The Music Rebels

Published on 26 October 2017

Photo: Juan Castro

Their offbeat and riveting sounds have catapulted local band The Steve McQueens onto the world stage.

By Melanie Lee

Local bands that dabble in niche music genres tend to exist in relative obscurity, but The Steve McQueens appear to have subverted this norm by not only being highly respected within the local music community, but also by getting plenty of attention from the international jazz community for their catchy neo-vintage, soul-funk.

The band, which formed in 2013 and currently comprises vocalist Ginny Bloop (aka Eugenia Yip), drummer Aaron James Lee, bassist Jase Sng, and keyboardist Joshua Wan, came together through a common love for jazz and soul.

Recalls Bloop, “We wanted to play something that couldn’t be found much in our part of the world at the time. Thankfully, we managed to find like-minded individuals and I think from then on, the band just never stopped.”

To date, they’ve released three albums: Einstein Moments (2013), Seamonster (2015) and Terrarium (2017). Their second album came about when, at the Singapore International Jazz Festival in 2014, Jean-Paul Maunick (aka Bluey), the leader of acclaimed jazz band Incognito, was so impressed by their music, he ended up producing Seamonster in his London studio. Their latest album, Terrarium, draws on the group’s individual and collective creative experiences to create an evolved new sound, which they say takes listeners on “an aural head-trip”.

Wan explains that when the band first started, “we had already decided the band sound would be the true sum of its parts and incorporate our unique individual influences. Then, with a strict policy of complete abandonment of any form of systematic control and maximum emphasis on individual freedom, we would get together to write music.”

This clear-headed vision has helped the band steer clear of music industry trends. It also helps that the band’s decision-making process has remained largely egalitarian.

“We discuss the different options in detail and just go with what works for all of us or what seems like the best option. Creative differences are actually not worth arguing about,” says Lee.

These strategies seem to work given how busy The Steve McQueens have been these past few years. They have played at major music events such as the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival, and South Korea’s Jarasum International Jazz Festival. Last month, they were in Japan on a multi-city tour with glitch-funk band, Za FeeDo.

“I’d say we have learnt that there’s no substitute to following the heart,” says Sng. “We’ve relinquished the need to adhere to the status quo.”

The Steve McQueens is an Esplanade Mosaic Associate Artist. They will be performing at Esplanade Annexe Studio on Fri, 15 Dec 2017, 8pm, together with Japanese experimental soul band WONK in “A Double Bill: The Steve McQueens X WONK (JP)”. Click here for more information. 

Photo: Juan Castro
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