INTERVIEW: Then & Now – Ta(L)king the ‘Small Lanes’ with M1LDL1FE

We interviewed Singapore indie pop band M1LDL1FE and asked them about their new music, what they’ve been up to recently and what they miss most about playing or going to live gigs and festivals.

Consisting of frontman Paddy Ong, guitarist Tan Peng Sing, bassist David Siow and drummer Jeryl Yeo, indie pop act M1LDL1FE cuts across the indie-pop grain, weaving together lush electronic textures and eclectic dance grooves into the pop sensibilities of guitar-driven indie music of the early 2000s.

The band have snagged multiple music awards in Singapore and found themselves touring in Spain and on the line ups of notable festivals across Asia (MIDI, Zandari, LUCfest, All of the Noise) as well as opening for venerable acts like Walk the Moon, Travis, and Death Cab for Cutie.

In May, they released their new single ‘Small Lanes’ – an upbeat track with a pumping synth bassline, straight drum grooves and soaring vocals, and where the underlying message of the song served as a reminder that it is okay to not have everything figured out – all we need to do is to keep moving.

Also read: Indie band M1LDL1FE are back with their latest release ‘Small Lanes’

‘Small Lanes’ is one of three singles the band plans to release this year, leading up to their debut album in 2021.

ASL365: Hi guys, Vanessa here from AsiaLive365. Congrats on the release of ‘Small Lanes’. It’s a banger! You mentioned in an Instagram post that you’ve been sitting on the song for quite awhile now. When was the song actually written?

Paddy Ong: The seeds for this song go way back to late 2018. We were fooling around with a synth sound and spontaneously recorded a few ideas to it and forgot about it for a few months, revisiting it every now and again, tweaking little things here and there and forgetting about it again. We decided to finally get our act together and finish it in late 2019, working with our producer Yeo to commit to completing it. 

ASL365: So, was the question of the serious conversation that led to ‘Small Lanes’ ever answered? Where do you guys see yourself in 10 years?

Tan Peng Sing: Oh boy this is a tough one… To be honest, I don’t know. Hopefully going on tours all over the world and returning home to our families in one piece! As a band, we’ll keep on making music for as long as we have opportunities to. As individuals, David and I started taking on other roles in the local music industry. I don’t think we ever wanted to be big stars, our mindset is closer to “Okay, we gotta find our place in this sprawling industry and make ourselves useful”.

David Siow: Music will still be central to our lives, so maybe we’d still be doing music but with “Dad Bods” instead!

ASL365: What (or who) inspired the synths, textures and colours in the song? For example, what drives the musicality of the song or in M1LDL1FE so to speak – where or who do you get your inspiration from?

Paddy: The first synth sound was from a KORG Minilogue that we bought. Just one of the default settings on an arpeggiator that we fooled around with randomly. Thought it was a cool retro synth bass sound and decided to build the song around that. I think we primarily derive our inspiration from music that moves us. You know that feeling when you first hear a song and it gives you an “Ooh yeah, I like this” feeling? We try to chase this feeling when we write our music – which is easier said than done actually. And it’s not just one type of feeling. It can be an “Ooh yeah, groovy/tasty/sick/ugh!” or an “Aw man, :’(” We try to listen to all kinds of music to subconsciously build up our musical vocabulary to express these feelings in sounds.

Jeryl Yeo: I think after building up our musical vocabulary, we should build up our English vocabulary so that we can find actual words to replace “Aw man, :’(“

ASL365: Tell more about the Paddle Pop-like colours and retro shot in the cover art for the new single. Where was the photo taken?

Paddy: We took that photo in our sound engineer’s kitchen (shoutout to Gareth and Ruth). They had a nice little kitchen and we had an Instax, so we took some snaps. The artwork was just pieced together using my phone, haha. You can do anything on your phones now.

ASL365: M1LDL1FE is such an interesting name for a band. Almost like a password with its alphanumeric combination. What motivated the creativity in your band name, or the change of it from Take Two?

Paddy: Dammit, now we have to reset all our passwords. Thanks guys. But in all seriousness, the name change was something we wanted to do for a while. We even dabbled with the idea of changing the name when we released our first EP, but decided against it at the time. So when our guitarist John left, we felt it was a good time to make the change. The 1’s in the spelling are a nod to our old name, cause 1 + 1 = 2.

ASL365: There’s a plethora of really good local music out there, churned out by many talented young musicians such as yourselves. Everyone seems to know everyone in this close-knit music community, and there’s a lot of great mutual support. Who would you say is a local artist/band that you admire or like the most? Whose music are you a fan of, or who’s on your Spotify playlist at the moment?

