Marching to Their Own Beat
In the midst of recording their new music, MMLD make a stop at our studio to discuss their beginnings and preserving authenticity in music-making.
Interview by Ariel So
Photography courtesy of Hazman Azri and the artist
They are not a certain ‘kind’ of band. Neither are they a certain ‘type’ of people. MMLD are their own eclectic mix, comprising Abby, singer-songwriter with a feisty voice; Oliver (“Olly”), guitarist; Farhan, young trumpeter picked up off Haji Lane; and Melvin; funkiest drummer the band has ever seen.
As they walk into our studio, the four friends are engaged in easy banter. Outgoing and down-to-earth, they prepare to get their portrait taken, and profess to being camera shy, though their awkwardness melts away once they break into an improvised a cappella song. They pose for a silly photo, Olly poking Melvin’s tummy as the rest follow suit.
Sitting ourselves around a table, we dive into the topic of how they came to be. Best buddies Olly and Abby have collaborated with each other since they met in 2010. It was only later, when they decided to get a band together, that they found Farhan and Melvin.
Abby (A): We jammed and started writing the first couple of songs…we went for a lot of gigs together, playing acoustic shows, and then decided to form a full band—that’s when Farhan and Melvin came along.
Farhan (F): They picked me up from the streets. Literally.
Olly (O): He was busking on the streets. I was walking along Haji Lane and suddenly, I heard trumpet sounds. I was pretty buzzed from some alcohol, and when that happens—when you hear trumpets along the alley—you just think, ‘Wow, what’s that?’ This was a trumpet on the streets, how crazy. So I quickly got his number, and asked him.
Their band name MMLD soon followed, inspired by Christina Aguilera’s Lady Marmalade. The hardest part, they say, is trying to describe the brand of music they make.
A: The genre was already there, but [Olly] expanded it with his ideas. When that happened, I realised that that juxtaposition was perfect for the band, because [my music] had reggae and acoustic elements to it, and I wanted to break out of it. Trumpet…whole different vibe. R&B drummer comes in, and it becomes funky, really groovy. So as much as I write the songs and Olly arranges them, everybody adds their own colour. A song becomes whole because of every one of us.
O: Initially, we were trying to do band profiling…we spent days thinking about what we should call our music, to help people understand. We put in R&B, reggae, but eventually, it’s going to be so much more than just a genre. It’s going to be a certain style, I think.
Melvin (M): One thing to look forward to is really good vibes.
O: I think it’s a very road trip kind of playlist. When you go on a road trip, you’re looking at the road, at the environment, and that’s when your mind starts to go as freely as the car that’s travelling. When you’re moving and music plays, it’s a next level of sensation, because you rely on that sense of hearing to feel whatever you feel. The vibe of our music, I think, creates a template for you to start thinking about stuff.
Abby herself was on the road in Los Angeles when she decided to write an album. While she has been doing music professionally for four years, she says it was only until she met the right people—bandmates Olly, Farhan and Melvin—that she gained self-confidence and no longer obsessed about fitting into a certain music community.
Melvin adds that he continues to remind himself to go strong each time they play, sharing that drumming was what helped him get through the low points of his life. As they speak candidly of their struggles, it’s apparent that the four friends have now become family.
O: The important thing is to understand what’s personal and what’s professional. We have established, when it comes to music, who is supposed to make the final call, how everyone is supposed to be committed to the band. We resolve conflicts before they come to friction. That’s one of the reasons why we’re so connected.
A: We’re quite forward with it.
O: Farhan is like the fire extinguisher; he’s always there to just (snaps fingers) put it out. On a personal level, I’m very close with Abby, and Farhan and Melvin are like the two funny guys—the construction workers in the sitcom Phua Chu Kang—we need them to complete the band. And just as friends, we hang out. That’s the chemistry we have. Finding a producer is about finding someone who understands what you want, because at the end of the day, this is what we’re going to put out. It’s 100% from us, you know, with no…
A: …fakeness to it. Before I met these guys, when I was writing, I knew that this was not going to be the path. But once these guys came in and MMLD was formed, everything just started falling into place. I don’t care how fast things are falling; they’re just falling nicely. Now I know what’s right, now I know what I really have to focus on.
MMLD’s newest EP, Chivalrous Love, will be launched on 2nd March 2019. More information here.