We’re writing a small mini-series of interview features, ‘Asian Delights’, in which we highlight local acts throughout the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand we think are worth your attention.
We interviewed Singaporean singer-songwriter and electronic producer KEAT to ask him more about his latest EP and what he’s WOKE about.
You may have seen this talented singer-songwriter at Esplanade’s Baybeats or even at last December’s Voices Festival. Influenced by the likes of The Midnight, FM-84, Troye Sivan and Disclosure, the young artist recently released his new EP ‘I WAS DUMB BUT NOW IM WOKE’ last month. The new EP is a six-track body of work that includes his previously released anthemic dance singles, such as ‘Selfish Love’ and ‘Bacon’.
AL365: Hi KEAT, Vanessa here from AsiaLive365. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. How are you doing? Huge congrats on the new EP by the way – it’s such a lit one! Tell us more about the inspiration behind it? What was it like collaborating on this EP with Zionn, Y ARA and VALIANTES?
KEAT: Hey Vanessa! Thank you so much for having me on this, truly so grateful for this opportunity! I’m glad you liked it! To be honest putting the EP together and titling it “I WAS DUMB BUT NOW IM WOKE” started out as a joke between my close friend Amelia and I. At the heart of the record is really a lot of growth and learning how to heal and love yourself. Back then I was just getting out of a really toxic relationship, and was “dumb” enough to let someone hurt me and break me down. But as with all lessons in love, we grow from adversity and learn how to protect ourselves better and I wanted to chart that journey towards being “woke” or awakened by this level of self-love. More than anything, I think “woke” is a hilarious word so I decided to appropriate it (ironically) for my own use HAHA. There’s honestly no better way to cope with heartbreak than with a tinge of rabak humour, which is something that’s very core to my soul.
Collaborating with ZIONN, Y ARA and Valiantes was nothing short of amazing. I’m just very lucky and very glad that I got to work with such a talented and experienced bunch of musicians who were not only able to share the same visions as me but were also able to elevate my music to such a high professional level. Fun fact, Bacon (with Y ARA) was done completely remotely even way before COVID. I’ve never met them personally before but they are so supportive online and I really appreciate all their love and support. They’re really amazing people too and I hope I get to meet them one day once travel restrictions are lifted!
AL365: Any other folks that you like to collaborate with some day? Who’s on your wish list? 😉
KEAT: Locally, probably Benjamin Kheng, just because I think he’s the perfect balance of musical depth & artistry as well as humour. I think he does it so well and his content is always amazing that it makes me wanna be his friend HAHA. Internationally, probably Mark Ronson and SG Lewis. A lot of Good Friend (lead single of the EP) was influenced by the disco vibes from these two amazing artistes so to work with them….daaaaayum the bops tho; I would really like to see what would happen in such a collaboration!
AL365: You mentioned that the EP explores your personal experiences with love in all of its forms; platonic, romantic, and self – would you say it’s a love EP or collection of love songs then, or something more – like a “coming of age” (rite of passage of being in your twenties) EP?
KEAT: I think it’s a little of both. If any, I’d like to call it a collection of anti-love songs. A majority of the EP was really borne out of my annoyance with romance because I was terrible at dating. I always gave too much to those who didn’t want me and didn’t open eyes to those who actually wanted me (well…until recently, now I’m in an amazing relationship so looking back, this reflective process was so necessary…). But truly, this EP was about moving on from that toxic relationship and growing into myself and learning that I had the right to say no to things and to be selfish for myself. As a really (gross) hopeless romantic, I used to have very impractical views on love so there was that need to challenge myself on how I defined love, to look into things beyond romance like platonic love or friendship love because arguably our friends have been there for us the whole way through. I wish the mass media focused more on that sometimes because we’re fed so much rubbish about romance that it’s unhealthy. There are way more things in this world that are worth our attention. But ultimately, if you did follow the EP chronology, you’d realize that it does come back to a more melancholic ending with “Stay”, and this was because it represented a level of self-healing that allowed us to look at love in a new light and begin to learn how to be vulnerable again.
AL365: We are loving the synth pop/electronic nature of songs such as Bacon, and Selfish Love. What sort of music did you grow up listening to, and how do you feel their music has influenced your style?
KEAT: As a kid I listened to a lot of music. My very first musical exposures came from my parents’ bossa nova albums or acoustic singer-songwriter music by Bread. But of course my tastes continued to diversify as I grew older. To name a few, some of the influences on this album would include Sam Smith, Disclosure, The Midnight, FM-84 and Troye Sivan. I think I picked out bits and pieces of electronic elements, voice production and lyrical vulnerability from these artistes and tried to apply it to my own musical process in my own way and I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out.
AL365: Bacon is such an interesting title for a song – why ‘Bacon’?
