No surprise here that it’s tough floating an arts or music career in Singapore. There’re the costs of recording and putting out an album when you aren’t backed by a global label, general disinterest, and the downright dismal lack of support from Singaporeans themselves. Which is why local alternative funk/rock band Ugly in the Morning (or Uglies) has aptly named the birth of their third album 3 or More If You Can Afford It. The album was five years in the making, but hey, they could finally afford to make it.
Of course, the album title is also in reference to Singapore’s 1987 population planning campaign. No particular shade here, but the cheeky shoutout to Goh Chok Tong is one of many social commentary themes in the Uglies’ third album. Of the 10 tracks, there’s “Riot City”, a song written in response to the Little India Riots; “No Such Thing as Magic”, which deals with pastors in jail and pastors who perform magic shows (not mutually exclusive, obviously); and “You Can’t Touch Me Now”, a thoughtfully penned track on LGBT pride. And of course, the album art more than speaks for itself.
Fronting the band on lead vocals is theater veteran Pam Oei, who only joined in 2013 but has clearly proven she’s more than capable of wearing hats outside the acting scene. “I knew the two guitarists pretty well so I just went out on a limb and asked if I could audition,” said Oei, who will also be flexing her creative muscle in this year’s Singapore Theatre Festival.
“They were a little taken aback for a while because they hadn’t even thought about a female lead singer. I had to go through two rounds! The second round was a songwriting round and I got the job.” Surprise surprise—Oei is also the pen behind some of the songs; “Riot City” was specifically written for her husband Ken Kwek’s comedy feature film Unlucky Plaza.
The five-man band formed in 1999 describes their sound as a mix of funk, blues and rock, with the occasional R&B and soul. Wielding the instruments are Noel Ong (guitar, backing vocals), David Baptista (guitar), Clement Yang (bass, backing vocals) and Joseph Saleem (drums). At the launch concert happening Apr 14 at the Esplanade Annexe Studio, guitar duo Jack & Rai will open with an all-original set. “Godfather of Sound” Shah Tahir works his sound engineering magic, with multimedia artist Brian Gothong Tan doing up a carefully designed visual set for the event. And rounding out the actual band for the night are Audrey Luo and Candice de Rozario as backup singers.
Tickets are $25 here.