Next, the World: Love Me Butch

Updated: 21 Aug 2012

Local post-hardcore favourites Love Me Butch speak to Adrian Yap CK about their new record and working towards world domination

'Lazy’ is not a word you can use to describe Malay sian post-hardcore band Love Me Butch. While their recently released third album ‘Worldwide Transgression’ comes after a six-year gap (sophomore ‘This is the New Pop’ was released back in 2005), the band have not exactly been sitting on their behinds waiting for something to happen. In fact, this may just be the most crucial and productive year for the band (they were formed in 1997), as far as their evolution goes, as they gradually established a decent regional following, building on the success of ‘New Pop’, patiently climbing to the top of the Asian extreme music heap

‘I was very frustrated with our music scene at that time. I wanted the band to break out of Malaysia. Not many people understood our music,’ shares Wing Meng, guitarist, principle songwriter and overall head honcho of the band. ‘No matter what we did, it was never enough.’ That’s when he realised that perhaps it’s time the band – currently consisting of bassist Kevin Kong, frontman Syarul Reza and new drummer Jana Nair – dreamt a little larger.

Buoyed by the success of the band’s single ‘Hollywood Holiday’ and its video (that was picked up for heavy rotation by regional music TV channels) , the band started embarking on self-funded tours around the region, most notably to the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. ‘So I had this idea. If we sold 2,000 copies in every Southeast Asian country, we would have sold 10,000 copies,’ said Meng. ‘It was this principle that had us going.’ To-date, ‘New Pop’ has sold about 5,000 copies, significantly less than what Meng had hoped for, but the amount of traction they’ve gained around the region perhaps transcends mere record sales numbers.

But as productive as these years were, there was also some pruning done, most notably the departure of original drummer Winder Singh, who was duly replaced by new drummer extraordinaire Jana Nair. ‘Winder was great at what he does, but we were evolving and moving along,’ shared Meng before adding a tellingly shrewd note in, ‘Change is inevitable as the band needed more dynamics in the mix.’ This transition contributed to the lengthy delay of ‘Worldwide Transgression’. ‘We had to teach him (Jana) all the songs from scratch, rearrange the rhythm sections and at the same time, work with him on some newer song ideas. It was getting the vibe together and fitting things right in the mix that took time.’

All that experience touring the region, networking with bands around Southeast Asia and opening for popular international acts (Switchfoot, Deftones and Underoath, among others) seems to not only have given the band renewed purpose in these last six years, but has also helped them find their niche, by gradually moving away from the ’90s nu-metal sound that made them popular in the first place.

The band frequently describes their current sound as ‘post-hardcore/ sing-a-long’, which would be a largely meaningless term, if not for the fact that it rather suitably describes the sound of their latest album. Tracks such as ‘Generation SOS’ and ‘We are All You’ve Got’ combine the fiery riffing and bloodchurning guttural screams that have been so synonymous with the band’s sound over the years but with an obvious overlaying pop glint and hooks that are well, hummable. In a way, it finishes the work started on ‘New Pop’. ‘If you listen to our albums, they all sound different from each other. Every album has its character and vibe,’ says Meng. ‘We try not to do the same thing again and again.’

That said, the vibe on the new record is a relentless one, with most songs played at breakneck speed without compromising on intensity. Meng clues us into why – ‘I thought “New Pop” was kind of slow, in that it lacked energy at times,’ he shares. ‘So when I started writing this record I envisioned it to be like a direct punk rock album that you could listen to in its entirety without having to skip any tracks.’

Meng attributes the band’s plodding move towards a more accessible sound as an ‘accident’. While that may be far too aloof a term to use given the context, there is a sense that the current sound employed by the band is not one that could’ve been managed by the band in their early years, but is in actual fact a byproduct of the band’s continuing evolution as musicians and songwriters. Most notably, Meng’s gradual move away from his trademark open D tuning and Syarul’s tremendous growth as both a singer and frontman.

‘Three’ appears to be the magical number in the local independent music scene when it comes to albums. Most don’t even get to one, so only really special ones make it to three (Couple, Seven Collar T-Shirt and The Times come to mind). It’s of course apt that Love Me Butch is one of the bands that has made it into that illustrious club; after all, they’ve become a mainstay in the local music sweepstakes. More impressively, they’ve done so by remaining stubbornly independent, something that Meng is not only proud of, but is also willing to work his hair off to maintain (the band is due to release two music videos, a nationwide tour and a Japan tour in the coming months) – ‘The biggest challenge is to get out from your own comfort zone and get things done yourself,’ he adds. ‘The only cure for laziness is you.’

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