“We’ve been watching you for a long time,” Weish teases. Like children waking up on Christmas morning, you can tell .gif is very excited to be paired with Vandetta to reimagine Shanty by The Quests. After all, Vandetta is an industry veteran with radio experience...
“We’ve been watching you for a long time,” Weish teases. Like children waking up on Christmas morning, you can tell .gif is very excited to be paired with Vandetta to reimagine Shanty by The Quests. After all, Vandetta is an industry veteran with radio experience, straddling across various genres from hip-hop to electronic and soul.
.gif is Weish (Vocals/Synths) and Din (Synths/Production), a downtempo electronic duo. Their critically acclaimed LP, soma, was produced in conjunction with Syndicate, the same experimental audio-visual collective Vandetta is a part of. You could say these two share some musical history.
However .gif and Vandetta have never worked together on a project before and The Great Singapore Replay is a perfect opportunity for the trio.
No Strangers to the Classics
When it comes to reimagining classic hits, .gif has already taken the lead. With dreamy vocals, Weish sets our hearts aflutter and sparks an awareness of the old school gems Singapore has to offer.
You might remember their nostalgia-tinted remake of You’re the Boy by Shirley Nair & The Silver Strings back in 2015 for SG50. In another SG50 initiative by Lush 99.5FM, the pair took on an electronic cover of Girl From Katong originally by Serenaide. If you’re lucky, you might even catch them perform it live at one of their shows.
Reimagining Instruments with Vocals
With two reimagined classics under their wing, is there any song that could challenge .gif? Shanty might just be the song.
Of all of the top voted Singapore Classic Hits, Shanty, the instrumental surf-rock ditty, is probably the most difficult for .gif and Vandetta to remake. After all, the pairing is a vocal-heavy one with Vandetta’s rich soulful voice and Weish’s ethereal tones.
Shanty is well-known for its signature guitar melody, another challenge for a group steeped in electronic productions. Will their digital techniques be able to do the iconic 1960s guitar-driven sounds justice?
Their experience in experimental audio certainly will be put to the test. However, for Vandetta, it’s all in the process. “The greatest joy when you're collaborating with other artists is just vibing off each other's energy and pushing yourself, and then creating something where you can be like, 10 years from now, 'Oh yeah I did that, awesome!’”
Always a Wild Ride
Offstage recording and production is as important as onstage delivery. For Weish there are many tiny things to consider. Stage banter? (There are only so many times you can ask the crowd, “How’re you doing?” in a span of 30 mins.) There’s also multi-tasking, pressing the right buttons and fiddling with the gear.
“I still get jitters,” Weish admits. "Even the smaller shows in little studios with 40 people are still harrowing experiences for me.”
Din definitely agrees but thinks it’s a necessary part of the experience. “If you don’t get nervous, it means there’s something wrong, you're just going through the motions.”
However, all it takes is one song for .gif enter the zone. Once the adrenaline hits, they go for it like a bullet train.
The rush doesn’t quite fade, even for a veteran like Vandetta. She explains that a live performance puts an artist at their “most vulnerable and most connected”. To be in that position “is both scary as well as extremely thrilling”.
No wonder performing is equal parts exhausting and exhilarating for them. When it’s time to take their version of Shanty to the stage, expect to be hit by the same whirlpool of emotions and be taken on quite the ride.
Some teams are challenged to remake a song that is very different from genres they are used to. For .gif and Vandetta, this challenge is taken to the extreme with a team where two vocalists take on the iconic guitar-driven instrumental, Shanty by The Quests.
Vocalists vs Instrumental
“We don’t really have guitars and that’s what’s driving the original, but we do have vocals,” says Din. “Two extremely awesome vocalists,” he adds.
Introducing lyrics to the song would be the easy way out, but for the team, this was not an option. “We didn’t add any vocals because we wanted to stay true [to the original],” says Din. To make it work, the trio has to get creative. “There’s no lyrics so we figured it would be cool to use their vocals to drive the song.”
It’s definitely not an understatement when Din says, “It’s quite a huge change.”
“We are mainly riffing on the main melody line of the guitars and changed the rest of it quite radically,” explains Weish.
Apart from the main melody, everything else is up for experimentation. So it’s natural that even Vandetta herself had doubts about how the song would work out. “We had talked about echoing that laid-back vibe of the song and I wasn’t sure whether that would come through at the end but it did!”
Driving the song with vocals isn’t the only thing Vandetta and .gif have up their sleeves. The trio employs an array of electronic production tricks to bring their signature sound into the mix. “Din comes in with the beat and interesting synth lines to make the track full,” says Weish. The trio looped vocal layers and “messed around with that.”
Vandetta then adds a final touch, “I filled up some spaces with sub bass and vocal harmonies to complement Weish.”
“A bit haunted” and “a bit jazzy” are not descriptions associated with “Shanty” but this is the flavour Weish says they have given to their own spin.
“It’s a lot more depressing,” Din adds, almost deadpan.
“A slice of the 60s but modern,” is essentially how Weish describes their take on “Shanty”.
Reimagination on the Same Frequency
When Vandetta and .gif get to work, the process takes on a life of its own. Discussion flows freely among the trio from suggestions for loops to technical know-hows. “It’s really natural,” says Weish, “We’re kinda tuned in to the same frequency.”
Vandetta thinks it’s because of their similarities. “Working with .gif was really easy because we have the same taste in music.” Din on the other hand thinks that while similar, they have enough differences so that everyone brings something different to the table.
No stranger to musical partnerships, Vandetta shares with us her secret sauce for making collaborations work, “I want to make them feel as comfortable as possible for them to reach their full potential.” And it seems to be effective.
Weish agrees that it sets the foundation to a strong working relationship where “it’s easier to intuit how we’re going move around one another and fill the sound space.”
Passing the Torch
For Vandetta, this project is a chance for local music to reach out to the layman. “I hope that this project shows a side of Singapore music that people in the scene get to see. And I want them to see that Singapore music is actually super awesome.”
Weish also hopes that The Great Singapore Replay will lead to more visibility for musicians that are off the mainstream. “What we’d really hope is for indie and alternative voices to be represented.”
Ultimately, Vandetta sees The Great Singapore Replay as a vehicle to inspire the next generation. Artists draw inspiration from influences all around them and one day she hopes that future artists can look within the island to seek inspiration.
Then, maybe someday, “The world will see it too, eventually.”