Characterised by ambient backgrounds and atmospheric, shoegaze soundscapes, Singapore’s CALVAIRE proves the evolution of metal and experimental heavy music. With their unique combination of a variety of different musical styles and creative structures, these nice fellas has created one of the most memorable and compelling debut EPs to come out this year. You shall not be disappointed.
Here’s the full stream of “On The Heights Of Despair” and the full interview conducted with tha band’s vocalist Azfar. Enjoy!
Hey Azfar! It’s been a while since I interviewed a band from the Lion City. How are you? How’s Singapura?
Hey Karol, we’re good. We just did our EP launch show last Saturday (7th Feb) at The Lithe Paralogue & the turnout was overwhelmingly great! Singapore’s hot & the people here are miserable as always, haha, but the music scene is doing fantastic. A lot of new bands & also older bands reforming & playing shows again, which is always good news. That’s a pleasant surprise, we didn’t know you did an interview with a Singaporean band before.
Ok, but back to CALVAIRE, you’ve just released your impressing debut EP called “On The Heights Of Despair”. Seriously, along with EPHEMERA and the latest VI SOM ÄLSKADE VARANDRA SÅ MYCKET album album, and despite its too-flat production, this might be one of my favorite post rockish hardcore/metal records in a long time! What made you decide to go with this particular blend of epic ambient backgrounds and heavy aesthetics? Tell me a bit more about the fundamental ideas behind the band and your approach to making progressive heavy music.
Wow, OVERTHROWN and THE CAULFIELD CULT, both local bands that towers in terms of talent & status compared to us.
Firstly, thank you so much for listening & the kind words concerning our debut EP. We love EPHEMERA’s S/T!
A bit about the band, we formed back in early 2012 and played mostly melodic hardcore with main influences such as HUNDREDTH and THE GHOST INSIDE, but musically, it was always our goal to be more progressive. Each of the band members have varying taste in musical preferences but we mainly enjoy post-rock, shoegaze and ambient. So by 2013, the idea of changing our sound was inevitable, hence we fused ambient with screaming vocals & spoken words.
The first we song we ever wrote (from the new direction change) titled ‘Greetings From Fifty-Two’ is highly influenced by UK’s ECHOES. We eventually branched out to varying tempo that ranges from ambient riffs to slow post-rock vibes but as much as possible, we try to retain a ‘bleak and depressive’ feel to the song structure. On The Heights Of Despair is hugely influenced by music from ECHOES, DEAFHEAVEN, ENVY, HEAVEN IN HER ARMS & our local heroes, PARIS IN THE MAKING.
The whole idea of the production is to make the ambient riffs stick out & have the vocals drown out. If possible, we want listeners to get this sinking feeling where they are literally drowning, & yet see the beauty in death despite of it. Also, lyrically, though each track differs in topic, the concept of existential nihilism (mainly from Emil Cioran’s work) provides the overarching theme for the EP. Thus adding to the bleak nature of our songs.
Considering the evolution of hardcore and heavy music, do you think there has been a significant change or development in the hardcore genre? Do you consider CALVAIRE a punk band?
Change and progression in any musical genre, let alone hardcore music is inevitable. I do believe that the internet provides a wonderful platform where music availability is extremely easy, allowing musicians & listeners to be exposed with so many genres. Hence, it is expected to have hardcore bands playing more diverse music & in fact, fusing metal & hardcore isn’t a novelty anymore. More importantly (for us), the fusion of shoegaze/post-rock with heavy music provides us with a musical foundation where we feel most comfortable with, so without a doubt, there has been a significant change.
Do we consider ourselves a punk band? Well, musically, we’re definitely not a punk band simply because we don’t play punk music. Lyrically, I write about existential nihilism and our themes drive towards a more philosophical nature, where everything is detested (not only political and social norms). However, I do believe that CALVAIRE embraces the DIY ethics that is deeply rooted in the punk culture. We paid for everything for this EP, from the CD pressing to our merch. The instruments (drums aside) was recorded at our friend’s room and the tracks were mixed and mastered by another one of our friends (who happens to play for a bloody awesome band, KAJI). We do have plenty of friends that belongs to the punk and hardcore culture, so I guess we’re somewhere in between. To be perfectly honest, it’s best to define CALVAIRE as a band that plays loud music. :)
How have politics and the need to change your environment influenced you? Can you talk about some of the rest of the inspirations that led you to form this band and speak up through its lyrics?
Due to the country’s population, the music scene in Singapore is really small & comprises of the same group of really supportive & vibrant people. Unfortunately, there are only several venues (less than 5 perhaps?) that welcomes underground/heavy music. So to be perfectly honest, the group of people that we’re friends with, be it from the hardcore or punk scene, probably end up going to the same show. It’s not uncommon to have shows which includes punk, hardcore & metal bands in the lineup.
Considering how young we are as a band, what we take away from these cultures are how hardworking they are in practicing their craft & we try as much as possible to follow & learn. Both the hardcore & punk scene have some of the most genuinely nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. I’m not keen to discuss on politics within each scene, because as a band & also personally, we feel that we have no place or right to talk about it.
