Urban Xchange

Interview with Urban Xchange

Interview with Urban Xchange

Urban Xchange has created history for the local English music industry by being nominated for this year’s MTV Asia Awards.

Though Stefanie Sun eventually walked away with the Favourite Artist Singapore award, the band can take comfort that their latest single is “Buzzin” through local airwaves.

Urban Xchange: The band next door

When Urban Xchange turned up in full force at Spinelli’s, you get the feeling that you’re chilling out with some wacky buddies, albeit rather glamorous ones. Fresh from performing at the MTV Asia Awards road show at the Heeren, they were visibly hyped from the crowd’s wolf whistling and shattering cheers.

Life after being a nominee in MTV Asia Awards

Despite the honour of being nominated in this year’s MTV Asia Awards for Favourite Singapore Music Artist, Urban Xchange seemed determined to remain as down-to-earth as they were before, going from relative unknowns to releasing 2 albums under Universal Music and collaborating with big names like Brian McKnight and Too Phat.

“It’s good to be recognised for the music you do, regardless of who we are. We’re really proud to be the only English band nominated [in the Singapore category],” Vanessa Fernandez chimed, acknowledging the fact that the other contenders for the award were Mandarin pop favourites like Stefanie Sun and Ho Yeow Sun.

“I think it (the nomination) shows some changes in the way people view the English market, because you know, in Singapore, it’s predominantly Mandarin pop,” added the 20-year-old vocalist.

Singer Trisno Ishak chipped in matter-of-factly, “Life will still be the same even if we do win the award.

I’ve got to pay my bills. In the end, it’s all about working hard day after day.”

Colleagues AND friends

The band’s camaraderie was apparent, further dispelling the much-debated topic on whether the spotlight was shining just a little too bright on the band’s producer/rapper/songwriter Terry Lee, 24. On the observation that my favourite Urban Xchange track “Buzzin” was receiving heavy airplay on Mediacorp Radio station Perfect 10, Vanessa gestured at Terry.

“He writes all of it,” she said. Terry shrugged it off with a slight grin.

“Vanessa is a very good songwriter,” volunteered Firdaus aka DJ Noyzfera2, , 22, who, until then, had kept conspicuously silent, distracted, no doubt, by the indoor road show that was hosted by MTV VJ Utt and Perfect 10 DJ Jean Danker. Firdaus specialises in fiddling with turntables.

“They’re both very good songwriters,” Trisno nodded. “Let’s put it this way, [the lyrics] shouldn’t be too stupid but simple enough, so that it’s catchy,” Vanessa explained.

It was a painful question, but it bore asking: Why did the band downsize from 8 members to its current line-up of 5, if all was fine and dandy with the gang? Vanessa was quick to assure that “they are still friends with Michaela and the rest even though they’ve left the band”.

The Singapore scene

With new blood emerging in the music industry every other day, Urban Xchange stays on top by being clear about their focus and strengths.

Not only are they acutely aware of others in the local scene, they are enthusiastic in showing their support for them. “Our favourite local band is ChouPiJiang, they’re the best!” Terry announced, referring to the promising Mandarin hip-hop group with a distinct rap influence.

“We support local talents like Triple Noize and Skive. We like Stefanie Sun a lot too,” said Trisno.

Coincidentally, ChouPiJiang, Triple Noize and Terry would later perform at the 8 Mile Rap Battle at Zouk, tying in with the film’s Jan 23 release in Singapore. Horror stories of bands that tear at one another’s throats are plenty in the industry. What makes Urban Xchange different?

“You know *rojak [a local salad with prawn paste dressing]? I guess the fusion of our band is just like rojak. All very different elements coming together, and resulting in a delicious combination,” Syed Munir, 27, offered. According to Trisno, band leader/guitarist Syed’s the one who “can rap in Arab”.

Across the border

Having collaborated with Malaysian artistes like Too Phat and other well-known acts in our neighbour’s hip-hop scene, and since signing on with Universal Music Malaysia, the band’s consensus was that the music industry next door was generously supportive of their artistes and making quality music. “Over there, it’s like a huge community. Everyone is willing to share ideas. They’re more about quality and not like, ‘Oh this is mine and I can’t share with you.’ They’re very open to the creative process,” said Vanessa.

Urban Xchange

The next step…

With their latest track “Buzzin” through the local airwaves, when can fans expect a full-fledged concert from the band? Terry revealed that the band had consulted the record label, “but we’re still not too sure. But when we do it, it’s going to be something very grand. Like a musical.”

Until then, you’ll have to be satisfied with their latest release, a re-worked version of their debut offering How Did We Get Here, available at Sembawang Music Centres and HMV. Definitely a value-for-money offering with an even stronger hip hop sound, featuring collaborations with Brian McKnight, Too Phat, Azura Zainal, Taiwanese popstars Energy and Evonne Hsu.

When Urban Xchange arrived in full force at Spinelli’s, you had the impression that you were hanging out with some zany friends, although pretty glamorous ones.

They were visibly excited after playing at the MTV Asia Awards roadshow at the Heeren,


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