“It’s either you will see us become a greater hit than Dick Lee or we will vanish from the scene,” says Azhar Talib, the 38-year-old brain child and lead singer of The Marilyns. Though Azhar was commenting in jest, it is easy to understand his frustrations - The Marilyns has been playing since 1996, and have seen members come and go. Apart from him, only bassist Khairi is an original member of the currently six-people group.
“We will quit and concentrate on our families and personal lives if there are no new projects coming up,” he adds.
It is due time for The Marilyns to be ‘big’ in Singapore. They are made up of experienced band members- Azhar on vocals, Khairi on bass, Anne on keyboards, Norsham and Joseph on guitar and Helmi on drums; all members of previous local groups. They have a one-of-a-kind twist in their music that combines local and international music from the 70’s to the 90’s. They have released several EPs and albums since 1996 and also score points for being bilingual (English and Malay) in what seems like a perfect concoction for band awesomeness.
In their own words, their unique strategy in their music - ‘not too Singlish nor too angmoh’ is something that differentiates them from other indie bands. “We are a Singaporean band and we know the stigmas that Singapore bands carry,” Azhar explains. “The public will judge you even if you’re doing the right thing so I avoid slanging or swaggering in the way I sing.”
That is why the group came up with POP.SG in 2010, an English and Bahasa album that focuses on local subjects such as stories close to the heart of Singaporeans and even broader topics such as Saving Gaia.
“We wanted a POP-ish sounding album and thought that POP.SG should carry that flag,” Azhar says. “It was a turning point in our musical journey and I think it was not a bad attempt.” However, he adds that it is time to move on from that album.
“We change a lot. Changes in line ups, musical direction and our personal lives,” Azhar explains. “Change is part of living and we are happy to be part of that.”
Yes, change seems to be imminent in the near future for The Marilyns as a collaboration with a large company is in the pipeline. Several music videos are in the works and the band is currently waiting for their co-producer Leonard Soosay to finish mixing new songs for their next EP.
However, The Marilyns are still sticking to their ‘local-meets-international’ strategy for now.
In their latest single ‘Heartland Hero’, they sing about how Singaporeans should embrace the influx of foreigners in Singapore because they contribute to our society socially and economically. They choose to reflect on bigger issues such as war, economic crisis, natural disasters or even their ‘little hamsters in their cages’.
Whether or not they can become a household name – only time will tell.
by Melissa Fu
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