By Foo Min Valerie
Seated in an atas (local slang for classy) café with the classic Beatles t-shirt and “too-cool-to-care” mop hairdo, Cheating Sons’ frontman Wang Renyi and lead guitarist Leong Chee Shan can pull off a cool look in singlets, drinking kopi (local slang for coffee) in a typical Singapore coffee shop.
Most recently appeared on stage opening for Northern Ireland band Two Door Cinema Club at the Esplanade Concert Hall, it’s no wonder this band will be the highlight of many attending this year’s Baybeats.
“If I’m going to tell a story, why should I tell a story about something that I’m not familiar with? We’re all familiar with life here and that’s all we’re familiar with. We’re not trying to be someone else,” says Renyi.
Renyi (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica), Chee Shan (lead guitar, banjo, bass), Don (bass, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, backing vocals), and Andy (drums, percussion) make up the members of Cheating Sons. Formed in late 2008, Cheating Sons acquired a deliberate negative connotation in their name from the “angst of the artist in Singapore”.
“A lot of our songs are narratives. They are stories inspired by life in Singapore,” shares Renyi.
He adds, “I think we’re very entrenched and engrained, and we really like all the aspects of our culture. A lot of people slam Singapore for a lot of different reasons, but I think they fail to realise the unique side of our culture. You only fully appreciate it when you leave this place for a while, which we did when we went overseas [to study].”
It comes as no surprise that local references are dominant in their music. Their debut album – Masters, Wives, Daughter – released in January this year consists of 10 original songs and boasts song titles like ‘Ah Long On the Run‘.
When asked about their favourite song off the album, Chee Shan points to Renyi, who appears to be deep in thought. Chee Shan snaps, “He is the lyricist!”
They burst into peals of laughter as Chee Shan takes out a copy of their album for Renyi who takes a moment to look at the titles of his work, before coming to a decision after some deliberation.
“I think lyrically, it would be ‘Tales Of Glory‘, that would be one of the songs I’m most pleased with in terms of the stories I was trying to tell and the lyrics I’ve written,” he muses as he takes a sip of coffee.
Chee Shan smiles as he recalls the band’s album, which took 19 months to produce, as the “most significant event.”
Since its formation on late-2008, the band has evolved and come a long way. Whilst they used to play covers of their favourite grunge rock bands back when they were in school, Cheating Sons now perform on the stages of Timbre and Home Club. They have also shared the stage with international acts during music festivals like Music Matters. The band’s unique mix of blues and rock ‘n’ roll music has won many fans.
“Good story telling coupled with great music,” says Robin Chua, 38, a creative executive. For 50-year-old, Kevin Matthews, a fellow local musician, ‘The Last Queen’ has good melody and a strong hook in the banjo.
The quartet is set to perform for Baybeats, an annual 3-day music festival held at the Esplanade.
“We’re glad to be able to play at Baybeats because it’s a bigger stage and we can reach more people,” says Renyi.
“Our goals are simple – to play better, gig more extensively, and write with greater inspiration and creativity. We also want to spread our music to markets beyond our shores.”
Additional reporting by Esther Low & Francesca Tay
Photo courtesy of Cheating Sons