Up, up and away! Livewire indie act Kyoto Protocol readies up more sonic adventures.
MUSIC for the people kind of genre. That was one of the notable responses Kyoto Protocol received from its Twitter follower @helmeeyo when the group asked its fans what kind of genre they think the band belongs to one fine Monday morning.
It’s a fitting answer, really. For a Kuala Lumpur-based indie rock outfit that fuses rock vitality with occasional lyrical references to local nostalgia, Kyoto Protocol’s brand of music is distinctly Malaysian with a modern sensible edge that listeners from various divides could resonate with.
Or in other words, music for the people.
The five-piece band – which comprises frontman Fuad Alhabshi, 29, keyboardist Gael Oliveres, 30, guitarist Hairi Haneefa, 28, bassist Shakeil Bashir, 28, and drummer Shanjeev Reddy, 26, – recently solidified its all-inclusive musical status when it released its first Malay track Jelita.
“I actually wrote the music somewhere in early 2012. I just had the idea about experimenting with the musical principles behind the sounds of electro/house/nu disco that I was in love with, but within the context of a band. The only way I could make that work was going retro with a minimalist pseudo-disco feel,” reveals the bespectacled Fuad.
While the song’s arrangements came easy to the lead vocalist, the man struggled for a bit when it came to the track’s lyrical content. “The track didn’t have words for a really long time. That was until my girlfriend’s birthday when it then became a song entitled Beautiful that celebrates her independence,” he adds.
In a larger context though, the number could be viewed as a song that celebrates the fairer sex’s liberation in a world where they’re more often than not objectified.
It was the band’s brush with the mainstream coupled with the the help of a translator that gave the tune a new facade.
“When we entered TV9’s reality music competition Versus, one of the final challenges was to perform a previously unreleased song that had to be in the Malay language. I decided to take the risk in translating Beautiful into Jelita. After all, both titles have the same syllables,” Fuad jokes.
The lead vocalist credits lyricist Shah Shamshiri for performing an amazing feat of translating the words and the track’s core meaning into Malay.
The studio version of Jelita sees the boys of Kyoto Protocol collaborating with local singer-songwriter Liyana Fizi.
“Gael saw the lyrics and thought that some of the words would be suitable and empowering for a girl. After throwing around a few names, we thought Liyana’s trademark silky smooth vocals would really suit the track well. At the same time, it will transcend the genres that Liyana’s typically associated with,” Fuad reveals of the collaboration.
Kyoto Protocol has maintained its status as an independent act since the band’s formation in 2008, something that Fuad regularly reflects on.
“I constantly wonder what my life would be like if I did music full time. Would my songwriting be better? Would I miss out on the experience that I could only get at a day job? Would I feel pressured to include more elements of conformity into my music?
“It’s all hypothetical scenarios to me at this point. As a band, I think we’ve done what we need to do. It’s kind of like the road less travelled. People think it’s about feeling empowered by making unconventional decisions, but it’s more about inevitability,” says the man who works as a research analyst on a full time basis.
On that note, Fuad believes that more could be done about the lukewarm local music scene that thrives on survival of the fittest rather than nurturing lasting talents.
“Basically our scene lacks investment. Not strictly in monetary terms, but it could extend to structural support as well. I get the feeling that the only thing that works for now are competitions. That’s all well and good, but I do feel that there’s little development on fostering musical talent rather than just pitting them against each other.
“Perhaps that’s why there’s this strong sense of competition between bands. Not that it’s anything new, band feuds are well documented. Just see how many feuds Green Day has,” he says.
“I worry that a lot of bands that came up around the same time as us have kind of faded into the background. It’s not easy and there’s not a lot of love going around to sustain our music scene,” Fuad adds.
Despondent insights aside, it does help that the band has a rather cheeky disposition when it comes to the group’s public persona.
“We like to have a bit of fun with our Twitter followers. There was a funny rumour going around that we were going to be the opening act for Metallica’s concert in KL. So it was pure entertainment to get on social media and stir the pot even more!
“We hope no one took offence, though. A society that can debate and after that agree to disagree is a mature one in my opinion,” says the astute singer.
While the band won’t be opening for Metallica any time soon, it’s one of the acts that will be performing at the upcoming Good Vibes Festival at the Sepang International Circuit on Aug 17.
“It is completely unreal to be in the same line-up as the Smashing Pumpkins, a band that I listened to zealously in my musically-formative years,” Fuad exclaims.
“We’ve got a headache picking the setlist this time around because we realised that over the years, we’ve accumulated a lot of songs that won’t fit into a 45-minute set. That should make for a never-before-seen gig from us,” he adds.
The band is bound to add more songs to its growing discography when it releases a five-track EP entitled Pahlawan on Aug 24 at a special open house event in Holy Smoke Cafe, Shah Alam in Selangor.
“Our open house will stay true to the definition in that it’s free entry and we provide the food and entertainment as a sincere thank you to everyone who supported us during our stint on Versus.
“I hope this goes in some way to paying back the good deeds of all those SMS votes,” Fuad cheekily concludes.
Kyoto Protocol appears at Good Vibes Festival at Sepang International Kart Circuit on Aug 17. It is an all-ages event, headlined by international acts Smashing Pumpkins, Ash, Modest Mouse and Japandroids. Other local acts include MonoloQue, Pitahati, Pesawat, OJ Law, Pastel Lite, Liyana Fizi, Tenderfist, They Will Kill Us All and Impatient Sisters. Tickets, ranging from RM158 (pre-sale), RM188 (door) and RM258 (VIP), are available at myticket.my or all Rock Corner outlets in the Klang Valley. For the full band line-up and more info, go to goodvibesfest.com.