Whether is it for a new act or an established artist, performing live these days is an essential way to not only reach out to more fans, but also as a source of income. Many artists or bands would love to be engaged for an overseas gig in order to increase their exposure to a wider audience. However, touring costs can be high, especially for overseas stints, and while there are grants available from various organizations such as the Media Development Authority and National Arts Council to cover partial touring costs, many Singaporean artists and bands find it a challenge to continue doing so. Nevertheless, it has not stopped Singapore acts such as local powerpop band TypeWriter who are seasoned performers from pushing themselves and exploring foreign territory.
As how guitarist Patrick Chng explains, “For an indie band like us, I don't think it's sustainable to keep touring overseas because it is expensive and the grants or funding only covers a small percentage of the cost. We did it for the experience and to see and meet other musicians in their own backyard. We've definitely learned a lot and it was an amazing experience. It has brought the band closer and opened our eyes to a lot of things. You can't put a price on that.”
Playing seven shows in 12 days in the UK, TypeWriter became the first Singapore band to perform at one of this year’s International Pop Overthrow Festival held in Liverpool from 14th to 21st May. In particular, TypeWriter had the opportunity to perform at The Cavern Club, where the legendary Beatles played in the early 60s as the club’s resident band.
We caught up with the band after their return to share more on their “English Breakfast” experience.
How did the opportunity to play at IPO come about? Was there an intention to play IPO all this while?
International Pop Overthrow is a powerpop music festival that's been around for over 10 years. We love powerpop music and I think TypeWriter's music is aligned to the sensibilities of the genre. When we came under KAMCO Music management last year, we talked about playing overseas and IPO was a festival we thought would be perfect for us. So our manager Kevin Mathews wrote to them to check us out and they wrote back with an invitation to perform at IPO Liverpool.
How did you manage to arrange for the other gigs other than the one at IPO? Did you work with a local agent over there?
We just wrote to a lot of people and venues for the other gigs. It wasn't easy at all. We know a friend in Cornwall who arranged a gig in Plymouth and Cornwall for us.
What was the whole experience like, especially since this is the first time for TypeWriter to perform overseas? Was there additional pressure?
We went without any expectations as we knew that we're totally unknown in the UK. Let's be honest. I don't think anyone in the UK will be excited to watch an unknown band from Singapore. The pressure that we put on ourselves was to perform well at every gig.
How did the audience take to the band's music? What was the size of the crowd like? Did you have the opportunity to sell your music or merchandise there?
We were pleasantly surprised by the response. Apart from Liverpool, most of the places we played at were small venues averaging about 20 to 30 people at each gig. Yes there were opportunities to sell our merchandise. We brought our CDs over and gave them away free at IPO. We wanted to spread our music so we thought the best way is to just give out our CDs to people who are interested.
What was it like meeting other bands who were performing at the festival? Any interaction of sorts on or off stage?
Actually I think we met more artists at the other venues than at the IPO festival. We had dinner with Axel Loughrey who supported us at 12 Bar Club in London. We met a really talented jazz guitarist Cy Brandl and other singer-songwriters at The Vauxhall Quay in Plymouth. A few of us met Pugwash and Farrah when we went to watch them at a small venue in Brixton. We did chat with and checked out a few bands at IPO Liverpool. It was really inspiring to watch the other performers.
How was the tour funded? How was NAC and Gibson involved? Was getting funding challenging? What were the sponsors' expectations? Any advice to other bands who would like to do the same?
We got a grant from NAC which covered almost 70% of our airfare. The rest was funded by us. Gibson supported us by lending us guitars in London. Yes, it was challenging to get funding and we're grateful to the NAC for their support. Bands who would like to do the same must be prepared to fork out most of their money.
What are TypeWriter's future plans? Will TypeWriter be actively looking at having more overseas gigs? If yes, which ones? Will you be focusing on touring in Asia?
We've just roped in a fifth member Alan Bok into the band so our immediate plan is to rehearse as a quintet. We plan to record an EP by end of the year so we're not thinking of touring overseas at the moment. We have contacts in Beijing but the opportunity for IPO Liverpool came up first. Maybe next time.
Photographs courtesy of TypeWriter/Lennat Mak
Formed in 2001, the band has journeyed through the years with various line-up changes and a vast catalogue that has been reworked with different contributions by its changing members, culminating in the two-CD debut album Indian Head Massage (2010).
With its current line-up of Yee Chang Kang (vocals, guitar, harmonica and keyboards), Patrick Chng (guitar, vocals and keyboards), Desmond Goh (bass and vocals), Redzuan Hussin (drums and percussion) and Alan Bok (guitars, keyboards), TypeWriter will continue to pursue its passionate dedication for song-craft and heartfelt honesty.
About International Pop Overthrow
International Pop Overthrow (IPO) is a pop music festival which has been held for the past fourteen years in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Boston, San Diego, Phoenix, Detroit, Milwaukee, Portland, Seattle, Austin, Dallas, Vancouver, and Toronto, as well as in Liverpool (at the world famous Cavern Club), and London, UK. Each IPO features between 25-180 of the best pop bands from around the world.