Singapore at BIGSOUND: Get to know .gif, Caracal and Lincoln Lim

Throw post-hardcore into the same show as indie-folk and dark electronica, and you might have a very confused crowd. That is, unless you’re at a showcase event like BIGSOUND, where the Australian music industry completely gives themselves over to a few days of discovery, sifting through live music both homegrown and international.

That kind of sonic diversity in one event is expected at BIGSOUND, and Hear65 will be delivering it by the bucket load as they welcome three acts from Singapore looking to really make an impact on the Australian music industry. And if previous Hear65 events at BIGSOUND are anything to go by, this delegate-only showcase will be absolutely essential for anyone locking down their busy schedules.

Music has a bigger impact if you at least know something about the band before heading in, so we thought it best to grab some good ol’ Q&A time with each of the band’s set to take the stage. Read through the below and get familiar with these artists, then head along to Hear65’s showcase event at

Caracal

Caracal are a post-hardcore band that have been around for over a decade. Off the back of new single “Mouth of Madness”, they are looking to showcase new material and a new sound to the Australian industry.

What are you expecting from BIGSOUND and what can BIGSOUND expect from you?

We’re going with no big expectations, just be open to all new experiences and meet as many people as possible. We know the level of musicianship that we can expect from the other musicians will be jaw-dropping, that much we can say. It’s a learning experience for us and we’re glad to be a part of BIGSOUND. We’ve put together a setlist that we’re really excited to play for anyone listening, and we’d love to hear feedback.

What kind of evolution does your new material represent and how does this differ to your previous work?

From our first record to now, it naturally descended into a more ominous and angsty sound. It wasn’t something we actively set out to do, probably more due to our musical tastes having an influence. At the very least, it’s us attempting to break out of the boundaries that perhaps we once put on ourselves. Our focus is on avoiding the easy formulas and creating music that makes us, and the audience, a little uncomfortable.

What is your perception of the live music scene in Australia and what can your music bring to it?

Australia has always had a healthy music scene that spans all kinds of styles, especially when it comes to heavier sounds. Aussie crowds are notorious for their energy, but they’re also a discerning bunch, so we hope we can win over some new friends and fans.

What do you hope to get out of BIGSOUND?

Australia remains a bastion for band-made music; in Singapore, where space and venues are limited, starting a band seems a lot less appealing than the pop route. We hope to bring back some lessons or tips on how to get our rock music scene to thrive in Singapore, while also giving Aussies a taste of the kinds of the sounds being made just a stone’s throw away in Asia.

Are there any particular bands or events at BIGSOUND that you are looking forward to checking out?

We’re looking forward to watching Lo!, Wither, The Dead Love and Tobacco Rat. It’s going to be mad. Also looking forward to the sweater weather, coffee, food and meeting people. So, come up to us and say if you’re at one of our shows.

As veterans in the Singapore music scene. How do you feel the city’s musical landscape has grown from when the band first started to now? Are there any consistencies or is it more change?

Well, we can certainly see the trend towards hip-hop and more mainstream pop acts coming up. Back when we started, it used to be gigs full of indie, punk, rock, and emo invading the underground spaces. Now, there is a plethora of DJs, beatmakers, pop singers, rappers, etc. more in the limelight. That is not to say that rock is dead in Singapore, but with the accessibility of technology and the internet, Singaporean kids are a lot more open to different styles and trends in music, and they are very clued into the scene.

What’s the hardcore scene like over in Singapore and how does it compare with that from other countries you’ve travelled to?

The hardcore scene in Singapore is not all that different from that of Australia, or anywhere else, for that matter. One of the great things about hardcore, or heavy music in general, is that there’s a community for you wherever you go in the world.

While it can feel ‘gated’ for newcomers, everyone is supportive and encouraging, and they’re the ones you can depend on to be at your shows. The Singapore heavy scene isn’t as large as others, but it’s probably one of the most active in the country when it comes to consistent output and overseas recognition.

You mention that your new single “Mouth of Madness” is a reaction to the morality crises Singapore is experiences at the moment. What is this morality crises regarding and how long has it been going on?

Relatively speaking, Singapore is a very young country. Due to the multicultural makeup of our society, the authorities are extremely careful with what you can and can’t say in the arts and this is exacerbated when religious zealots take issue with certain artists’ messages. Heavy music is an easy target in Singapore, and while it seems a little dated when considering the Satanic Panic in the ’80s, many individuals still believe that it’s dangerous. Despite the moans of concerned parents, we think Singaporeans are mature enough to make up their own minds about what entertainment they consume, without authorities stepping in to coddle those who just can’t look away and let others enjoy it. We’re prepared to make just as much noise as those who label metalheads as ‘sick’, but we’ll do it through our music, not through complaint forms.

