Silhouette 2012

(Photo courtesy of Syarul Nizam/Kurks)

Midway through my interview with the boys of Silhouette, the tables had turned and I found them interviewing me instead. While drummer, Hafiz and guitarist, Ahmad drilled me about the who’s, what’s, when’s and where’s of my life – bassist, Mahfuz was trying his best not to snort into his pasta. Vocalist, Shahrizal however, had a knowing smile plastered on his face. Just minutes earlier, he boldly declared that the band was practically a second religion – a part of him he could not imagine himself living without. His declaration was met with nods of agreement from the rest – signalling that they too, shared the same faith in Silhouette.

The band is currently finalising and putting the finishing touches on their upcoming full-length album, due for release later this year. The album took several years to make as the band struggled to find time in between commitments such as National Service and the fact that they were starting to have full-time work commitments. The long process of making the album however gave room for the band to explore different genres and incorporate elements from various influences in their music.

There was never a dull moment during the interview – the band would burst into giggling fits, crack jokes and tease each other throughout. They were also surprisingly honest in their responses. Yes, the following interview might be lengthy – but I assure you, it is pretty entertaining.

F: If you had to name just one band that has influenced you, or perhaps one band that you’ve been listening a whole lot to recently, who would you pick?
Shah: I only listen to one band at one time, but if I had to choose… Circa Survive. I mean Anthony Green. Everyone should listen to Circa Survive.
Ahmad: For me it’s Incubus. It has always been Incubus… what about you Hafiz?
Hafiz: I think I’m similar to Ahmad. Incubus. But apart from rock I listen to music that’s sort of ‘softer’…
Shah: Right like dangdut
Hafiz: Hmmm…Michael Buble…so I’m actually I’m both intense and gentle.
Mahfuz: For me I like progressive stuff and music with fast tempos, and that’s why I prefer bands like Rufio. But apart from that … I do listen to opera.
Ahmad: You should hear his signature opera vocals, he can really pull it off la.

F: Opera vocals? Will that be on the album?
Shah: Never
Ahmad: No I don’t think…
Mahfuz: Yeah maybe I should try something!

F: I understand that there have been delays on your upcoming album. Do you have a final date of completion set?
Shah: We intend not to push it back anymore.
Ahmad: We really have to finish it up. Because we’ve been recording since ‘08
Hafiz: Since our EP.
Ahmad: Yeah after the EP we immediately recorded the album. Then we enlisted, you know NS. So for two years it has been on hold.

F: Speaking of National Service, it really kills a lot of bands huh?
Hafiz: Yah man! Lots of Singaporean bands.
Ahmad: Almost killed us also. We had a few band friends during our time… you know Baybeats ’08. We don’t really know what happened to some of them. Probably finances?
Shah: I think the problem for some bands after NS … they try to get their bands going again but the scene … has died down a bit in my opinion. But right now every Saturday people are going to clubs… so it’s hard for bands like us.

At this point, I noticed Mahfuz getting uncomfortable…

F: (to Mahfuz)Do you go clubbing?
Mahfuz: I uhh, uuhhh yes. I’m a big fan of DJs.
Hafiz: But he goes for the music la not the girls.

F: Other than Baybeats 2008 did you guys have any other memorable gigs?
Ahmad: We opened for Electrico back at Youth Park.
Shah: Scape.
Ahmad: Yeah, Scape Warehouse. It was the first time a gig was held there back in 2010. We also shared the stage twice with Urbandub. At both Substation and Scape. The gig at the Substation was for ‘Rock the Sub’.

Ahmad: Our Terengganu trip was fun too although it was very, very, very super holy. And the gig was 90% metalheads.
Shah: We were out of place!
Hafiz: But it was fun la, macam (like)… together as a band you know.
Mahfuz: Together as a band out of the country!

Hafiz: But actually the most memorable one was this competition we won even before Baybeats.
Ahmad: In 2007.
Hafiz: It was this Holly’s Festival at Boys Town.
Ahmad: That was our breakthrough actually. After that we started getting a lot of gigs.

F: Since we are doing some reminiscing here, perhaps you can share how you guys started off?
Ahmad: Me and Shah were secondary school mates. And I played in another band with Hafiz and Mahfuz. It was another metal band. But eventually I was writing my own stuff, so I called these guys up.
Hafiz: We were close friends la
Shah: Basically Ahmad was trying to write his own stuff but he can’t sing… you know he can’t do everything by himself.
Ahmad: Yeah that’s about it. We have been close friends now for what… six, seven years?

F: Would you say that you guys being close friends actually helped you guys stay together?
Hafiz: Yeah we do tons of stuff together you know. We play soccer, we go clubbing sometimes…
Shah: But these days it’s getting harder – in fact getting the four of us here, together was quite difficult. Because everyone is working…
Mahfuz: Yeah these days we only met during our jams and … well, during interviews or photoshoots.

F: During your years together as Silhouette have you guys ever had to face criticism and bad press?
Ahmad: Yeah, yeah but we do not wish to…
Shah: They shall remain anonymous.
Ahmad: Yeah. But there are a few things you know.

F: How do you guys handle it?
Hafiz: We just accept it ah, it’s normal
Ahmad: We have to believe in ourselves.
Mahfuz: We don’t want what others think of us to affect the way we are. Or change the way we produce our music. So we let it go.
Hafiz: But actually there is not much hatred against us…anyway we keep our cool.
Shah: People will talk, you know. They are entitled to say what they want to say. It’s up to them. But we will, like Hafiz said, just be chill about it.

