SUBSONIC EYE: The rising noise pop stars from Singapore
It is through the great Shoegaze Japan Facebook group that I discovered Subsonic Eye. Thanks, guys for all the fantastic wealth of knowledge that one can get being a member.
Needless to say that I fell in love with their music and they made their way into our playlists, Noise Artists Favorite of 2018 and of course in the Singapore Shoegaze & Dream Pop guide that includes as well Astreal, Stellarium, The Pagans, Cosmic Child, Sobs, and Pleasantry. You will see in Subsonic Eye's interview that some of the band's members are also members in some of these other bands.
The current lineup is:
- Wahidah, vocals and synth
- Daniel, guitar
- Jared, guitar
- Spencer, bass
- Lucas, drums
According to their bio, they were created in 2015 by Daniel Castro Borces and Nur Wahidah when they met in school and realized they shared a love for the same type of music. They started off by just writing songs for fun that sounded like the bands they listened to. The rest is history.
They are part of the record label Middle-Class Cigars along with other great Singapore bands, Cosmic Child, Sobs and Handsome Girl.
The Comparison Game
- The Sundays: Wahidah’s vocals are in the same sonic universe than Harriet’s, both in the texture and in the way she unfolds her melodic lines. The rest of the band also has a sense of composition that makes me think of the iconic English band.
There are loads of other influences and comparison, but this one it the most obvious. The Sundays being one of my favorite bands, this is a real compliment.
Why we like them
- Amazing songs: some of the songs of their first album are absolutely world class. My favorites are Cosmic Realignment and Into the Void. The first one made in Noose Artists favorites of 2018 are some of the best Noise Pop production I have heard
- The sense of composition not often found in a young band. When you remove the beautiful and distinctive voice, you can ear the work in the guitars’ arrangements and all instrument music lines. This is precision work and if the band continue to learn at this pace, there could be a bright musical future.
- The live feeling. Look at some of the videos online and you will see that while bass, drums, and second guitar are good, the vocals and Daniel's guitar playing are amazing. Give them a year or two to play together and you will have a live band to reckon with.
There is only one LP so far. The band hopes to have a new LP maybe before the end of 2018.
1. Intro 00:46
"A small instrumental introduction, an invitation to step in the band’s musical universe."
2. Illiterate Stars 01:55
"Illiterate Stars is about beginnings and endings."
A great theme to start this album. The song's mix of great melodies, vocals and sound is the perfect introduction to the band's music world. Short and sweet.
3. In Limbo 03:21
"In Limbo is about being confused."
You can feel confusion counted in the lyrics, vocal melody and arrangements, though always with the optimistic feel that characterizes the band. The various type of breaks and the bells at the end, add nicely to the feeling of confusion without making it strange. A great adequation between the theme and the song.
4. Cosmic Realignment 03:43
"Cosmic Realignment is about moving on."
Many people have heard this song and loved it. Some of the more knowledgeable agree that the vide and sonic universe is close to the Sunday’s. This a perfect happy pop song that reminds me of "this is where the story ends".
5. 178 02:37
"178 is about love."
The sound of rain in the background, a little ballad talking about "Summertime", the song is not the light and heartwarming love song, but rather the show that every love story has always some sad aspect during or sometimes at the end. And it can be short, like the song.
6. Early Girl 00:27
Small musical interlude before the second part of the album.
7. You in the Pleasant Things 02:48
"You In The Pleasant Things is about missing someone."
Pleasant it is. Feet tapping, light, and headbanging. Almost as if missing somebody is a great feeling. Well, it is when it is not too long, and being reunited is a great moment of joy. probably what the song means.
8. Sun Kissed Skin 04:05
"Sun Kissed Skin is about memories."
The only ballade really of the album. you can picture yourself looking in your own memories while listening to this song, as it carries your mind through your neuronal loops. It works very well with me.
9. 2daze 03:34
"2daze is about leaving."
