Interview: The Perfect Equation of New Local Band Sine

Get to know this new rock band and its quirky members.
Local Band Sine NOISE Singapore ZYRUP Yeo Chai Jing Avery Chong Eugene Tan Marcus Goh
Photo: Isaac Chu/ZYRUP

What was supposed to be casual jamming sessions during their free time in the army turned out to be something a lot more serious for bandmates Yeo Chai Jing (who goes by CJ), Eugene Tan and Marcus Goh (whose position is currently filled by temporary member Avery Chong). Together, they form Sine, a new local indie rock band.

Back in 2014, the army friends bonded over their mutual interest for music. Soon, the jamming sessions in their army bunk received so much attention from supervisors and peers in Khatib Camp that they were invited to perform at a battalion recreational event.

Recognising their potential, Eugene (the self-professed “father figure” of the band) sat them down and drew out concrete plans for their future – including trying out for this year’s edition of the NOISE music mentorship, which is an annual arts mentorship initiative organized by the National Arts Council.

The band met a minor speed bump before even deciding on auditioning for NOISE; drummer Marcus Goh had to leave for the Netherlands for school commitments until the end of the year. Enter Avery Chong, who would serve as Marcus’ stand-in until his return. (Fun fact: Avery is part of another local fusion-pop band, called RABCDE.)

Since the group’s formation, they have written multiple songs, including their debut single, ‘Full Dive’, which was released in July.

Sine’s music is inspired by math rock (a style of indie rock) bands like Toe, and Tricot from Japan, as well as American instrumental band Chon. Band member CJ says that by meshing together the different influences, Sine is able to create their own distinctive sound.

ZYRUP speaks to the boys of Sine about putting the band together and their plans for the future.

Local Band Sine NOISE Singapore ZYRUP Yeo Chai Jing Avery Chong Eugene Tan Marcus Goh
Photo: Isaac Chu/ZYRUP

ZYRUP: How did you guys come up with the band name?
Eugene: ‘Sine’ was basically a name that we found while browsing through the dictionary, because we liked the letter “s”.

CJ: After that, we attributed meaning to what we chose, like abstract painters do. One is a very “deep” meaning: Sine means “by itself” in Latin, and we interpreted that as being original; we are a group that is “by itself”, in that there is nothing else to compare us to. There is also a “shallow” meaning. Because we were sitting on a seesaw [when thinking of the band name], we realized that “sine” could stand for “Seesaws in Neighbourhood Estates”.

Tell us about your first single, ‘Full Dive’.
C: ‘Full Dive’ is a story about how a person is sinking, and goes deeper and deeper into his or her own mind to find their true self and by accepting themselves, they will come up stronger again.

We heard that you guys wrote a song about McSpicy. How exactly was it a muse?
C: [laughs] I was doing an internship in China and I was by myself in my room with my guitar. I bought a McSpicy and went back to the hotel to eat it, and because I’m a musician, I’m very ‘emo’. I had [a melody] and I needed to write lyrics for it, and when I looked at the chicken burger, I thought, “Isn’t this chicken burger more lonely than me? Who am I to think that I’m lonely? This poor chicken died to be eaten by me, cooked by McDonald’s.” So I put myself in the shoes of the chicken.
Grew up in a farm, only to be killed and be eaten as a McSpicy.

That’s a lot deeper than we thought it would be.
C: It’s actually a song that I kind of pushed aside. It’s a song called ‘C’.

E: McSpi-‘C’.

What is your band dynamic like?
Avery: Definitely Eugene is the daddy. Eugene’s our daddy.

E: I handle more of the administrative stuff like sourcing for gigs. I follow all the music blogs on Facebook and I would keep refreshing [to look out] for any new opportunities. I also would always remind them a week before the gig to go through a special diet – no spicy food, no “heaty” food, and to exercise.

C: I guess I start writing the song. The music stuff is more my domain. For Marcus, he was more about the tone, because he’s very into the gear and the technical stuff. He’d also [let us use] his house to jam. And Avery is eye candy, because he’s very handsome – sit down play drum can already.

A: I think coming in as the new guy, being fresh with both of them, I think it makes sense that Eugene is the grounded, down to earth guy and he plays bass, so he keeps the foundation. CJ does whatever he wants on the guitar – especially when he plays live – he plays whatever the hell he wants sometimes and there’d be new parts all of sudden, and I’ll be like, “What the hell is going on?”. But he makes things interesting with his energy, while Eugene keeps us serious and grounded, but Eugene can be ridiculous sometimes [too] and that’s when things goes to shit lah.

How has working with your NOISE mentor, Martin Kong, been?
E: I think he has helped us quite a lot. Sometimes he would come and observe us during our jamming sessions, and give us his input from a third party’s perspective.

C: My mother said he’s very handsome. I also think he’s very handsome.

E: He would give us feedback that someone normally would not give. For example, for one of our songs, he told us to “up” the key by one because he felt that if we sang in a higher key, there would be more energy. These are the kind of things that we won’t really notice [on our own].

A: I think the best advice we’ve heard from him is this idea that no matter what gig you play, whatever size it is, as long as you have just one guy enjoying your music or bobbing his head along, then it’s been a good and successful gig. So I think it’s like, whatever gig you play, you’ve got to give your 100 per cent.

What can we expect from Sine in the near future?
A: Energy.

C: And excitement.

E: Because we have a lot of different influences, we want to leverage that and make use of [it]. We are going to play with a lot of genres and come up with “movements” (Editor’s note: the term “movement” used here refers to its usage in the context of music, that is, “parts”) so the first “movement” is in line with the whole band’s sound and image. As we move on to another “movement”, this will all change and it will be like the journey we go through as individuals also.

Different parts, just like a sine wave.
E: Like a sine wave, there will be ups and downs. So when we move to the next “movement”, we will experiment with a different sound and different genre, but still having our roots too. Maybe explore different genres of rock. We are planning to record our EP next year and get it released in April. In May, we will [put together] a show.

A: Sine Show!

Local Band Sine NOISE Singapore ZYRUP Yeo Chai Jing Avery Chong Eugene Tan Marcus Goh
Photo: Isaac Chu/ZYRUP

Catch Sine at the Urban Ventures Street Party X House of Noise 2017 at Keong Saik Road on Saturday, Dec 16. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page and website. Check out Sine’s music here.