Peng Sing: Quite a few… Brb. has been a guilty pleasure of mine ever since we went on tour with them in Bangkok and Taiwan last year. The stereotype is that they attract heartbroken sad boys and girls, and while I’m not heartbroken and only sad sometimes, musically they are really quite tasty. Another artist that I really like is our local synthpop guy don.a.a.ron!! He is super underrated and definitely one of the names to watch. He once told me all his music is produced on a 10+ year old MacBook, I have no freakin idea how he even runs a basic DAW without the thing crashing but mad props to him.

Paddy: There are so many awesome Singaporean bands and artists, across so many genres. I’m just going to whack some off the top of my head: B-Quartet, Charlie Lim, Sobs, MHC, Forests, Caracal, Stopgap, Pleasantry, .gif, Disco Hue, Bakers in Space, Tim de Cotta, ATC, Hubbabubbas, Gentle Bones, Linying, LEW, Astronauts, YAØ, The CB Dogs, BAD DOD, TLCB, Vandetta, Fall of Mirra, The Psalms, sub:shaman… there’s so many others. I really just respect everyone’s hustle, everyone’s doing their own thing with their own unique voice. Doesn’t matter if it’s short-lived or a long-lasting dynasty, all the music they put out is a contribution to Singaporean art.

ASL365: Besides ‘Small Lanes’, can we expect to hear more new music from M1LDL1FE?

Jeryl: From us, definitely. From M1LDL1FE, we can’t be certain. Who’s to say that we can’t have another name change a few months from now? *shrugs* But in all seriousness, we’re all very much looking forward to the next couple of singles that we’ll be putting out. We’ve been working hard with our producer YEO and can’t wait to share them with you guys.

ASL365: How are you guys coping with the “lockdown situation” (aka circuit breaker)? We saw that you guys have done a number of chats, online hangouts and even live-stream concerts. What is your take on the pros and cons that “global quarantine” has on the music industry in terms of live performances and connecting with fans, and what moments of reflection has the time-off given you a chance to do?

Paddy: We definitely miss playing live, and the lack of gigs and opportunities is quite a hit to take, not just for us but for everyone involved in the entertainment business. But on the brightside, we have a bit more head space to work on new music and plan a bit more or what we want to do for the future when this all blows over.

David: Save money for new gear!

ASL365: Once the subsequent (post-circuit breaker) phases take their full course, what live gig or music festival are you most looking forward to, or hoping will still take place?

Peng Sing: I don’t even care who’s playing, I just wanna get out there and watch a band play live, hopefully they have guitars. I hope they have Baybeats live this year, and not just some online version. 

David: Some music festival with nice weather – to play at or attend, at this point it doesn’t matter. So maybe Wonderfruit in Thailand at the end of the year, or some festival in Taiwan over winter!

ASL365: Speaking of gigs and festivals, what was the first ever gig or music festival that you went to that made you think – “Man, someday I’m gonna be up on that stage!”

Paddy: For local festivals, it’s usually Baybeats. They’ve always had great lineups and to be associated with that as a local act helps to make you feel like you’re in a “real band” in a sense. So we’re thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of that. 

ASL365: What do you miss most about being on tour and playing live gigs?

Jeryl: I think we all definitely miss the adrenaline and energy from playing live gigs. It’s just not the same when we do a live stream gig; you can’t feed off each other’s energy through the screen. Besides the music, I believe I speak on behalf of the band when I say that we all definitely miss trying out food from different cultures when we are on tour, hehe

Paddy: I miss us just hanging out and being dorks on tour. Eating, just doing nothing, napping, meeting new people, listening to new bands, seeing new places and of course playing music live for people.

David: Don’t miss the stress from all the work that needs to be done on tour though – the bookings, the travel schedule, the unforeseen circumstances, but at least we rough all those things out together.

ASL365: On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you to play ‘Small Lanes’ in a live gig?

Peng Sing: I’m sitting on a solid 9.75, but I’m probably gonna mess up the solo hahahahahaha

Jeryl: I’m with Pengs on this. The rhythm section isn’t easy to lock in either hahaha.

Paddy: The song is gonna be hard to pull off live but we’re going to try our best, hahaha!

David: Can one lah, hahahaha!

ASL365: Thanks for the interview guys, and we hope to see you live in a gig or festival really soon!

In the meantime, you may check out this cheeky post by the band of their latest song below:


Cover photo by: Jasper Tan





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