We don’t often hear music from Singapore, but why? Is it a lack of musicians in the country or not enough exposure to the Western world? I am sure it’s not the shortage of talent as Singapore is overflowing with gifted artists, including The Observatory, Arif, A-do, Aspidistrafly and Falling Feathers, just to name a few. While the music industry is more into content rather than quality, many talented musicians, particularly unsigned ones, have little to no chance of being noticed. Having said that, thanks to the power of social media, many artists are able to engage with a wider audience, including the one abroad.
m1sty as1oth is an interesting newcomer. Consisting of vocalist/writer Benny’s, drummer Jolin, bassist/producer Russell and keyboardist/producer Ou Wen, the group came together through “never-ending exploration of their own musical journey”. The Singaporean band debuted in July of this year with Take It, the first song from their upcoming full-length album. And as stated by m1sty as1oth “the track’s combination of pensiveness, internal conflict, and lyrical comedy leads its listeners on a light-hearted journey together with it.” Take It is a strong production that showcases a flawless synergy between the feisty instrumentals and good vocals.
m1sty as1oth often draws inspiration from their vastly diverse backgrounds; they write, record, and produce at home with their occasional fifth ghost member, m1sty the cat. m1sty as1oth is set to release their upcoming album in the near future with songs that will mix genres while exploring the musical landscape.
We recently spoke to the group about their musical journey, song writing process, inspiration and wider vision for the future.
Image © m1sty as1oth
Before discussing how m1sty as1oth band came to life, let’s talk about your debut release, Take It. What was the creative process like behind your debut single?
m1sty as1oth: The idea came about when Russell was rushing for his final year assignment. Creativity wise, it was a late-night adrenaline rush to complete. He came up with the opening guitar melody and drum pattern simultaneously and everything unfolded from then on.
Benny’s: Initially, I didn’t have any inspiration to write, but as the chorus played, I started to hum a melody out. The words “Take, Take it” then came to mind and it stuck. From there, I naturally started flowing with the lyrics for the first verse. The idea about being alone at night and getting robbed came into my mind, but since the chorus had the word “contemplating”, I decided to make it about an indecisive robbery.
How did your journey of becoming musicians begin? And when did you decide that you wanted to form the band?
Benny’s: I don’t know. It might have started for me as a young girl when I couldn’t stop humming ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ by Savage Garden or when I first played some random tune on a toy keyboard my parents got me. I’ve just been very drawn to music since I was young.
Russell: I’ve been in the school’s band from primary through secondary school and since then, I fell in love with performing live for an audience. Although I’m mainly a bassist now, I used to play in the percussion section. Having a wide variety of instruments to experiment and play with really helped to boost my interest in music and the boundaries it has to offer.
Ou Wen: I discovered my friends playing the piano when I was 12 and I attempted to learn it by mimicking their actions. As a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, playing the piano quickly became a way for me to practise staying focused and it eventually turned into something I was passionate about.
Jolin: My dad used to play drums! So, as a kid I was really drawn to it and one day after his lesson, I just asked my mom if I could learn it as well! Everything just progressed from there.
m1sty as1oth: It started out at first with Benny’s, Russell and Jolin as an experimental band, but we took a hiatus shortly after forming it. Ou Wen then came into the picture and glued the band together by constantly pushing us to go beyond our boundaries. After recording for ‘Take It’, we officially decided to continue working with each other to make more tracks!
Image © m1sty as1oth
Could you tell us more about the name of the band? Who came up with it and why?
m1sty as1oth: This is a funny question because we were all deciding a band name one night at Russell’s place, and we decided to name ourselves after Russell’s cat Misty (the laziest cat ever). Because of her laziness, we decided to add on Asloth to the name because Benny’s telegram username at that time was Asloth and we thought that a sloth was perfect to describe Misty.
In general, what kind of approach do you use when writing and producing your own music?
m1sty as1oth: We try to churn out as many ideas in a short amount of time because they would all have the same energy in them. Most of the time, Ou Wen would be the one who sends a bunch of instrumental demos and if we liked the vibe of the track, we would come together (mainly at Russell’s place) to brainstorm what we feel could be added on to make it a full track. A big part of our approach stems from the creativity and emotions we feel at the moment.
What did you listen to while growing up and what were and are your musical influences?
Benny’s: Tough question, but I guess my constants are Slowdive, Mojave 3 and beabadoobee.
Russell: My top influences are definitely Joe Dart of Vulfpeck and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Ou Wen: The 1975, as I am constantly amazed by their ingenious writing and out of the world production ideas. Their musical talent is simply one of a kind.
Jolin: I’ve got the biggest crush on Hayley Williams from Paramore!! And also George Daniel from The 1975!
Image © m1sty as1oth
Looking at the music industry, and since you formed the band, have you suffered any ‘resistance’ or scepticism from within the industry? What would you say are currently your main artistic challenges? Has being an artist changed other aspects of your life?
m1sty as1oth: For the first part of the question, we feel that the genres we are approaching are not exactly “mainstream” in our country and there are fewer people who appreciate what we put out. As a band that’s not signed to any label, we have to do and fund everything ourselves which limits our connection and opportunities to get the same amount of exposure to the media as a mainstream artist would.
An artistic challenge we face a lot as a budding band is trying to find our unique sound/touch and putting out something that stands out from what is already out there. Being artists made us realise that the road towards becoming a great band isn’t easy, but we are always trying to work on ourselves individually and as a band to pursue what it means to be great.
Improvisation is a large part of the creative process. How strictly do you separate improvising and composing when it comes to your own work?
m1sty as1oth: Our band mainly works because of our improvisation. Ou Wen pointed out that in terms of percentages, we are 95% Improvisation and 5% Composition. We believe in working based on our gut instinct rather than just what’s in front of us. For us, we treat each track as our playground, we don’t have any set rules or a way to go about it. Rather, we play around with anything that’s available and broaden our minds to even more ideas that could work now or even in the future.
Who motivates you to work hard and stay on track?
m1sty as1oth: Initially, it was a joke in our band to say that Ou Wen is a big reason why we keep working hard and pushing ourselves, but it has now become reality. We always dream of being on par with Ou Wen’s efficiency and creativity as he would rather work on his craft than take a moment to rest.
Image © m1sty as1oth
You draw your inspiration from vastly diverse backgrounds. However, your debut single is deeply rooted in rock. Although it is your first officially released track, where do you aspire to fit in? Do you want to play strictly rock or would you like to make music of a different genre someday?
m1sty as1oth: We’re currently very flexible with our genres as we’re still finding our own unique sound. However, we would love to dabble in genres such as Pop Funk and Metalcore. As we LOVE infusing foley and ambient elements into our tracks, we’re hoping to use them and experiment further.
When you are not working, what do you do to get away from it all and relax?
Russell: Binge-watch YouTube videos.
Benny: I crochet and watch K-dramas (currently watching Guardians and I highly recommend it).
Jolin: I play lots of games (especially Genshin!).
Ou Wen: I just find other songs to mix.
Looking at the current situation, what’s your wider vision? What do you hope to achieve within the next year or so?
m1sty as1oth: We’re hoping we get to have a full-length album and perform it in front of a live audience. We actually have a single coming out really soon around September, but we are already working on a few other tracks to release in the coming months/year. We hope to get more recognition locally and internationally as we progress in our journey.
Image © m1sty as1oth
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, arts and fashion, worldwide.