Formed in 1992, this Sarawakian indie-rock band has done it all. They were previously signed to a relatively big label in the 90’s, Positive Tone, and have also produced and released an album independently. And having about 20 years experience under their belt, Hazlinda Elina managed to speak to John Boniface about their experience, direction, and if their next record will be their last.
You guys have been around for more than two decades! How has the band’s career evolved up to this date?
JB: [laughs] We were in school uniforms back then. For us, being a band for this long, we’ve sort of bonded to the greatest mutual understanding and slowly becoming a natural cycle for what we do.
For the record, nicestupidplayground have never been disbanded. Of course we have our ups and downs but we are always around even during our so-called ‘quiet’ moment. Typically after every album release and promo shows, there is a rest period, to let those experiences and let that record sort of settle. We take a time out from the band and most activity with the band. And then we usually do our own stuff for a while until we start to feel the gradual call for the next cycle to start. And that call gets louder and louder to the point where somehow we’re back in it.
We are so excited really, after hibernating ourselves these few years, we started writing new songs as a band, jam it out and see what happens. But these have all just come from scratch, just with the band, and they sound a lot more inspired, a lot more varied as well. Also, a lot more original sounding. But no less tuneful, which is kind of a surprise to us. And yeah, we are so excited, keen and determined and can’t wait to have the new songs recorded.
For being prominent pioneers of the local indie music scene, what do you make of the independent music scene here today? Are there any local musicians at the moment that have caught your attention?
JB: Pioneers? Well, we prefer to be called ‘uncle’ of the scene [laughs] I think the Malaysian music industry is blooming positively and varied throughout the years. We love to be inside of it, to be part of it and step outside and look back in. The song ‘Telecommusication’ from our 2nd album ‘Beautiful Life’ was actually about the Malaysian music culture.
We are blessed to live in this multicultural country; our multicultural background is definitely contributing to our multi-genre community and gave a positive impact on our local music scene. It has given the opportunity to explore new sound, expose new bands. And yeah, modern technology does helps in exposing new talents, I think the tag ‘underground’ is extinct in the local music scene nowadays.
It’s good to hear perhaps, one of these days a new young band emerged and they sounds somewhat like us on our first album. It’s nice to see that we possibly had given some inspiration to other musicians. We know how important other musicians were to us and still are to us for what we do and what we create. Cos we will always love music – that’s never going to go away. If you can be a part of that and pass something on to the next generation, then I think that’s special.
Personally, I think Love Me Butch is really cool. I like their music and energy. ‘Sirens’ by They Will Kill Us All kinda cool too. Currently I’m listening to OJ Law, I like their arrangement, and of course there’s Love/Comes, not because we are close friends but they play good music as well.
Word is out that you guys will be releasing an album some time next year. What can we expect from the upcoming album? Any changes in musical direction?
JB: The prospect of writing new music was very different from the prospect of simply getting the bands back together for the occasional gig. Yeah, it’s a long wait and for us, the new album is a continuation of our 1st album ‘My Life is my parents’ biggest television’ although we will not write-off the 2nd release. There will surely be a lot of strings and brass, massive vocals, synth abused, countless tracks in the new album.
Perhaps we will also invite a couple of less-known singers to do a collaboration. We make the very basic pop melodies, but there are lots of different forms that it can take and we never really know where it’s going to until we are in the studio. Likewise, once we’ve started writing songs, there’s a variety of paths that we can go down with once the ideas came.
Most ideas for the new songs come from real situations, meaningful event, tragedies or something traumatic in your life. But of course, we will keep the melodies tuneful and haunting. The upcoming album definitely not going to be a long a wait this time, we are working hard to make sure a release early next year.
It’s also going to be the band’s self-acclaimed final album. Does this mark the end of an era for Nice Stupid Playground?
JB: That’s a really good question. We’ve mentioned it but never been asked that before. Every time we put up a new record, we would expect everyone to know one thing about us, it would have to be something like, “Hey, check us out, you might like it!” because anything else sounds arrogant, and we’ve often said this. We always remind ourselves when we’re recording that we should treat it as the last album. Inevitably one of them is going to be.
It’s been a long time coming and fans will finally get to catch you guys at Urbanscapes. What can we expect from your performance at the upcoming festival?
JB: Our last show in KL was in February and it was awesome. To see people bouncing up and down and singing your words back at you is an extremely humbling experience. We hope we can get the similar acceptance again since this is our second Urbanscapes, last time we played Urbanscapes was in 2004.
We’ve put a lot of thought into this show both in terms of production and in terms of the set-list we’ll be playing. There’ll be a couple of surprises and you might even hear a couple of songs you’ve never heard before, new song perhaps.
Catch Nicestupidplayground and Damn Dirty Apes, alongside tonnes of other local and international bands at Urbanscapes Festival at the end of this month.
Interviewed by Hazlinda Elina
Photos via Nicestupidplayground