Have you ever wondered what it would be like to reimagine a classic local song with a younger you? Probably not, but Sara Wee knows just how that feels. A younger version of herself is how she describes Joie Tan and it’s not hard to see why...
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to reimagine a classic local song with a younger you? Probably not, but Sara Wee knows just how that feels. A younger version of herself is how she describes Joie Tan and it’s not hard to see why. Between smooth vocals and a bubbly attitude, the pair clicks with electric chemistry.
“A bit too close” is how Joie jokingly refers to their relationship. From yoga workouts to jam sessions, it’s safe to say that the pair hangs out at Sara’s place quite a bit. And fittingly, this close-knit bond began with music.
When she was looking to form an all-female band for a Timbre music project, Sara toyed with the idea of bringing someone she never met before on board. Having seen Joie’s videos on YouTube, it was an easy decision and Sara has “never been able to get rid of her since”.
Surprisingly, this will actually be the first time this chummy pair will be collaborating as partners.
Thinking out of the Square
Both Sara and Joie have done their fair share of covers. Sara regularly plays radio hits with her band 53A while Joie started out doing covers on YouTube. To them, a cover is very much about the joy of playing a song they enjoy and expressing how they connect with it. They are however no strangers to originals as well. Writing takes them to a more intimate space – it’s where they “put diary to song”.
A reimagination will lie somewhere in between – a blend of their own interpretations with a tinge of personal vulnerability.
While the pair leans towards pop, R&B and folk stylings, they try not to let themselves be boxed into any one genre. Taking an adventurous attitude to their remake of Humpback Oak’s Circling Square, this duo is looking to “change things up a little” and inject an experimental spirit to it.
Circling Square is a song about unconditional love, arguably to the point of being obsessive. With a stripped-down production, jangly guitars and earnest vocals, it’s not hard to see how this 90s cult classic is one of Sara’s favourite songs.
The simple vocal styles and mellow melodies of the song already seem like a great fit for the pair. It definitely has room for their charming vocals and guitar finesse to shine. However, being such a natural fit also means that the pair has to push beyond their comfort zone in order to put a twist to their reimagination.
Will Sara and Joie’s cosy dynamic give them an edge to create a very different Circling Square or will familiarity and comfort lead to too much of the same thing?
As similar as Joie and Sara are, when it comes to performing, they are at different comfort levels. Being a veteran and the established artist of the pair, Sara is very natural on the stage and is able to switch gears and get performance-ready at any moment.
Joie, however, is a bunch of nerves before every show because she needs to collect herself before she performs. In fact, Joie claims “it’s getting worse with every performance”. Rest assured though, once Joie takes to the stage, she gets lost in the moment and carries the crowd with ease.
What then is Sara’s advice to Joie, her “younger self”?
“Just do what you’re doing.”
After all, Joie has to be the one experiencing the full journey ahead in order to grow and find her own place as an artist.
“The Chummiest Pair” award definitely goes to Joie and Sara. It’s no secret that this duo is tight. When Joie and Sara tell you they click, you best believe them. Their chemistry is electric and it shows.
“Okay, so how do you want to go and break it down?’ Sara asks while fiddling with her guitar.
Immediately, Joie breaks out into a spontaneous air drum solo. Sara, without missing a beat, picks it up, “Oh yeah! We could do that!”
“You know what I mean right?” Joie confirms and it’s clear Sara does. It’s as close to a telepathic connection as it gets.
The pair is reimagining Circling Square, an alternative rock ballad depicting unconditional love. Its vague-enough lyrics left the pair with enough room for different perspectives. “I’m actually surprised that Sara and I interpreted the song a little differently and it was nice to hear how she viewed it,” says Joie.
However, their differing views have not affected where they will take the song. Joie explains, “We both love the song and the way it’s arranged. We’re trying not to make drastic changes and are exploring ways to make it our own at the same time.”
But when it comes down to a difference in opinion, Joie knows just how to resolve them. “I just make sure we go with my choice in the end,” she cheekily reveals.
Three Words: Fun, Fun, Fun
It’s no surprise that the best buds also have the same brand of tongue-in-cheek humour. Joie makes a claim so elaborate it’s almost believable. “Sometimes we sit across from one another, eyes closed, hands held and just hum for about 3 to 5 hours at a time. The rituals happen before every session so that our souls are intertwined and we can basically read one another’s mind, always.”
Sara on the other hand playfully remarks, “The good is me. The bad and ugly are Joie.”
It’s not hard to see why Sara describes the process as “fun, fun, fun” and if that’s rather vague, Joie suggests “excitable, yielding and challenging.”
On the flipside, this closeness also brings with it a risk of distraction from getting work done. Sara is however aware of the fact and has it all under control. “We knew when it was time to muck around and when we had to get serious and focus on doing actual work.”
When it comes to the music scene in Singapore, the duo is on the same page. They’d love for the “local” label to be dropped and for people to “just call it music.”
With the “local” label attached, it puts the song in a separate category, isolating it from all the other songs in mainstream media. Joie hopes that someday “it will just be music that’s as recognised and looked at as the other songs from the rest of the world.”
Despite the “local” label’s heavy presence, the pair remains optimistic for the not-so-far-ahead future of the music scene.
“Singapore is already so rich in talent,” Joie muses. “The younger generation of teens are so talented and with the number of avenues for them to express themselves right now, I’m pretty excited to see where we go as a scene!”
For budding musicians looking for their big shot, Joie and Sara have some advice.
“Keep telling your stories” is Sara’s encouragement, be it through heartfelt lyricism or expressive melodies. And if you ever feel hesitant or unsure about your footing, Joie’s succinct advice comes in handy, borrowed from Nike’s tagline, “Just do it.”