Presented by Vans
Vans Musicians Wanted returns this year for its third and biggest competition yet. This year's judges include rapper THELIONCITYBOY and Azean Rot, who manages Singapore's premier grindcore outfit Wormrot.
THELIONCITYBOY needs little introduction. He's one of Singapore's biggest rappers, known for his high octane performances at Laneway Festival earlier this year, and at the F1 Singapore Grand Prix last year. The rapper also features on this year's National Day theme song.
As the manager of Wormrot, Azean Rot has overseen these grindcore heroes' growth over the years. They've recently come back from a North American tour, and some might remember that last year Wormrot also snagged a slot at the world-famous Glastonbury festival at the Earache Records-curated stage, making them the first Singaporean band to play the festival. Azean has also overseen tours by other metal bands as a booking agent at Doomstar Bookings.
We spoke to the two on what they want to see from this year's competition, advice they have for the bands and more.
What's a mistake that lots of rookie musicians make?
Azean: New bands tend to push themselves too hard at times. To a certain extend they are almost running out of ideas. Making music should be fun and intriguing. Once you have hit rock bottom of songwriting, it will lead to unsatisfying results. In some cases, artists or bands try to sound too much like the bands they listen to. Which is not a bad thing, getting accustomed to your intended genre before carving your own sonic waves.
I really believe in creating your own "sound". When people listen to your music, immediately they will know it’s you. Another thing is, some bands try to be creative by incorporating too many genres in their music. It's ok if the layout of the whole song fits with different kinds of riffs, beats and melody but sometimes it made the song very confusing to listeners, hence basically destroying the song.
THELIONCITYBOY: Don’t overthink the performance when you’re on stage. Do all the prep before you get on it so when you’re up there it’s just fun and energy! Never mind what you say what other artists did on a YouTube video. Just be you, the audience always knows if you’re trying to be somebody else.
With the availability of digital platforms like social media and streaming platforms, why is a band competition like this still important in this day and age?
Azean: Social media and streaming platforms are good if you have thousands of friends/followers following you. But not everyone owns a smartphone or actually follow news of new bands/artists every single day. Too many bands and artists think that just by sharing your songs/videos on social media can get them recognition. This is untrue.
Music competitions are important to allow the new bands/artists to perform on stage and show the viewers what they are really made of. Listening to their album on your earphones/speakers and actually watching them live is not the same. Plus, a music competition will push the artists and bands to do their best and give their all.
TLCB: The live performance is what decides the longevity of a musician's career. For all the numbers on digital platforms, if you can’t win over the crowd, it’ll make your journey so much harder. VANS is acting like a manager for you: they’re giving you a platform, a gate in to meeting industry people, a chance for you to bring your fans to a venue and to win over some new ones and then after all that, they [find] you a gig overseas with one of the biggest artist in the music landscape.
What’s your biggest piece of advice to local bands trying to make it big?
Azean: Get out of your comfort zone; create a routing, book your own shows overseas and tour. Play as many shows as you can overseas. Send your music to labels. Do not approach booking agents to book your overseas shows when you are trying to tour overseas for the first time because usually for unknown bands who wish to play shows in Europe for example, show fees are usually door deals or very low.
You WILL lose a lot of money when you tour because you need to spend money on printing your merch, paying for driver/van, gas, food/drinks as well as tolls. But these are the sacrifices you need to face if you wish to promote your music. The more you tour, the stronger you are mentally and the more you understand how the music industry really works. It’s really all about discipline, sacrifices and pushing yourself beyond your capabilities.
TLCB: Know your goals and work towards them. Not every piece of advice works for everyone because of our goals are different. Come to peace with what you have to do and how hard you have to work to get there.
Why should musicians sign up for Vans Musicians Wanted?
Azean: Have the experience. Test yourselves to be ‘judged’. In a band, you will be judged constantly on and off stage. It is very important to know that you are representing your music and vice versa. Any exposure is good exposure. Granted an opportunity, grab it and use it. Your platform has been set. Shine through.
TLCB: This opportunity is amazing!
You have now till 20 July to submit your music to Vans Musicians Wanted 2018 here. For more info on prizes and how voting works, click here.