It was at a typical place where you’d see musicians go to – a jamming studio. The only thing that stood out were this trio whom we were meeting for the afternoon.
They were Sim Jin, Joshua Tan and Marcus Lim, better known as the members of The Sets Band.
The Sets Band rose to greater recognition last week after they were crowned the winners of the Levi’s Music Challenge. The win meant that they would have the honour of performing a 30-minute set at the Timbre: Rock and Roots concert, alongside famous musicians like Bob Dylan and John Legend on the 16th of April at the Marina Promenade.
As part of The UrbanWire’s webcast series, Tan DingXiang and Stephanie from Radio Heatwave get up close and personal with the band.
How it all began
Joshua Tan, the lead singer and guitarist, explained how the band came about. He dates their earliest meeting back in 2009, when they were in the first year of polytechnic education.
“Marcus and I were schoolmates!”, Joshua says with a grin. What about their tall bassist, Jin? To this, Joshua rambles on, matter-of-factly, “Him? Jin was his (Marcus’) neighbour and the three of us came together one day to jam.”
Jin responded by saying, “We found out that Josh could sing! That was after jamming with another band. So Josh came over and suggested that the four of us jam together.”
But what compelled Joshua to initiate the forming of The Sets Band? “At that time, I wrote our very first song, Rebound. I wanted a fuller sound to that song, with more bass, so we just tried it out and it worked!”
What’s in a name?
We wanted to know, besides the name The Sets Band, were there any other quirky names that they nearly adopted? Sniggering, Joshua explained the full story to us. “We were just chilling at the playground. We had a few names for the band like ‘Treetops’, but we realised other bands in Malaysia had the same name. We had even had other names, like ‘TFS’, ‘Hello Monday’.”
So what exactly made them settle on such an ambiguous name? “Every band name has their genre to it, like Blood on Water, which is heavy metal, but we wanted to get a general name so we could experiment with different styles,” Joshua said.
Jin adds on, “We just wanted to play our own style of unique music. We have our different musical backgrounds. Josh plays R&B, Marcus was into blues all the way and I was into funk. So we thought, why not just come together and combine everything to become The Sets Band?”
Working with each other
It is not unusual to see 5-piece bands ply their trade in the music industry, but The Sets Band only has 4 members.
Would that make them sound less ‘full’? Bassist Jin thought otherwise, retorting, “It’s minimalism at work, I guess!”
Joshua concurred with Jin, but had a point to make. “I don’t know if having more members make us sound ‘fuller’, but the number of members doesn’t matter. We try to learn different instruments and keep experimenting with different stuff. We’re not that particular over how many members we have. Having too many people… it’s just funny, I guess,” he laughed.
So who would they give credit to as influences in their music? Jin pauses, before quoting, “We call our style of music ‘The iPod Shuffle’,” drawing laughs from our host. “Anything that’s on the iPod, we just try it our if it sounds good. Josh checks out YouTube videos too and we chance upon bands on the way.”
“Disagreement? Not at all!”
Amidst all the random places that there derive their ideas from, Jin mentioned earlier about each member’s different musical background and preference, with various genres, ranging from R&B to blues and even indie. How in the world did they work out their differences?
Josh stated, “We try to like every song. Coming from different genres, we would have times when we dislike certain songs. But we try to convince each other to try new things out.”
Sounds like a really constructive process, guys.
The songwriting process
How does the band come up with their songs? Jin explained that every jamming session would be a song-writing process they undertook. “We just go along and add what we think would work.” He also said that encouragement is key. “We tell each other (honestly) ‘Hey, you’ve done a good job’ or ‘Great idea’ if we incorporate our ideas into our songs.”
Speaking of the songwriting process, who comes up with the most random and funny ideas? Joshua and Marcus immediately points at Jin. “He’s the clown,” both chortle.
Admitting the fact, Jin nodded, “I’m not a joker, but a clown. Everything I do, I get laughed at.”
Planning for the future
Given that the band has risen to considerable popularity, with an addition of more than a hundred Facebook fans in a week, has this new-found fame changed them in any way?
Jin brushes it off, stating, “We’ve not changed much as people, we’re still the same 20 year-olds.”
Nodding in agreement, Joshua added, “We just want to make our name as The Sets Band. Our songs define who we are. We’re just a bunch of guys who want to show what songs we have. Too many locals do covers, in my opinion, so I’d like to do more originals and showcase our own work.”
Speaking of original compositions, does the band plan on releasing an EP anytime soon?
Joshua would only shrug and say,” Maybe after Rock and Roots… We have our tracks, but getting down to recording them and making an EP costs money and time. We’re still busy with gigs and everything for now though.”
Admist the busy schedules they have, how do they keep in touch with their circle of loyal fans?
The answer was just as we’d expected – Facebook.
“We go on Facebook only at night. There was a period where we wanted to upload videos weekly, to update people on what we do. We’ve stopped that for a while, but we plan to carry on with that again,” Joshua says, with a hopeful look on his face.
For the fans
So is there anything the band has to say to their fans?
Jin, true to his namesake as the band’s clown, jokingly directed us to the band’s Facebook page.
“Find us there,” he quipped.
Joshua, on the other hand, offered more serious advice to aspiring musicians.
“Just continue writing more (original) music, we’d love to hear more good music.”
Tickets to the Timbre: Rock and Roots concert are available at www.sistic.com.sg.