Having won “Best live performance” at the Golden Indie awards this year, indie Rock band Gigantic Roar has already internalised this success and powered forward with their Winter performance tour. The amazing part is, debuting less than four years the boys have already set their musical sights on the entirety of Asia. This time around, they haven’t only toured Taiwan performing, but also have plans to bring their infectious passion and music to Southeast Asia’s big and small cities including Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and of course Singapore. In just a few days the four boys hailing from Kaohsiung, Taiwan will be touching down in Singapore for their concert which brings them temporary respite from their busy touring schedules. Even taking the time to conduct an email interview with them has turned into just a quick Q n A due to their back-to-back performances! But nevertheless, these short twelve questions have served well in reflecting Gigantic Roar’s persistence in their music, their views on society, and their exciting stories and experiences that they’ve accumulated on their musical journey.
1.It’s the first time you guys are performing in Singapore, how do you feel?
Wang (lead singer): I haven’t been, I need to visit before I’ll know!
Huang (drummer): I feel like Singapore will be very hot… (editor’s note: You’re not wrong Tang Xuan!)
2. I know you are all passionate about music. When was it that you first discovered your interest in music?
Huang (drummer): When I was three I went with my sister to music class, at that time I really liked singing together with the big brothers and sisters, at this young age I realised that I was more able than others to remember melodies and rhythm.
Wei (Guitar): When I was in primary school that was the first time my father played Woodstock’s documentary for me to see.
Hou (Bass): When I was in primary six I heard Christine Hsu’s “Rose Life”
Wang (Vocals): When my computer first downloaded Jay Chou’s album “Common Jasmine Orange”
3. How did you come up with the band’s name?
It came from a set of lyrics by Chinese band PK14.
4.Last year you released an EP, can you tell readers a bit about the EP’s concept?
Wang (Vocals): A story about coming to Taipei from Kaohsiung, the psychological changes that occur when you first reach the city, changes in mood. People will always give up something they originally had in order to chase their different aims.
5. A few months ago you won “Best live performance” at the Golden Indie Awards. Were you nervous on the day, or were you more relaxed?
Hou (Bass)& Wang(Vocalist): Very nervous, very nervous, really very nervous.
Wei (Guitar): The Ma-Xi meet was happening on that day (Taiwan president Ma Ying-Jeou and Chinese president Xi Jinping), I honestly was very angry, the Taiwanese all really dislike his behaviour.
6. What kind of feelings do you have about winning at the Golden Indie Awards?
Hou (Bass): Pretty happy!
Wei (Guitar): Although I’m happy, I still feel that I have a lot of space for improvement.
Wang (Vocalist): It urges me to become better and better!
Huang (Drums): I feel that the most important part about winning is being able to see those around you be happy, and at the same time thank a lot of those who have been silently supporting us.
7. Most recently we hear you’ve been working on your new album, can you reveal a little bit about what’s been going on in production lately?
Hou (Bass): In order to record one song I am going to learn slap (note: Slap-bass is a kind of playing technique)
Wang (Vocalist): I’m very excited about my works
Wei (Guitar): It’s a really awesome album! Everyone must come and have a listen!
8. What kind of influence or emotions do you wish your music to evoke in audiences?
Hou (Bass): Hope audiences can recognise the ingenuity of our music!
Wei (Guitar): Everyone should be more happy! Indulge in the music!
9. If you could pick any musician to work with, who would you pick?
Wang (Vocalist): Michael Jackson
Wei (Guitarist): Zeng Guo Hong (band Sunset Rollercoaster’s vocalist and guitarist)
10. Singapore is most famous for its eats such as Chilli Crab, Hainanese Chicken Rice, so on and so forth. Do you have any places you’d like to go or things you’d like to eat while you’re here?
Wang(Vocalist) & Hou (Bass): Anything good to eat!!!
11. Singapore’s audiences are actually pretty ‘cool’. Do you have confidence in bringing them a ‘high’ performance?
12. Lastly, being an independent musician is not an easy task. If you could give a few tips to those who want to get into the business, what would you say to them?
Wang (Vocalist): Focus on doing what you love!
Hou (Bass): Don’t think too much, good luck!
Want to get to know the four boys a little better? Singaporean fans have a chance to catch them up close and personal on the 14th of December at Timbre by Switch (Bras Basah MRT). Their performance will be from 7pm to 8.30pm, featuring special guests Felix Felicis. Entrance is free.
