The Jakarta Post
New sound: Singapore’s four-person EDM-pop band The Sam Willows keep their listeners interested by changing things up. (Sony Music Entertainment Indonesia/File)
During sessions for their upcoming album, spunky four-piece EDM-pop band The Sam Willows absorbed the current musical world around them and tapped into their evolved musical influences, resulting in them stepping out of their mainly traditional daytime pop sounds of the past into a sound that fits more toward wild night outs, emotions in the club and fraying relationships.
Recorded and written in Sweden, the band’s first single, “Keep Me Jealous”, is proof of this shift: a fun song with a buildup-and-breakdown-laden chorus.
At a glimpse, The Sam Willows’ music is nothing out of the ordinary, but their energy and vibe stays positive enough to keep listeners interested.
Although the band has been making music since 2012, there is a very audible shift in sound when compared to “Keep Me Jealous” and previous albums.
Their 2012 debut EP and 2015 debut album Take Me still straddles around the conventional big pop sound, without much emphasis on dance. New singles “Keep Me Jealous” and “Save Myself” too tread the pop sound, but with a heightened EDM flavor.
“[In ‘Keep Me Jealous’], we wanted to change it up and experiment with new sounds,” said vocalist/guitarist Benjamin Kheng in a recent interview.
Kheng noted that the band’s sound and look was becoming more vibrant because it corresponded with the band’s maturity. “I guess now the content that we write is a little bit different because we’re a bit older now, and going through different experiences as adults.”
For one, “Keep Me Jealous” is a fiery ode to shaking things up in a relationship.
“It’s a playful song. In a relationship, sometimes it’s actually good to make your partner jealous once in a while […] so, you know, you can look better or whatever to make your partner become more interested in you,” explained keyboardist Narelle Kheng, who is Benjamin’s younger sibling.
The various hues used in the self-directed “Keep Me Jealous” music video hold up with the colorful sound of the song itself.
The band’s members sport their own unique physical identities such as keyboardist/percussionist Sandra Riley Tang with her blue, braided hair, or Benjamin Kheng with his cool-guy short cut.
Music-wise, the band benefits from the fact that each member share different musical tastes, which the band feeds off of, creating diverse sounds.
'Take Heart' by The Sam Willows (Sony Music Entertainment Indonesia/File)
“We all listen to different kinds of music: EDM, hip hop, RnB, K-pop, and so on. And from there, we all have our own input in the songs. All the songs are like its own world,” explained Tang.
The band describes “Keep Me Jealous” as a poppy and colorful crazy world, while “Save Myself” operates on a plane that is removed from the former song’s energy.
Proudly conveying their plans for the near future, The Sam Willows are currently collaborating with Indonesian vocal group Gamaliel Audrey Cantika (GAC) to create a half-Indonesian version of “Save Myself.”
To change things up, the Singaporean band will also lend their soulful voices by singing in Bahasa Indonesia. With GAC’s strict guidance, the band say that learning the language has been both a challenge and an absolute delight.
“We like [singing in Indonesian] a lot, because it seems to be very melodic and rhythmic at the same time. It’s a beautiful language to sing in,” said lead guitarist Jonathan Chua.
“I guess for us, we’re already exposed to Bahasa Melayu in Singapore, so we are used to hearing it being spoken. But it’s different when you come to Indonesia and hear it for yourselves.”
The Sam Willows will release their next full-length album this October, and will likely embark on a tour to bring it to many corners of Southeast Asia. For the band, it is the process of creation that drives them to creatively develop as artists.
“We get to create different worlds, about 10 to 11 of them [in an album]. We get to use our imagination to create them, and that’s really the fun part of it. You know, deciding the visuals and the music. It’s great for us,” Jonathan said.