SINGAPORE — It is always an educational affair (and loads of fun too) with Singapore musician Sanny Veloo. As a rocker, Veloo has been round the block more than a few times: With Justin Roy and the late Wayne Thunder, as The Boredphucks (remember their hit, Zoe Tay?), which later morphed into The Suns when the band moved to Melbourne; and since its inception in 2011, as the frontman for EMPRA.
Based in Melbourne, EMPRA has grown to become a mainstay on the Australian live circuit. Along the way, it has earned accolades for its vibrant music and energetic performances in South-east Asia and the United States. Those who have seen EMPRA in action during their previous visits might note the change in personnel when the band makes a pit stop here at Hood Bar & Cafe tomorrow to support their new single Rebecca before they head to the United States.
The band is now a trio: Veloo, bassist Matt Agius and new female drummer, Georgia Flipo. “After our last overseas tour, I think just being away from home took its toll on our last drummer, and he was burnt out and didn’t want to tour anymore,” Veloo explained. “With our guitarist … it was sad but when we started recording our second album, it became apparent that he wasn’t willing to move into the new direction, (so) ultimately we decided it was best that we part ways so we could progress creatively.”
However, Veloo said the new line-up is working out well, adding that Flipo has incredible energy and an amazing zest for life. “She’s our little sister who’s a genuine angel. She is the life of any party,” he said.
She also has a degree in drumming. “She’s a professional,” Veloo emphasised. “When we put the word out that we were looking for a drummer, 25 drummers auditioned. Flip was the only girl, but she outplayed the 24 guys.
“It’s been incredible with her in the band. Wait till you hear her sing, she’s got pipes like Beyonce,” he added. “Some people think that women can’t rock … but (Flipo is) more rock ’n’ roll than most rockers I know. That’s how she got the gig.”
The new single Rebecca is somewhat of a departure for EMPRA. While it still contains crunching power chords and a sing-along chorus, the vocals see Veloo finding a new register.
“It was very important that we felt that we had progressed as songwriters, musicians and as a rock band,” he stressed. “The new sound is an evolution of the very straight-out rock debut album that we put out. We have been very mindful that we need to make our rock sound more interesting, such that it doesn’t only hold its ground with other rock bands, but with other genres as well. Hopefully, we are achieving that!”
There is no doubt that with Rebecca, EMPRA is intent on opening up new possibilities. But why only release a single and not an EP or LP? “These days, you can achieve the same publicity with a good single release and a tour,” Veloo reasoned. “The Beatles used to put out singles and tour. So that’s what we’re doing.”
Veloo’s reasoning also echoes the quantum shift that the music industry has undergone in recent times, where the live performance has outpaced the music recording when it comes to artiste priorities. “We are a rock ’n’ roll band, and bands like us are built on touring and live performances more than anything else,” Veloo explained. “This way we can keep touring and gradually build our careers. We can also make each tour more exciting when you have a song to promote (and) a new video to watch on YouTube”.
Still, while Veloo is quite optimistic about the general state of affairs, he said that the music scene in Singapore could still improve. “Honestly, Singapore still sucks for songwriters and musicians and bands (who) write their own original music, because they do not have enough outlets to be heard or platforms to develop their craft through regular live performances,” Veloo opined.
“There just isn’t a place to go to see bands play their own stuff.”
One way to increase the number of platforms is to offer support similar to how small businesses are supported. “Provide funding for soundproofing, tax alcohol less … do what’s necessary to enable them to put shows on,” he declared. “I am so sure that if there were more live music venues around, these venues would be filled with bands because there are so many talented musicians in Singapore. And when people realise this, they will go to the shows!”
If Singapore does this, it too can match what neighbouring countries have achieved musically. “In recent years, Australia has produced Gotye, Tame Impala, Courtney Barnett, The Smith Street Band, Dune Rats, DZ Deathrays, Meg Mac, Holy Holy, Airbourne, Iggy Azalea … all of which are world-renowned touring artistes and bands. (They) had the chance to develop their craft by performing regularly in their cities before they took off.
“Singapore does not have that yet, and still does not provide artistes with enough opportunities to develop.”
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