Borrowing a line from singer Yen-J’s lyrics, it can be said that one of the quirkiest bands of this year , Felix Felicis are like fireworks, temporary yet vibrant. Calling themselves a ‘limited edition’ side project, the four members are from tour different well-known bands on the Taiwanese indie music scene; Come on! Bay bay!, Gigantic Roar, Elephant Gym and Chocolate Tiger. Each having their own distinct musical style, they have now come together to create a diverse yet fresh set of chemistry. Allowing each other to challenge personal musical limits is one of the reasons Felix Felicis has started their band, but they also represent a temporary, yet exciting musical experiment. Being formed less than a year ago, the group has decided to part ways soon due to all of them having other musical commitments. So like I said, Fireworks! It has certainly been my honour to record down their unique musical advancements and chemistry before the four of them part ways, while understanding their thoughts in regards to their upcoming performance as special guest for Gigantic Roar at their upcoming concert in Singapore.
1.It’s your first time performing in Singapore as a band, what are your thoughts?
Really excited! When we first started this band, we’d never thought we would have the chance to go to Hong Kong, Malaysia let alone Singapore. Aside from each of our separate experiences playing in our own bands, our time together as Felix Felicis has been very short. We worked hard to write a new album of songs, so being able to take these works overseas and give them to listeners is something that is really fulfilling, we really hope everyone enjoys it!
2.Your band members come from a few very well-known independent bands in Taiwan such as Elephant Gym, Gigantic Roar, Come on! Bay Bay! and Chocolate Tiger. Why did you wish to create this band?
The journey to creating this band was full of coincidences and luck, and the end of last year Elephant Gym took a break due to one member going off to serve National Service. Bass players Tiffany Cheng and Enno Cheng took this time during band practice to write a few songs. One day, Gigantic Roar’s Birdy Hou (Bassist)happened to be passing by, and just asked casually if he could play with us. After a period of time we met Orange Grass band (now Come on! Bay Bay!)’s drummer Birdman, and tried asking him if he wanted to join our band. (The funny part is, Kaiting and Pai Di weren’t very acquainted with BirdMan). After practicing together a few times and producing many works, this side project got off to a very good start!
3.Where did the name of your band come from?
Tiffany Cheng: During the Winter time in Taiwan, they sell a kind of pillow that can be used to warm your hands (you can stuff your hands inside), I always call it Xiao Fu Qi (Little Luck). Because our band was created in the Winter so we called it Xiao Fu Qi (Little Luck). As for the English name, it comes from a kind of magic solution found in Harry Potter. In Chinese its called Fu Lai Fu Xi, once you drink it you will have a whole day of good luck!
4.Last year you guys released an album, would you be able to explain its concept to your audience?
This album including intro has nine songs, its name was “A bunch of assholes”, because at the beginning every song was imagined to be a human, which is how names were chosen. And these people, some of them were pessimistic, others cynical, others cocky, and so when you put them altogether it would make a bunch of assholes! Every song of ours is extremely different, with fresh images, just like every person having different personalities.
5.I know you are all people who are passionate about music. When was it that you realized your interest in music?
Born to love music!
6.What kind of influence or emotions do you wish your music presents to its audiences?
On the whole we hope that it is a new and fresh listening experience, because we challenged ourselves to do things that are less familiar to us (such as Tiffany playing the synthesisers, Enno being in charge of the guitar, Birdy plucking strings etc.), hoping listeners can feel the adventurousness and quirkiness of our music. We also hope that some songs can allow everyone to have space to think, and ponder on their life values.
7.Being an independent musician is not an easy task. If you were to give some suggestions to those who wish to get into the scene, what would you tell them?
Build up your own core values for creating music, and think about exactly why you want to create music? Try your best to not be affected by trivialities and to be influenced by them. (But this is really hard).
8.If you an choose one musician to work with, who would you choose?
This is so hard! K.flay! (Just going ahead and naming an impossible choice)
9.Singapore is most well-know for its eats, like Chilli Crab, Hainanese Chicken Rice and so on. While you’re here is there anywhere you’d like to go or anything you’d like to eat?
Whatever it is, we wish to immerse ourselves into consumption behavior (what we will consume has no limits).
10.Singapore’s audiences are actually pretty ‘cold’. Do you have faith in allowing them to have a rocking time at your performance?
