Hey guys! It’s the end of the month I’m all done with deadlines.. so it’s time to blog (while I’m feeling like it. It’s hard to find time + mood these days. :P) !
N and I were talking about indie music just recently; I shared a couple of songs with him and he was impressed with the quality – especially the bands from the 90s to mid 2000s; the height of our local indie scene. And you know what they say – sharing is caring – so here are my top picks !
PS: Many of the bands I chose have been disbanded, but I think that they were some real gems, which is why I’m featuring them in this list! New bands are still around and are easily searchable, but not many of the new gen may know of these older bands. Dang, I sound old.
Google Rosevelt today and you probably won’t find much on the Internet because sadly, they disbanded sometime around 2013. 😦 It’s a shame, because this talented band once opened for Incubus when they came to KL. Their unique sound features slower tunes with heavy riffs, like Moments, to the power-charged Politics and Madicine. While their songs were mostly in English, they also played a Malay OST for local film Langgar, called Bawaku Pergi. You can still check out their old songs on their (now inactive) Youtube channel.
You can’t mention ‘Malaysian indie’ without coming across Disagree. Founded by two high-school friends in 1995, they’re one of the pioneers of the indie rock scene in Malaysia. In 2001, the band joined Malaysia’s first indie rock music festival called Rock The World (of which they became a regular fixture), playing to a crowd of 10,000. Their popularity soared from there with the release of a debut album, gaining radio airplay and snagging multiple achievements at local music awards. They also worked with major brands like Malaysian telecommunications giant Celcom, as well as Nokia. Although, it has been nearly 10 years since their last album (2009). Wonder what happened to these talented guys?
Favourite tracks: Suicide Note, Crumbs, Scarecrow Adams
Founded by brothers Jeffrey and Jeremy Little, who are of English-Malay ancestry, Prana’s sound carries heavy rap-rock influences, channeling The Prodigy and Limp Bizkit with turntables paired with sick riffs and drumbeats. In 2014, Jefrrey died on a haj pilgrimage after a battle with leukemia. A search on Youtube reveals that the remaining members are still playing gigs as recent as 2016, although they are no longer making new music.
MEET UNCLE HUSSAIN
2007 saw the release of a local TV drama called Kami, which talks about a group of high school friends who are fans of indie music, their adventures and struggles. The series was a hit, and along with it, its soundtracks which featured indie bands like Meet Uncle Hussain. The band’s lead singer and one of its founding members, Lan, left in 2009 due to disagreements with other band members. As of January this year, the band’s Instagram account was still active but nothing else has been heard of since then.
Literally the ‘Godfather’ of Malaysian indie music, Pop Shuvit is one of the rare English-bands that have gone on to play on a world stage, including in places like Japan, Thailand and Singapore. They opened for MyChemical Romance (another great band that disbanded 😦 ) and during the height of the X-Games (around 2006), they were literally everywhere with their brand of eclectic hip hop-rap and nu metal (The name Pop Shuvit itself is based off a skateboard trick). The band is also known for their adrenaline-packed and high energy shows. Today, its members like vocalist Moots have gone on to become radio announcers, but they are still actively doing shows.
With all the American influences, it’s fairly rare to find a Brit-rock inspired band like Bittersweet, which sounds like a mix of Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys. Founded in 2004, they are still going strong today with a new album in 2016 and an appearance at Rock The World 2016.
DAMN DIRTY APES
Dubbing themselves ‘space rock’, Damn Dirty Apes from Penang has been around since 2002, with an EP dubbed ‘Valve State Dreams’, and have been called the Asian version of Mogwai. I like the soft/loud/soft progression in their songs – namely a soft melodic intro, and a hard, high energy middle that mellows out towards the end. Favourite songs include Rebel Scum (above) and Wisdom. To my knowledge, they are still playing shows especially at urban festivals in their homebase.
Rap-metal was popular in the late 90s and early 2000s, thanks to bands like Linkin Park, Korn and P.O.D. Malaysia’s very own Dragon Red was a forerunner in promoting the genre locally. In fact, I think their lead vocalist, Landslyde (who was previously from another popular local hip hop band called Poetic Ammo), has a voice similar to Sonny from P.O.D. The band is still active and recently celebrated their 15th year anniversary with a show.
Most of the bands on this list are English indie bands, but I decided to include The Times coz I really like their music and I think good music transcends language barriers. With a chill vibe that blends 60s mod/pop and indie rock, their songs are easygoing and catchy. Founded by brothers Natazar and Mono in 2004, the band was wildly popular in the Malay indie music scene, but went on a 6-year hiatus in 2010. Good news though – as of 2016, they are back (with a new lineup) and will apparently be releasing new music this year! 🙂
Nice Stupid Playground
Similar to The Times, Nice Stupid Playground has an easygoing, 60s mod mixed with a touch of indie pop/rock; although the band has been around longer, since 1992. Founded in Borneo, they were among the first to pioneer indie music in Malaysia, winning the illustrious (then) Anugerah Industri Muzik in 1997 for Best English Album. Their song ‘Bedroom Window’ was handpicked by a Hong Kong producer to be featured in a movie called The Chinese Box, starring Gong Li and Jeremy Irons. The band is still active today, although it has been awhile since they last released an album.
Formed in 1993, Butterfingers is probably one of the bands with the most albums on this list. Described as alternative/grunge/post-grunge, they channel sounds reminiscent of bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden mixed with hints of Metallica or Wings. They disbanded in 2009 as some of its members went overseas, although one of its founding members, Loque, has gone on to form a new project called MonoloQue.
Nevermind guys; even girls like me would have a crush on the beautiful and talented Liyana Fizi, former lead singer of band Estrella. She has since gone solo, but her time at the short-lived band (they only made one album) was enough to propel her on to the mainstream. That aside, Estrella makes for some smooth, easy going pop songs that are great to listen to on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Who can forget Malaysia’s Princes of Punk? Think Sum 41, Simple Plan, All American Rejects vibe, but in English/Malay. xD Bunkface was founded in 2006 and are considered a good example of an indie band who achieved mainstream success. Their high-energy, upbeat songs are a staple of youth subcultures and groups; a voice of ‘rebellion’ and expression. In 2015, they performed in Japan’s Summer Sonic Festival, and they’re still a huge crowd puller today.
Whew, that’s already quite a list! There are a couple of other bands worth mentioning: Free Deserters, Love Me Butch, One Buck Short,Tenderfist, Seven Collar T-Shirt and Kyoto Protocol are some of my other favourites too.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the recommendations and happy listening! Feel free to suggest great indie music from your country in the comments, I’d love to give them a listen. 🙂