<<<30s‘ music is intense, frenetic and full of soul – each of the band’s roughly half a minute songs feels like it starts at its climax and just keeps ramping up.
The band hails from Singapore – an expensive place to live, and in recent times a melting pot for global business, with a large side of expatriates who’ve migrated from around the world to do big corpo things on a small island.
I recently had the chance to conduct an email interview with members Irshah (drums), Auji (vocalist) and Lee (guitar/vocals) to learn about the band’s history, recording with the legendary Singaporean engineer Ah Boy, and the what the heavy music underground is like on their part of the planet.
But first, take a listen to Manusial, taken from <<<30’s 2019 E.P.
- Thank you all for doing this interview! Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and how the band started?
Irshah: my name is Irshah. I play the drums for <<<30s and i’ve been with the band for about 3 years approximately. I was a fan of Lee’s (guitarist and 2nd vocalist) other band called Abrasion and I wanted to play a similar style [of music] to the band but at that time I wasn’t familiar with anyone who wanted to play that style of music but some time after that, Lee called me out and asked if we wanted to start a band together. I agreed that’s how it started.
Auji: <<<30s was formed in 2017. Lee was the one who wanted to form a Blastcore band. He doesn’t mind having 1 or 2 vocalists in the band so I jumped on board to try on doing extreme vocals and challenge myself on writing lyrics for the band.
Lee: I’m the guitarist/2nd vocal for <<<30s, I played in Abrasion and Fluke too. We started in 2017 till now. I wanted something different from what i played in previous bands i had. Just want the passion for fast music that won’t die out for the next generation.
- <<<30s packs some pretty radical music concepts under thirty seconds, and it seems it seems like you all draw from a wide range of influences.
Irshah: My influences are Water Torture, Disrupt, Sordo, Baptist and many other bands that influence the style of drumming that I put forth for <<<30s.
Auji: We all have different influences which aids us a lot in our songwriting. I don’t have specific favourites because all of the bands out there are all good. My main inspirations came from listening to classic/hard/grunge/alternative rock, hardcore, punk to thrash/death/black metal bands. I don’t think it’ll be possible for me to have that confidence in writing lyrics without drawing inspirations from the bands I listened to. I have my band mates to thank them for this as well.
Lee: Yeah, we came from different backgrounds of music. I’m more into grind/PV/fast/crust and a bit of sludge, doom and noise stuff. Bands that interested and inspired me a lot till today are Gauze, Dropdead, Nasum, Magnicide, Corrupted. The idea is to cap [the music] under 30 seconds or beyond when the feel is right.
- In addition to your 2019 EP, the band has recorded at TNT studios with local hero, Ah Boy several times – what was the process like recording there?
Irshah: I have recorded a few EPs with Ah Boy with other projects. I am comfortable being around the studios with Ah Boy and it doesn’t feel tense or nervous. The flow of the studio activity is usually recording the instruments and then the vocals.
Auji: Being in <<<30s has given me the opportunity to experience recording in TNT because previously, I’ll only be there to watch recording/jam sessions of other bands instead. I always get nervous easily being around Ah Boy because he has that serious vibe all the time but despite all that, he’s a patient guy and is very detailed in the things he does. Overall, he has done a great job for our recordings and I’m thankful enough for that. We always do live recordings and this will usually start with guitar and drums first, then followed by vocals.
Lee: As for Ah Boy, he’s the legend to us. I started to record at TNT in my youth in 1998. Basically he knows our style till now because many DIY bands have [been recording] with him [since] back then. We always do a live recording with guitar and drums first, followed by the 2nd layer of guitar tracks and lastly the vocals.
- And how did the songs on the 2019 EP come to be? Did you all sit down together to write the tunes specifically or…?
Irshah : Interestingly, no we don’t sit and write tunes — we gradually come up with tunes and we’ll help each other with adding more ideas to that given tune.
Auji: The songs in our 2019 EP are mostly about life, people, the everyday problems and our music scene. Lee and Irshah are always working together on the beats and guitar/bass riffing and these are done spontaneously during jam sessions. I’ll first check with the guys on what issues/topics to focus on where i’ll then brainstorm and lay out the lyrics and see which fits well into which songs. Only when I’ve run out of ideas, then I’d ask the guys for help.
Lee: Well to be honest, my style of doing songs is on the spot when we go practise and additional beats ideas by me and the drummer. For 2019 E.P, we managed to do it on time because our friend offered us to play in Japan last October, 2019. And this release was to support the whole tour. A good experience if you ask me.
- Singapore seems to have a “hidden from view” grindcore/HC/PV scene. Do bands shy away from hosting shows at say, the Esplanade or the Substation?
