If there is ever a place where anxieties fade away, it would Laneway Festival. This year’s line-up saw a refreshing mix of hip-hop acts such as Loyle Carner, Anderson .Paak, THELIONCITYBOY and MAS1A. Singapore’s indie veterans Obedient Wives Club took their latest creation Cinematica to one of the main stages, proving that they can put on a solid show like any ‘global’ act in their era.
North London rock band Wolf Alice kept their set vehement throughout, leaving out gut-wrenching tunes like Blush. Still, listeners leaning towards melancholia or slow dance were treated to confessional, dream-like material from acts like Alextbh, Aldous Harding, Slowdive and Father John Misty.
Of course, great tunes are a given at festivals. What defined the experience for us was the added intimacy at the 2018 edition of Laneway Festival Singapore. Backstage, you see artistes sharing a strong camaraderie.
As Lennat Mak of Obedient Wives Club puts it, “the hospitality is fantastic and backstage became this social ground where bands have the chance to interact with each other as they like.”
At one point, Billie Eilish confessed freaking out upon seeing Moses Sumney at the restaurant back at her hotel. The irony of it lies in the backdrop of the conversation — a group of teenage girls (not very much younger or older than Billie, who turned 16 in December). She reflects on growing up listening and liking artists and since becoming a singer, she has had a bit of role-adjusting to get used to.
“Now that I’m on the other side of it, it feels weird because I know how they (the audience and fans) are all feeling. Obviously I don’t know the entirety of it, or how all of them feel but I kind of get the basis. I basically try to do what nobody ever did for me, and whether that’s communicating with me or caring about me as a fan. I mean, they’re human beings.
They’re nothing less and nothing more. And I’m nothing less and nothing more than them either. We’re on the same level. I feel like nobody realises that, you know what I mean?”
The bellyache singer also let us in on one of her biggest concerns, when asked what did luxury mean to her.
“I can’t ever imagine working and working and not even getting a fraction out of it. I believe that everyone should get what they work for, if you’re a good person… Not Donald Trump, though.” — Billie Eilish
One other artist who prides himself in genuineness would be Alextbh. When asked if the need to be honest has ever posed as a difficulty, he responded, “Not really. The chords and lyrics stem from how I feel personally, and my experiences in the past. And they were all 100% true from my heart. I mean, there was that one time when I was specifically asked to make something that was out of my comfort zone, and it wasn’t about me. I made it, and I was like…”
Despite seeming slightly more inwards than other artists we’ve spoken to, Aldous Harding did not hold back on speaking her mind either — at one point returning the request to explain the meanings of her songs,
“they are very personal to me, and I’m not used to pouring my heart out to a stranger.”
Just as we were discussing how various musicians and artists make use of the platform provided to them, she made sure to express that the most crucial part for her was to allow people to see through that veil (of a performance) and still have them falling for it. This particular moment reminded us that, hey, gone are the days when artists would try their damnedest to mask their performance.
Perhaps it’s the digital age compressing the gaps — listeners, artists and the press now face the freedom (with lesser suspicion) to be part of a more dynamic conversation.
While some artists maintain a remote status on social media choosing only some parts to expose and be exposed to, others (especially those who play more to the ‘millennial aesthetic’) see it as an encouraging platform tied closely to their opportunities.
Photo: Alvin Ho
“You can’t stray away from it. Social media is the exactly the place where people get to see who you are. As an artist, I’ve always believed that you don’t just sell music. You sell an attitude, an image. The way you portray your image online – that’s how people perceive you.” — Alextbh
Connectivity itself also exposes oneself to direct influence, or the ability to do so. Even so, Billie Eilish still believes in individuality. “I feel like everyone’s always asking me for advice. I can’t give you the advice that you want or need for yourself… (That’s why) I’m my biggest fan.”
Despite the major successes that many artists find themselves in made possible by accessibility, there’s still one big question. How does one effectively remain fluid amidst rapid change and advancement? A statement that serves as great preaching material but can be tricky to tackle in practice. As Alextbh admits, “I’m figuring out myself — being an accessible artist with a really strong image, that’s what I’m striving for.”
In response to that, Aldous Harding brought up an opinion that could very well be the defining factor of what’s to come in future editions of Laneway Festival —
“Sounding interesting isn’t enough anymore.”