Such Great Heights

Text by Charmaine Poh
Images courtesy of St Jerome’s Laneway Festival Singapore, Chugg Entertainment, Afiq Omar, Didi Ramlan, Alvin Ho, Lionel Boon and Aloysius Lim

Laneway, also known as St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, has grown exponentially since its inception. Behind the showtime glamour is the groundwork of founders Jerome Borazio and Danny Rogers, who have taken it upon themselves to keep it real. No matter how large the festival may grow, its lineup will always consist of a good balance of the critically acclaimed, and the lesser known artists headed for big things.

This all began back in 2004, a time when the duo spent their days booking bands for the now defunct St Jerome’s bar in Melbourne. They held various music series before the inaugural Laneway Festival was eventually born, literally along the back lane of the bar. The festival has since expanded to reach over eight cities.

As the festival returned to our shores this January, we spoke to Danny Rogers about his thoughts on our city’s music landscape, and his constant treasure hunt for the music world’s best kept secrets.

Hi Danny, thank you for taking time out of your hectic schedule. Laneway has really taken off here. What made you decide to come to Singapore?

There was a lot of general interest. I had been here a couple of times, and I noticed that there has been some amazing cultural change over the past five to eight years, where a lot of the kids have grown up and there is a new frontier of people; a new culture of international people. Singaporeans really identify as being an international body of people with lots of cultural interest, music being one of them.

We started with very humble ambitions and expectations. We thought we would give the guys a taste and see how it goes. It was met with positivity and the decision was made for us—we had to come back. We have since grown the festival, from Fort Canning to Gardens by the Bay, from eight to 18 bands this year.

We want to build something that people can own and be proud of so we got local Singaporean bands for the first time this year, to add to the experience.

You have mentioned that Singapore is a very “Western city with underlying Asian culture”.

The Internet has changed the way we received information and the ability to connect with the world. It created a massive change in the way people find out about music or fashion. That explains the fascination with Singapore; it has a strong Asian identity, and for the artists, it’s mind-blowing, tropical, and there is an amazing array of cuisine and incredible buildings, it’s buzzing. I love Singapore for those reasons.

When you talk about cultures, Australia is a multicultural country. When I go to Laneway in Melbourne or Sydney, there are so many different people and that is what music or any great event of any nature should be about—celebrating culture, arts, music and creativity.

What do you think of Singapore’s music landscape?

I think there’s some really great stuff here. This is the first year that we’ve had local talent on the line up. Initially we didn’t have enough spots, but when we discussed it, I said I wanted to put bands that I genuinely think are strong enough to be there, and these bands are more than worthy. It’s really exciting and I hope it’ll be a good moment of inspiration for the local artists and the scene.

It’s an interesting time, a lot is happening similarly to Australia and New Zealand, where we’ve had our challenges, the struggle to get international recognition. I haven’t seen them live but I trust my friends on the ground, regarding their strength as live performers.

Read more in The U Press N˚5 (Singapore edition).