Think shiny guitar riffs and the infectious upbeat rhythms of Circa Waves, mixed with grittier Arctic Monkeys-esque undertones. The end product? Farrago.
Here’s a little introduction to this indie rock band from our very own Singapore. But first, a little explanation about their name. Farrago means “a confused mixture” (or in local terms, rojak), just like the band themselves – its four members come from four completely different countries.
Meet vocalist/guitarist Dave Hawkes, bassist Miwa Furukara, drummer Tristan North, and lead guitarist Jonathan Suresh. Hailing from England, Japan, Australia and Singapore respectively, they met back in 2012. Two years later, they began recording their debut album,“Trilby Hats and Sunflowers”.
They might be newcomers to the local music scene, but they’ve gained a whole lot of traction. Already, their music’s been featured on Lush 99.5 and Power 98. Here’s the big one – they’ve been invited to perform at this Saturday’s Skechers Sundown Festival alongside other local acts like Caracal and Cashew Chemists, and international bands like Japan’s INKT and Korea’s Epik High.
After the first track on Trilby Hats and Sunflowers, we knew we had to talk to this band. We frantically scoured their bio for all the info we could get. We refreshed their Instagram and Facebook pages endlessly (no, we’re not stalkers). We just needed to know more about that debut album. We needed to know about them. So here it is – our interview with Farrago.
- Tell me one interesting thing about yourselves or the band.
DAVE: I cook a mean Jhalfezi.
MIWA: I’m the art and technical department of the band.
TRISTAN: What I love about our band is that we all come from different musical backgrounds. Be it from metal, rock, jazz or orchestral, we gel really well musically, being pretty comfortable knowing what head space each other is in whenever we write and play our music.
JON: I’ve watched every episode of “The Simpsons” that has ever aired. I’m not even sure if I’m proud of that one.
- Each of you hail from Singapore, Japan, the U.K., and Australia. What are some of the great things about being part of such a diverse band?
DAVE: We are very different in many ways, from upbringing to music taste and style. For some reason we’ve clicked as musicians and as people, so it makes the band dynamics very fun and diverse. I enjoy learning new phrases, especially from Tristan, ‘cos those Aussies say some weird and wonderful things.
MIWA: I’ve become a lot better at geography.
TRISTAN: Cultural diversity in our band means two things to me: wider appeal to fans, knowing we have at least someone from a lot of regions of the world…. and rehearsals are never boring!
JON: Nothing, really.
- Your music’s been categorised as indie rock, Brit rock and even metal – how would you describe the type of music Farrago makes?
DAVE: Well, I can guarantee our music has never been described as metal! I know many of my metalhead friends would be guffawing into their drinks on reading that! I think that comes from the fact Jon is a very talented guitarist and his background is in metal and other such genres that he will enlighten you on. But that kind of highlights the point. The word “FARRAGO” means a confused mixture, and that we certainly are, and so is our music. Hence, I would describe our music as “farrago”.
MIWA: Rock, in a nutshell.
TRISTAN: I think indie rock really sums it up. At this point we don’t really fall into any particular genre, as we have influences from a lot of styles that permeate through our songs. We’re still experimenting with our sound but we most certainly are independent and we play rock.
JON: Those are our influences, actually. Honestly, it’s kinda poppy Brit rock. You know, feel-good music.
- When did all of you decide that music was something you wanted to pursue? Why?
DAVE: It wasn’t something I decided upon, I just was naturally good at melody and making an acceptable noise out of most instruments I picked up when I was young. I’m a terrible student though, and considering I’ve been playing since I was 8 years old, I really should be a hell of a lot better!
MIWA: When I was a teenager I bought a Bass guitar from money my grandma gave me for emergencies. She’ll be pleased to know I’m still playing that exact same Bass!
TRISTAN: I think it was at the first rehearsal that we all played together for the first time where we realised we may have a sound that was worth pursuing. In the rehearsals that followed cemented that… and here we are. We all love music, and more importantly, making music. I think when we knew we could do it together it was a decision already made that we’d pursue it.
JON: I was eight. I had just heard a bootleg Metallica CD and I decided that I needed to learn the guitar. It was for the chicks, you see? Though I didn’t know it at the time.
- Your new album, Trilby Hats and Sunflowers, was just released this year. How was the process of making this album?
DAVE: We initially set out on just recording a couple of songs so that we had something to show for ourselves when trying to get gigs. However, the process is quite addictive and once we had 3 songs down I really wanted to push on and record some more. I was adamant an album should have 10 songs at least and so I set about trying to write songs that would suit the type of album we were trying to make. The whole recording process actually took about a year, but that was mainly because we all have day jobs, and we were doing it in a part time, whenever-we-could-fit-it-in basis!
