SINGAPORE : These days, Singaporean trio The Suns are the hottest rock act on the Melbourne live music circuit.

Through two years of steady gigs, the band – guitarist/vocalist San Singer, bassist J Boss and drummer Wayne Thunder – has played over 200 live shows while earning rave reviews from Australian music critics.

This week, the trio releases their debut album 2/20 (pronounced two-twenty – an acronym for two years of musical experience condensed into 20 minutes).

On Saturday, The Suns will make an appearance at the Sembawang Music Festival – an event some Singapore music fans are calling the show’s highlight.

Homegrown music fans may be applauding The Suns achievements Down Under but, as guitarist and vocalist Singer (aka Sanjeev Veloo) puts it, starting out in Australia was not without hurdles.

“For the first year, we struggled really hard,” recalled the 25-year-old.

“There are 5,000 registered bands in Melbourne so it’s difficult being No 5,001. In the early days, we stayed at friends’ places, lived in a small house and slept with our instruments,” he added with a grin.

“Things weren’t even easy during our first gigs. We got banned playing at one cafe because it was near a mental hospital and we were too loud,” said J Boss (aka Justin Roy) with a laugh.

“It was our first high-profile gig and we got banned. I thought that only happened to us in Singapore!”

He was talking about their previous incarnation as Singapore’s most notorious punk band The Boredphucks, who achieved cult status in 1999 with Banned In Da Singapura (the title referencing a show at the Youth Park for which they were banned after Singer used some colourful language in front of fans).

But most of all, the band is remembered for their radio hit Zoe Tay, which poked fun at the Caldecott Queen’s purported lack of proficiency in English.

While The Boredphucks had all the makings of Singapore’s greatest rock pranksters, studies and National Service commitments eventually put their careers on hold.

It wasn’t something the band was happy about, admitted Thunder (aka Wayne Seah).

“It was frustrating that we couldn’t go anywhere musically at that time,” said the 25-year-old drummer.

“We were studying in Australia then so we talked J Boss (aka Justin Roy) into coming to Melbourne in 2003. At the time, I was studying journalism and Singer was doing multimedia but we decided music was our calling.”

The biggest hurdle, they said, was “to convince our parents. Considering the amount of money they invested in our education, for us to go: ‘Actually ahh … I want to play music’. It was a big move for us”.

These days, however, their parents should be resting easy – the trio have amassed a huge following in their adopted hometown while scoring high-profile gigs alongside US alternative rockers the Presidents of the United States of America, Canada’s Crowned King and US punk veterans The Queers. Fans and critics also welcomed the Melbourne release of 2/20 in October.

“We’re grateful to be doing what we do,” said Singer. “It’s quite shiok to have that number of fans in Australia. Sadly, we’ll never get that in Singapore.”

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