F: Let’s talk about your fan base. I was looking at your page and you seem to have more musicians supporting your band as compared to other bands. Any thoughts?
Ahmad: Yes agreed.
Hafiz: Yes Yes Yes Yes.
Ahmad: We have had this fanbase from the day we started til today, our friends you know. And the rest are all random people. But once in awhile we see different faces coming up to us and praising us.
Shah: I think musicians like our band because they understand our music. Because we’re not exactly the typical “yeah yeah boom boom band” *sic*  These musicians listen to bands like Incubus, Deftones, and we take some elements from their songs and make it our own. For non-musicians, they do like us but it takes a while because our songs aren’t that straightforward.
Ahmad: It can be hard to digest for the normal crowd.

F: How do you guys write your songs? What is the process like?
Mahfuz: Ahmad will write some crazy riffs and stuff and he will bring it to the jamming studio.
Ahmad: Yeah I write songs at home, record and listen to it through my computer. Sometimes I do think of how I’d like the bass and drum parts to sound. And then I’ll bring it to the studio and tell the guys to do whatever they want to do with the riffs.
Shah: Then I’ll just add in the lyrics
Ahmad: I think most bands work this way also.

F: Do you argue when you write songs?
Hafiz: No,no,no.
Shah: Nah, we are more like, “Eh let’s add this, lets add that.”

F: The ego balance in the band is quite good?
Mahfuz: We try not to get the ego in each of us get in the way.
Hafiz: The four of us… are good guys.
Mahfuz: Yeah we are good people, you can take us out for coffee.
Shah: Initially when you have a band it’s about having fun, what’s the point of arguing – you might as well not make music. The best music is made when you’re happy. There’s nothing to be angry about, just live your life.

F: So who’s the joker in the band?
Mahfuz: He is the joker (points at Ahmad)
Ahmad: No Mahfuz is the joker.
Mahfuz: No! Well maybe I’m the joker when I’m being made fun of.
Shah: Ahmad is an extreme asshole. If you bring him to a cemetery… *breaks into laughter*
Hafiz: …he might look like a very nice guy but deep inside he is something else
Mahfuz: Ahmad is the randomest guy I’ve ever met.
Shah: If you’re friends with him, he will talk to your other friends about you even though your friends might not know who the hell he is! He is that much of an idiot.
Mahfuz: If you think Ahmad is a nice guy ah, you have not seen…
Ahmad: But I am a nice guy!
Hafiz: He’s just a funny asshole

F: Who’s the chill and laidback one?
Hafiz: That will be me.
Shah: Hafiz is like the father of the band. Organizing stuff. Our jamming sessions too. Hafiz is the one who will be like, “Hey guys today we will jam ah, at this time can?”

F: You guys have been in the scene for some time, have there been any bands that have influenced you, or perhaps any bands that you hope will make a comeback?
Ahmad: We all know the answer.
Hafiz: What.
Mahfuz: I don’t.
Shah: What?
Ahmad: Remember there was this band, all malays, all indian-muslims
Shah: B-Quartet.
Hafiz & Mahfuz: Oh yah, yes.
Shah: B-Quartet is very unique, they are different.
Ahmad: They set the benchmark for local music. Everyone has to strive towards that now.
Hafiz: Yes yes yes yes.

Ahmad: Marketing wise and all that I have to say Caracal. They have also been touring in Japan, quite recently.
Shah: They have the image for it, which is good.
Ahmad: They’re friends of ours too.
Hafiz: They deserve everything they have achieved thus far,
Shah: Very nice people.
Hafiz: I think they deserve much more actually. The band has worked really hard.

Shah: I hope the government, or whoever who has money, will help the scene in some way. There’s a lot of talent here, some of our bands are better than those you see overseas.
Ahmad: No exposure.
Shah: I read in the papers about the government giving money to the scene and all that. But I see nothing happening, there are no big shows during weekends. There’s no life in the music scene.
Ahmad: There’s an improvement though in terms of shows, hopefully it’ll get better.

F: Is it tough for the band financially?
Ahmad: Getting money for recording is tough. But we always try.
Hafiz: We save every month for this recording, so we don’t really feel it coming out from our pockets.
Ahmad: Yeah, progressively…
Hafiz: Jamming wise, recording wise and instruments wise we have enough but if we wanted to go overseas to promote the album…
Ahmad: We will have a very big issue then.
Shah: We have to start thinking about this a little more before the album is out.

Mahfuz: Actually the main problem isn’t the financial aspect but the fact that we’re all leading separate lives. The jobs we have makes it kind of difficult sometimes.
Ahmad: Time is even harder to get than money, especially to get ourselves together.
Hafiz: Sometimes it’s hard to even jam once a week.
Ahmad: The good thing is that we all live near each other in the north area.
Mahfuz: We place the band as a priority on top of family, our relationships
Shah: We don’t want to throw away our blood, sweat and tears and all that hard work. Everytime we stumble upon our own music, all the memories come flooding back. It is about us, basically. I don’t think we will ever stop doing what we do, we might be a little slow due to lack of time but we will still jam. And if there’s a show we will play it. We will do this until we have grandkids.
Mahfuz: This band is a part of us, it makes us who we are.
Shah: If someone were to ask you what your religion was, first you would say that you’re a muslim and then you would add on that you also believe in ‘Silhouette’.
Ahmad: Hahaha yeah.
Shah: *whispers* Actually this band is like a secret society, like a gang.

Silhouette is working on their debut full-length album scheduled for release later this year. Check out their music and download their 2009 EP, ‘Discover’ for free at http://silhouettesg.bandcamp.com/. Don’t forget to like the band on Facebook at http://facebook.com/sgsilhouette too!