiem Rising) can take me to some of the bars and check out some artists.

 

Lastly, if we look in to your music library, what would we find?

James Taylor, Dave Matthews, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Eraserheads, Gary Granada, Itchyworms, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Sting, Carole King to name a few. I think you’ll have an idea with those names I mentioned.

 

* Post originally published in Music Weekly Asia

Tales of Feminism: Lorde “Sick” of How Women are Being Portrayed

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We’d be surprised if you still haven’t heard of or even read about Lorde. She’s basically mentioned in every online music magazine (and look who’s joining the bandwagon?). It could be because her track “Royals” is on the charts. It could also be that she just released her debut Pure Heroine last week. Maybe, it’s because she beat Miley Cyrus‘ “Wrecking Ball”, claiming the top spot on the Billboard charts. Or that she debuted in the US at ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon‘. Whatever it was, the New Zealand native is the current talk of the town.

So what makes Lorde so special aside from these things above? Sure, anyone who takes down Miley from her sweet Number #1 spot is worth checking out. After all, with the amount of buzz the girl is generating these days, it comes as a relief that the world has other things to mind aside from the controversial star’s twerking and incessant exposure of tongue. Even Sinead O’Connor expressed her concern by writing an open letter, stating that the Bangerz singer “will obscure [her] talent by allowing [herself] to be pimped, whether it’s the music business or [herself] doing the pimping.”

Undeniably, there’s a current trend of naked girls, racy music videos, pop stars and the world being okay with it. For Lorde – Ella Yelich-O’Connor in real life – a self-proclaimed feminist, that’s not the only thing bothering her. In an interview with a local NZ magazine, Metro, she mentioned country pop singer Taylor Swift as “so flawless, and so unattainable” then adding, “I don’t think it’s breeding anything good in young girls.” She further brushed on the subject in another interview, calling out Tay Tay’s bestie Selena Gomez and her song “Come & Get It”, saying that she’s “sick of women being portrayed this way.”

This of course, caused sparks. Taylor and Selena’s legion of fans lashed out on the singer on Twitter and started to compare her with “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” – which may have helped out the “Royals” singer’s (un)popularity. However, this isn’t the first time that someone dared to comment about how women are being wrongly depicted these days. Adding herself to the list is CHVRCHES‘ Lauren Mayberry, who spoke her mind about online misoginy earlier this week, after she posted an offensive come-on from a ‘fan’ on their Facebook page. The singer insisted in her op-ed that “objectification, whatever its form, is not something anyone should have to “just deal with”.”

For a 16-year-old, Lorde positioned herself as one of the women in the industry who has a passionate way of speaking her beliefs. And in a world where teen pop stars either sing about their first loves, heartbreaks or rebel against their youth by premeditating their sexuality, Lorde is the girl at the back of the school bus, slumped in her seat with her headphones blasting in her ears: she’s the outcast, not the typical bubblegum pop teen queen.

We suppose that’s what makes the idea of her refreshing – not that her sound is anything groundbreaking. You could literally close your eyes and think, “Is this Lana del Rey?” And as much as that supposedly “infuriates” the young singer, the similarity can not be denied. Still, to be able to write songs at her age (she had a major-label deal since she was 12), and to create a clear distinction on how she wished to present herself, one could not deny that the girl has the makings of a star. The world is currently buzzing about Pure Heroine as it garners high praises.

Now whether she crashes and burns or shines ever more brightly in front of our eyes – we have the following days to find out.

Post originally published on Music Weekly Asia.

San Cisco: “It’s hard to form songs on the road.”

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“Cute as a button” – that may be the major comment for anyone who’s seen San Cisco for the first time. Composed of young – and we mean young, one of them just finished high school before they started jet setting to international shores for their tours – and talented teenagers from Fremantle, Western Australia, Jordi Davieson (vocals/ guitar), Josh Biondillo (guitar/ keyboards), Nick Gardner (bass), and Scarlett Stevens (drums/ vocals) used to be typical high school kids. That is, until they had a breakthrough with their song “Awkward” in 2011.

