Altered States: An Interview with Singapore’s sub:shaman

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Altered States: An Interview with Singapore's sub:shaman

IsaO, IsaF, Weish, Hanis and Syadie are all wickedly talented musicians in their own right, but round up the entire tribe and you’ll encounter an end result that transcends the realm of normalcy, a disarmingly glorious noise that pulsates with a stubborn groove. The Wknd speaks to sub:shaman ahead of their most brazen performance yet, slated for this coming November as part of Fred Perry’s Sub-Sonic Live series.

It’s no secret that the band is forged from various other musical projects. All of them aside, what is the shared musical philosophy that binds you individuals together as sub:shaman?
Above anything else, we would like to think of ourselves as sound-makers. We share a desire for a sort of spiritual state through exploring music, within the surreal urban context we inhabit. We have these little obsessions with trying to find the right sounds to convey what we feel and what we want to feel, and delight in the small freedoms and spontaneous indulgences we allow ourselves as we jam and write together. We really enjoy exploring different styles of music, without being too particular about which genre we’ve borrowed specific influences from and how “accurately” we have appropriated its conventions. If it feels right, we’ll go with it… as long as it’s groovy, a little dark, and occasionally off-kilter. On the whole, we like to see ourselves as always being in the process of things the process of becoming, of making, of creating.

sub:shaman’s lyrics veer towards the dark and cryptic – who are the guilty lyricists and where do you draw inspiration from?
Weish and IsaO are the usual suspects for lyric duties.

IsaO: Weish and I tend to give each other full melodic and lyrical freedom for the songs we write, as we feel that something as personal and intimate as a voice needs to be allowed to speak more than just words, but also the essence of its owner as well. Personally, I try to immerse myself in the music before writing lyrics. Emotion is a really significant part of my lyrical process and it forms the fundamental theme on which words are then anchored to.

Weish: I often just find myself writing words in extreme emotional states (which is fairly often, given that I’m quite… melodramatic. And volatile.)… After a vivid nightmare, a dramatic fight, mad blurry nights of panic. Intoxication, menstrual rage, irrational bouts of anxiety sitting in trains, stupid things like that. But when it comes to writing with the band, melody and groove always come first for me. I usually vibe off what the guys are playing, take whichever old words I feel connect with the sound, then chop, adapt, re-appropriate. It often transforms into a whole new animal by the time it’s a song, but I still connect vividly with the original memory whenever I sing it.

Altered States: An Interview with Singapore's sub:shaman

sub:shaman has been steadily winning over fans with your live performances from Baybeats to the recent Night Festival. Which of these sets have been the most memorable and why?
It’s kind of difficult to choose, every gig is memorable in its own way. If we had to single out two, they would probably be Baybeats and Lithe Paralogue’s Re-opening. Playing at Baybeats was without a doubt a huge thing for us, and will be something we remember for a long time to come. From being on a big stage, to the crowd and their warm response, to the entire mentorship process, it’s been quite a journey and we are very glad to have been able to be a part of that. On the other hand, Lithe Paralogue’s Re-opening gig early in year was small and intimate affair, but felt no less memorable, probably because there is nothing quite like being able to see someone’s eyelashes clearly from where you are playing.

sub:shaman – Django (Baybeats 2013) from Glenn Your Friend on Vimeo.

The sub:shaman sound has been said to parallel musical acts such as The Mars Volta – are you also influenced by bands from Singapore and around the region?
Definitely! Just to name a few, we’re huge fans of The Psalms, B-Quartet, KILLEUR CALCULATEUR. We often attend gigs together, so it’s no doubt we’ve been influenced by many local and regional acts.

Tell us about your future plans – can we expect more performances, record releases, or even tours in time to come?
Well, right now, we’re in the process of writing more material and really just focusing on experimenting with sounds, structures and ideas. We’re slated to perform for a show in November in Singapore and we’re really looking forward to that as we’ll be collaborating with a 4-piece horn section. As for record releases, we’ve got a few songs ready, but we’re not going to commit ourselves to a release until the each of us are at a 100% with a concept.

sub:shaman – To The Bone (Baybeats 2013) from Glenn Your Friend on Vimeo.

sub:shaman performs with special guests at Fred Perry Singapore’s Sub-Sonic Live on 1 November alongside Ra Ra Riot, Enterprise, ANECHOIS, These Brittle Bones and more. Register for invites here.

By Ili Razid