Tuesday, September 26, 2006


My missus and I were fortunate enough to catch Malaysian powerpoppers Couple in action last Friday. Promoting their new album - Top of the Pop - the band, with two new members - were in fine form and entertained the crowd at the Home club. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the band really looked like they were having fun on stage. Not always the case when watching Singapore indie bands perform... Anyhow, here's what Couple Aidil Rusli had to say about what's going on with Couple.

Why powerpop?
Firstly, of course it's because I love it, and find it irresistible every single time I listen to it. Secondly, it's probably also because it reflects the way I look at things. It's a genre that's unshowy and level-headed, that is to say that it's a genre that knows how to appreciate what I think are the 'right' things, i.e. old fashioned (but forever valuable) values like songcraft, and the magical power of a great melody. It is absolutely unconcerned (and thankfully unimpressed) with gimmicks. As Not Lame Recordings put it so well, it's "Good Music For Good People." Plus, the best power pop tunes can really send shivers down your spine or at the very least inspire some out of this world visceral reaction!! And the thrill of discovering that perfect pop song is always a rush!!

Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
The Beatles and The Beach Boys are always the starting point for me. Then I'll go for the Beatlesque bands like Big Star and The Raspberries. I also have this huge thing for the late 70s/early 80s skinny tie power pop bands, like The Rubinoos, The Beat, Cheap Trick. And of course then comes the 90s pop underground scene where the bands/acts I love best include The Rooks, The Greenberry Woods, The Shazam, Cotton Mather, The Posies, Mark Bacino and soooo much more!

How would you describe Couple's place in the Malaysian rock scene?
It's kinda like we have no exact place/niche to fit in, because we're too uncool and old-fashioned for the 'indie scene' kids and too 'noisy' or 'different' for the mainstream-teenybopper kids. But like they always say, good tunes will always prevail, and luckily despite our inability to snugly fit into any particular 'scene' in Malaysia, we still managed to amass a healthy amount of fans among the kids who just like good tunes and are unaware of all this genre-specific isolation. So I guess the kids are still alright.

What do you hope to achieve with Top of the Pop?
I just hope that it'll resonate with people the same way my favourite albums resonate with me. For example, I can always return to my fave albums as many times as I want and still enjoy every bit of it as if it was the first time. I can only hope that Top Of The Pop will gain that kind of special place in some people's lives.

What's next for Couple?
We'll be playing Fat Festival in Bangkok in November. Right now we're busy preparing for the Japanese release of the album on Wizzard In Vinyl scheduled for January 2007, and we've got our own promo things lined up for the end of this year and early next year, such as our inclusion on Paste Magazine's podcast on Coca-Cola's Global Music Platform which should be launching very soon. Let's hope a lot more people will discover us through that. We'll also be involved in the promotional campaign for a new LA based teenage girls' fashion line called Bitch Kitty. The American release of the album on Sizzleteen Records is also yet to happen, but should be happening in the very near future, so we're getting ready for the promo bits for that release as well. So hopefully next year will be a busy year for us. The busier the better!!

Check out my review of Top of the Pop at

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Dave Stephens came to me literally from out of the blue. But his new album Stories for Copper blew me away with its melodies, verve and uncanny McCartneyesque approximations. He is a great artist and I was fortunate enough to have the man himself answer a few pertinent queries...

Who are your biggest influences and why?

My biggest influences are The Beatles, Queen, Supertramp, Led Zeppelin and Billy Joel. I'm mostly influenced by music that was on in the background of my childhood which was in the late 70s and early 80s. These were really melodic years for music and this is where I draw most of my inspiration.

What is your inspiration for writing such wondeful songs?

First of all, thank you. My songs are all drawn from my experiences in life. They are all very biographical. Writing for me is like keeping a diary but more for feeling than for words. When I was a kid I used to really feel the music I listened to and appreciated the artists for it. I figured if I could put my thoughts and feelings into song, maybe someone else would get it the same way as I did as a kid.

Words or music - which comes first?

I write music first. My songs always just come from me plunking on chords and seeing if they evoke any emotion in me. My lyric writing comes from the Beatles school. I usually sing out random thoughts in melodies over the music. I find that after a while you usually stumble on something that's been going on in your life, and effecting you emotionally, and I elaborate from there.

Does co-owning a recording studio make the recording process easier or harder?

Definitely easier. I put together the studio for my day job doing sound for film, but it was a really an excuse to have the tools to record my music. I lived in Vancouver, Canada and found that it was hard to get any help funding wise to put a record together, and because I was a solo artist I didn't have anyone to split studio costs with like a band usually would. The good news is, studio equipment is fairly affordable now, so I'm lucky to have a set up that I can spend my time in crafting my work.

What's next after Stories for Copper?

It's hard to say at this point. Stories for Copper is my proudest and most personal work. It's a pretty well rounded record but is predominantly mellow and heartfelt. I'd like to keep that happening on the next record, but maybe rock out a bit more and let my Led Zeppelin and Queen influences shine through.

Review of Stories for Copper is up at

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


THE 88 Over and Over (EMK)
Better late than never, I always say. Over and Over was released last year but it still sounds great in September 2006! The 88 presents classic powerpop without irony and totally guilt-free. The songs are crunchy, bouncy, jaunty and ultimately very cool.

DUKE FAME Too Proud to Practice (Geeves)
I dug the Duke’s debut album – Regrets – and had none. If anything, Too Proud to Practice is even better – more hooks, more harmonies, more hip songs about being square. The Duke treads a fine balance between rock abandon and pop finesse.

DAVE RAVE Anthology Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 (Bullseye)
This pair of discs represents an ambitious labour of love to chronicle the musical exploits of Dave Rave (nee DesRoches) from his days with the Shakers, Teenage Head, Agnelli & Rave, Fulcrum, Crashtones and as a solo artist. Dubbed the Nick Lowe of Canada certainly gives the pop fan an idea of what Rave is capable of. Straddling 25 years of great pop-rock music from new wave to garage punk and from powerpop to jazz pop, Rave is a multi-faceted gem waiting to be discovered.

MARTY RUDNICK More Songs About Cars and Girls (Sandbox)
Marty Rudnick? Isn’t he a Rubinoos associate and one of the guys behind Sandbox Records. True, but Marty Rudnick is also a singer-songwriter in his own write and what he specializes in is “Merseybeach” which is supposed to suggest a hybrid of the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Which is probably the best way to describe Cars and Girls and 60s pop fans will positively lap this up. Oh and Michael Carpenter produces as well. No brainer, pop fans!

JEREMIAH LOCKWOOD American Primitive (Vee-Ron)
You know, Jeremiah Lockwood looks way too young to be able to produce such earthy, authentic country blues like this! Austere, sparse production values bring out the power of these visceral songs. Together with his weathered larynx and light instrumentation, American Primitive is pretty much irresistible.

MARY LEE’S CORVETTE Love Loss & Lunacy (Western Force)
Is Mary Lee Kortes the pop underground’s answer to Thea Gilmore? Whatever, there is something definitely cooking here in this fine effort produced by Stephen (Smash Palace) Butler. Strong country-flavoured pop-rock material always reels me in. Sold.

THE STATES Multiply Not Divide (Self released)Another 2005 release that deserves to be heard in 2006 and beyond… The reference point most will use is Interpol and yes, I hear it too but I believe the stellar work found on Multiply Not Divide deserves more than a cursory footnote. Sure, you get the almost obligatory staccato high-fretted guitar attack ala the Edge/Will Sergeant but there is an indefinable quality about the States that lifts much of this excellent debut above your average post punk revivalists.