Interview: The Otherside Orchestra

New vocalist Syima and founding member and lead guitarist Wan talk to us about the indie scene back then, The Otherside Orchestra's new album and more

The Otherside Orchestra first made a name for themselves for being one of the first few bands that jump-started the indiewave that hit our city in the mid-2000s. Alongside other bands like Hujan, Meet Uncle Hussain and Komplot, The Otherside Orchestra spawned a movement best known for its synthesizers, lo-fi guitars and skinny jeans.

A lot has changed since The Otherside Orchestra released their debut album ‘ElectRomanceTacy’ in 2007 – the indie movement that dominated the music scene has shrunk significantly; their lead singer Izwin left the band to start a family; and a former reality TV star was elected President of the United States.

But change isn’t always bad; last year they added Syima to the band as their new vocalist and in April, they released their second album after ten years, ‘Disco Chemist’. We talked to Syima and founding member and lead guitarist Wan about the indie scene back then, their new album and more.

the otherside orchestra
Photo: All Is Amazing

How would you describe your music?
Syima Electro, electronic danceable rock ’n’ roll.
Wan For me, we’ve always been dance-able rock ’n’ roll. I don’t think there’s an actual genre for our music. We just want people to have fun. I don’t go to gigs to be depressed, I want people to dance and have fun.

This is your first album in ten years. Are you still making the same music that you did in 2007?
W We’ve added some contemporary elements to it, but we’re still doing what we do best. We’re still making disco and dance-able rock ’n’ roll but we’re blending it with current elements. We’ve got to make sure we get new listeners too.

the otherside orchestra
Photo: All Is Amazing

What’s the new album going to be like?
W A lot of the songs are actually older songs that haven’t had a proper release. Most of them were written by the previous singer. We didn’t have a budget back then to do proper recordings and all that. We do have newer songs but we wanted to settle this material first. It would be a shame if we didn’t.
S There are two songs from the previous album too; not remastered, but remade with me as the vocalist. It’s all jazzed up too. There’s also a new song there which I helped write.

How different was the scene back when you first started?
W When we first started it was fun and simple. There were a bunch of new indie bands with us like Hujan and Meet Uncle Hussain. We all didn’t even have demos out and were just recording music at home. When the scene was reaching its peak it was huge; playing at shows with 600 to 800 people was normal at the time. Nowadays, people are grateful if they manage to pull in 200 people.

the otherside orchestra
Photo: All Is Amazing

Do you think it will ever be like that again?
W I have a feeling that it will. The music scene here has a cycle of ten years. For example, we used to have rock bands like Koffin Kanser and Blind Tribe in the ’90s. They were huge up until the whole black metal issue came up and scared the kids off . Then ten years later we had TV shows that dramatised subcultures like ‘Kami’ and bands like Hujan in the scene. So I think we’re due for another big revolution. Just last month I played at a Record Store Day Event which involved 14 bands. I thought that was important because if we want the scene to be big again, all us bands have to work together.

How did Syima become the new vocalist?
S I’ve always liked their music and I thought they were a cool band. Then my sister who’s also a big fan told me that they posted on Facebook that they were looking for a new singer. So I went to a jamming session with them and I terus dapat.
W We even made her sing our two hardest songs [laughs].

Did you feel any pressure in replacing Izwin as the lead singer?
S At first, yes. Because I looked up to Izwin since The Otherside Orchestra were one of the few bands that had a frontwoman. She had the image that she was carrying the band. But now I’m getting into it. The more comfortable I get with the band, the more comfortable I am on stage too. But I don’t like comparing myself to anyone else. I’ll just focus on my own thing.

Listen to 'In & Out' by The Otherside Orchestra