Since then, the band produced two EPs: Golden Revolver and Awkward. A growing local act favorite, they also managed to play at major Aussie festivals – Big Day Out, BIGSOUND, and St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival. If it wasn’t for their hit, which now scored more than five million views in YouTube, the band would have been “in the army or something” – at least that’s how bassist Nick (far left on the photo) puts it.

Inevitably though, the foursome are bound for bigger things, so they released their debut album San Cisco, picking “Fred Astaire” as one of their first singles and possibly giving “Awkward” a run for its money as the band’s cutest single yet. “The Fred Astaire has very little to do with our song,” he continues to tell us. Sure, it’s a song about a guy who thinks he’s not good enough for a girl. As for mentioning one of the well-known names in Hollywood, he added, “Yeah, we’re all a little hung up on old movies.”

Quite honestly, for anyone who’s tried to keep up with San Cisco’s activities since their “Awkward” days, it’s become a bit of a daze. Visiting their Facebook page comes with a mixture of tour photos and updates, from the US to Europe. “We all just slip into touring mode. Basically taking any chance to sleep and not arguing when we haven’t had a chance to. We’ve kind of learnt everything about everyone.”

Luckily, they’ve added Singapore on their places-to-be for Camp Symmetry. Given that they’ve never been to the Lion City before, the gang is surely looking forward to their visit, sharing the stage with the likes of Ra Ra RiotBest Coast, Explosions in the Sky, and Mew. With the string of festivals and shows they’ve been at though, we wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve already rubbed shoulders with some of the acts in the line-up.

“We haven’t had a tour with a band we didn’t love!” Nick claims, “[But] we learnt a lot from The Vaccines and Darwin Deez.”

With a month left before San Cisco bring their indie pop sound over to the region, it makes us wonder if their hectic touring schedule and on-going interaction with other bands ignite some sparks or enough inspiration for new material. “It’s hard to form songs on the road because we don’t get time to properly rehearse,” Nick explains. “But individually, there are lots of little bits and pieces ready to be built into songs.”

That’s good enough – with San Cisco only out in July this year, we could definitely relax and soak up its pop tunes more – of course until we get our San Cisco fix live at Camp Symmetry.

Post originally published on Music Weekly Asia.

Ra Ra Riot: “We’ve always wanted to push ourselves to try new things.”

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Universities are always great places for people to meet their very best of friends – take the band Ra Ra Riot. They formed in Syracuse University in 2006, later on showcased in SXSW in 2007, then released a full-length, The Rhumb Line, in 2008. Their efforts garnered buzz in the music scene, earning raves and fans for their unique indie rock sound with a mix of chamber pop. They followed it up with The Orchard in 2010, a 10-track record with that familiar Ra Ra Riot spin: falsettos ✓; catchy choruses ✓, strings ✓.

“Our second record, The Orchard, is certainly much more like our first than our third,” lead singer Wes Miles (far right on the photo) tells us. “We’ve always wanted to push ourselves to try new things, from the very beginning of the band. While we were recording it, it became clear that our process was becoming restrictive and burdensome. This was about the time when we started to consider making changes to the way that we wrote.” The brewing adjustments did not only apply to their songwriting. When they started working on their third album, Beta Lovethey lost cellist Alexandra Lawn from the line-up, which “freed up a lot of room to make changes.”

The band carried out with their plan, evolving throughout the process as the members played different instruments than usual, while Wes spent more time working on songwriting with their producer, Dennis Herring. One of the tracks they came up with is “Beta Love”, the first release from the album about an android falling in love for the first time.

“I thought it would be an interesting experiment to write a love song from the perspective of someone who was truly in love for the first time,” Wes explains. “But also, the first of its kind to be able to fall in love. It’s about love but also about evolution, and the convergence of technology and humanity.”

As futuristic as the idea behind the track sounds, the music video for “Beta Love” is a different story. It was directed by one of their fans, David Dean Burkhart, who’ve decided to use footage from an eighties dance show – a kooky but trendy way of creating a music video. The band found it online shortly after their track was released and asked the creator if they could release it officially.

“It was a bit of a stroke of luck,” Wes adds. “We actually had nothing to do with making the video. We immediately asked if the creator would add titles in the beginning, and it just worked out that that was all we had to do. It’s one of my favorite videos we’ve ever had.”

