Blink of an Eye with Obedient Wives Club
Vocals, Synth // YinQi Lee
Guitar // Keith Tan
Guitar/Backup Vocals // Cherie Ko
Bass // Sulaiman Supian
Drums // Lennat Mak
Hello OBW, how would you like to introduce yourself to anyone who has just heard your name for the first time?
Lennat: It’s very strange that everyone gets our band acronym wrong. It’s OWC (oops!). I’ve seen so many variations that it amuses me. What is it that gets people confused? Ha!
Anyways, answering this question makes me feel ancient. Obedient Wives Club happened in a time when indie music was quite the flavour of the day. We did catch the lo-fi indie wave pretty on point, if you ask me. Now we are probably one of the few OG bands along side Cashew Chemists and Pleasantry who kinda defined the years between 2012 - 2015. In simple terms, we are a band that plays really simple indie-pop music ‘coz none of us are very good at our instruments. We masquerade that as our charm.
That’s only a few years ago, could you explain why it felt like a different wave?
Lennat: Vibe was eclectic! Back then, Home Club was still around, so a lot of the local shows are being held there. I remember playing a show called Intravenus together with Pleasantry, Cashew Chemists and In Each Hand a Cutlass.
I believe with every era, bands come in waves. People will always be excited with the flavor of the day. What we had back then was the same as what we have today with Jasmine Sokko and Disco Hue in the pop scene and Subsonic Eye and Sobs with the indie rock scene. It sounds like the past because the bands of my time didn’t do enough to stay relevant with consistent releases to keep up with the new wave.
I see, when did you meet each other and start making music together?
Lennat: We all started as strangers. Along the way, some grew closer, some grew apart.
What emotions motivated your band to write the songs you ended up writing?
Lennat: It all depends on each of our perspectives. The songs are mainly written by Keith and YinQi. The only song I bothered was “Hann”. I wrote it when I was down with a fever and missed rehearsal that day. I was wondering about perspectives and the reality of truth - how different the same situation could mean to two people who are not in the same mind space. When we are living in parallels, we will never meet in the middle. Time can take on a way different value. I hate suffering from fevers that I can’t sweat out.
Keith: I come up with sad stories in my head and pen the lyrics from what I see... I think I was reading a lot of Evelyn McHale while working on the song "Requiem for a Lover." So while the song was about losing your love one in an accident, I wanted it to be poetic and beautiful like Evelyn’s suicide.
YinQi (YQ): I've always gravitated to songs by melodies; it's hard to pinpoint but you just know when a tune hits you right THERE. I often say chords are the skeletons of songs, so my aim was always to make sure that the meat I was adding could elevate the bare bones to a fully fleshed out song.
What are some of your musical influences? Any musical influences that are Asian?
Lennat: Warpaint for teaching me about beauty and Jasmine Sokko for giving me hope. I’ve never met someone quite like Jasmine Sokko - her drive and thirst for success are enthralling. In all my mentoring stints and guest lectures on artist management, she is the one artist that I would always cite. I wish I met her earlier even though the timeline would not make absolute sense. But if I did, I might be inspired to pay more attention to my craft as a musician.
Keith: Influences are constantly changing. Evident with the EPs we’ve put out. If I were to release something tomorrow, it’ll most probably be a jizz jazz record. Also never bothered if an artist is Asian or alien. Good music is good music.
What is happening with the band now?
Lennat: As a band, we are taking a hiatus ‘coz some time apart might inspire new music. Who knows? Life just takes over really. Career, family, health, interpersonal relationships, etc. I think the hard part is really to keep up with the lifestyle of playing in an active band where it’s still a hobby – which means it’s something you do AFTER the priorities are taken care of. The hiatus just means that we are taking things even more slowly. And just making music for ourselves. That’s the big difference – being hobbyists and careerists. It takes a lot more from each of us if we were to really take the band seriously versus something we do for fun.
But I’m keen to still re-release our second EP Murder Kill Baby on vinyl and to finish the two songs that are in limbo.
YQ: Age has brought us new challenges and priorities in life, so to echo what Lennat said - We're on a hiatus until we find ourselves musically again.
What do you feel about the local indie scene in Singapore?
Lennat: I love our music scene so much now. Acts are now more conscious of their branding and commercial viability. The ones that can really make it are the ones who know how to setup and release their music properly with the right marketing approach and business mindset. Musically, I have never seen the younger acts being so much more invested in developing their sound and craft.
What would you say is the biggest difference between your live concerts and your produced releases?
Lennat: We are shittier live, if you ask me. But I’d like to believe the songs take a life of their own on stage. Recordings are such a controlled production whereas live shows are exciting. You never really know where the songs will take you.
Keith: We are best experienced on record. I get extremely nervy live and I’ve never played a flawless show.
YQ: It's much more challenging to achieve the right balance of sound live, but the added bonus is that we get to bounce off the energy from the crowd - so, messy but alive, I guess!
Any crowds you guys remember specifically and mistakes at live concerts you could share?
Lennat: I love the crowd at Baybeats 2017. One of the best shows we’ve played. To be honest, we played too many shows to remember the details about mistakes and how each of us reacted to it. If you spot us smiling at each other on stage, chances are, we made a mistake and are laughing at ourselves. I sure hope the audience doesn’t notice the mistakes! And if they did, I hope they have a good laugh out of it too.
