Dibentuk tahun 1996, Plainsunset berkembang dari komunitas punk rock. Mereka merilis debut Runaway pada tahun 1997. Plainsunset kemudian hadir dengan Love Songs For The Emotionally Wounded empat tahun kemudian. Sejak saat itu, nama mereka semakin besar dan berpengaruh.
Meski sempat memutuskan bubar pada tahun 2004, tren datang silih berganti dan band-band baru bermunculan, namun Plainsunset adalah senjakala yang tidak pernah mau tenggelam. Tahun ini kuartet yang diusung Norsham Husaini, Nizam Sukri, Helmi Abd Rahman dan Jon Chan tersebut memasuki fase baru dalam berkarya lewat album anyar Both Boxer and Benjamin.
Untuk itu, KANALTIGAPULUH tartarik membicarakan album baru yang judulnya sendiri terinspirasi George Orwell itu. Sekalian juga, kami menanyakan Jon Chan dan Sham sejarah band dan skena lokal Singapura.
What we should expect from your upcoming record Both Boxer & Benjamin?
Sham: Lots of guitars … like lots of them. And tambourine. And claps. And xylophone. And distortion. And delays. And singalongs. Please have a listen and give the record some support. Hope you will like it.
Jon: I agree that for us it’s a little different, more textured. Also, we’re playing with a different dynamic of what we usually do. It’s just us trying things out.
Could you share the meaning behind the album title Both Boxer & Benjamin?
Jon: The title is based on the theme and the characters from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. It’s not so much to do with his portrayal of communism, but more to do with the personalities. It’s about how all of us have both the idealist (Boxer the Horse) and the pragmatic cynic (Benjamin the Donkey). A large part of the themes are to do with social politics and dynamics.
How did you write ‘Six/Four’?
Jon: The song is based on a few things, ostensibly about the notion of how we move on from things. Often everything from how me move from one relationship into another, into a new job, into new places, countries, everything. In each we are always hoping that “this is it. it will be better this time.”
Do you still remember how you ended up playing emo/indie-rock and punk music?
Sham: We just started the band cause we heard Green Day’s Kerplunk. As band members change and we listen to lots of other stuff beside punk rock, the band just evolve to what it is now.
How do you feel when people start referring you as the most influential punk/indie rockers in Singapore?
Jon: I actually still don’t know how to react to that. I think it feels slightly uncomfortable for me when I get stares on the street or something.
Sham: I don’t think we are the most influential cause there are so many other great bands here in Singapore that inspire me both new and old.
Talking about my favorite record, Love Songs For The Emotionally Wounded the record will celebrate its 10 years anniversary next year. Do you think the album was a great accomplishment for the band and can you tell us the story behind the record?
Jon: I think that was an extension of the first album (Runaway) but with influences of things like The Promise Ring, The Getup Kids, Mineral, a lot of those bands. The themes hadn’t changed but the style had come out different. I still feel it’s one of my favourite albums actually.
After so many years together, what aspects of Plainsunset has changed the most?
Sham: I guess we sound a bit different from when we first started out. We think differently in terms of music. But we always meet in the middle.
Is it hard to make a band and keep making record for 10 years in Singapore?
Sham: If everyone in the band is still interested and can manage their time around family, band practice and shows and work it is not hard. If you wanna do it, you will find ways to do it.
One thing I was kind of wondering about is, how are the punk and DIY community in Singapore doing?
Jon: I think there is a return to it. I think people are beginning to move on from what’s popular. If music / fashion history is proof that trends repeat themselves, then we are in for loud and noisy and fun again soon.
Sham: Almost every weekend the punk and DIY community have shows here in Singapore. Keeping it alive all the time which is great.
How was the scene when you started the band in 90’s? What bands were you and your peers mostly listening to in those times?
Jon: At the time it was the whole straightedge hardcore or British Indie or Metal thing happening. So when we came out it was tough at first because there wasn’t a lot of ways that we could fit into either of these genres. But eventually people began to accept us and do their own takes on what we were doing. So that was great.
Sham: It was hard for Plainsunset in the 90’s. There were not much punk rock bands around so it was kinda hard for us. And we actually don’t know what we are doing and where the band will head to. But as we play more shows we get to know more people and bands … that got us sorted till this very day. Without the support of friends and fans I don’t think we are able to get where we are now. We are so grateful to all the people, friends and bands who have helped us all this time.
Do you have an opinion of local scene that you like about and don’t like about it?
Jon: I think we are too trend-driven and stick to safe things. I don’t hate it but i question it when people experiment for the sake of it sometimes. I am beginning to re-look at the idea of conviction in what you do. It’s like making sincerity needless in art. It’s not always the case but we sometimes let technology dictate how we are doing things. If you listen to music through the ages, you may notice that in many ways it’s the sincerity coupled with innovation that leaves a legacy.
Sham: The thing that I don’t like about it now is that there is a lack of shows that have different genres in them. When we first started out indie, hardcore, reggae and punk bands were all playing in the same shows. That’s just what I like shows to be. But I guess I am just old.
I stumbled on Wake Up Music label, I enjoyed the compilation “One More For The Road” from the indie-rock/emo/punk bands there. It is safe to say that the compilation showed a glimpse of the best alternative sound in Singapore. What do you think about the label and the rosters and how they shape the current local indie bands now?
Sham: Yeah that was just a handful bands. There are so many great bands out there that people should know about.
Jon: I think things are changing and bands like to manage themselves now, but I think you do lose some of your edge if someone else doesn’t help to run things for you.
We got new wave bands like Tapestry, Paris in The Making and Forest, what do you think of them?
Jon: I think they are in a good place of experimenting and I think they have a lot more to offer, still.
Sham: They are all great bands! Paris In The Making’s latest record ‘Solve et Coagula’ is a fucking epic record! And Polyvinyl or Topshelf Records should sign Forest and put a record out for them cause their Sun Eat Moon Grave Party LP gave me the feels and goosebumps. Listening to Tapestry brings me back to that band called Mineral. Simply lovely! To me this never gets old.
I think that’s all. Thank you for the time. Anything you’d like to add?
Sham: Thank you so much for the interview. Hopefully we could play shows in Indonesia some day.