Look what we have here. A bevy of bands lined up for the 10th instalment, and sadly, the last one. From jazz pianist Robert Glasper, to British singer-songwriter Lucy Rose - the diverse range of artists for Mosaic Music Festival this year assures that there is something for everyone. Stretching over various venues at the Esplanade from 7-16 March, Mosaic will be presenting a schedule of exciting shows, and even some free ones.
In this series, we talk to four different artists under the Mosaic Club header, who will be performing at the theatre studio. Australian dream pop outfit Alpine whose rise to fame saw them performing from some dingy clubs to embarking on a US tour - and even performing alongside heavy metal bands. We also hear from post-rockers Caspian get a bit serious talking about their music and labels on genres, and finally, our very own Charlie Lim, is the first one to have a sold-out show at Mosaic and we geek out with him over the Grammy's and Mosaic memories.
Couple of years ago, you guys were performing at Northcote Social Club (I was there!) and now you're performing festivals everywhere. How are you taking it all in?
I loved those shows! I’d actually love to go back and play there, that place is rad. I guess it’s been a steady build up for us, so it’s been cool to see the crowds slowly getting bigger. The last few festivals we played around Australia were pretty insane though. At Splendour I spent the whole show with a giant dumb grin on my face.
Tell us about some of the crazier shows you've played.
The last US tour was pretty wild. We’d go from playing these giant theatres with Empire Of The Sun, then straight to a dirty bar or weird little underground club. But the weirdest bit was getting to a show in Sacramento where the promoter had booked us to play with 3 super-heavy metal bands. Maybe he thought we were someone else?
You guys are called 'Alpine', and it sounds very dream pop - how much has Melbourne influenced your music really?
Well, we’re kind of from all over, so maybe our influences are a bit different. We felt a bit out of place in the Melbourne scene when we first started out. But saying that, being able to go out every night of the week and see pretty much any kind of music you could imagine is really cool.
When you were coming together as a band, was it a planned decision to have two people on lead vocals?
Pretty much. Phoebe and Lou have known each other forever, and it just seemed to perfect a thing to not have both of them singing. We never really thought of it being unusual, it just seemed like such a natural thing.
For those who have yet to see Alpine live, how would you describe your show?
Loud! It’s fun, we dance badly, and occasionally one of us will fall over. What more could you want?
We have to say, it's been a long time coming. A lot of people are waiting to see you guys in Singapore! What have you heard about our city and what do you look forward to the most?
I have heard that it is a beautiful and very clean place. I know that your country has many advancements in design and technology. A tour like this is so exciting for us because we get to visit new places. This is definitely a spot I have waited a long time to see.
The label 'post-rock' - what do you think about it and what does it mean to you?
To me post-rock encompasses this branch of music that involves ambience and texture. Often it is equated to the idea of purely instrumental music but I think it captures something beyond that. Really, rock is evolving and this is a step in a new direction. It has given us the opportunity to take the setup of a rock band and approach it from more of a classical perspective. We write guitar symphonies.
Do you think labels constrict the artist?
I think they can but that has not been the case for us. It seems if you get on a major label, some or maybe even a lot of the shots are called by the label. We have worked hard to get to a place where we still have full creative control and that is undeniably important to us. We are all in this because we love music and writing music and for any bit of that to be stripped from us would simply be a shame. Our label, Triple Crown Records, has taken really good care of us. I have learned that working with professionals is everything in this business. It helps you become one too. TCR has certainly helped us advance so I think it’s all about finding the right people to back you up.
As an instrumental band, how is the songwriting and creative process like?
To simply put it, we either begin with an idea someone has or we jam and find something we like. From that point we begin to work the idea. We will work for a few hours to advance the music and then record what we have created. We then go home and listen to it until the next rehearsal, analyzing and trying to come up with ideas in the meantime. That is pretty much where we are at up till this point but things are always evolving and that is part of what keeps it exciting. We need to write a new record now and I am sure the process will tighten in some new way. It will be interesting to see how we can make the process even better this time.
Have you always made your albums to be played in long form or has your approach to songwriting been song-based?
