IT's coming up to the Live Virtual Showcase for the Finalists of the inaugural Malaysian Chapter of Levi's® Music Project, an initiative to keep the music alive and thriving. The Malaysian chapter is run by Levi's Malaysia. The original entry list of 200, when the project kicked off in October, was whittled down to 4 Finalists selected to work alongside Malaysian music industry mentors Jennifer Thompson and Jin Hackman to create original material that will culminate in a live virtual performance.
(More about the Levi's Music Project here)
The showcase special broadcast of the Four Finalists, Alien Lipstick Fire, Dato Maw, Margasatwa and MAYABAYU takes place Tuesday 22 December 2020 from 9 pm up on Levi's YouTube Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/
We chatted with James Sharkey of Kuala Lumpur-based indie band Alien Lipstick Fire, a group of musicians that explore the depths of the Modern Indie Rock genre. Drawing influences and inspiration from Brit rockers Bombay Bicycle Club, Oceanic outfits, Tame Impala, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Alien Lipstick Fire primarily makes music with the elements found in their favourite bands, whilst sonically accomplishing a sound they can call their own. Alien Lipstick Fire, formed in 2015, consists of Sabahan lads James Sharkey (lead vocals & guitars), Malcolm Bagiu (guitar & vocals), Benjamin Sinidol (bass) and Hazim Aziz (drums) who hails from Kuala Lumpur. The band has released two EPs in the span of 2 years with their debut EP titled ‘Different Days’ which came out on July 2019 and shortly followed by ‘The Late Hours’ EP in July 2020 which have garnered them over 510,000 streams on all platforms.
How has it been so far for you as a band this year?
It's been tough, especially with the lockdowns and restrictions that have completely removed the possibilities for us to do any live gigs, which is part of a musician’s main source of income. The MCO has also made it harder for us to finish recording deadlines and, of course, meet up for practice. It has been a bit better with the loosening of restrictions, but we still choose not to travel when not necessary.
How did you get together as a band and how long have you been together?
It's a pretty long story but to sum it up a little, Malcolm, Benjamin, and myself (James) went to school together in Kota Kinabalu and we've been jamming together on and off ever since. After finishing school, all three of us left for Kuala Lumpur to pursue our own things. Malcolm and I met Hazim while sessions for another band and invited him to come along and jam to some songs I had been writing. One thing led to another and we've been an official band ever since 2016.
What kind of band would you classify yourself as? What is your creative process like?
It’s hard for us to even categorize ourselves under a specific genre. Of all us listen and influenced by different types of music and have bits and pieces of elements of it in our music DNA (whether or not we know it). But if we had to choose, it’d probably be something like alternative or indie rock with additions of psychedelic elements.
Music usually starts off with James coming up with some basic structures and everyone working together refining and finishing up, along with a lot of help from our producer, Kuszanagi, and Breaking Music in general. Almost all our cover art has been done by our very own Benjamin, except for our first track where we had a very good friend create something beautiful for us. Shoutout to Jessieca J Benedict!
What releases have you had so far as a band?
So far we’ve had two six-track EP’s called Different Days and The Late Hours, released respectively. We've also put out two music videos, both shot, directed, and produced by our friends at Sir Lions Stake Productions. Music video’s for Simple City, from our Different Days EP and Higher Off the Ground, off The Late Hours EP.
What and who has been your inspiration in your music?
The whole reason we exist is because of the band Bombay Bicycle Club. Maybe it’s a bit cliche, but we’re also super heavily influenced by Tame Impala. We obviously incorporate our own personal individual influences to our parts too, but those two would be the major answers.
How have you been coping during this time this year? How have you been keeping busy through all this?
We’ve all been keeping ourselves busy with our projects/hobbies or chores to not worry too much about what was going on. The best way we did that was by playing games considering the amount of spare time we’ve gotten. Sometimes together and sometimes just by ourselves.
How/Why did you decide to put yourselves up for the Levi's® Music Project?
We were working on demos for new music releases that will come out next year, when we saw the music project and thought “hey, why not” because it seemed like a good opportunity for us. We’re always looking to grab any opportunities that come our way, so this was no different.
How did you feel when you received the news that you made the final four? What has been the experience like so far?
We weren’t expecting much from it but when we found out; we were stoked and excited to get support for one of our songs as well as get a platform to showcase our music. The experience so far has been a good learning experience especially with guidance from our mentors and it’s been great to meet new people in the scene (like the finalists, the people behind LMP, Big-A Productions, and Ricky).
What are your plans from now on for you? What can we expect from you coming up for the rest of the year, and into next year?
We have the virtual showcase happening on the 22nd of December via Levi’s® YouTube channel where we’ll be playing three of our songs, including the one we made with this project called Phasing In. Other than that, we’re planning to release new music next year, and hopefully more music videos as well. So we’re pretty excited about that.
How do you feel about how the CMCO is progressing and affecting the music industry in Malaysia as a whole?
At least it’s not a total lockdown, right? People can now go out and about (while adhering to the SOP’s of course) and go about their business. We heard some cafes and malls allowed buskers to perform at their venues, giving some musicians a bit of an opportunity to perform or work, so to speak and earn some money, which we think is great. Some have done it online (which is still good) but it’s good to hear live music and we appreciate that the most right now.
The showcase special broadcast of the Four Finalists takes place Tuesday 22 December 2020 from 9 pm up on Levi's YouTube Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/