We catch up with Singapore’s singer-songwriter Joel Tan, better known as Gentle Bones 'I strongly believe that less is more, especially in an industry where there is just an overflow of content' Is it fair to say that you got your big break with the release of ‘Until We Die’? I would believe so. If so, what inspired the song and the ensuing music video, and what do you think is the appeal of ‘Until We Die’? I’ve always wanted to be an artist who sang his own tunes. I first started off doing covers on YouTube and Until We Die, and after which my EP, really established me in the Singaporean music scene. I believe it appeals to every one of different ages and the song speaks of an existential. Your career began with covers – you were a YouTube star before you were touted as an indie genius singer-songwriter. What was it like starting out on YouTube back then? It was really just an avenue for me to practice and put out renditions of popular songs online. It also provided me with a platform to receive feedback, and work on my musical skills. Also, you’re a nominee in the running for Singapore Social Media Awards’ ‘Breakout Star of the Year’ category. What are your thoughts on content creation, self-publishing and the role of social media with respect to the success you’ve enjoyed so far? Creating content for Gentle Bones is a very intricate thing for me. I’m extremely selective with works that I release and I strongly believe that less is more especially in an industry wh
Despite having been together for over ten years with varying band names, Manchester's The 1975 only recently released their debut LP, an eponymous record that stunningly went on to beat Nine Inch Nails to the top of the UK Albums Chart last September. The dance-rock quartet's standing as one of the most hyped acts to emerge from Britain in 2013 saw them supporting The Rolling Stones and Muse at sold-out venues, which capped off a remarkable year for the group of twentysomethings. Following their appearance at Hong Kong's Clockenflap last November, we sit down with frontman Matt Healy and drummer George Daniel to chat about success-driven depression, topping Trent Reznor's rock legends and the benefits of being idle.
Your music wouldn't be out of place in a John Hughes movie soundtrack from the '80s. Was that your intention?
George Daniel: Not directly. We are just big fans of music for film, in the way it could command you to feel.
Matt Healy: Basically, all our favourite artists, like Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, were at their peak in the '80s. It's a coincidence that these big pop artists peaked then. When we talked about stylising our songs, the instrumentation and production ideas came from late-'80s records. There's a synergy here of '80s-style production and modern pop music. George loves the sound of big drums from the '80s. If you listen to 'The City', [the drums] could be the intro for 'Red Rain' by Peter Gabriel, but in a more contemporary sense.
So you're trying to recapture and update that quintessentially '80s sound?
MH: The '80s is now perceived as a bygone time in music, but that's not true. It was just a time when pop music had innocence. It wasn't encumbered with cynicism and self-awareness, but everything changed with the Pixies and grunge. At the time, 'So' by Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins's 'Face Value' were not lame records. They were forward-thinking pop records - you got 'Don't Give Up' and then the more left-field 'Sledgehammer' - and big-time composites of massive pop and experimental avant-garde music, which is exactly what we are.
Last September, your album reached the top of the UK Albums Chart, beating out the likes of Nine Inch Nails in the process. How did you find out?
GD: It was annoying, really. New albums are released on a Monday while the chart is published on a Sunday, so we were getting figures every day that week. There was no impact whatsoever, just this slow-burning bunch of emotions that turned into a horrible anxiousness.
MH: When it got to Wednesday, everyone was telling us that we had a number one record. We have had ten years of being disappointed by major record labels, so we told everyone to hold on. We found out that we'd beaten Nine Inch Nails during our performance at the iTunes Festival [in London].
What happened next?
MH: Then we got really depressed [laughs]. When you spend ten years in a band, you've got a list of things that would make you happy and being number one on the Albums Chart is definitely one of them. But when it happens and a beam of light doesn't come out of your chest, it is really depressing. You think to yourself, 'Why am I not a totally different person now? I've got a number one album!' That was a bit disappointing, because what could we possibly want more than a number one record? That experience merely made us realise that we were too caught up with the statistical and material elements of being in a band at that point. None of that shit matters; the only reason we are doing this is because we love making music together. We didn't need anybody else's validation to tell us to be prouder of our album. We love our album. We are very privileged to not care because if we didn't get the number one, maybe I wouldn't be saying that we don't care as much.
GD: To be honest, we would have had no complaints if Nine Inch Nails had beaten us.
MH: Just to be behind Nine Inch Nails is good enough.
Why did it take the band so long to release your debut LP?
MH: We didn't really need to put out music because we were very happy being the cool kids in our town, doing nothing and fucking around. When we were 20, we had written 'Robbers' and all these major labels were coming to meet us. We then had two years of nearly getting signed and not getting signed, which took us up to when we were all around 23. It was just about getting it right and learning. We were lucky we never put out any music at that time.
GD: The worst thing is when you get exposure from a single that happens to be the first thing you've done as an artist.
MH: The internet is permanent. If you put out a bad song with your first band when you are 17 and all of you have awful hair, and then you start a cool new band when you're 21, everyone goes, 'A-ha, you are not cool!' That happened to Brother in the UK - they were a really lame punk-pop band with tattoos all over and straightened hair. When they came out as the new Oasis three years later, loads of articles were written about how they were full of shit. That would have been us, had we put out a record when we were 17. But we didn't because we were lazy [pauses]. The lesson is be lazy.
'The 1975' is now in stores. the1975.com