“Our EP is a conceptual one — from the start to the end is a journey,” begins Narelle Kheng, 19, the youngest member of Singaporean band The Sam Willows.
After putting out their own renditions of songs like “Animal” by American rock band Neon Trees and “We Found Love” by Rihanna, it was only a matter of time before this band got thrust into the limelight. Since then, the quartet has been catching audiences in the nation by storm with their distinctive brand of soul-folk music.
The band consists of siblings Narelle and Benjamin Kheng and Sandra Riley Tang on vocals, and Jonathan Chua on guitar (although the Kheng siblings can each play a mean tune on the guitar, too). Benjamin, Sandra and Jonathan are all 22.
The Sam Willows launched their self-titled Extended Play (EP) with a live performance at TAB last October. At the launch, their friends, family members and newfound fans bopped along to their music.
Jonathan’s guitar mastery along with the three-part harmony in “Crimson” flaunted the bluesy side of their music. Other numbers like “Nightlight” and “Crown”, although not as upbeat, managed to soothe the masses into a state of deep appreciation. There is no doubt that the launch was a successful one.
Their first single, “Nightlight”, released online as a single, is more than just another song.
It narrates the four-year long struggle with breast cancer of Benjamin and Narelle’s mother. As Benjamin puts it, “It was an intensely emotional experience.” This song is such a tear-jerker that you will feel like an emotional trespasser every time you play it.
The Sam Willows’ interest extends beyond music. “We are not only musicians,” Jonathan shares. “We see ourselves as artists.”
Through collaborations, the band has been able to share their creative points with other artists. “Nightlight” is also the official soundtrack for Hun, a short film produced by Singaporean director Josiah Ng.
They show their love and enthusiasm for sharing music and art through always looking for collaborative projects with other Singaporean artists. Even at their EP launch, they were more than happy to share the limelight with Charlie Lim and Shigga Shay.
Local acts aside, their aspiration is to bring their music overseas — to America, in particular.
Benjamin, who was once a radio DJ with Lush FM, recalls an interview with Grammy Award-winning musician Corinne Bailey Rae, a singer whom the band puts on a pedestal.
“Her music is something we all take to, it’s an amalgamation of a lot of styles yet very accessible. Soul, jazz and blues all in one.”
Without a frontman, The Sam Willows hold the belief that the music they churn out should be an even multitude of their musical influences.
Dubbed “The Sam Willows’ sound”, Jonathan’s music style possesses qualities reminiscent of maestros of both neo-blues like Jack White and the old school like Eric Clapton. The music that the band conjures is brought to perfection along with the blend of Benjamin’s, Narelle’s and Sandra’s voices.
The Sam Willows have earned a well-deserved spot in the line-up at South by Southwest this March, one of the most widely known annual music festivals in the United States.