Malaysian band They Will Kill Us All consists of five members who are obsessed with creating good music that will last forever. Made up of guitarist and keyboardist David Leong, guitarist and lead vocalist Edwin Raj, bassist Amir Shazlan, drummer Ihsan Ariffin and keyboardist Herwandi Saat, They Will Kill Us All originated in 2003 as a weekend project between Edwin and David. Old friends from different bands that ended prematurely, the duo got together to make plans for a band catered to build their vision of music. Now with five members in the band, They Will Kill Us All released their debut album Secret Episodes in 2008 and released their second album Vulture not too long after.
A change in their style, Vulture features tracks that are stripped down and with minimal sound that holds on strong to their emotional intensity. The key focus of every song on the track boiled down to melodies making the album a more diverse one. The difference between hit debut single Sirens to an inspiring anthem Songs of the Fearless reflects on the bands growth in confidence and maturity.
They Will Kill Us All will be taking the stage at Urbanscapes this November and Hype.My chats with Edwin Raj and Amir Shazlan of the band in an exclusive interview.
You guys have a very interesting name: They Will Kill Us All. Tell us, how did the name come about?
E: The name epitomises the paranoid state of mind when we were in the post-millennium age. The term was coined as an antithesis of those play-safe marketable band names. The irony of hearing local radio DJs introduce our band is much anticipated.
With the scrutiny in the country, were you the least bit worried about the name They Will Kill Us All?
A: We are not worried about the implications of the name. Even if we named the band “Wonder Bread”, we would be scrutinised, thinking it was a code for a drug or something, so long as there is a public court of opinion. But most importantly, we let the music speak for itself.
Tell us more about your band.
A: We are in love with great memorable melodies coupled with hard music, hence the “noise pop” term we came up with, just so if anyone asks what kind of music we play. Like a Cave In meets Cure sorta thing.
E: It’s a b*tch to sustain a band, especially one that is plagued like ours, but we love a good challenge and don’t want to end up being a waste of precious sperm. Good things come to those who prevail.
How long has TWKUA been performing?
A: We’ve been at it for almost ten years now. I mean, the band was formed in 2003 but the first shows were in 2004, I think.
E: I personally feel we were incarnated post-2008 and feel a totally different energy than the earlier years. We might not have optimised our talents just yet, but I can see us getting somewhere if we keep working at it.
What do you guys think of the current music industry in Malaysia?
A: We don’t really feel like we belong to an “industry” in Malaysia. We’ve always felt that we’ve done things on our own, embracing the DIY ethos. So whatever happens with it, we still keep moving forward. With that in mind, from my observation, new, young talents are taking power into their own hands. Using social media, they make themselves heard and make things work in their favour. Those who complain that the music industry is dying are actually the ones who are not able to adapt to the new age and are still trapped in the industry mentality. They need to get with the program.
E: I have huge respect for local peeps who sacrifice time working on something they believe in. There are some world-class folks in Malaysia and I predict a great future for the industry.
Who usually writes the songs in the band?
A: It usually starts off with Edwin and David bringing something to the table. Then the rest of the band works on it until everyone is in agreement that the song is killer.
Are the songs normally based on personal experiences?
A: Mostly social observation sprinkled with little experiences of a personal nature.
E: The subject matter varies, but I’d say mainly keeping things together and making it through this tumultuous life.
How important would TWKUA say lyrics are?
A: We like to have a theme for a song, one that captures the mood we are trying to convey. So it will have some cohesion in lyrics, but we keep the meaning open-ended so that everyone can choose to interpret the lyrics on their own.
A: Everyone in the band can agree on Mew, The National, Interpol, Tame Impala and Arcade Fire. Current playlists include DIIV and Melody’s Echo Chamber.
E: I fancy rappers like Nas, Kendrick and Danny Brown for visualising content through spoken word.
A: I guess the bands mentioned beforehand are quite significant in the way we shape our songs. If you ask me personally, I like Elton John and Sting.
Who are the major influences for TWKUA?
A: We have a saying used frequently: “The lighthouse guides the way, but we steer the ship on our own.” I mean, we listen to a lot of music but in the end, the sounds and songs we produce have to be distinctly TWKUA.
If you guys could collaborate with a local artist, who would it be and why?
A: With a collaboration, we have to give and take to work with a new person, so right now I cannot imagine how we will fare doing so. But I have no doubt it will just be a question of when. As for artists, personally Yuna comes to mind along with Duan of Seven Collar T-Shirt.
E: We have done remixes with Irman Hilmi of Spacebar, Bo Amir aka Mr. Fluff and Dizkopolis. I would also like to highlight our collaboration with artist/painter Kojek aka Ilham Fadlhi for the artwork on Vultures and Kilas of I am David Sparkle for designing our latest T-shirt, out now via order on woolcrafter.com.
What about an international artist?
A: We don’t have any artists we’d like to work with, but rather producers. People like Flood, Alan Moulder, Steve Albini…those who have worked behind the scenes alongside the greatest bands producing the greatest albums and music. It would be a dream come true to have this opportunity to learn from the best!
E: I’d like to work with Johnny Marr.
What does TWKUA love most about performing?
A: Making the connection with the friends and fans who supports us. Enjoying the good sounds and electric moments onstage. Feeding off the good vibes when the rhythm gets you.
E: The constructive criticism we receive post-show to better ourselves the next time around.
How excited are you to be performing at Urbanscapes?
A: Very excited. We take our shows seriously and are rehearsing to give our best during our set.
What can fans and our readers expect from you at Urbanscapes?
A: Always a good time. Always pumping music. Always a smile.
Who are you looking forward to seeing perform at Urbanscapes?
A: I’d like to get a feel of the Franz Ferdinand live experience…see and learn how they control the stage and get people grooving to their songs.
E: Efterklang, for sure!
Apart from Urbanscapes, what’s next for the band?
A: We haven’t done enough legwork for our second album, so we will still be doing promotions for that. But currently back on the drawing board crafting new songs that excite us. Gonna take some time for that to settle.
E: Songs are being written as we speak.
Where can our readers listen to you/watch you perform?
In order to prep you for Urbanscapes, here’s Sirens by They Will Kill Us All.
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