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"The band can perform as a three-piece or even with an orchestra": An interview with The Stoned Revivals

"The band can perform as a three-piece or even with an orchestra": An interview with The Stoned Revivals

Gala Laga is upon us. Following its inaugural edition last year, the Malay Youth Music Festival returns later this month with a spellbinding lineup of some of the most essential voices in Made in Singapore music from across the ages.

Rock ’n' roll legends The Stoned Revivals, who will be celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, are amongst the festival’s arsenal. Long-revered for the dashing waywardness with which they collapse rock canons into a superlatively singular signature, the band will perform with current head-turner Akid Amir at its set.

Before the big day, The Stoned Revivals chats candidly with Hear65 about what it means to be playing their music today.

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How has 2019 been for you?

Kamal: 2019 has been great for us individually. I was working on Hear65 and had a busy year gigging with The Jukuleles; Esam took a backseat from performing onstage and focused more on busking on the streets of Melbourne and forming his Makeshift Magick Band with strangers on Footscray train bridge and Western suburbs. Syed Ahmad had been busy with fatherhood and Bloco Singapura. For The Stoned Revivals, it's the 20th anniversary of Golden Love Songs from the Evil Island of the Handsome Tropical Cannibals.

How does it feel to play for Gala Laga 2019? The band has been largely on hiatus for a while. 

Syed Ahmad: We're excited – to get together again after so many years, and do a special curated set in Malay specially for the festival and collaborate with new blood, the talented Akid Amir.

How does it feel to get in touch with music again? 

Kamal: Individually, all of us are still connected with music, in some way, with our own projects, except not together as The Stoned Revivals. To get back to playing together again is just a natural thing for us as we have been together for nearly 30 years.

The band will be performing Golden Love Songs live. How does it feel to revisit an album that came into existence 20 years ago?

Syed Ahmad: It’s amazing that we can share the songs with a new audience or generation.

Kamal: It's exciting to have an album that could last 20 years and which inspired new listeners. With more resources, we can now expand our performance to include more musicians and instruments. Our concept, since the 90s, remains the same: The band can perform as a three-piece or even with an orchestra. Do expect past collaborators and new musicians to be joining us for this show.

Congrats on your upcoming 30th anniversary! What inspires the band even after so many years? 

Esam: The ability to pick up  where we left off naturally is inspiring in and of itself. There are no rules, really, when it comes to the band. Birds, bees.. the rustling of leaves..waking up to sunshine in dead of winter is inspiring for me.. stumbling upon new music, or obscure and rare grooves can be inspiring. Watching young bands rock on stage…the fire in their eyes… that’s inspiring.

Sitting down drinking teh in a kopi shop and people watching can be inspiring. The void deck is a wealth of inspiration that is uniquely Singaporean and quite often overlooked, these days. I doubt Mat Rocks sit around and play much guitar anymore under void decks like we used to – but I might be wrong.

With new technology, there is the ability to explore unknown sonic realms previously impossible to reach. That is inspiring, though, it comes with the risk of sounding like ageing prog rockers trapped in the future past. On the other hand, the possibility of going back to analog is also inspiring, where it is raw, spontaneous and warm.

What are your thoughts on where the general Singaporean scene is at today? How has it changed since you first started out? 

Esam: Personally, I have no idea. I’ve been away in Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne over the last 14 years, so I am not in any position to answer that question. What I can say, though, is the difference between now and then in the simplest layman’s term. Back then, there were flyers, demo cassettes, word of mouth, zines such as BigO, and the Substation. These days, you have the Internet, Spotify, Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube videos, Bandwagon and Hear65.

Your audience can get way bigger than before. There’s the same passion, just maybe more opportunities. But, in reality, if your band sucks and you can’t write a proper song, then none of the above can help much anyways – except Auto-Tune.

Any upcoming music plans? 

Syed Ahmad: The three of us are going to be in a recording studio together during this current reunion. That itself is an exciting plan!

What are you most looking forward to in 2020?

Kamal: We hope to be able to complete the preparation for the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the band. The physical format of our Golden Love Songs may be on the table.

Catch The Stoned Revivals at Gala Laga 2019, which happens from 26-29 December at Wisma Geylang Serai. The band will perform on 28 December at 8 pm. Click here for more information.