"Chivalrous Love": Singaporean funk band MMLD fronted by singer Abby Simone launches their debut EP at a secret location
All that jazz
MMLD's particular sound is hard to pinpoint. Frontwoman Sherry Abigail — who goes by the name of Abby Simone professionally — has the kind of deep, raspy vocals that evoke the emotional dynamism of Adele's. Trumpeter Muhammad Farhan, on the other hand, injects a vibrancy akin to the jazzy tunes that come out of speakeasies in New Orleans. These analogies might seem like exaggerations, but wait until you hear "Candlelight" off their debut EP, Chivalrous Love that's set to be launched at a secret location near Turf City this Saturday.
Featuring fellow homegrown talents such as rapper Subhas and singer Nathan Hartono, the EP triumphantly gets you bopping your head to its groovy beats, but the journey to get it right was far from easy. Guitarist Oliver Francis Ow (Ollie) met Simone nine years ago in a music school that "should close down but it didn't". They banded together with two other members, but with little direction, they drifted apart after doing covers at various gigs. It was only four years ago when they came together again to work on Simone's songwriting efforts that things started looking up. They still needed a couple more extra pairs of hands, though. Oliver snagged Farhan when he was blowing his horns, literally, along Haji Lane and later, high-octane (fishball noodles-loving) drummer Melvin Paul Martin completed the four-piece gang at the end of 2017. Finally, veteran musician Jeremiah Maximus Lim was brought in as MMLD's gatekeeper.
I sat down with the boisterous bunch over iced coffee to uncover their music-making process and why gojer (a Malay slang that means just do it) might be one of the most important takeaways of their music careers.
How did the band name come out?
Abby: We were chilling out one night and we knew that we needed a band name. We thought about a lot of names but they didn't fit. When Ollie played Christine Aguilera's "Lady Marmalade" — which is not usually in his playlist — Farhan was the one who initially suggested marmalade. That was the starting point but we thought we needed to shorten it to make it nicer.
The process for MMLD sounds organic, but was there anything that you wanted to consciously do right or avoid this time around?
Ollie: Our individual roles are very clear to each of us. When we write tracks, especially for this first album, Abby would give the lyrics with some guitar chords. I would solidify the cords and we'll keep jamming it. Melvin would come in with his drums, and then Farhan will bring his melodies and trumpet. The flow is fluent. We've had many conflicts about direction before, but at the end of the day, when we make music together, it feels good. More than that, we are a family. If there are any disagreements that are not music related, we solve it immediately and return to the music. It doesn't happen a lot though.
Abby: When I write, it's very melancholic. When I pass it to Ollie and the rest of the band, everything changes. With MMLD, it's a whole new alter ago that's very strong.
The tracks featured in your debut EP are nothing like I've heard out of Singapore in a long while. Where did you find this particular sound? Ollie: This is pretty much our sound for the first album. There are a lot of other sounds that we haven't tried yet and are waiting to experiment with on the second album.
Abby: This EP is an introduction to who MMLD is. If we jumped on the bandwagon and headed to the electronic side, nobody will hear how bloody amazing each one of them are.
Melvin: The band's sound is one of a kind. We have a very different vibe. When we play live, it's even stronger.
How would you describe the tracks on the EP?
Abby: When I think of "Candlelight", the first word that comes to mind is invisibility; how you can be right beside that person, but the person doesn't notice. Its kind of cliche but it happens a lot. The message behind "Gaya" is that second chances are a rarity but it's not impossible. It's inspired by my friend Gaya.
Ollie: "Gaya" is a buffet of eargasms.
The EP features rapper Subhas and singer Nathan Hartono. Why was it important to rope in other talents?
Abby: It was not even on our minds. We don't think about collaborating with people just to be more famous and get our names out there. We do it because we feel that the person is right for that song. When I wrote "Russian Roulette", Ollie and I were at Intermission Bar at The Projector. Nathan was sitting right there and I asked if he wanted to sing. He heard it and he agreed. With Subhas, it was just a casual meet-up. I just asked him to do it and handed it over to the band.
The launch happens this weekend at a secret location. Is there a particular reason for that?
Abby: We had been approached by other venues but it didn't feel right. I was introduced to The Kave HQ, so I went to see the place. I took a video and sent the band. We agreed it's awesome.
Ollie: When we look for a venue, we have to consider how the vibe of the place tallies with our music. How we feel at the venue translates to our audience. The Kave has done a really good job. It's not a very commercialised setting.
Abby: Transportation will be provided. There'll be a shuttle bus waiting at Sixth Avenue MRT's exit B. It'll be best to arrive by 7:15pm.
All of you have been in the music scene for quite some time. What are some takeaways you've learnt along the way?
Farhan: My takeaway would be gojer.
Abby: Sometimes, it's not always about having an opinion. Sometimes it's about sitting back and listening to what your friends and family members have to say. We have disagreed with each other at many points. Imagine a five-piece puzzle set. Each of us hold a piece. For the longest time, each of us was holding onto the right piece, but we were standing at different corners, clashing with each other. It was only two weeks ago that all of us came together, realised our contribution and the puzzle came together. This Saturday, we'll be holding our puzzle piece in front of our audience. This moment right here is my proudest moment. I actually understand each of them, how they work and their strengths. As much as I am a writer and I speak through my songs, but sometimes it's better to shut up and listen.