Volatile's name is as aggressive as its music

Four to the fore: Volatile's sound and style is a badly needed commodity in the indie music scene. Photo: Raul Dhillon

It’s not easy peddling a brand of rock n’ roll that some factions may consider archaic. But someone forgot to tell Volatile that. The quartet from Penang could care less about what’s in vogue at the moment, choosing to blaze a trail of its own.

Four years of hard graft and plying the live scene up north has given birth to Volatile’s debut album, Taking Flight, a seven-song offering that leans heavily on the classic rock sounds of the 1970s. It’s no surprise that the band offers Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd as primary influences, though smatterings of Foo Fighters and the grunge-fuelled sounds of the 1990s also crop up in the band’s sonic palette.

Volatile’s debut chronicles its genesis and growth over the years, and likewise, the seven songs presented in chronological order. Subtle is hardly an adjective to describe the songs on Taking Flight, but the band has a way of putting tunes together, everything from the rough and tumble bombast on Spoon to the earthy intro on the title track. While there’s little in the way of thematic love songs, the material on the band’s first offering is clearly a labour of love – it’s melodic, yet hits hard where it counts.

Lineup changes have been inevitable – seeing as the band are barely adults, a number of them went on to pursue their tertiary education. But now that the dust has settled, Sean Choon continues to lead the band on vocals, Jaime Gunter rocks like a hurricane on the guitar, Raul Dhillon (Wei Wen is the founding and recorded bass player on the album) locks down the low end on bass and session ace Jordan Scully (Antoine Loncle played on the album) bashes the drums.

The band’s most recent headline-grabbing hijinks has to be its win (sharing an unprecedented double first prize win with Lawalah Familia) in the Musicians Wanted By Vans competition, the shoe-maker whisking the band south of the border to Singapore for a showcase gig a couple of months ago.

The quartet has also taken in the Penang Island Jazz Festival and IndiePG. World domination beckons ...

Four to the fore: Volatile's sound and style is a badly needed commodity in the indie music scene. Photo: Raul Dhillon

1. What on earth is the name Volatile all about? Who’s bright idea was it?

Jaime and Antoine were at a wedding, sat near a fence and it had a sign that read, “Danger! Volatile”. We didn’t even have a band yet, but we knew we wanted that as a name. We could probably provide a really long, artsy reason for the moniker, but the truth is, it’s just another band name that sounded cool but makes no sense.


2. What is the worst response you’ve had to your music, and did you beat those people up for it?

Probably four years ago, we were playing the Penang Street Market. There was one aunty at one of those stores who just looked at us and had her fingers in her ears ... shaking her head from side to side. We still remember that aunty. And no, we didn’t beat her up because we’re nice. But honestly, besides that, we haven’t really had a bad response. Or at least they haven’t told us ... yet.

3. How difficult is it to get a gig for a band like yours and how have you worked around that?

It is difficult, but when we go down to Kuala Lumpur, it usually isn’t a problem. Most spots are willing to have us and pay us. However, Penang is not quite used to the industry, but it has grown in recent years, so fingers crossed. It definitely is much better than it was two years ago, though. We usually organise our own shows or end up playing at ones organised by Kelvyn Yeang (of Ocean Of Fire) ... and it’s usually at ChinaHouse, and more recently, D’Loovi’s.

4. Ultimately, what do you want this band to achieve and where do you realistically see it going?

Wembley! Super realistically, though, we’ve got two years of goals at the moment. We are not quite sure what is going to happen after that since some of us are heading off to study. So, we want to get another album in the can. We are headed to Thailand in January if everything pans out well. Perhaps play a few high profile festivals. Maybe even further, Australia? Antoine is there and we have a lot of friends. We have a song called Spoon, and our definition of success would be, someone showing up at our gig one day, with a spoon and then just enthusiastically heckling with it all night.

5. How would you sum up the indie scene today, and what should the audience look forward to?

The scene is improving, but nowhere close to great. The number of people we’ve met who don’t know any other Malaysian acts except Sheila Majid and Yuna, is unbelievable (don’t get us wrong, they are amazing musicians). But the sheer amount of talent that we’ve seen is mind-blowing. We’ve met so many great people writing their own music and they deserve so much more than they are getting.

It seems like there’s a great talent pool which can appeal to a very large demographic. The problem is, we haven’t quite properly bridged artiste and listener locally, but at the rate things are going, that’s sure to change in the coming years.

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