In this column, we pick a notable personality to go cafe-hopping with us. At idyllic Da Paolo Gastronomia near Botanic Gardens, local looper talent Weish lets us in beneath her aloof exterior, to the bubbly and multi-versed musician that she is.
At our first meet in the airy and natural light-filled Da Paolo Gastronomia at Cluny Court, Chew Wei Shan, better known as Weish, shows up in a preppy ’do– black collared short-sleeve blouse, neatly tucked into a classic midi skirt. She looks every part of a literature student that she used to be a few years ago, except that she’s now a recognised homegrown artiste.
“A simple latte please,” she tinkles without a pause, when we ask for her preferred drink. “I need to be energetic and I am energetic all the time!” she enthuses. She’s just arrived from her undisclosed day job, which is why we are having our first Café Hot Seat chat in the evening. No matter–Weish is used to long tiring nights jamming and perfecting her craft, with a slew of recent albums to show for it: Soma by .gif (including first single Godspeed), ilm split EP by Qu and Sub:shaman (where Weish plays vocals and keys) and Dunce Mixtape #01 by Sub:shaman.
Looping started when the hyphenated talent started playing with electronic instruments four years ago. “In university, my then- and now- boyfriend introduced me to electronic gear. He still teaches me music production and today we have a band together called .gif (pronounced as dot jif),” Weish explains. “Din got everyone to chip in for a Vox VDL1 looper as a birthday gift and we thought, why not combine everything together and see how it goes?” The self professed technology noob explains that arranging and learning the software is challenging. “Writing the song takes up 20% and the remaining 80% is revisiting, recording and mixing.”
More mainstream looper singers include Imogen Heap and Kimbra, but Weish performs live which involve aligning beats, bass lines, vocals and more–on the spot. On her biggest boo-boo, she describes: “I was recording live loops on the spot and I involuntarily burped. It came back after every two bars. At least it was on beats so it wasn’t too obvious. But everyone was laughing.”
The food arrives and we are momentarily distracted, especially Weish who can’t decide what she should try first. After diving for the salmon pizza, she continues, “When Singapore Tourism Board contacted us to send us to London for Singapore: Inside Out in 2015, of course we had to say yes! Din and I were travelling with other acts like The Syndicate and Gentle Bones, and we also used the time as an excuse to go to Iceland to support a producer-musician friend as well,” she chuckled. The eclectic art-obsessed country had Weish hard in love with how creative everyone is– whether banker or teacher.
Having a small local music scene in Singapore is almost a luxury, with a communal culture that includes borrowing one another’s musicians. The community ’heroes’ Weish often mentions include Jema from The Syndicate, Pleasantry, Charlie Lim and more specialised rock groups like The Psalms, The Observatory and Cashew Chemists. Beaming with pride, she says, “There is a lot of intricacy in their writing and I would be proud to call myself a Singaporean musician anywhere in the world.”
Although the 25-year-old has opened for acts like Tegan and Sara and performed at Laneway 2015 (her best experience yet!) in Singapore, her dream opening act would be for “Pop Is Dead” band Radiohead, as their songs have marked different stages of her life. The down-to-earth talent defines success as being contented, and adds, “No need for Grammy’s but a soundtrack movie related award would be a dream come true.” She’s proud of the recent work she’s done for local film Eating Air, by Kelvin Tong and Jasmine Ng.
Coming across as breezy and natural in her social media outlets, which include YouTube, SoundCloud, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, Weish appreciates her small band of hardcore fans who show up for her performances. “They even picked out specific lines to tell me what they learn from my lyrics,” she exclaims.
Yet, not all is rosy in the local indie music scene. “I have been cutting down a lot. My mom always nags, that I am not being human,” adding somberly, “and she is right.” There is still a stigma that local art doesn’t match up to international standards yet. “I guess this stops the growth at some point,” she reflects. Weish sees herself doing music all her life–but only as a hobby. “It is inspiring to see young teens learning new softwares where recording at home is made possible.”