Nothing in their name, debut album title, or even band member lineup suggests that Farrago, which means a confused mix in Latin, is a Singaporean band.
Yet, they’re more than happy to be a part of Singapore’s growing local music industry.
Lead singer/guitarist David Hawkes, 34, who founded the indie-rock group in 2012, tells UrbanWire that their name encapsulates not just the various ethnicities (British, Japanese, Australian, Singaporean) that comprise the band, but their mix of different musical tastes that run the gamut from Brit rock, ska, indie to metal.
“Our bassist Miwa (Furukawa) a big fan of Inch Chua, she thinks (Inch) is the coolest thing in the local music scene. She is a sucker for girl power always!” shares Hawkes, an Englishman who settled in Singapore 20 years ago. The musical influence may be there, but Farrago doesn’t emulate any band. Australian drummer Tristan North insists, “We all like different bands and it’s all about overlapping what we all like, but we don’t sound like any of them!”
Like many local bands, Dave and the rest of the members have day jobs, although they spend all their free time on honing their music. Hawkes and North, who’s 32, work for a prestigious airline. The only Singapore-born member, guitarist Jonathan Suresh, who was absent from our interview, has an IT career.
“We’re like having 2 full-time jobs, really,” Furukawa laments jokingly, adamant that a woman’s age should never be revealed. However, she does let on that she works in the design industry.
With their debut album Trilby Hats and Sunflowers just released in September, Farrago are set to win fans in a big way.
“Lush 99.5FM has been great from the beginning, they played our stuff even before the album debut!” exclaims North.
Their feel good album was a bold first step since almost all new bands start out releasing only an EP to test the waters out there. Hawkes recalls, “We thought why not go for it and record an album? We had the songs ready; it was just a matter finding the cash!”
“The most challenging part,” the husky voiced singer admits,” is knowing when to say: ‘It’s done, leave it alone.’ As we went through the process, we got better at what we were doing, so it was really tempting to go back to the first songs and do them again.”
It took the 4 just a year complete the album, and they’ve managed to create some potential hits,
“Breathe”, for example, is a light-hearted rock ballad, with lyrics (remember football in the park, we played till after dark. Never given you a head start at the park) that evoke nostalgia, and a melody that can lift spirits.
“I was told by a few people, quite independently, that our album is very good at pulling on the heart strings. We feel we’ve done it a way that will make us enjoyable to listen to, ” shares Hawkes.
Others must agree too, because Farrago is part of the highly anticipated line-up at Skechers Sundown Festival playing at Marina Promenade on Nov 21, with other Asian acts like Caracal (Singapore), Epik High (Korea), Potato (Thailand) and INKT (Japan).
“Personally I love how the festival has evolved, and the fact they are now really pushing for local acts to complement the overseas acts shows that their principles are right,” shares Hawkes.
He certainly knows what he’s saying because he was just a regular audience member at the inaugural Skechers Sundown Festival at Fort Canning, 7 years ago.
“I was totally taken aback at what a group of like-minded people can achieve if the passion and will to succeed is in place, a fire in the belly can take you a long way,” Hawkes reminisces about how he was so inspired by the bands it drove him to start his own.
Since then, Farrago has managed another feather in their cap: Jamming in Japan to a global audience. It happened when one of Hawke’s friends, who has a band in Japan, invited Farrago to play a couple of shows there. Furukawa even recorded the music video for their single ‘We Were Young’ by accident over there, when her intention was just to create a video compilation for memories. They do have another music video for ‘Traffic Lights’ that was shot in Singapore.
With a fresh album waiting to be discovered, Farrago’s thankful for fans and the inspiration from larger acts in the local music scene.
Disagreeing with a predominant view that the Singapore music scene is stagnating, Hawkes observes, “While the local scene is very much in its infancy, it seems to be growing rapidly. Importantly, there is a lot of support from some bigger players in the market so I think things are only going to get better for local musicians and local fans of local music.” Having watched and performed with a variety of Singaporean musicians, some of Farrago’s most respected artistes include punk rock band Plain Sunset, electronic duo .gif, and singer-songwriter Inch Chua.
Hawkes believes Farrago was invited to play at Skechers Sundown Festival because they’re opening the door when the right opportunities knock and networking with the right people. Plus, supportive fans of the local music scene help them to push them to greater heights.
“The people we’ve played to so far in Singapore have been great, very welcoming and doing their best to get the buzz going.”
Furukawa concludes, “Singapore is definitely our home and I want (Farrago) to be accepted as a local band. People will get different perceptions, but we always say we are a local band.”
Photo Credits: Red Spade Entertainment.