As the saying goes: “Friends that travel together, stay together”.
During their Remember a Stranger Asia Tour, five-piece shoegaze act motifs not only had a blast but also forged a tighter bond than ever before.
Whether it was squeezing in time between soundchecks and shows to eat at convenience stores together, surprising each other with sweet treats, or grieving their broken camcorder, the band found joy in every shared experience.
Last October to December, Elspeth Ong (vocals and guitar), Jit Jenn Tan (lead guitar), Badrul Amin (synths, vocals, and guitar), Paul Yuen (bass), and Jolin Chiam (drums and percussions) ventured out of Singapore to bring their music to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo. In these cities, the quintet were warmly greeted by their fans and experienced hospitality from the locals.
Throughout the tour, they felt fortunate to have encountered such amazing crowds, including fans who were well-versed in their song titles, despite the band’s practice of not announcing them in between songs.
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Their performance in Nagoya’s 鶴舞DAYTRIP stood out among the rest according to Paul, making it a highlight of their tour. Thanks to the specially curated shoegaze night, dreamwaves vol. 21, by Fastcut Records and DREAMWAVES Presents, the quintet had the opportunity to share the stage with Belinda May, softsurf, mischa, and The Bilinda Butchers.
“It was the best crowd we had ever experienced - and it will ring true in our minds for the foreseeable future. They were so warm, receptive and appreciative. It was insane!!! The hospitality of the locals was also immaculate.” said Paul.
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Having created several interesting core memories with one another on the road, the homegrown band are most certainly basking in the post-tour blues.
“We remember our first few jams 4 years ago, and to be able to play our music overseas is a surreal dream,” motifs shared in an Instagram post.
Now that they are back home, Hear65 caught up with motifs to find out about their favourite memories of the tour, their tour essentials, and the new things they learned about each other.
What’s your favorite memory of Remember A Stranger Asia Tour?
Jolin: “I think having the chance to be overseas and playing to a different group of audience and then watching their reactions was the best part for me! It’s like I’m able to learn more about the people and the culture, especially in the music scene which I find is something that can only be experienced [and] not just told. I feel like in Hong Kong, people love just being able to vibe with whatever music is on, while the Japanese people tend to absorb the music more and then get more into it later on in the set!”
“It was the best crowd we had ever experienced – and it will ring true in our minds for the foreseeable future. They were so warm, receptive, and appreciative. It was insane!”
Badrul: “My favourite memory of the tour is the time we spent getting early dinners in Family Mart and local Japanese restaurants in between soundchecks and the shows. Of course, there was that familiar sense of nervousness as with every other show we played back in Singapore. But the feeling of performing to a crowd overseas is surreal.”
Elspeth: “It’s hard to pick a favourite — looking out the window on a train in Japan for the first time was surreal. It’s my first time going to Japan and Hong Kong and to know that our music brought us here is insane. I also loved that first group dinner we had in Japan [at] a takoyaki place in Osaka with outdoor seating. We didn’t get many sit-down meals together so that was nice.”
“That Nagoya show we played was also so awesome, I wish I remembered how it felt more! In the middle of the set I remember looking over at Paul, and I saw the look on his face and we probably exchanged a smile... and I KNEW this was THE show to remember for a long, long, long, long time. There was a dude at the back [who] was jumping to the music the whole time. We met High Sunn, a band from the US who were on tour too, and talking to them was so much fun. I had a whole Google Translate conversation with Kamiya from Blurred City Lights at the Izakaya across the venue after the show — language barrier and all. We found out we’re the same age and share lots of similarities. Also, the streets are so quiet and still and calming. Nagoya, 11/10 you have my heart.”
JJ: “It’s hard to handpick a memory from this tour, every city and crowd we performed at had its own charm and uniqueness to it. My current electric guitar was a second-hand Fender Jaguar that I bought 10 years ago and I felt it was quite a memory to bring it back on tour and play it in front of the Japanese crowd. It was also pretty amazing to see many indie bands that we love and respect that surprised us by turning up to watch our shows, it really comes full circle. Bands like Mylittleairport, Wellsaid, 17 Years Old, and Berlin Wall, Bertoia, For Tracy Hyde, turned up for our shows and we had really nice conversations with them.”
“I think having the chance to be overseas and playing to a different group of audience and then watching their reactions was the best part for me! it’s like I’m able to learn more about the people and the culture.”
Of all of the songs on your tour setlist, which did you enjoy performing the most? Why?
Paul: “If it’s based on our own songs, it’s so hard to pick one. Because it changes every night. But if there’s one, it had to be ‘Spitzer’. It was cathartic playing it, especially on Day 1 in Tokyo. Strong emotions [were] experienced there, especially during the part of “destruction in my hands”.”
“We did a cover of New Order’s ‘Ceremony’ too. It’s such a fun track to play! Ngl, was looking forward to it every show because of the pure energy and dancey vibes it exudes! The reception from the crowd was great too! Will always remember a concert attendee from Hong Kong named Wilson who shared that us playing that cover made his night! Hope to play it [for] our friends in Singapore one of these days. Gonna be so cool!”