Irshah: I agree with Lee that the trend of music changes from time to time. I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to play at Substation when they still hosted DIY shows and as for Esplanade I think they would want a band or an act that’s able to pull in a [huge crowd] so yeah it’s a bit tough when only a small number of people listen to such genre.
Auji: The shows at Esplanade usually cater for wider audiences and they usually promote various art forms in Singapore. There is never a single underground show held there at all.
The rental there is way more than Substation too. Most of the bands featured are mostly well-established [groups] that the organisers are familiar with. If it’s a music fest, the bands they invite are usually based on their final selection. It might probably be based on their musical tastes too or if those bands [are] crowd pullers. In the end, it’s still about whether they can rake in profits.
As for Substation, we have no problem playing shows there but it all depends on the organisers and which bands they want to invite too. All of us have played there before but in different bands. In this case, the grindcore/HC/PV still remains as an underground scene because not [everybody] is comfortable with heavy genres as mentioned.
Lee: Seems fast/grind/pv is not a threat again here in Singapore now. The trend of music here changes from time to time. As for shows, Esplanade is more to establish bands that have been followed by many fans, and as for substation many DIY bands love to play there and were hosted by many good friends. The atmosphere playing in these two places are totally different.
- Sial, Demisor and Wormrot are also great bands from Singapore. What can you tell us about the music community of heavy music genres in Singapore?
Irshah: I would say that even with a small community, we are growing.You’ll be able to see new bands popping out constantly and we are very supportive of each other. Whenever a new band pops up, you’ll start to see friends sharing their bandcamp page which will be flooded on Instagram and Facebook pages. There’s a lot of good music coming out of a small community.
Auji: Sial, Demisor and Wormrot are Made in Singapore bands that we all are definitely proud to have. The music community of heavy music here is packed with so… SO MANY bands with diverse genres… You name it and you’ll be able to find them all here.
Lee: Singapore has many potentially good bands as for now. But [in terms of the] selection of music/genres, people here will follow best to what his/her ears are gonna hear and support.
- Not too long ago, McDonald’s in Singapore gave away curry sauce for free, but now I’ve heard that you have to pay for a tub. Is this more bullshit to exploit consumers? considering that Singapore is one of the epicentres of curry production in the world.
Irshah: I’ve always been a spicy curry kinda guy, so whenever I want curry I’ll go to my mum haha the best curry you’ll ever find.
Auji: From what I’ve heard, they only provide two free curry sauce tubs but will charge customers on additional request of curry sauce at only a few cents each. My guess on why they did this only recently was probably to avoid wastage and nothing else because things like that have an expiry date, and why do people need so many curry sauce, right? SG is one of the epicentres of curry production, but one must never compare MacDonald’s curry with traditional curry because theirs isn’t an original curry at all in the first place!
Lee: Curry???!!! please support the Indian stalls!!! They’re the experts after all…
- What plans do you all have in the future for <<<30s (music/tours/etc), is there something specific that you are working towards?
Irshah: We’re planning a few splits with local noise musicians here, so hopefully when the lockdown is done we’re able to go back to the studio and start recording. Also for me, I hope we’re able to go on tours again. I did my very first tour not long ago and I enjoyed myself.
Auji: We are looking into doing another release and hopefully a few splits/collabs with other bands/noise musicians. Can’t wait to see what is there for us once this Covid-19’s over.
Lee: As for now, we stop for a while due to Covid. When time are good, we gonna record some new stuff for [our] next release. Maybe a lathe cut or vinyl release next…
- Do you still enjoy playing in a band together?
Irshah: There are ups and downs – that’s part of being in a band, but whenever we’re up on stage we just forget about everything and enjoy ourselves .
Auji: Yes. There will always be ups and downs. [This is] part and parcel of being in a band. We will always put differences aside and work together to make the band what it is today.
Lee: Yeah… we quarrel and shout at each other sometimes but it doesn’t mean we hate each other. Just want the best for the band, and making the friendship meaningful after each practice.
- I have to ask, why don’t you guys have Facebook?
Irshah: Hmmm I’m always on Facebook to share funny memes and cute cat videos haha. So when it comes to the band, usually I use Bandcamp to check out new bands or new releases so maybe that’s why we prefer to be on Bandcamp.
Auji: We also don’t know why. Maybe it’s just us not wanting to create a band page and going through the hassle of having something extra for us to manage. We have a Bandcamp page! Does that count?
Lee: I like this question…mmmppphhh??? Find us at Bandcamp or best still, email us if you got questions for us.
Check out <<<30s music, and support the band by buying a record at https://under30seconds.bandcamp.com/