Five Picks From The Local Independent Music Scene To Pair With Your Next Production
Music has always had a synergistic relationship with television and film productions. Some songs are outright synonymous with the shows they are in. Who can forget Judd Nelson triumphantly walking out of school to “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” in The Breakfast Club, or Lost in Translation’s inappropriately appropriate pairing of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey” with its bittersweet ending?
Even in Singapore where support for local media is relatively low, there still has been a strong tradition of pairing local music with television productions, introducing new music and musicians to the masses. However, there seems to be a split between the ‘mainstream’ and the ‘independent’, with most mainstream productions leaving Singapore’s independent music scene relatively untapped.
Despite its market and size, Singapore’s indie music is as vibrant as any other with talents across a variety of genres. With most, they have encapsulated moods that are relatively unexplored compared to pop music. This has made them a perfect fit for independent films and productions that look to explore these same moods – especially with how tightly knit the two worlds have been here in Singapore.
A common complaint with local mainstream media – particularly with television productions – has been with how they tend to follow the same beats submerged in the same pool of emotions. Online music streaming services such as Spotify have also expanded the musical palette of most; the public is ready and maybe even craves for something different with their media consumption. Perhaps one way to freshen up Singapore’s media landscape is by more deeply integrating the sounds of Singapore’s indie scene.
Whether it’s a corporate video, advertisement or a film, Singapore’s local talents are more than capable of supplying moods that not only sound great, but are also impressively unique. Besides, local musicians would definitely need all the support that they can get. Do contact them through their social media platforms for collaboration details!
Here are just a few picks across local independent music and how they could fit into your next production.
(Shoutout to my colleague, Benjamin Yam, for helping out with this piece!)
The CB Dogs – “Johnny Tay“
Very rarely does a band’s name so perfectly encapsulate their sound. Brash and raucous, The CB Dogs is frankly a much needed breath of fresh air from the more down-tempo ‘chill music’ more synonymous with the local indie scene. Heartily stringing together lines of Singlish and profanity, it might be easy to dismiss the band as a one-note gimmick but their musicality more than proves otherwise.
“Johnny Tay” off their debut EP “Demos”, is what happens when you cross The Damned with a stereotypical Chinese gangster’s lexicon. There’s just something immensely fun about the track and their discography – as if you are listening in to a friend’s over-dramatised, vulgarity-filled and terrifically funny complaints about their daily life.
This, unfortunately, does make their music wildly inappropriate for use in most productions meant for mass broadcast. Yet, there is seemingly no substitute for any production looking to soundtrack an over-the-top confrontation, action scene, or anything that demands attention while remaining delightfully Singaporean.
Sobs – “Girl“
In my (old man) opinion, local trio Sobs (and their label mates on Middle Class Cigars) represents the zeitgeist of what most youths would consider as ‘hip’. Their brand of easy-going bedroom pop, delicately balancing melancholy with catchy bubblegum optimism, has made them indie darlings both locally and regionally.
With widescreen production and frontwoman Celine Autumn’s dreamy vocals, “Girl”, a well-loved staple of their sets from their 2017 debut, easily captures the hazy yet intense emotions that comes with young love. Without taking away from any visual elements, the track’s gentle atmosphere makes it a solid pairing for any montages depicting salad days, with catchy melodies that would make it an easy earworm.
Fauxe – “Red Bricks“
Dubbed the “Thom Yorke of our generation” by Popspoken, Fauxe’s genre-pushing and genre-defying electronic music has made him a highly sought-after producer in the region. Pulling from and sampling a wide array of musical influences, there is never a dull moment across his vast catalogue of work.
Fauxe lent his talents towards 2019’s “Tigers in Tampines“ project. Featuring alongside a collective of Singapore’s finest electronic artists, the project sees these musicians sample live recordings of the hustle and bustle of Tampines to celebrate the dynamism of the neighbourhood. With track “Red Bricks”, Fauxe weaves a quirky love letter to the eponymous HDB blocks of Tampines (particularly along street 45).
While the whole album is practically ready-made for any video project dedicated to Tampines, “Red Bricks” is the perfect soundtrack for a relaxing drive around the neighbourhood, or really any corporate video depicting the area’s vivacity.
Woes – “Tadpole“
Although now far from its heyday in the 1990s, the Midwest Emo subgenre has and continues to be the soundtrack of teenage angst and heartbreaks. Local upstart outfit Woes proudly wears the movement’s influence on their sleeves, nestling listeners in an oddly comforting sea of gloom across their burgeoning catalogue.
Their single “Tadpole” opens with the intricate twinkling of guitars synonymous with math rock, before cruising and cascading into its intense emotional core. Sonically, the track grasps at the immense weight of a heavy heart and the last gasps of what could have been.
Despite its runtime coming in at almost six minutes, there are still key sections that could be partitioned for visual pairing. “Tadpole” is a deadly combination of melodies that could easily soundtrack the dissolution of any young relationship, while its musical style has positioned it to be dated enough to sound like a memory.
The Padres – “November 91“
Formed way back in 1991 and consisting of members across the scene of the time, The Padres is a cornerstone outfit for local independent music led by Joe Ng, dubbed the “Godfather of Singapore alternative music”. Their brand of energetic guitar-led rock even caught the ear of legendary British DJ John Peel, who is often credited for introducing a multitude of indie acts to the world through his BBC Radio show.
The Padres are no strangers to the world of film, with Ng starring in Eric Khoo’s Mee Pok Man and with the band contributing to its soundtrack. “November 91”, off their 1997 LP “Night”, is perhaps their most well-known hit. It’s a track drenched in 1990s nostalgia – both for its lyrical content and with its age – but there is just something timeless about its punchy basslines, riveting guitar work and Ng’s passionate crooning.
As we approach clumsily slip into the 2020s, we are soon reaching the 1990s within the 30-year cycle of nostalgia. More and more media will probably crop up surrounding the decade and there doesn’t seem to be a more fitting act than The Padres to soundtrack this magical period in Singapore.
The band is rather elusive online but most of their music can be found on YouTube.
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(Banner image credit: The CB Dogs Bandcamp)