Tuesday, 8 July 2014


By Lee Joon Lei

Come for the handsome Pewdiepie lookalike, stay for the breathtaking show.

Embodiment of Enthusiasm, Energy and Everything Else: Vocalist, Charlie
Kerr, during their set at KURO, a bar at Clarke Quay.
“A band. Not pornography.”

The description on JPNSGRLS’s (pronounced “Japanese Girls”) Twitter page might leave some wanting, but one can be forgiven for thinking those two things are one of the same. After all, although a show from the indie-rock quartet is hardly objectionable material, it can’t help but share some of its qualities. It is visceral, it is often viewed in the dark - and it sure is addictive as heck.

Don’t believe me? Then you probably weren’t at their performance at KURO, one of the many bars at Clarke Quay, on Saturday, 24th May 2014.

We were surprised at the number of hands that went up when the band’s vocalist, Charlie Kerr, asked the crowd if they had seen them play before. The funny thing is, Music Matters Live 2014 was their the reason for their very first trip to Singapore, meaning that the gaggle of screaming fans that sardined the front-end of the stage most likely saw them play as recently as the night before, and were already back for their next gig. (Did I mention they were addictive as heck?)

Such is the magnitude of their appeal- with every show, the Vancouver-based quartet adds ardent members of the crowd to their ever-growing fan base- and it is happening at a rate that surprises even the band itself.

Drummer, Graham Serl, said, “The reception we have received in Singapore has been A-MAZING. I’ve never had this many people ask to take pictures with the drummer before. It’s been insane.”

“I could understand seeing a band I like perform once a month or something, but some of them just saw us perform yesterday and they’re already back tonight. I’m blown away to be honest,” Guitarist, Oliver Mann, mirrored the sentiments of his fellow band mate.

Harkening to indie-rock’s halcyon days, the band delivers a tantalising switchblade of progressive nuances and catchy hooks that endear themselves quite nicely to fans and critics alike. Their sound struck me as a mixture of Arctic Monkeys and Fall of Troy, with Christopher deCinque’s stage presence. Take that formula and give it the right mix, and it results in what the lucky audiences at Music Matters Live 2014 got - a firecracker of a show that blows you away, then makes you come back for more.

An accent of the band is definitely the charisma of vocalist Charlie Kerr, lookalike of renowned video game commentator on Youtube. Drawing influences of seminal frontmen like The Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Julian Casablanca from The Strokes, he has developed a spellbinding stage persona that will no doubt become the band’s hallmark. Prancing and shuffling about the modest stage like a champion stallion, he works the crowd expertly with his magnetic presence. Together with bassist and partner-in-crime Chris McClelland, their on-stage enthusiasm brims with artful tendencies and rhythmic vocal tangents. Thoroughly bewitching - as many of the band’s fangirls would attest.

While the duo may have stolen the show, guitarist Oliver Mann also deserves special mention. In a performance filled with flamboyance and finesse, he sat back and ran the show with technical impunity, exuding the quiet confidence of a stage veteran and pumping out impeccably infectious riffs that had a slew of musicians thinking, “Why can’t my guitarist do the same?”

His acute technical ability, coupled with Serl’s rock-solid timekeeping, creates a firm sonic platform that allows the other half of the band to flourish theatrically without sacrificing the band’s overall cohesion. The pair’s shrewd musicianship was, at least for me, the most impressive part of the performance.

The guys from JPNSGRLS weren’t just good musicians. They struck us as the nicest guys too with how accommodating they were to their fans - taking photographs, making small talk and just generally hanging out with the many that stayed on to meet them after their set. Also, they took time to step away from their adoring fans to allow us (the journalists) to do an interview with them (and believe me, they were swamped).

Speaking with both humility and grace, they were quick to heap praises on the local music scene that took to them so well during their short stay here.

“Singapore’s been great to us, the fans here have been the most loyal ones yet and we are so thankful for the reception we’ve received,” said Charlie. “Some of the bands are great; we saw Take Two the other day and they gave an awesome performance. The singer didn’t sing a bum note. We can’t wait to come back here as soon as possible,” he added.

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