By DARYL GOH
IT’S late evening at folk rock singer-songwriter Meor Yusof Aziddin’s mini studio and guitar class centre located on the fourth floor of a mid 1970s shoplot in a less glamorous but no less bustling area in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. He isn’t busking today – the man is an officially licensed street musician – since he has his hands full with the upcoming release of his new music project.
There is a palpable sense of activity in the air as he scrounges around for promo CD singles, updates a band biography and talks about adding sitar arrangements to an unfinished track during the course of this recent interview at his headquarters.
He is even uploading new live videos on Facebook of this new chapter in his career.
Over the years, Meor, 44, has had occasional live shows with backing musicians, but he has always been regarded as a solo performer, a solitary soul who travels light.
The story is about to change soon. As he lights up a clove cigarette, he is ready to share his excitement of reviving his first band project Society, which was formed over 20 years ago.
“Not many people remember me being in a band. But I wasn’t a solo artiste when I first started out. I was part of Society, a sort of ‘folk punk’ act with bassist Mamal and drummer Che Mat. We recorded a track (Holocaust) for the Circle Of Friends cassette compilation in 1992, it was produced by Joe Kidd. I actually sang in English back then,” Meor laughed as he recalled fond memories of the 1990s underground scene.
“We had fun but Society didn’t get that far, though. Both Mamal and Che Mat later joined Naked Butterfly and I started to do my own music.”
Like all forgotten projects, Society has been on the back-burner for the longest time. Meor pushed ahead with a solo career that has seen him release seven albums, including the highly acclaimed Itu Padang... Aku Disitu (2003) and politically aware Dari Rakyat Untuk Rakyat (2009).
“Last December, I had a discussion with fellow musician/friend Black (aka Amin Iskandar) about putting a group together. There was a ready platform with Society, we just needed to give it a reboot.
“Society initially started off as an open concept outfit, that sort of arrangement. A bit like the Alan Parsons Project,” he laughed. “The plan for a female vocalist as a member was also mooted here.”
While Meor sketched out musical directions (“a more mainstream sound”) and Black, 31, crafted acoustic-based live arrangements, the lyrical content for Society came courtesy of poet Jimadie Shah Othman, novelists Samsiah Mohd Nor and Ramlee Awang Murshid, among others.
“As we ran through the jam sessions and made demos earlier this year, we realised there was something special with all the lyrics. This was no ordinary album project because of the the lyrical contributions from some amazingly creative people,” said Black, who released the independent Hentikan Perang Sekarang EP in 2007.
“I’ve also worked with Meor previously, we’re basically on the same wavelength. Both of us have a keen understanding of working the guitar and voice setting ... you know, to create an emotive atmosphere with bare bones arrangements,” he added.
Che Mat returned to handle the drums on the album which also includes four new Meor-sung songs. As the elder singer-songwriter, Meor candidly described one of them as being “deeply atmospheric, my own attempt to create something like Exit Music from Radiohead.”
Society’s debut album Jalan, featuring 10 songs, was recorded at Iseekmusic in Kota Damansara in Selangor with production duties shared by Meor with brothers Azam and Anuar Mohd Nor.
The songs for all-ages – filled with thorns, fruits, love and loss – needed someone to give them the kiss of life. There were a few candidates to fill in that role but things didn’t work out. Instead Society moved ahead for a fresh face willing to learn the ropes and attract a new audience.
“We needed a precocious but wise voice that could carry off the grown up themes. Our songs basically touch on the human condition. No drippy ballads, we prefer to address the realities of relationships, to bring hope and to be strong during the dark times. This person had to be a singer with a hard-working temperament to handle the studio and live shows,” said Meor.
Enter Daiyan Trisha, an 18-year-old indie singer, who was auditioned for the role of fronting the newly re-activated Society. The novice was given the job in April. As the daughter of one of the album’s creative collaborators Samsiah (lyrics to Gerimis Malam), Daiyan can be heard on six songs on Society’s upcoming debut, set for release next month under the CRG Communication imprint. The teenager can be heard now on the CD single tracks Berani Bercinta and Emas Bertatah Permata where she carries the weight of the subject matter rather well.
“At first I was a little bit scared and nervous if I screwed up anything, and it took time to feel suitable (in mood) when recording the songs. It was really new to me since I have no studio experience,” said Daiyan in a separate email interview.
She is currently pursuing a career in accountacy at UiTM in Alor Gajah, Malacca.
The generation gap is hardly a problem in a creative sense. The group’s newly acquired adolescent energy has been a big boost with younger fans turning up at gigs. In return, the guidance from the older element in Society has benefited this young singer, who already has her own YouTube channel and is active through social media networking (“I’m not your average teenage girl,” reads her Facebook description).
Interestingly however, she cites Demi Lovato as a big inspiration. So were the Society songs and lyrics a culture shock to Daiyan?
“To be truthful, all of the songs were really different from the genres I often sing (acoustic pop and rock). Society’s songs have a melodic poetry style. I had difficulties in the beginning to get used to this genre. When I finally felt the songs and style, it became easier for me. I fell in love with this beautiful genre that seeks to reach into your soul through meaningful words and deep poetry,” she explained.
Daiyan, who plays the guitar and piano, is looking forward to playing more live shows. The group, as Meor indicated earlier, will schedule gigs around Daiyan’s college breaks. At recent live performances and literary club gigs in the Klang Valley, Society hit the stage as a three-piece unit with vocalist Daiyan flanked by Meor and Black on guitars. Just like her veteran bandmates, the “old school barefooted troubadour on a plastic stool” look has even been adopted by this youngster.
“The shows have been superb, I really enjoy working and performing with Society. Of course, I am looking forward to more gigs and events in bigger venues! Being in the band makes me realise the hard work and the collaborative effort all of us have to go through to really make it work. We will just keep doing what we do best,” she added.
Plans are also afoot to expand the band with two more live musicians when the bigger shows come into the equation.
Browse facebook.com/societytheband or crgcommunication.com for updates.
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