Synths and Chinese like breaks makes this song very different from the rest. I like the atmospheres that are counted by these different instruments.
10. I Think I've Entered The Void 04:35
"I Think I've Entered The Void is about the Gaspar Noé movie, 'Enter The Void'"
If you want to know more on Gaspar Noé's psychedelic movie, follow that link.
This a 2-parts song, with maybe what is their finale in a concert. Powerful, melodically pleasing, and psychedelic like the movie it was inspired by, it is a perfect live long piece. I personally love it ... a lot. The proof on this music Video.
Noise Artists (NA): Where are you from? Where are you living now?
We’re all from Singapore!
NA: What did you study?
Daniel: Wahidah, Spencer and I study Music & Audio Technology. Lucas studies Performance, and Jared studies Audio Production.
NA: What is your day job at present if any?
Daniel: All of us just finished school really recently so it’s the holidays now for us so we’re still looking for jobs… but 3 of us will have to go in the army later on in the year because of conscription :(
NA: Do you dream to live from your music or is it a passion you do not want to spend your full time on?
Daniel: We’re more of going with the flow… if we can live from it that’ll be really awesome but if not then that’s okay as well
NA: Could you tell me how the band meets and decided to do music together?
Daniel: I met Wahidah in school, and I already had some instrumental songs I made that needed a vocalist. I became friends with her, realized she has a really nice voice and asked if she would want to start a dream-pop project with me for fun. She agreed, and we just met the rest along the way through school or mutual friends.
NA: Can you tell me the inspiration behind your band? You can detect the influences of shoegaze and indie rock. I am thinking of the Sundays for example. You took all these influences to make your own music, your own sound, which is not easy. Could you tell more?
Daniel: Our inspiration is really just personal experiences with situations and emotions, then trying to translate the particular experience into a song. We like incorporating and borrowing elements from shoegaze, dream-pop, indie-rock, and psychedelia to make our own sound. It’s fun and liberating to be able to do anything without being confined by “oh man what if this doesn’t sound like us”. There are no rules!!!
NA: Was there a vision of sorts or did you know what you wanted to do when you started up
Daniel: Not really, I just wanted to put up a couple of songs online and play some shows at my favorite venues but aside from those I didn’t really have any other expectations.
NA: Do you have any other musical side projects apart from this band?
Jared is the mastermind behind Sobs
Wahidah’s solo project is elephant stampede
Lucas plays drums for Pleasantry
Spencer’s in a hardcore band called Charm… I think they’re putting stuff out online soon
I used to play in an indie-rock band called The Neptune Waves
NA: Could you tell me more about the band composition? Do you have plans to add new members, or is there possible departure scheduled from existing band members?
Daniel: I hope no one leaves because everyone is equally vital to the band, but it would be nice to have someone on the synthesizer or something…
NA: Can you tell us more how you came to have the band’s name?
Daniel: It’s actually inspired by Title Fight’s Hyperview album…
Hyper = Subsonic
View = Eye
The Creative process
NA: Who writes the song and the music and how do you get to the final song? Is it a community process, do you have leaders in composing or arranging music?
Daniel: Normally I’ll come up with an instrumental demo, and then send it to Wahidah and she’ll sing over it, and then we show the demo to the rest of the band and then they’ll give their ideas and play it their own way etc.
NA: Do you listen to the advice of your bandmates? What would you do if they said a song was shit but you liked it?
Daniel: Yes I listen to their advice hahaha. When they tell me that the song doesn’t really sound good or they’re not feeling it, we’ll usually try to improve upon it and if it doesn’t work we’ll just throw it away. Attachment is the worst enemy!!
NA: There’s a degree of unconventional songwriting with you guys. Was it kind of intimidating going to record knowing people might not be engaging with the songs in terms of hooks and such and trying to deliver an engaging sound on record?
Daniel: Not really. I see music-making as a very closed-off and introverted personal thing so I don’t really worry about what outside people think, as long as we ourselves are happy with the music.