.gif

Dark electronic beats, raw lyrics, and a heady influence from literature – .gif are surely one of the most experimental acts at BIGSOUND this year.

What are you expecting from BIGSOUND and what can BIGSOUND expect from you?

We’re not expecting anything other than a good time. Well, the last time we were here we performed as a duo. But this time, we’ve brought along our band, so BIGSOUND can expect a bigger sound from us, heh!

In all seriousness though, you can expect a more dynamic and exciting set — our rhythm section (comprising Teo Jia Rong on drums and Tim De Cotta on bass) is SICK.

What kind of evolution does your new material represent and how does this differ to your previous work?

The analogy that has been floating around in reference to our new stuff is: “If the previous album was more like The Smiths, the new album is more like Joy Division.” So, I guess it’s a lot more stark and aggressive, but still recognisably us. Come down to hear it for yourself!

What’s your perception of the live music scene in Australia and what can your music bring to it?

We’ve always been big fans of live music from Australia. There seems to be such healthy and diverse independent music scenes all over Australia — and the music is always top quality. We’ve had the privilege to watch quite a couple of DIY/independent Australian bands who’ve toured SEAsia and even worked pretty closely with HellosQuare recordings out of Canberra, who has quite a sick lineup of underground acts.

As for what we might bring to the table… Our brand of electronic music is a little bit more left field compared to what’s currently in fashion at the moment, so… hopefully without sounding too cliche, I guess we’re offering something unique — different, but still accessible to the mainstream listener.

What do you hope to get out of BIGSOUND?

Well, we’ve toured the UK and Asia extensively and are looking to meet booking agents and potential management in Australia. We’re also hoping to get our stuff played on Australian radio/media, to garner more listenership in the region.

Are there any particular bands or events at BIGSOUND that you are looking forward to checking out?

Gordon Koang and Stevan are 2 acts that we’re really looking forward to checking out. Oh, and upsidedownhead too!

The phrase “feel no fire” is repeated quite a few times on your single “Juvenile”. What does that particularly line mean to you and why is it so prominent in the song?

The full line from the end of the chorus is “when I was yours, felt like we could burn the world over and feel no fire” –– it’s sort of a very fierce expression of love for someone, I guess. You know that feeling when you’re in so deep and so wholly involved with a person that you feel invincible? Like the whole world doesn’t matter, it could go up in flames all around or through you and you wouldn’t feel a thing. This was especially poignant to me in a time when my relationship was forbidden, and we would have been cast out by friends and family had we been discovered.

Drawing upon literature and theatre is a very interesting approach for the style of music you two produce. Does this mean your approach to writing also takes a similarly unconventional approach? What is a typical day in the studio like for .gif?

We both just happen to be geeks (and classmates majoring in English Literature during university). Looking at life through art and fiction is just that much more vivid and fun, so in our lyrics I like to imagine the unspoken feelings of, or alternative trajectories for, fictional characters that I am very attached to.

We’re not sure how other bands do it, but I guess some might call the way we work somewhat unconventional. We work a lot over Dropbox even though we’re sitting in the very same studio. We’ll upload snippets / riffs as and when, and the other person will give a listen and develop it further. Then, it usually goes back and forth a few times before something close to a demo emerges. Weish does all the melody and lyric writing.

We have a little policy, that we both need to like a song before we release it. We’ve chucked tons of material just because one party wasn’t vibing with it.

Is there any particular idea behind the name .gif? What does it represent to both of you?

Well, gifs are essentially visual/image loops, and it was a goofy dig at how we use a lot of loops in our music. But, there’re also a lot of recurring images, themes and motifs that we like to weave across different songs, so in that sense it’s kind of a conceptual gif as well. Plus, we like to fancy it a sort of bigger, meta- (read: pretentious) commentary on how mundane and repetitive life seems to feel –– that feeling of ennui and entrapment within systems permeates all our work.

gif has toured with poets and playwrights in the past. How does that compare with touring with other bands and musicians such as at a showcase event like BIGSOUND?

We’re always up to touring with good people, regardless of the medium of their art! For us, there isn’t much of a difference between touring with musicians or with poets and playwrights — all’s good if we can get along as people, and it’s also important that we respect their work and craft, too.

Even within music, we’ve toured with bands of a totally different genre. It’s always a good time! We’re definitely looking forward to touring with Caracal and Lincoln, and can’t wait to be on the road again.

Lincoln Lim

Waving the flag high for the gentler sounds of indie-folk with be Lincoln Lim, an artist with a penchant for profound songwriting.

What are you expecting from BIGSOUND and what can BIGSOUND expect from you?