The main inspiration in the formation of the band came about naturally since we’re all close friends from school & share more or less the same musical influences. Hence, forming & playing in a band is inevitable. We’ve known each other since 2006 but started crafting originals & playing shows only 6 years later, due to school & military obligations after that.
To make things clear, the band is aware of the amazing French band CALVAIIRE from Throatruiner, however the name was chosen from one of my personal favourite horror film with the same title: Fabrice Du Welz’s Calvaire (2005).
Fortunately, the rest of the band gives me full creative freedom when it comes to the band’s lyrical theme. I’m an avid fan of Emil Cioran’s works & consider myself to be a pseudonihilist. CALVAIRE’s main lyrical influence will differ with topic from song to song (such as human values, loneliness etc) but existential nihilism will always be the main theme. My lyrics are deeply personal & it shall remain that way because I find it pointless to be performing something that is meaningless or forced.
Awesome. I was just about to ask you how vital your local music scene is and how you decided to name your band with a French slang curse word, haha. CALVAIIRE is a great band and Throatruiner is one of the most active and interesting European labels to date, no doubt.
Ok, so are there any local artists / other members of your local music ecosystem that have had an impact on you and how you work?
Totally agree! Love all the bands from Throatruiner! In fact, ELIZABETH played in Singapore a few months back.
Definitely! There are a few highly important and influential people within the local music ecosystem that helped the band progress both in terms of our showmanship and also musically. Firstly, it’s Anvea (Yumi and owner of Lithe Paralogue Studios/Music Of Independent Music of Singapore) for constantly supporting us and allowing us to use her studio to practice. Secondly, Amir from Identite, who consistently hosts local gigs and invited us to play alongside huge local bands and exposing the band to ‘wider’ listeners as well. And also to Shaiful, who runs Prohibited Projects (http://prohibitedprojects.blogspot.sg/), a DIY underground hardcore punk label and genuinely one of the most hardworking individual I’ve ever met. These three individuals provided a platform for us to practice our craft and motivates the band to consistently make better music (though I’m pretty certain that they will deny this, simply because they are all too humble, but it’s ok)
Bands that influenced us would definitely be PARIS IN THE MAKING, SJANSE who will be playing at CMAR Fest this year and YUMI who is signed under Dog Knights Productions. Watching these bands play, make us wanna do better & increases our self-efficacy as well.
Since we’re mentioning local acts, I’d like to put out a few more local bands, simply because they play awesome music.
What are your thoughts about marketing your music online versus promoting it locally in front of listeners and potential followers that sees and feels your work in person?
Well, both online ‘marketing’ & simply performing in front of listeners do have its pros & cons. advancement in technology, social media & the internet is too great to ignore & not utilize. I mean, that’s how we got our music out to foreign listeners to begin with. However, every other band is also using this as an outlet to ‘promote’ their material so the constant influx of ‘new bands’ may deter the progression of bands.
Ideally, you would want every person who RT, Fav or Like the band’s social media updates to actually listen to our stuff. But we all know that’s not the case, hence the immediate feedback we get from our posts is not a fair reflection of what the ‘listeners’ are actually doing. I feel that it is highly important to use social media (CALVAIRE is doing it as well) to ‘promote’ but never shy away from actually going up to friends & people within the music ecosystem to personally inform them about future shows or band related stuff. Marketing online is just one facet of getting your music out there.
I personally feel that our recordings don’t do justice to our live performances. We’ve gotten feedback that we are more of a ‘live’ band than a studio one. So, I do feel that, for someone who’ve never heard CALVAIRE before, they could potentially like & appreciate our music by seeing our performances. Visually witnessing us play live is a more lasting & impactful way to ‘win’ our listeners vs. sharing our bandcamp link (which people can simply ignore).
But, sometimes, to get listeners to be there & watch live gigs, they would need a reason to want to be there. Apart from word of mouth from friends, I guess listening to our stuff online would be the pivotal first step to evoke that interest for them to come out, attend shows & watch the band play.
I don’t see it as online vs. live performance. It is up to the band/musician to utilize both facets of promoting music.
Apart from music, do you work with any other artistic medium?
Well, our guitarist (Iryan) happens to be a photographer & a visual artist. Check out his works on thesleepcurse.tumblr.com & Instagram. He does all the design & artwork for our releases. Apart from that, making music is pretty much all we do.
Alright Azfar. What else? How do you see your sound and the whole band project developing in the future? What’s next for CALVAIRE?
As a band, we feel that progression is crucial, not only for future listeners but as musicians to continually push ourselves. We have two new songs and it sounds different and more mature from the entire EP. I firmly believe each member of the band have improved significantly with their own craft & our song-writing will definitely be stretched even more for future tracks. Looking forward, we aim to at least play some overseas show (really hope the EP would be the platform for this) and just continue make music.
What’s next for CALVAIRE is a four-way split (can’t mention the bands because it’s still early stage of planning) with other local and regional bands. This should be done by Mid-July to Sep (latest).
From the bottom of our hearts, we want to sincerely thank you Karol & IDIOTEQ.COM for this truly amazing opportunity to be featured. It really is a humbling experience for us.
Thanks :) Thanks so much for your time! Take care man!