We will try! Come on! We will fight to the death to allow you guys to feel like you’ve got your money’s worth!
11.We hear that you are unsure when is the next time you can work together. Is Felix Felicis disbanding?
Yes we are! Although it is a pity, because of large amounts of performances and recordings, band members continue to increase in chemistry and get along more smoothly, but because next year Tiffany will be going to Japan, everyone else also has their own plans (busying themselves with albums or solo projects), so in the near future we won’t be performing. But we still hope that we can get back together at some special events, and occasionally have band practice together to try and write more cool new songs!
Friends in Singapore, if you don’t want to miss out on this chance to appreciate some good music, come down to Timbre by Switch on the 14th of December; Felix Felicis will be Gigantic Roar’s opening act that night. The performance runs from 7 to 8.30pm, entrance is free.
Interview by: Jamie Lee
Feature and interview material translation by: Jocelle Koh
Author's note: Once again, its been my absolute pleasure to collaborate with Jamie Lee, the writer behind prolific Taiwanese music blog Jamie Deer music. Here we've used a translation of excerpts of his most recent interview with singer Yen-J, pieced together into a feature article about the all-rounder's personal growth. Enjoy!
Yen-J has come a long way since he entered the music industry as a fresh-faced newbie at the tender age of 19. Now 27, it seems that the two-year break he had from the industry has done him a world of good, leaving him wiser, and more in touch with himself as a person.
“Before we turn 18, you can say we are in the protection phase. We don’t really have the ability so we are always relying on our elders to watch over us. Then when we reach 18, its like “yes! We’re adults” …But actually we are not that strong. I feel like we are in a ‘Supported’ stage. The person supporting you may be a lover, or a boss or friends, just people you trust. And so these people’s ideas will accumulate on your person and you will become a jigsaw puzzle of many people’s parts. Once you finally overcome this stage you can go into the “Infinite phase” where you don’t have anything that can influence you anymore... Once you get to this stage, you finally become a unique individual in this universe. Just like how no one star is identical in the universe, you are like that star. So I feel like I’m moving towards that point.”
But taking time off from the bustling music scene doesn’t mean that the creative singer-songwriter has been slacking off in the least. Between 2013 and 2015, he has written over 220 songs out of which 21 made the cut to his two latest albums, “Thanksgiving” and “Why?Art?”. He spoke fervently of his songwriting process as more emotional healing than anything else.
“When you are free of stress-I feel like the process didn’t even feel like songwriting anymore, it’s more like a journal. If you only write in it once a month, sometimes you may forget to write in it. But if you write in it everyday, after that you would feel like there was something amiss, and have to go back and write in it.”
In fact, these 220 songs were inspired in part from Yen-J’s questioning of his dreams and measurement of success over the last two years, which forged the concept for his “Thanksgiving” album.
“A child’s blood-relations with you can never be broken. Money and all these material things when compared to it have no value, because such things last for a lifetime. All these other things are like clouds; with a gust of wind, they’ve blown away. So with this concept in mind, I wrote a lot of the songs in the “Thanksgiving” album, such as “Little Angel” and “You are my everything”, so on and so forth.”
When asked which of his two latest albums “Thanksgiving” and “Why?Art?” he liked better, his answer was fair, yet honest:
“Each of them is made of my own flesh, blood and tears. But I feel that Y6 is like the black sheep in a family. So my six albums are like my six children. Y6 represents the most strange one that needs the most care. So I feel that being able to let everyone hear Y6’s music makes me very happy. Because he is a part of me that I rarely take out and show everyone. I believe that everyone has a hidden side to them, and won’t show that off at every opportunity of performance or with first impressions bring it out. But since I’ve already been in the business for six years, bringing this side of me out for audiences is a good thing.”
I’ve been a huge fan of Yen-J since the start of his career, and creative as he may be, I’ve always wanted to see him push his limits as a creative type, producing fusions of sounds that were hard-hitting and critical, rather than his usual light-hearted and relaxing stuff. So in my opinion, this two-year break has done a world of good for the talented guy, allowing him to create music that was risky yet honest; supplying him with courage and the mental capacity to take on even greater challenges in his musical career. I for one, certainly look forward to what he’s going to do next.
Yen-J's 5th and 6th albums "Thanksgiving" and "Why?Art?" are out now on iTunes and in stores.