Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Welcome to Popland, population: 2.

As suggested by the name, pop music (in particular, the easy-listening guitar-driven kind that resonates with such grace on their previous album, "Groovy") is really what defines the band.

Fortunately, the passion for the power of pop is equally shared by the two friends making up this Singapore-based outfit -- namely Singaporean Kevin Mathews and British expatriate Tim Nolan.

Perhaps, in fitting with the timeless quality of their music, age itself is irrelevant in a group like Popland. One thing's for sure, these guys are way beyond the average age of typical boy-band members. But that doesn't stop them from continuing to churn out radio-friendly tracks that deserve more airplay than they are usually accorded.

One note of interest: Mathews did in the past scored a radio hit in that very hummable ditty, "My One And Only" (which was recorded under a different line-up bearing the name, Watchmen).

So what can one expects from Popland's new album? Mathews lets us in on all the "Action!"


The new album's title is called "Action!" What is the significance of it?

I believe that in order for anything to happen in one's life, you have to be proactive. "Action!" really reflects my attitude towards the local music scene -- too much talk and not enough action. So I decided to stop merely talking about the music and instead do something about it. "Action speaks louder than words" is also applicable here.

How do you see this album fitting in with the rest of your discography (from your past outfits, Watchmen and The Crowd, to Popland)?

The thing about the Popland albums is that we didn't exist as a performing entity until drummer Ray Aziz joined us in 1997. And so, you could say that the music on "Groovy" and "Action!" is more organic while that on "Democracy" (Watchmen), "Love" (Watchmen) and "Pop" (The Crowd) were more products of the studio. I think that the last two albums contain more accomplished guitar pop than anything I'd done before.

Which songs on the album would you consider "singles material"?

Realistically? That's a tough question because local radio doesn't play local music and, worse still, guitar pop isn't exactly popular right now. But ideally, I would like to believe that songs like "Dumb Thing," "Meat From The Sky," "Here," "Feel The Same Way," "Hold On" and even "The Hip Song" would hold their own on the radio, locally or otherwise. But realistically, I doubt it.

Most of these songs have been around for a couple of years now ("Hold On" since 1989!) so it's difficult to think about that. Two songs ("Fallen Angels" and "The Future") were written for and inspired by (Singapore filmmaker) Edwin Yeo's short films.

Is there a particular personal favourite track for you?

My favourite track is "Meat From The Sky" because it's a bit different from the previous songs we've done. Tim provided the offbeat idea for the chorus and we developed it from that point. A bit of a riposte against the banality of the current rock scene, you might say.

You've worked with different people throughout your musical career -- so far, what's it like working with your current partner, Tim?

Tim provides the creative technical backing to my "silly" musical ideas. He's a good anchor and also that important "ear" in the studio. I'm a bit of a lazy sod when it comes to recording so Tim is there to give me the discipline as well. Most of all, he is an excellent bass player and the perfect foil for my limited guitar playing.

Talking about musical partners and former musical the track "Whatever" intended as a bitter song in the vein of Lennon's "How Do You Sleep?"

Yes and no. "Whatever" was originally written as an exaggerated response to the split of the Watchmen. But since then, my feelings towards that has mellowed somewhat (it has been seven odd years now!) and so I decided to treat the song differently, to take the sting out. Turn it inside out so it becomes a bit tongue-in-cheek. And in my opinion, it has become that much more interesting.

Can you describe the entire process of getting the album out?

"Action!" will be released in the U.S.A. by San Francisco label, Zip Records. The recording and mixing were done in Singapore and the mastering, manufacturing, distribution and promotion will be done by Zip in the U.S.A. Zip expressed interest after hearing a four-track sampler of "Action!" I understand that the CD will be available in Singapore through CreAsian Records, though nothing has been confirmed yet. The album will be available online and through mail order as well as in the stores in the U.S.A.

Can you explain your rationale of not using Singapore as your base for releasing your album?

Although I broke even on "Groovy," the response here was pathetic. However, although there was a better response in the U.S.A., it was difficult for me to promote the album from Singapore. And so, getting a U.S. label on board was the logical solution.

Assuming you have the power to change the world, how would you change Singapore into a more local-music-friendly nation?

Ha! Okay, I'll play along... It's all about awareness of music. Singaporeans, by and large, have no appreciation of pop music. How many people (apart from kids) actually buy CDs on a regular basis, compared to VCDs and DVDs? Not much, I bet! If I have the power, I would get the stores and the labels to jointly launch programs to raise the awareness of pop music amongst Singaporeans. By the same token, Singaporeans have little patience for "live" music. I would then get the clubs, live venues etc. to organise such programs. Once you have a general awareness of pop music raised, an appreciation of local music would ultimately follow.

You've dabbled a little in MP3 and putting your music onto the Net. Is your experience with music on the Net generally positive or negative?

The Net is a tremendous boon for music makers as it provides potentially "free" worldwide exposure and promotion. Anyone in the world with an Internet access is able to listen to a Popland song by logging on to, for example -- that is the power of the Net!

I have mixed feelings about Napster though. But more and more, I believe that it does serve as a good marketing tool as well. The issue of copyrights is a vexed one as the apparent "victims" are the major labels who by no means fit into that description. But I believe that these controversies do not reduce CD sales until we have MP3s with hi-fi CD-quality sound and people begin to accept the concept of paying online.

Can you let us in on some of the promo plans for the album after its launch in May?

Nothing really out of the ordinary. Putting the CD into as many reviewer's hands as possible. Placing ads in influential indie mags. Making ourselves available for interviews. Touring the U.S.A. would be great, but unless we get a sponsor for that, it's unlikely.

If this album is The One that makes Popland's name known all over the States, what would your reactions and actions be?

That would be a dream come true, of course. If that ever happened, I suppose I'd be looking anxiously out the window to check if the world has ended already! Actually, I'd be happy just to be able to continue making music for as long as I can.

(Interview from circa 2001)

Buy Action at Amazon.


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