We had a lot of help from our producer Pete throughout the process and I think we became quite efficient in the end. Our song writing became better as we went along too, so I’m looking forward to getting back into the studio. I know Tristan is keen too, but I think Miwa and Jon would like a bit more time before going again!
As for what you can expect from the album. It’s hard to say really, obviously we hope everyone gets blown away by it, but we are not naïve. I can guarantee you 100 per cent that there is a lot of heart in this album. Its main themes revolve around nostalgia, grief, friendship, humour, love and most importantly hope.
MIWA: I had never been in a recording studio before, and it wasn’t as rock and roll as I thought it would be. It took a whole year to complete but my parts were done in three days. I don’t know what took the boys so long!
TRISTAN: We had so much fun, in and out of the studio over a period of 8 months. Certainly, as this was our first album together, was a fantastic experience for us. It’s a fun album to listen to but has it’s deeper emotional moments too. A good variety or musical styles that well represent our different backgrounds and contributions.
- What is this album about – what do you want it to be for the listeners, and what is to you?
DAVE: I think my ramblings in the above question answer this one!
MIWA: Ask Dave.
TRISTAN: It’s a collection of songs that make you realise how valuable your life really is. Buried within the lyrics are emotional highs and lows that subtly encourage us to make the most of each moment in life. We want to listeners to enjoy the music and be able to sing along, helping us tell our stories. It’s an album of reflection and contemplation for us, and our first crack at a creative compilation of our many years as musicians.
- Tell me a little about the songs. What were your favourite tracks on the album? What are the meanings behind them?
DAVE: My fave is the title track “Trilby Hats and Sunflowers”. We actually had the name of the album before we wrote the song. I deliberately set out to write this song with a very simple chord structure, I just had to find a lyric that rhymed with sunflowers! This song came within two hours of that decision. It was raw though. Thankfully Tristan, Jon, Miwa and (producer) Pete did their magic and made the song so much better than I imagined it could be, whilst still maintaining its rawness.
MIWA: My favourite track changes, but I think I’m settled on “Breathe” now. Basically, it makes me happy, and it cheers me up when I’ve had a bad day.
TRISTAN: “You and I” Because of the hard rock feel, with a funky beat, and the vocal depth we show.
JON: It changes with my mood. Right now, it’s “Traffic Lights”. I love the contrast between the upbeat music and the depressing lyrics. Plus, I heard there’s a killer guitar solo in it.
- Do you feel that it’s tough to break into the local music scene these days? Were there any challenges you faced?
DAVE: I think if you are good enough, the scene will open its doors to you. We think we are onto something but it’s up to us to prove that to people in the know, so we are still very much on the other side of those doors! Having said that, we’ve had some great help along the way so we are looking forward to surprising people.
MIWA: Harder than I was prepared for. But we are a slightly lazy bunch and our day jobs get in the way, but I am trying my best to get these boys moving.
TRISTAN: Certainly it’s tough. As an unknown band, you’re trying to sell your creative talent to people who potentially have very particular tastes. You really have to “wow” someone to be able to make the next step, which can be especially tough in a scene as small as that in Singapore.
- Where do you see Farrago in the next few years of Singapore’s rapidly expanding music scene?
DAVE: Again, we aren’t naïve, so we aren’t expecting miracles. Our immediate aim is to be one of the go to bands for festivals and gigs here in Singapore and to see where that takes us. Having people singing along to our tracks is very rewarding.
MIWA: Hearing on how Dave and Tristan are talking, we will probably have five albums out by then. I don’t think I can keep up!
TRISTAN: Hopefully helping it to grow more and more! We are all big supporters of local live music and to help grow the scene, reaching out to a new generation of live music lovers, would be a privilege for us.
- What’s one message you aim to leave behind for anyone that listens to your music?
DAVE: Life can kick you in the teeth, but if you put a sad song to a happy beat, someday you’ll remember to laugh again.
MIWA: Don’t forget to dance.
TRISTAN: Live life, be happy and cherish all that you have!
For all you indie rock lovers out there, the album was released on iTunes this September. If you’re looking for new summery feel-good tracks with an eclectic mix of infectious beats and chord progressions, you’ve found the right band. It’s always summer in Singapore anyway; Farrago will just make you feel happier about the scorching sun and your impending heatstroke.
All photos taken from Farrago’s Facebook page.