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Between a rock and a jazz place

SINGAPORE — Relatively new local band The Steve McQueens have a unique dilemma — do they belong to the jazz scene or the indie scene?

The Steve McQueens are a nice mix of jazz and er, everything else.

The Steve McQueens are a nice mix of jazz and er, everything else.

SINGAPORE — Relatively new local band The Steve McQueens have a unique dilemma — do they belong to the jazz scene or the indie scene?

At first glance, they ought to belong in the former category, since the band consists of several primarily jazz players — Aaron James Lee, Jase Sng, Fabian Lim, Eugenia Yip and Joshua Wan.

However, Wan, a veteran pianist/bassist who has worked with everybody from Tanya Chua to Jacky Cheung, and was the musical director for the 2003 National Day Parade in 2003, is a little uncomfortable pigeon-holing The Steve McQueens as a jazz band.

“Both indie and jazz maybe? Some jazz guys denounce us ’cause of the backbeat and some alt-indie guys don’t dig the jazz chords. Plus we have no guitars!” he said, adding that he preferred to described The Steve McQueens as “a five-piece post-soul band based in Singapore. Our music is jazz infused neo-soul, a sort of groovy melange of tight and loose jazz, soul, funk and R&B”.

While that may sound like a mouthful, Wan said it reflected their influences. “Our sound comes from a mixture of all our musical influences. Artistes like Theolonius Monk, James Brown, Erykah Badu, Amy Winehouse, Brad Mehldau and Robert Glasper,” he explained. “We kind of blend these into songs that have that great vintage Motown soul feeling, you know, where the grooves don’t let you sit still, and there’s the freedom and improvisation of jazz.”

There is an element of jazz involved in The Steve McQueen’s sonic agenda, but certainly, there was a definite objective behind infusing other music genres.

“The five of us got together in March this year out of a common dissatisfaction with the perpetually inconsistent gig scene, and decided to put together something a bit more focused, purposed and hopefully long-term,” Wan said of the band’s beginnings. “We all love to play, of course, but also to create and write original material.”

This common intention resulted in the debut mini-album Einstein Moments. According to Wan, the recording of Einstein Moments “happened quite quickly”. The rationale was, since the band got together to play two to three times a week, writing together was just “an extension of the natural flow of things as we try new grooves and chord progressions”.

“In total, it took us about three to four weeks to get the recording done,” he said.

Of course, any band worth their salt knows that making and recording music is only the first step. Marketing and publicity are still crucial in moving the musical career plans forward.

“We’re going to try and play live as much as possible, get the songs played on the radio ... the usual home route,” Wan explained. “At the same time we’re planning a tour of the region for 2014: Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Korea, Japan and, hopefully, further afield!”

These are ambitious goals for a Singapore band, but they hope to take things further. “We will be pushing on for what we believe in for as long as we can. We’re really serious about what we do and right now, we really believe that this is an awesome time to be creating music and contributing to the scene in the best way we know,” Wan said.

But before all that begins, there are other more immediate considerations for The Steve McQueens. “We’re heading back to the studio to write and prepare for our Late Night show at the Esplanade in January 2014. Hope to see you there!”

The Steve McQueen’s Einstein Moments is out in stores now.

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