For this endearing frontman, sticking along with the band’s 7-year ride – which mostly constitutes now of nightly shows and international tours post-album release, travelling to Asia for the last few years has been “amazing.” The band has been touring to support Beta Love, and in November this year, they’d be dipping their toes back in Asia for a few dates in Japan and Singapore’s Camp Symmetry. They made a detour in Taiwan with the Dirty Projectors earlier in January, but this would be their very first time in Singapore.

“Every time we go [to Asia] we discover something new and inspiring. We’re very excited to go to Singapore! We’ve all heard so much about it and can’t wait to finally be there to experience it.”

We’re guessing that it’s one of the biggest perks for anyone in a band – especially if they’ve started as one of those kids who hung out in the university, pitched in ideas, then realized that they could make good music with their friends. Only a few decide to carry on with their school bands, only a few are brave enough to risk security – and only a few really make it.

“I would be completely lost!” Wes responds after we asked him one of those standard questions: What would you do if you weren’t a musician? “Hopefully, I can make it last for a while.”

With their evolving sound and willingness to create music, we’d like to believe that Ra Ra Riot could make it much, much longer than that.

 

** This post was initially published in Music Weekly Asia.

Japandroids: ‘We’re a pretty tight unit’

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For Vancouver garage rock duo Japandroids, life recently has been about touring and playing their music to thousands of people all over the world. They used to be two guys with day jobs who only played music for fun and only when they can – but when their debut Post-Nothing came out in 2009, Brian King (Guitars/ Vocals) and David Prowse (Drums/ Vocals) didn’t expect that they would be in it for the long haul.

Japandroids have toured America and Europe extensively for the past four years and and it was their fans, Prowse believes, who saved them from their ‘short ‘split’ after Post-Nothing came out. “We felt a lot of gratitude and a sense of debt to our fans because they were so loyal to come out and see us play as we toured for basically a year and a half straight all over Europe and North and Central America. We were hoping with this new record (Celebration Rock) basically just to keep those fans. We didn’t want to let them down.”

Since the release of their sophomore effort, Celebration Rock in 2012, the duo extended their audience reach and started conquering the shores of Asia. They’ve already paid a couple of visits to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore for this year’s Laneway Festival. This August, the Canadian rockers are expected to play at Good Vibes Festival in Kuala Lumpur.

“We’re starting to become a little bit more familiar with that part of the world,” Prowse shared, noting that it would be the band’s first gig in the country. “It’s definitely a little more exciting when you have no idea what to expect. We don’t really know anything about what the atmosphere is like when we play, in our case when we play an outdoor festival in Malaysia. And we have no idea if anybody knows our band!”

With Celebration Rock gaining recognition from the likes of Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, it would be safe to say that indie rock enthusiasts would stumble upon Japandroids’ music sooner than later. There’s still no news of the band’s follow up to the record, but can fans expect future collaborations with the other bands that Japandroids  rubbed shoulders with on their tours?

“As far as working with producers, obviously Steve Albini is someone who’s made a lot of great albums; he records things very thickly and there’s a very direct raw feel. At the other end of the spectrum there’s someone like Nick Launay who worked with Nick Cave and Yeah Yeah Yeahs and obviously added so much to their music. He would be pretty amazing to work with.”

There is a bit of hesitation Prowse expressed when it comes to letting someone in on their creative process. “To some extent, I don’t know if we’d feel comfortable bringing in another musician to what we do as far as songwriting goes. We’re a pretty tight unit. We’ve known each other and played music together for so long.”

The ‘unit’ pertains to him, King and Jesse Gander, the producer who worked with Japandroids on Post-Nothing and Celebration Rock. “I think we’re a bit weird like that because I think a lot of artists would love to expand who they work and collaborate with, but for us, so much of how we do things is about feeling comfortable in the studio and working with who you know and trust already. It’s hard to know whether working with people you idolize will be a good experience or be kind of just like distracting.”

You can catch Japandroids on August 17 at the Good Vibes Festival. Tickets are still on sale.

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Interview with Dave Prowse courtesy of Good Vibes Festival.

 Post originally published on Music Weekly Asia.