Take Two at A Time
Written by Ameer Hamzah on July 26, 2016
“Sanctify, all you have thought, tendencies collide,” the vocalist pulls the last note and smashes it down with all the subtlety of an explosion. The crowd roars its approval, as the twin guitars revel in their thrilling union, and the bass clashes brilliantly with the thunderous chords. This is the unbridled, ageless beauty of music. This is Take Two.
The five connoisseurs of indie pop-rock are the part of the next generation of Singaporean music, alongside those veterans The Sam Willows and Gentle Bones, but very much their own brand. Formed in 2012 in the quiet corridors of the National University of Singapore’s Eusoff Hall, Paddy Jonathan Ong, Tan Peng Sing, Johnathan Lim, David Siow and Jeryl Yeo are indie pop-rock’s fantasy quintet of looks, charm and utter talent.
“We started out as a cover band. We got together for the sake of playing songs that we liked, and we never really thought any further than that,” Jeryl reminisces with a nostalgic smile.
Transforming from that “cover band” to the ravishing superstars of the main stage they are today has been an exhilarating experience, their music evolving into the near perfect concoction we see today.
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We begin at the threshold of their musical journey when playing someone else’s music simply wasn’t enough. When that addiction to music became something greater, more powerful, an affliction. Addiction Affliction was born.
The guitar teases you, seemingly about to unleash its restrained tension, then pulling back into the jazzy control that holds you in its thrall, flanked by the bass drum that is ever present in the background, waiting for you to take notice of it. The voice of vocalist Paddy throws you into the 80s, bringing back the sounds of The Police and Duran Duran His tantalising vocal manipulation of octaves is sensual, personal, bringing to light the song’s veiled hint at all things carnally desirable.
“Addiction Affliction got me interested in them straight away. The (Sam) Willows and Gentle Bones are great, but these guys hit me on another level, their style is pretty different. They’re amazing!” says Christopher Ratnam, Year Three Engineering student.
As if their first single, Always Been Right Here, didn’t make them desirable enough already, Take Two was just getting started. Addiction Affliction was the origin of what would become the basis of everything Take Two stood for, everything their music represented. Duality.
“The theme of duality does have a strong part to play in the music – contrasting emotions and the feel of the music are all brought into play to introduce balance and variety into the songs. There are question and answer parts as well, and parts that are symmetrical,” bassist David explains the stronghold duality has over the band’s music.
Duality was the seed from which sprung Take Two’s coup de grâce in establishing itself as the nation’s dominant indie band, its debut EP ‘Pairs’. The culmination of all the hours in the studio creating, tinkering and recreating music, ‘Pairs’ was Take Two in its essence. Five tracks, inspiration drawn from all walks of life, from every window the band had in life, came together in a single explosive release that blew the minds of every listener and represented the beginning of an era. Take Two’s era.
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The pure, heady rush of an arousing guitar riff is unrivalled. The alternation between the soft, caressing touch of a slow chord and the raw, almost primal anger of a blistering riff is exhilarating. Be it the electrifying union of twin guitars playing in quintessential tandem or the alternation of dominance between the two lynchpins of Take Two’s music, nothing can compare to Johnathan and Peng Sing’s guitaring chemistry. From Top Man’s uncaged fury to the musical masterpiece that is fan favourite Always Been Right Here; there is never a lack of creativity or skill.
“I think Pengs (Peng Sing) and I work very hard to give each other space, which sounds contradictory, but actually needs to be more intentional than people realise. We try to keep out of each other’s way whether rhythmically or harmonically so that we cover as much of the spectrum as possible, which naturally then pushes us to think about our parts more creatively,” Johnathan gives an insight into the secret to the duo’s guitaring master class.
“The guitaring is the key to their style, the foundation of everything their music builds on. If it had been anyone else besides Johnathan and Pengs on the guitar, it (the music) would have been forgettable, because they were the exact type of guitarists Take Two needed,” says Of Thrones SG’s guitarist, Farid Nanni.
But even the twin acoustic mastery of Johnathan and Peng Sing cannot walk alone. The brilliant bass play is the bulwark behind the guitar’s free flowing movement, the holding factor that grounds their music. Bassist David Siow and drummer Jeryl Yeo constantly evolve their style to adapt with the band’s musical progression, coming off from being under the radar with tight bass drops in “Addiction Affliction” to the absolute head banger that shined in “Top Man”, to the gluing factor that made “In Your Arms” the stunner it was.
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“In line with the progression of the band, we first decided to write and play very tight parts with strong accents. Nowadays, we’re trying to write and play groovy parts with more space for the guitars and vocals to shine,” David say as he tries to theorise how he and Jeryl work their magic in the music that has become such a smash hit in the indie scene.
“I think the bass and drumming has matured over time, combining well with the rest of the band, merging perfectly,” bassist for Fader SG Feriadi says.
But Take Two is no Take Two if not for the man who changed it all. Paddy Jonathan Ong, the band’s vocalist, has been labelled one of the best in the business, and with good reason. A virtually unmatched vocal repertoire coupled with one of the silkiest voices in the industry makes Take Two’s frontman the perfect blend of the band’s unorthodox yet attractive style. Almost carelessly switching between octaves, going from Ronan Keating-styled gruffness to Lionel Ritchie velvet in the blink of an eye, no one does it quite like Paddy. “Always Been Right Here” is the band’s most successful track among the fans, hitting number five on iTunes, and with good reason. Here Paddy is king, music is his dominion, and he is in his purest element. Free falling in chorus, at his height Paddy is mesmerising, enthralling.
“I love Paddy, he has to be my favourite local artiste. He’s right up there with Gentle Bones and Ben Kheng,” gushes Radio Heatwave DJ Kimberley Anne Tan.
Indeed, Take Two’s star is rising; rising so fast they may soon see themselves at the top. And when they do, you can be guaranteed that they aren’t going to slow down. For this is the unbridled, ageless beauty of music. This is Take Two.
So take a second look.
Writer: Ameer Hamzah