I’m really looking forward to seeing Australian acts playing music I wouldn’t have been able to imagine existing myself. Acts like DRMNGNOW and Mambali come to mind, not forgetting Mojo Juju or Electric Fields, or Ruby Gilbert’s ethereal voice, I could go on and on, I’m such a fanboy.

I think what I can bring to an already amazing line up is a different sound from a different place. I hope people can come and see what Singapore has to offer, and how in so many ways our music, influences and styles draw parallels from one another. That’s the perspective I hope my music will inspire.

What kind of evolution does your new material represent and how does this differ to your previous work?

Near the end of last year, my sound underwent a massive change after a trip to Bagan, in Myanmar. If you’ve never heard of it, let me paint a picture: a 50km/s area with over 2000 ancient temples of varying faiths, each one a stone’s throw away from another.

It was an incredibly powerful experience, and ever since then my music has been a lot to do with taking listeners on a journey while still keeping to my folk roots, and that’s what my producer Jaz and I have been trying to achieve by incorporating foley and organic samples into the music.

I guess to sum up the difference between my material then and now, it’s basically, the same heart in creating great lyrical stories, but now the translation of that story is a lot more visceral and production centric, creating a deeper experience.

What’s your perception of the live music scene in Australia and what can your music bring to it?

I think it’s very organic in how shows are organised and how the acts interact. Spending time in Melbourne, you realise what a wild and wonderful scene it is, with random festivals in parks and live gigs in every pub. It’s incredibly inspiring to see and I’m so honoured that I’ve been accepted into that scene so easily.

I feel that for me, I just want to be a worthy advocate in the tradition absolutely amazing folk acts from Australia like The Middle East, Angus and Julia Stone and so much more, to say my truth the best that I can.

What do you hope to get out of BIGSOUND?

Definitely to understand more about the Australian music industry, but more than anything to truly connect with people and artists there. I think the best thing about touring Australia has been and always will be the people that I meet, and I don’t see how this tour will be any different.

Are there any particular bands or events at BIGSOUND that you are looking forward to checking out?

Urgh, what a list!

Beyond what I said above, I’m really psyched to be on the same bill with Wolfjay and SCABZ in Sydney before we head over together to BIGSOUND, so it’ll be cool to see how they bring their music to each stage!

“Losing” is a very vivid and provocative song. What kind of imagery did you have in your mind when you were writing it?

Thanks for that!

Well the song is an exploration of the time spent between the “big moments” most songs are usually about, the getting together or the breaking up. Losing explores someone dealing with loss by travelling the world, trying to forget the pain, but ends up seeing the person that he lost in every amazing sight he comes across. It’s about the feeling of inevitability, that after the running is done, that everyone has to confront their pain and come to terms with it in the end.

Is that imagery indicative of what we can expect from the music video?

Definitely. The music video (which is done!!) means a tremendous amount to me, and it really brings out what the song is about in what I feel is a really beautiful way. I’m super excited to put that out, I think you guys will love it.

Indie-folk is often very story driven. What kind of stories are coming out of Singapore and your personal life that you feel can bring a new perspective to the genre across the world?

I think being from Singapore and being a musician is in many ways an experience and a story on its own. Asian countries have slowly built up a pretty negative reputation for its treatment of people who work outside the box, who do things differently, and unfortunately a lot of the times it rings very true.

A lot of my songs and stories centre around people who don’t fit society’s expectations, like the LGBT community or people suffering from mental health issues, and I think those songs coming from me and my perspective as a bisexual Asian musician can add value to all the other people who don’t feel like they have a song that understands them and what they’ve been through, especially in a narrow society like mine.

I understand “Losing” is the third part on a series. What is the concept behind your five-part series of releases?

It’s an exploration of loss and is centred around the concept of multiple realities. Sounds kooky I know but hear me out.

Imagine if in every conceivable reality, you meet the same person, you fall in love the same way, and in every one of these realities it falls apart, like a fixed point in time. The series explores the different ways this unfolds, from someone just losing interest in another to traveling around the world to deal with the loss, I wanted to delve into the how, rather than the what of the whole thing, without the spreading the attention with an album and instead treating each story with equal importance by realising them each as singles. I think that this series brings them all together quite beautifully, and I can’t wait for the rest of it to come out!

Hear65 will take place on Wednesday 4th September at Ric’s Big Backyard located at Ric’s Bar, 321 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley. It’ll kick off at 5pm and wrap up at 8pm. Remember, this is a delegate-only event.

This is a sponsored article.

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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review, an obsessive hip hop nerd, a whisky drinker, and a lover of all things travel. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter with @chrisdsingh.

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