After lying low for more than two years, Malaysian rock band Estranged is back with a new album. This time, the guys have their eyes set on conquering the world. Or at least, a few neighbouring countries.
Containing five songs in Bahasa Malaysia, Sepenuhnya Vol. 1 is Estranged’s first album with a major record label – Universal Music – after being independent all this while.
Lead vocalist Rich said that they signed with Universal because they saw an opportunity to grow internationally: “We had a few talks, and felt confident that Universal could help us with our comeback. They also had a good strategy lined up for us.”
Universal Music managing director Kenny Ong said that the company has big plans for Estranged, including marketing the band outside of Malaysia.
“The first move is to release this album and their first single, and then start planning shows for them in Malaysia, Indonesia, and other countries,” Ong said.
“Our first goal is to get them into Indonesia, but we’ve also had offers from promoters in Thai-land and the Philippines for the band to perform there.”
During a press conference to launch the album, Rich said that they took two years to make the album because they’ve been busy with their families, and also with looking for inspiration for new songs.
Rhythm guitarist Din Hormatov said that for this new album, Rich wrote songs that were more romantic than their previous material. “We’ve also added more music elements from Borneo in the arrangements,” he explained.
One of the songs on the new album, Hancur Aku, is a duet with local actress/singer Fazura, which Rich said was something they’ve always wanted to do.
“We’ve always wanted to do a duet with a local artiste. We could have worked with one of our friends in the industry like Shila Amzah or Jaclyn Victor, but we wanted something that was unique and more challenging,” Rich said.
“We met Fazura through Instagram, and decided to work with her because of her raw potential. We really enjoyed it.”
Formed in 2001 by Rich (full name Richael L. Gimbang) and Din Hormatov (Solihuddin Hormat), Estranged went through a number of personnel changes before settling on its current line-up, which consists of Rich, Din, and Hanafi (Nor Hanafi Noor Hadi) on lead guitars.
The band released its first album, In Hating Memory, in 2004, which featured 10 English songs and one track in Bahasa Malaysia. It went on to release two other albums – Remain Unknown (2008) and Anugerah Hidup (2013).
Along the way, Rich (and indirectly, the band) gained famed as a contestant on the popular TV reality talent show Akademi Fantasia in 2006, where he also met his wife, Velvet Aduk (the couple now has two children).
Estranged scored its biggest and most recognisable hit, Itu Kamu, in 2008, which won the Best Song Award at the 22nd Anugerah Juara Lagu the same year.
The success of that song and Rich’s popularity amongst Akademi Fantasia fans, gave the band a firm foothold in the Malay music market, so it was no surprise that most of the songs in its last album, Anugerah Hidup, were in BM, with only two in English.
The move to a major label also means that Estranged had to evolve its music for a more mainstream audience.
“As artistes, I think it’s important to grow. We’ve made changes to our music because we thought it was time to grow and reach out to different audiences.
“But we also appreciate our time as independent artistes and the fans who have been with us all this while. But like I said, it’s time to grow up,” said Rich.
He did stress that the music is still very much Estranged’s, and that they didn’t completely change their style: “We went back to what we used to listen to, our influences and inspirations, and also learn from the music industry here in Malaysia.”
Din added: “We also spent time learning more about the traditional instruments from Borneo, the sounds of the sape, and other instruments.”
Rich said that the band was looking forward to expanding to Indonesia, which is also partly why Sepenuhnya Vol. 1 only has songs in Malay.
“For the other countries, maybe if we go there we would have to play a mix of our old stuff and the new songs,” he said, adding that Sepenuhnya Vol. 2 could be released later this year.