Do you guys care about being recognized as an Asian band?
Lennat: Doesn’t bother me a single bit really. I was born in Malaysia. Grew up in Singapore. But I hate traveling to Asian countries because I’d rather see and experience something that’s not remotely close to home. Does the Asian ceiling exist? Yes. Can I get out of it? I am who I am. Do I listen to music and wonder if they are Asian or not? Not at all.
Keith: Doesn’t matter. We’re just an indie pop band as much as the Raveonettes are.
YQ: Labels are just easy ways to inform each sphere of people who we are. We're Singaporean, Asian, Earthlings. Don't think it bothers us to be recognized either way!
What were the biggest differences in releasing your 3 EPs?
Lennat: The self-titled one was plug-and-go, “got sound can already.” Second EP was us progressing to be a little more produced. Third one almost didn’t come out. But life finds a way, and it even scored us a Laneway gig.
Keith: The self-titled debut was done in a rush. Because of Lennat’s fame, we had gigs before we had songs. I came up with 4 songs in a couple of weeks; the band completed them. At our second show, our friend discussed starting a label. We had enough for an EP and DIY-ed a record. The second EP, Murder Kill Baby, was us getting more ambitious; growing as a band and songs were thought-out. Alan Bok from TypeWriter who produced the EP contributed a lot to the sound. The third EP, Cinematica, is the truest OWC record. We didn’t care if the songs sounded like an OWC song. It’s a collection of really strong songs, OWC or not. The irony is that the most OWC sounding songs normally (songs with reverbs and feedback) didn’t make it on the EP.
Sorry, I actually did not know Lennat was famous before the band. Did you have another musical gig before?
Lennat: Keith is just having a go. I am not exactly “famous.” I played in a lot of other bands like Etc, Midnight Marvel, No Pantz and I am very active in the music scene as I also work as an artist and label marketing manager with Warner Music Singapore; working with acts like Disco Hue, Ffion, Jasmine Sokko. On the side I am also one of the Baybeats judges and mentors. And I also lecture at Lasalle for their Arts Management BA program. The local music scene is not that big. Everyone knows everyone. I probably know a lot more people due to my job nature.
Seven years is a long time; how does it feel to be in a band for so long?
Lennat: Like a bad soap opera, most of the time. We had our good and fun times, but most of it were way too much drama. I think it’s a miracle that we have 7 going onto 8 years today. I was reading the latest Paramore biography and related to them so much. But with what we had done together, we did make some really good songs and played some really fun shows. Personally, I’ve progressed on as an artist manager and am continuing to shape and help young acts write their own chapters in the local scene. Turns out I’m a better manager than I was a drummer. The irony, folks!
YQ: If OWC was a human in school, it'd be in primary 1. We shared some great memories and had experiences beyond our imagination!
If you could meet yourself when you first started the band what would like you to tell them?
Lennat: If there’s something I would like to tell my first year band self, it would be this: “Chill the fuck out.”
Keith: The same thing I tell myself now - never play sober.
YQ: I guess I'd tell my first year self, "You know nothing, Inky".
Out of many Asian bands we’ve seen, your band is a lot more open about drinking alcohol on Instagram. What are some of the best memories with it?
Lennat: I have these phases when I’m obsessed with a certain hobby and would indulge myself with reckless abundance. For the past couple of years, I was really into mixology, and learnt about all the liquors and spirits, how to mix them and tested them on my friends. A good drink work wonders. I once drank until I passed out on a plane. I personally love rum. It makes me feel like a pirate.
Keith: I cannot be sober while playing. Laneway might have been the only time because the band banned me from getting drunk before the set. If you had any memories of alcohol, you’re most probably not doing it right.
YQ: Oh my, we're all legally of age so we didn't think too much about posting about alcohol! Hahaha. There isn't much I won't drink, but I think I'd associate OWC most with whiskey. You didn't hear this from me, but there was a communal hip flask going around at some of our earlier gigs - liquid courage wooo!
Any fun drinking stories you’d like to share?
Lennat: We don’t get drunk as fuck on stage. Having one or two shots of whisky loosens us up. Sometimes we will head over to Keith and YinQi’s place to hangout and have dinner. That’s when we will just drink. And even so, it’s in moderation. Grown-ups stuff. Cherie and Sulaiman don’t even like drinking for that matter.
Imagine if you are going to Mars, will you take a book or a cat?
Keith: Book - Sophie’s World because it’ll take lifetime to finish.
YQ: Cat. By the end of our time on Mars, the kitty WILL LOVE ME.
Kaya toast or Laksa?
Lennat: Laksa with loads of cockles!
Keith: Just toast with really good butter.
YQ: Laksa. I used to accompany my order with a refrain of "mai hum, mai hiam, mai tau geh", but that has been trimmed to simply "mai tau geh" cos Keith eats all the hiam and the hum.
Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
Lennat: The Beatles, always. Fun fact: I was named after Lennon.
Keith: Brian Wilson 4eva.
YQ: The Beatles.
Final Question - Chopsticks or Forks?
Keith: Forks. Can’t handle chopsticks. I once cried as a kid cos the place I was eating at didn’t have forks.
YQ: Chopsticks. Can't take the cheena out of me.
Last Updated January 6, 2019