NA: Talking about the lyrics: who write them? Is there a common thread in them, a theme?
Wahidah: I write them! I think there's no particular themes - just happenings in my life and how they affect me emotionally and mentally. I guess I write about love (in many forms) and insecurities a lot too.
NA: Do you labor over your lyrics? Is that something that comes easy?
Wahidah: I think whenever the band jams out something nice I'll just come in with random mumblings that I keep for some time until I have to record them. That's when I actually have to sit down and think about creative ways to convey things. Lyrics come easily to me because I always have things to say (I'm talkative) but after some time I have to step back and weed out the irrelevant lines.
NA: Do you have a message that you want to get across in your music? If so, what are some of the messages you want to spread?
NA: Did your listening habits changed over the years and does it affect what you write?
Daniel: Yeah. Back then I was more fixed to playing it safe but now I’m trying to get out of that shell and experiment with more things.
NA: How is your recognition going in US and Abroad? Is it growing? Are you happy with it?
Daniel: I actually don't know hahaha we don’t really check these things, but if it’s growing well that would be nice but if not that’s okay as well…
The path to music
NA: Is it easy to find producers and studios where you lived for indie-rock?
Daniel: I don’t actually know as well, we really just keep to ourselves so we record and produce everything ourselves without looking for external help.
NA: Was it a community work to try to have the best sounding music possible or mainly driven by the sound engineer or by the band?
Daniel: I’ll mix it according to how I hear the song in my head, then I show it to the rest for the feedback and then work on it accordingly.
NA: Can you tell us how the recording process was?
Daniel: We have a whole documentary on that!
NA: Any interesting anecdotes on some recording session you would like to share?
Daniel: We recorded everything at our friend’s studio (he was interning there) but there were some complications with the rest for the place and the studio ended up closing down, so we lost all the tracks and had to start from scratch… but luckily we backed up the drum tracks.
NA: Instruments: are you mainly a Fender band? Could you tell me what inspire you to use fenders rather than other brands?
Daniel: Yes we love the single coil sound. Like most bands, we’re inspired by the band we looked up to and they all used Fender style guitars so it made sense.
NA: A question for a future paper I have in mind: if you use often a Fender Jaguar, could you tell me more about what makes it good to play (sound, neck, …). I find there are a lot of noise artists that are using this guitar and I am interested to know why.
Daniel: I don't use a Jaguar, but I use the Jazzmaster which is still under the same roof. I love the thick and bright sound it has, and you can get a lot of variety of sounds with it when you make use of the different controls. I love the weight of the guitar and the feel of the neck. I love the floating vibrato system. I love how feedbacky it can get. I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT IT!! But it’s definitely not for everyone, it comes with its own set of quirks which you may or may not love.
NA: Tell us what you are looking at when trying to achieve your sounds? Do you experiment a lot or have a clear idea of what you want?
Daniel: Whatever serves the song. We usually experiment around until it feels right.
NA: Singapore Shoegazing is not very well known internationally. Could you tell us more about it?
Daniel: There’s really not that much shoegaze bands, and they don’t play that regularly too. I don't know why… check out our good friends and label mates Cosmic Child
NA: Is it easy for a Singapore indie band to be known internationally? Do you have any example?
Daniel: I think any band from any country can be known internationally if they try. Does Sobs count?
NA: What is the next album due?
Daniel: Hopefully by August
NA: Do you plan to continue music for a long time or are you tired of it?
Daniel: Right now I’m tired of it…
SOME MORE ABOUT THE BAND AND THEIR MUSIC
A very nice video of their track 2daze is available on youtube:
Their youtube channel has some good music videos but also some documentaries about the band.
Where can you buy their music
Their presence on the web
For more reading on the band and their music, you can read the following features:
- Band presentation on Asia Times
- In-depth interview on Singapore Esplanade
- Strawberry Feels review in The 405
We hope you enjoyed discovering the band and their music. Support them in buying their music, following them on social media, sharing their music and this article.