When writing an album, we are always thinking about the soundscape as a whole. The flow of a record is very important to our music and while we try not to let that constrict the parts, there is an overall form that needs to come together. Placement of each new piece is critical to establishing the overall momentum of the record. We want the first listen to be an experience, connected and perhaps speaking something. But an experience in unison for certain.
We have Waking Season on vinyl and it sounds really great. With streaming services and the recent vinyl resurgence, are you hopeful for a better change in the structure of the payment of artist royalties?
Not entirely. I think as an independent musician in this day and age you have to let go of the idea of making a lot of money on the royalty side of things, at least as far as CDs and vinyl goes. The streaming services don’t really pay that well. I think the benefit is that people have easier access to it. All they have to know is your name. For a band like us, having our music placed in movies or advertisements is really the only circumstance we can hope for financial profitability and that is kind of like winning the lottery.
The new album is a next level sort of cinematic, what were you guys going through while making the record?
Honestly we were in the midst of this fight for our band. We had been saving up for years to be able to make that record, tour after tour after tour. It was also a moment where we all really came together for the good of making music. We put aside ourselves more in that time of creativity than any other time I have experienced with a group of people in any fashion. I think you really need to do that in order for something to be pure. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, making that record.
What can we expect from the Caspian show(s) for Mosaic?
I think our music is about the struggle and fight in life. We are very passionate performers and we really give our all at every show. Expect to be moved and maybe even for a moment forget you are here in this life. At times, when we play, we go somewhere else for a while and we hope that you will come with us.
Charlie! How has UK been for you?
Hey guys! London is cold, wet and miserable but I love it. I guess it has been a nice break from all the hustle and I got a bit more perspective on things from being in a different place for a while. I’m enrolling in a short music production course here at the end of the year so am looking forward to that.
Is there anything in the works for you now in the music-making department?
Still working on the Time/Space double EP…hopefully it’ll be out by end July! Fingers and toes crossed. But I’m also working on a handful of collaborations and writing/producing for a couple of artists as well, just to keep things interesting.
We know you're a huge music geek so… what is your honest take on the Grammy's (and the winners)?
Everyone’s getting pissed off about Macklemore stealing Kendrick’s Grammy…I don’t even think Kendrick gives a shit. It’s all just fun and games in a frivolous, gossipy Hollywood sort of way that nobody should take too seriously I reckon. Winning a Grammy definitely earns you public recognition but people have to realise it’s always political. I think that artistic validation should never be based on an award regardless of how prestigious it may be.
Anyone you're keen to catch on this Mosaic lineup?
I’m arranging to get tickets for Olafur, Pizzarelli, Mclaughlin, Cat Empire and maybe Washed Out. I’ve seen Glasper a couple of times already but am definitely going again. I’ll be doing a songwriting workshop with Lucy Rose; we played the same stage at Clockenflap in Hong Kong last year so it would be nice to catch up!
What do you think of this year being the last Mosaic Festival?
I think it’s very bittersweet. People have to understand the reason why Mosaic started in the first place, and I know that the Esplanade have achieved what they’ve originally set out to do, so huge congrats to them. It has always been about the music and setting up a proper local infrastructure for acts to play. Now that there are heaps of platforms for both local and international artists in Singapore, I’m sure the programming team will come up with something that will raise the bar even higher.
How will your set in Mosaic be different from your other shows?
Part of the show will be an exclusive preview of brand new material that’s going to be on the upcoming record. The songs will be pretty raw as we’ve never performed them live before; in fact we’ll be heading into the studio straight after Mosaic to begin tracking. I suppose it would be like a pilot episode for whoever’s coming, and that’s as exciting as it is nerve-wrecking.
We’re working on proper visual projection that would reflect the whole duality aspect of the Time/Space double EP. Brandon Tay from Syndicate is on board; I’ve never worked with a visual artist before, so this will be a lot of fun and will definitely bring the whole live experience to the next level.
My band The Mothership (Jase Sng on bass, Euntaek Kim on keys, Wen Ming Soh on drums, Adam Shah on electronics/percussion, Kerong Chok on organ, Mark John Hariman on Guitar) has been playing together for a while now and I think we’re getting a lot tighter - not just on a technical level, but also being in the moment as a unit and playing off each other… that kind of thing really excites me and you’ll be seeing much more of that.