M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2020: Singaporean electronic band .gif on its theatre debut 'Beside Ourselves'

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2020: Singaporean electronic band .gif on its theatre debut 'Beside Ourselves'

Sound mind

Text: Aravin Sandran

Image: Elias Soh

Homegrown electronic duo .gif's last official release was its debut full-length album Soma. Nurudin Sadali's atmospheric sounds and frontwoman Weish's evocative vocals remain just as resonant today as they were way back in 2015, but the pair hasn't been resting on its laurels ever since.

Besides some stellar shows in Singapore, they have taken their music abroad with tours in East Asia, Japan, United Kingdom, and most recently, at the prestigious Golden Melody Awards Heat festival in Taiwan this year.

They've also ventured beyond music through imaginative collaborations with local and international creatives. Take for instance, their multidisciplinary performance Green Is The Colour Of My Heart with poet Marc Nair at the Arts House in 2018 or their work as musical directors for Checkpoint Theatre's Displaced Persons' Welcome Dinner for Singapore International Festival of Arts this year, which has led them naturally towards their theatre debut at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival in January.

An original work that has been written and commissioned exclusively in alignment with the festival's main theme of displacement, Beside Ourselves will see Nurudin and Weish take on new roles as actors to bring to life a vignette of stories that centre around internal conflict.

Here, they let us in on the ardous process, the production's dark humour, as well as the impending release of their new music.

I was surprised to find .gif on the festival's lineup. What was your motivation to participate in the festival?

Weish: The festival's artistic director Sean Tobin had coffee with us and spoke about how it's been a long time since there's been a music-centric piece at the festival. He's also been quite aware of our cross-disciplinary collaborations in the past. We've got some background in theatre and we're both literature graduates, so I'm guessing he was excited to see what might come out of our experiences. Our conversation slowly snowballed into a narrative and then a full play.

You were musical directors for Checkpoint Theatre's Displaced Persons' Welcome Dinner this year. Was that experience useful in any way?

Weish: Absolutely! The amount of crazy detail and thought that goes into conceptualising something like that was enlightening. It's a very similar challenge with our piece this time around. The piece needs a very strong musical presence to bring the characters together, but it never crosses the line with jazz hands.

Nurudin Sadali: I don't think we would have said yes to this if we didn't have that experience with Checkpoint Theatre.

Is there any the difference between collaborating with musicians versus theatre-makers?

Weish: Musicians are all quite lepak. On the other hand, the amount of administration and production processes are way more rigorous in theatre. There are so many more moving parts and different types of people involved in theatre.

Nurudin Sadali: In music, we don't even have to meet the artist and we could just work together across continents, but in theatre, there's so much work that happens in-person.

The synopsis for your piece is pretty vague. I'm wondering if it'll be quite similar to what Inch Chua did at TheatreWorks earlier this year. Did you catch that?

Weish: It's very different. I guess there are similarities in that we are both from music-making backgrounds and are diving into a more storytelling field. We collected a bunch of stories some our own and some from our friends that are connected to the festival's main theme of displacement and disembodiment. Some of the stories deal with dementia, gender dysmorphia, and mental illness.

Nurudin Sadali: We are doing it traditionally with more theatre, more storytelling, and more actors.

Is it going to be very emotional?

Weish: There are some funny stories too, so hopefully the audience laughs along.

I believe that this piece is presented as a live concept album, so will it become available for streaming after?

Weish: Yes! We developed this piece concurrently with our new album. The album should be released in the first quarter of next year. It'll be the first time that we're playing it live.

Nurudin Sadali: Seven out of nine tracks from the new album are included in this piece, so it's all freshly recorded stuff. We have a few new collaborators for the album including Bani Haykal.

Directed by Anthea Julia Chua, Beside Ourselves stars Weish, Isabella Chiam, Sharda Harrison with live accompaniment by Nurudin Sadali. Tickets are available now.

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