Jolin: “I can’t decide between ‘Spitzer’ and ‘Ceremony’. ‘Spitzer’ back in Singapore isn’t like a song that people tend to comment on, and it just seems to be perceived as another slow shoegaze song. But somehow in Hong Kong and Japan, it was a song that really connected with the people! [I] love seeing and hearing what they felt or thought about ‘Spitzer’! ‘Ceremony’ was just such a vibe. It was a cover that we settled on two weeks before the tour, I was personally a little nervous because I didn’t know if the audience would reciprocate the dancey vibes. BUT THEY DID! So it’s a song I look forward to playing.”
Badrul: “We did a cover of Slowdive’s ‘Alison’, and it is always a joy to play it with the band because Slowdive has inspired us collectively in terms of the sound and style we hope to achieve. Getting to play that song to a crowd who reciprocates and can relate to it feels intimate and special.”
JJ: “I like playing all our songs, ‘Ceremony’ and ‘Alison’ were covers that we played to give tribute to the bands that we enjoy and love while in motifs. ‘Fluorescent’ was also inspired by ‘Ceremony’ so it was nice to play that song to pay tribute.”
Elspeth: “‘Ceremony’ and ‘Lovelost’ specifically for our last show in Tokyo. ‘Ceremony’ because it’s a classic and it’s so dancey and fun to play. It makes me want to write songs like that. ‘Lovelost’ for our last show because it was dedicated to a 10-year-old girl named Lille who was at her first gig ever. Her dad told us she loves ‘Lovelost’ and everything about this is so cool. To know that our music means something to so many people who live somewhere across the world, and that it means something to a CHILD is crazy.”
“To know that our music means something to so many people who live somewhere across the world, and that it means something to a CHILD is crazy.”
What are some essential items that you have to have with you whenever you’re on the road?
Paul: “Eu Yan Sang Lingzhi essence. [To] boost the immunity, and it’s perfect for late nights during the tour, something of a common occurrence. Water, lots of it!”
Jolin: “My crab soft toy, Celine. She gives me extra support when I want extra comfortable pillows..”
Badrul: “Alfort’s mini chocolate biscuits from Family Mart. My ultimate comfort snack I always have in my bag.”
Elspeth: “Lame answer but enough battery and enough storage in my phone. Need to take videos because I want to remember everything and [you]need to Google translate to talk to locals!”
JJ: “Black and silver markers because one of my favourite things to do is to make friends with other bands and get them to sign a vinyl I bought from them.”
What’s one new thing you learned about each other during your tour?
Paul: “I wouldn’t say it’s anything new. But it was really nice to see qualities that I see in my band members come to light in a different way. I would say that it just solidifies the fact that we genuinely love and care for each other. <3”
Jolin: “Honestly if anything, the tour just solidifies my thoughts about everyone in the band, THEY SUC- just kidding, I think they’re the best buddies I could ever ask for in a band and family.”
Badrul: “Everyone has different ideas of making the most out of the trip. Some of us prefer just walking around the streets aimlessly to bask in the ambiance and enjoy the cold weather Japan has to offer, while some of us love to explore popular local cuisines and visit touristy spots.”
Elspeth: “They’re the same people, nothing new I don’t already know but I realized you don’t need big gestures to show you love and care for each other. Similar to what Paul said! It’s so natural and usual for there to be concern and care for each other in everything so really nothing new. People pointed out to us that it’s not every day you get along well with your bandmates, especially on tour. I didn’t realize that because it’s easy getting along with them, but now I won’t take that for granted.”
“There was this one day that was extra rushy because we had 3-4 hours of sleep in Osaka, got up at 6:30 AM to head to Nagoya, went straight to the venue, and only got to check in to the hotel after soundcheck around 4 to 5 PM. I was washing up and getting ready for our show and Jolin went to the convenience store, and when she came back she said “I got something for you I think you’ll like it!” And it was frozen grapes and I love frozen fruit. Small gestures like this are so big to me and mean a lot to me!”
JJ: “We are all introverts so sometimes we just go our own way to explore the cities on our own to find things to do. Paul loves all the food, Bad loves instrument shopping, Els loves walking in parks and sleeping in unintentionally, Jo loves the shopping districts, and I love the museums and vinyl shopping.”
“It was really nice to see qualities that I see in my band members come to light in a different way. I would say that it just solidifies the fact that we genuinely love and care for each other.”
If you could do this tour all over again, what would you do differently?
Paul: “More days in Nagoya please!”
Jolin: “Nothing! Everything is placed where it needs to be, whenever it needs to be.”
Badrul: “Bring more money to buy merch from other bands we shared the same stage with and more money for quality MIJ gears from Ochanomizu!”
Elspeth: “Better personal organization? Try and get more sleep before the tour? Pack my luggage earlier, and not till 5 AM the night before we fly? Buy a better camcorder that doesn’t break on our first day in Japan......”
JJ: “Maybe buying a camcorder to document everything about the tour.”
Stream motifs' debut album, remember a stranger, here.