“I was like, how should I play this? Should I be a low-key fan?” admitted Jonathan Pereira, guitarist and vocalist of The Betts and a huge fan of Joshua Tan – frontman of The Fire Fight and guitarist of A Vacant Affair. This happened over a late-night celebratory call...
“I was like, how should I play this? Should I be a low-key fan?” admitted Jonathan Pereira, guitarist and vocalist of The Betts and a huge fan of Joshua Tan – frontman of The Fire Fight and guitarist of A Vacant Affair. This happened over a late-night celebratory call the moment they received news that Joshua would be the established artist they work with.
From Punk Rock Covers to Indie Rock Originals
Formed in September 2015, The Betts is an indie rock and pop quartet – consisting of Jonathan Pereira (Guitar & Vocals), Pierre Yip (Guitar & Vocals), Charles Wee (Drums) and Nicson Niam (Bass & Vocals).
Starting out as a punk rock cover band, The Betts have come a long way since. Today, they make original music that gets people to dance and let loose. “It is about the connection with the crowd that is the most important thing for us. You could be playing your best but if people aren’t feeling it, they aren’t feeling it,” said Jonathan.
Joshua Tan, on the other hand, has been part of the local music scene since 2001 and introduces himself as both “a songwriter and a guitarist” who dabbles in various genres. “As a songwriter, I write more indie and alternative music. As a guitarist, that’s when I kind of straddle or thread into different genres such as hardcore metal.”
A Difference in Approaches
“If it works, it works” is how The Betts approach songwriting. And it’s been that way right from the start. The band’s first song, Constant, was essentially the final product of a “natural” and “seamless” jamming session – just like the rest of their songs.
“As we got better [at songwriting], we started coming out with our own ideas individually…And if it’s something that everyone was cool with, we [would] just join in and help them write it,” said Jonathan.
In contrast with The Betts’ preference to build upon one another’s ideas, seasoned songwriter Joshua prefers a more private and consistent approach. To him, songwriting is a “very personal and inward-looking process.”
“I use a notebook, a pen and a voice recorder. It’s a personal habit of mine to archive melodies, ideas, lyrics or even utterances as sketches [daily].”
An Electric Journey Ahead
Crossing paths for the very first time, Joshua and The Betts can’t be more excited to hit the road together on The Great Singapore Replay.
Tasked to take on Siti by Force Vomit, the pair definitely has what it takes to retain the spirit of this playful and upbeat rock anthem. But how will they make it their own?
The Betts are no strangers to putting their own spin to covers – but with Joshua on board they are looking to “take it to a new level”. They want to push their reimagination of Siti beyond the limits of the usual covers and make it a true reimagination.
For Joshua, he sees himself as a catalyst to the reimagination process, where he will “inject the best of these guys into the new version [of the song].”
Wherever they plan to take Siti remains to be seen, but at the foundation of it all is what Joshua believes to be essential to a strong collaboration – a connection that just clicks. As Joshua puts it, “The vibe is right. Electric in fact.”
“Definitely radical” is how Jonathan, guitarist and vocalist, from The Betts describes their take on Force Vomit’s cult anthem Siti.
They’ve even gone where many teams have not and added lyrics of their own to the song. While things might vary quite a fair bit, the essence remains intact according to Joshua Tan, “The spirit of the song is still the same but we made it more relevant to the younger people of today.”
Considering the energetic and dancey vibe of Siti, it seems like a natural fit for The Betts who make music to get people moving. However, according to their drummer, Charles from The Betts, one of their initial reactions was actually, “Oh no, what are we going to do about it?”
“It’s hard to create an already popular song,” Joshua explains.
“You don’t want to just follow whatever they [Force Vomit] have done,” Pierre, guitarist and vocalist, adds. And this becomes especially difficult when their music shares similarities. Pulling away from the widely recognisable Siti sound means that the band has to take not only the song but their own styles apart and think out-of-the-box.
Adding to that, The Betts is not used to working under a tight deadline. “We usually sit on a song for months,” says Jonathan. In fact, the second song they ever worked on has not seen the light of day yet. For them, the process has always been organic, allowing songs to take shape at their own pace.
As if these weren’t enough, Eddino, front man of Force Vomit, is also a part of The Great Singapore Replay, adding even more pressure as he gets to peek at their process from the sidelines.
When Music Happens, It Happens
Despite facing pressure on all ends, the team still manages to put their priorities where it matters. “We had fun,” says Joshua.
For them, music doesn’t happen when everyone comes together to “work”. According to Joshua, “We can’t quite just get together and write.”
And Jonathan agrees, “We can’t manufacture it, it has to happen naturally.”
“Naturally” being the keyword, the team has taken up a more indirect approach to the remake. First having fun, then letting the rest of the pieces fall into place afterwards. “That’s how music happens. It’s all about getting to know each other, building a relationship and from that bond, something musical and creative comes,” explains Joshua.
And it works. “They came through,” says Joshua with a faint smile. In fact, it worked so well, they are already in the talks for future collaborations and performances together.
Their solution? Taking the surf-punk Siti towards a more popular sound, blurring the lines between alternative and mainstream. And best of all, they got a glimpse of approval from Eddino himself. “I think I saw him [Eddino] smile earlier,” says Joshua.
Ultimately, The Betts want to play on the international stage. “We’ve always had this target of playing at Glastonbury,” says Jonathan. It is definitely possible. After all, Wormrot just became the first Singaporean band to do so this year.
But that’s not where their focus is right now. “You can’t just start out playing internationally,” says Jonathan. For them, it all begins from the ground up and that means Singapore. An important first step will be to understand their fans and the people who support them. And if they keep at it, then perhaps someday they will see Glastonbury from the stage.