KEAT: Honestly, because boys are so annoying !!! Okay but seriously though, at one point I was so done with love that I thought to myself, UGH FOOD GIVES ME SO MUCH MORE SATISFACTION and I just went with it. Somehow, that night, I was craving bacon. It was 1am and the song just kinda unfolded on its own. Bacon was really one of those songs that came out of me very naturally – other than my annoyance on dealing with boys, how the song came about truly awes me till this day too.
AL365: Besides ‘I WAS DUMB BUT NOW I’M WOKE’, are there any future projects that you’re working on at the moment, that you can tell us about?
KEAT: Oh yes definitely, I’m working on my next album already which is hopefully going to be a bit darker and a bit more pensive. I’m still trying to inject some low key dance vibes into it and am looking into really embracing my 80s synth aesthetics. Music is after all a work in progress and seeing what works best for your self-expression so I’m hoping to continue working on that. Lots of potential collaborations too !!!!! But I think what’s more exciting is that the next one is going to be produced by me primarily so I think that would be another exciting learning experience.
AL365: There’s always been good support of local artists opening up for foreign acts when they tour here. If you could open up for any artist – who would be your dream artist?
KEAT: Ooooh, I think Charlie Puth. He just seems like such a nice guy, and seems so talented and nerdy at the same time. I’ve recently been obsessed with his music and he definitely is someone I’d love to work and hang out with some day too.
AL365: Speaking of tours, was there any act or festival that you were planning to catch this year, but couldn’t because of COVID-19?
KEAT: I think I was really looking forward to Baybeats and Music Matters Live because I really enjoyed it last year and these festivals tend to be times where I get to bump into all my music friends in one place. I miss those vibes a lot and just the general nature of catching a live performance. If COVID wasn’t a reality, I would try my best right now to catch as many live performances as possible because I think I finally understand what it’s like to not be able to do something you once valued and really liked.
AL365: What do you miss most about performing live on stage to a physical audience in front of you?
KEAT: I think there is a certain thrill and energy to live performances. I kinda feel like it’s a lot easier to communicate emotions and feels~ in a live setting than through livestream, as well as the ability to see someone enjoying themselves with whatever song I’m bringing to them.
AL365: You’ve performed at festivals and stages such as Esplanade’s All Things New, Baybeats Open Stage, and Voices – A Festival of Songs. You were also selected as a mentee for National Arts Council’s Noise Music Mentorship Programme 2020. What is one stage/festival (doesn’t have to be restricted to Singapore) that you would love to perform at one day?
KEAT: Neon Lights. Have always been a fan of their line-up and I’ve also been to one of the earlier installments of the festival. It had an amazing atmosphere from what I recall and that has stuck in my mind ever since.
AL365: Shows are slowly starting to come back, or there seem to be plans for this – which are slowly being made more concrete as the days go by. How do you feel about this – and, on a global front, what are your thoughts about the effects that COVID-19 has had on the music/event/arts industry – not just on the artists but on the “backbone” staff (like freelance FOH/BOH staff/techies) too?
KEAT: The prospect of having live music come back does make me feel pretty excited. I don’t think I’ve gone this long without attending or performing in any performance so it does give me something good to look forward to. For my friends as well, I think I just want us to finally get a moment to enjoy music and enjoy each other’s company like we used to. It’s going to be different but I think we’ll really enjoy that level of camaraderie soon again.
I think COVID-19 has had a more than profound impact on the arts and entertainment industry because so much of what we do is fostered on being and staying connected with people. I do feel for everyone out there who has been hit by the pandemic but also take comfort in knowing that we’re all in this together. With the massive slow down of our industry, it has presented us with a lot of time to reflect and think about how we view life and how to appreciate life more, given that we now understand what it means to lose something valuable to us. Perhaps, that would continue to allow us to value and cherish our industry and our work even more, and would in turn inspire us to give it our all from here on out. More than anything, I think sustaining the industry in such a precarious time has also forced a lot of us to innovate our practices or continue our search for other passions in life, building ourselves as individuals with a diverse amount of talent. I’m sure this diversity, grit and passion would eventually bode well in any facet of the arts & entertainment industry so while we’re in this down time, I do feel there is much to look forward to. Sending love to everyone 🙂
AL365: Anything else you like to say to your friends, fans and supporters out there?
KEAT: Thank you so much for supporting me and encouraging me, it really means the world to me to have so many of you tell me that you liked a certain song or relate to a certain song and that always makes me feel like these songs have achieved a greater purpose that’s beyond what I could ever have imagined. I love you guys so much, and I hope to continue bringing you good music and good vibes from here on out!! LOVE YALL.
AL365: Thanks again KEAT and we look forward to seeing you live on stage again very soon!
KEAT: Thanks Vanessa! Hope to see you around soon~ Take care!