First of its Kind
Interview by Caitlin de Laure
Photographs courtesy of Neon Lights
Neon Lights Festival made its debut in Singapore on 28 and 29 November 2015 with a heady lineup of diverse musical acts and a smorgasbord of arts, cultural activities and performances on the side to enhance the whole experience for festival-goers, young and old. Spearheaded by life partners Jennifer Jennings and Declan Forde, the year-end celebration was a new addition to the long list of cultural events they have been involved in internationally; namely, Electric Picnic, Harvest and Clockenflap Festival.
Not only was Neon Lights a unique experience for Singapore, but it intends to stay unique to this city. “It’s a real mix of the personal and the practical,” replied Jennifer when asked about what motivated them to embark on this immense project and base it in this tiny nation. Although the festival was made known to the public mid last year, it has really been in the works for years—10 years to be exact.
—Hauntingly melancholic, UK trio Daughter discuss their individual creative processes and how they relate to their own music.
Hi Daughter, does it overwhelm you when people on the other side of the world subscribe to your music with such fervour?
Igor Haefeli (I): It’s really encouraging to know that beyond different cultures, our listeners are people who relate to the same things and feelings. Also, it’s been really nice to have people come up to us, especially for Elena, and say, “I’ve felt the same but I just didn’t have a way to describe it—now I have this song.”
What inspires your songwriting?
Elena Tonra (E): From a lyric writing perspective, it can be very sporadic and disorganised. Most of this album is written in a stream-of-consciousness way without much editing. What inspires me most are human relationships; I write a lot about my feelings, thoughts, memories and different people in my life.
Musically, I think we’re all inspired by different kinds of music and most of our ideas are really just a mash of different influences together.
I: The core emotion usually stems from that moment when Elena writes about something she’s feeling or something she witnessed happening to someone. From there, it takes many zig zags. If I have something that goes with what Elena is doing, even if it’s a contrasting idea that somehow fits and gives me a certain feeling—I’ll chase it. So, the same song can mean different things to each of us.
—Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite and Barry Burns reflect on these 20 years and offer some perspective on passion over the long haul.
Barry (B): Thank you. I’ve heard lots of good and different types of music that have been produced without the need for studio claim and lots of money.
Stuart (S): A bad thing would be people not buying records. But I think music’s more available to people now. It’s helped make our music available in different parts of the world.
How have you managed to stay together and what keeps you inspired?
B: I like the recording process; it’s good fun. And, I think we’ve all got a reasonably good sense of humour so we get on with that and make it fun.
S: Fear of regular employment? (laughs) I think if you love music, it’s hard to be tired of it. I don’t think we’ve made the best record yet, so it’s always about trying to write better songs, make better records, and play better concerts.
—Irish songbird SOAK dismantles conventions and expectations with saccharine tunes coating perceptive commentaries well beyond her years.
Hi Soak, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about what you enjoy doing besides your music.
So, my actual name is quite long, it’s Bridie Monds-Watson. And, other than music, I like to draw and write creatively.
What transpired from the moment you picked up the guitar to the moment you realised you wanted to do music as a career—what set you on this course?
I started writing and playing when I was about 13, basically covering songs, and once I could play, I started writing my own songs. When I was 14, I did 200 shows in a year within Northern Ireland and Ireland as a whole. I think between doing that, sending out lots of demos and putting things online, people got interested in what I was doing and started playing it on radio, and labels got interested.
So, I’m just very lucky that people heard me when they did. I signed a publishing deal with Universal when I was 15 or 16, and I’ve been touring since then.
Read more in The U Press N˚11 (Singapore edition).