So far, they’ve played for Rock The World 2011 and have had a song (“Old School Days”) nominated for the recent VIMA 2013 Music Awards. Not bad for a fairly new Malaysian band, we feel.
The four-man band consists of brothers Joel and Jeremiah Dass, the frontman and drummer respectively, electric axeman Eric Tham, and bassist Kenneth Boo. They’re also an outspokenly Christian band, a rare thing in the local music industry. Incidentally, Joel is also a Taylor’s Uni alumnus, and is now making a living as an accountant. TAYLORMADE caught up with Joel, Jeremiah and Eric recently (Kenneth was unable to make it) to find out what makes them tick, and how they balance work and passion.
TM: Does your being a Christian band cause you to run into any barriers in the scene? How do people react when you tell them that you’re a Christian band?
ERIC: When people endorse your music, it doesn’t mean that you have to be so blunt and direct with them. All they want is good music. Good music transcends a lot of barriers. So I wouldn’t say there is any barrier at all.
JOEL: That’s right. And you can quote me on this, if you want: our faith in God, and God himself, has broken down the barriers. Our first song (“Ten Thousand Talents”) was selected in Rock The World 2011 as a competing song for the place of opening band. Most of them aren’t believers in our faith. The essence of good music is there, and people will listen to it regardless of what the lyrics may be.
TM: How then would you describe your music, and your target audience?
MIAH: Everything and anything.
JOEL: Miah is more of a hardcore metal drummer. Eric is more versatile. When we started out, we wanted to maximize everybody’s talents. We’ve covered oldies, Neil Diamond and so on. We’ve also played R. Kelly songs, R&B.
ERIC: But the thing about doing mainstream pop is that it’s like the stuff you watch in the sitcoms. So perfect, but forgettable after a while.
JOEL: We’ve had old guys come up to us and say that they really loved our oldies’ covers. Our audience is everyone.
TM: But for people who have not heard of you, mainstream music is usually the general diet.
ERIC: Yeah. In a country that is being constantly Westernized, you can’t avoid mainstream stuff. But for us, it really comes back down to the live experience that we can provide. Especially when we cover a wide variety of songs. Is the mainstream crowd our target? Yes and no.
JOEL: It’s how you do it. When we play our own stuff, we’re not mainstream. When we play stuff like Neil Diamond, we’re not really that mainstream (unless you’re talking Lite.fm stuff). But when we play Shaggy – you know, “Angel” – everybody can sing that.
TM: How much time do you spend producing material?
JOEL: Hmm. Tough question. We only do about…
MIAH: Hahaha! 35 hours a week.
ERIC: Even during peak season, when we have recording – it may end up over twenty hours a week. When things aren’t so heavy, maybe not even ten hours. But that doesn’t count personal work and stuff we do on our own, obviously.
TM: Miah and Kenneth are both students. How can a full-time student pursue his passion in music? Is it your main priority?
MIAH: Definitely not my number one thing.
JOEL: What? (loudly)
MIAH: (laughs) My main priority has to be my studies. Whatever else is secondary. But then again that’s as it is for now. You just have to know your priorities. If studies have to come first, they have to. If it’s time for music, then it is.
TM: What about Eric? You’re a working father. How do you choose between work and your music career?
ERIC: You know, there are certain things in life that you are bound to regret if you don’t do. There isn’t a lot of time to get old. Before you know it, ten, twenty years will have passed. This is one of those things. It’s just the music that’s really drives me to choose.
MIAH: If you really want something, you go all out for it.
ERIC: Yeah. You discipline yourself to go for it. If you’re one of those people who just practices his chops every few months…I force it into my daily schedule. 45 minutes a day, two hours on weekends. Comes down to seven to eight hours a week. Is it a lot? If I could, I’d do seven to eight hours a day.
TM: Your song “Old School Days” was recently nominated for the 2013 VIMAs, written and produced by Roshan Jamrock of K-Town Clan. How did the song come to be?
ERIC: Haha! That was pure timing. The stars aligned. Oh my God.
JOEL: It was sometime back when Roshan and I, a bunch of us were all just chilling on Deepavali night talking and playing cards. I picked up a guitar, they asked me to sing a song. So I just played a couple of our songs. Forgot about it soon after. The next day Roshan called me. “Bro, I like your stuff. I can do a song for you,” he said. “We’ll do it from scratch.” But that was a long time ago. He’s pretty busy with his other projects and so on. We’d still have our jamming sessions, though.
“Old School Days” came about recently when I told him that we were a Christian band, and we’d not want our songs to be connected with stuff that didn’t line up with our philosophy. And instead of writing something about Jesus, we’d write a song about life itself; stuff we’re going through and have gone through. So he wrote the song. We did the music.
“Old School Days” is all about how things were before we were all plugged into social media and the Internet. We miss out on our true selves because we’re too busy being someone else on the Net. [TAYLORMADE]