Let’s say you’re not part of a major record company, should you stay underground forever and never let the world acknowledge your talent in music? Of course not! Fame and money may not matter to you, but having a bunch of people, be it local or foreign, who appreciate your musical talent is enough to give you the real motivation to continue working for your passion.
From Arctic Monkeys to The Black Keys to CHVRCHES, many musicians began their careers on independent record labels, writing and composing their own music. However, there are no magic spells or shortcuts when it comes to building a successful music career.
These days, indie music acts are successful not just because of how great their music was, but also because of the enormous support and opportunities that were given to them. Local art and music festivals like Urbanscapes or Good Vibes Festival have always been the perfect platform for emerging artistes to expose themselves, but isn’t it time for them to shine on global stage as well?
Malaysia-based musicians like One Buck Shot and Yuna made the nation proud by creating ear-pleasing music that attracted millions of followers from all over the world. Though overseas listeners are not exposed to the local music scene in Malaysia, with all things considered, the music produced by some of the local bands have certainly caught their attention.
If you still think local music scene isn’t blossoming, well, take a look at the bands that you should look out for in the future.
Amoura may be relatively new to the local music scene, but they are no strangers to the stage.
Formed in April 2014, the young and diverse band consists of leader/bassist Wesley Wong, vocalist Carolyn Park, guitarist/backup vocalist Adrian Lim, drummer Jo-vi Pan, and guitarist Maskurnia Sayuti. Though the band was mainly inspired by artistes like Beyonce and Paramore, their genre is widely versatile as the members are in control of the sound they wanted to achieve.
They made their debut performance at the May edition of Sound Struck that was hosted by Wanted Symphony last year. They went on to perform as contestants in several acoustic competitions and as a guest for “YIQIN & DEVON – IT’S ABOUT TIME” live at Merdekarya. They were also invited to perform as feature act in various university events and most recently, they performed at one of the satellite shows for Tiger Translate 2015.
With Carolyn’s tender yet strong R&B voice, Amoura teeters between a mid-tempo and rock ballad status. It is unclear when the band will release their debut album, as they mostly perform cover songs and their original track. Titled “니가 그립다 (Niga Guripta)”, their first original track is about family members missing each other, which perfectly illustrates the homesickness one may have while living abroad.
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- If you like Amoura, you may also like: Paramore, No Doubt, The Pretty Reckless, Papa Roach
- Fun fact: Carolyn was once a trainee under FNC entertainment, the same Korean entertainment company that houses idol bands like F.T. Island, CNBLUE, and AOA. She spent 6 years improving her vocal skills and dancing skills before eventually moving out of Korea to explore the Malaysian music scene.
2. An Honest Mistake
Not to be “mistaken” (no pun intended) with the song of the same name by American alternative rock band The Bravery, An Honest Mistake is a punk rock band that first emerged in the local music scene as a solo acoustic project in 2008. The band once consisted of 6 members but now, it only comprises of lead vocalist/guitarist Darren Teh, electric guitarist Leonard Chua, bassist Tomas Tam, and drummer Ian Ng.
The band stayed under the radar for quite a while, but that doesn’t mean they have faded from popularity. Having played at multiple music festivals in Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Singapore, the band accumulated over 30, 000 fans on Facebook due to their energetic live performances. With 3 albums under their belt, the band continues to make waves in the music scene via countless gigs.
With their explosive yet melodic pop-punk music style, they were invited to perform as supporting acts for a couple of international acts like Boys Like Girls and Motion City Soundtrack. Their fun yet professional showmanship also made them one of the most likable bands in Malaysia.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: Yellowcard, Fun, All American Rejects, Boys Like Girls
Formed in 2004, Bittersweet is a 4-piece rock band with a music style heavily influenced by British-pop-rock bands like Oasis and Arctic Monkeys.
Originating from Ipoh, the band consists of guitarist/vocalist Herri, keyboardist/vocalist Emai, lead vocalist Fizan, and guitarist/vocalist Moon. Titled “A Perfect Match”, their debut album, which was released in 2006, is one of the hotly tipped records in the local music scene. They later released their 2nd album titled “Empire’s Transition” in 2011.
Despite being relatively low-profile, the band is a major mainstay in the scene due to their unique music style that comes with a hint of Brit-rock music. They amassed huge amount of fans from all around Asia after touring all around Malaysia, Jakarta, Bandung, and Singapore. They are currently gearing up for a comeback with their long-awaited 3rd album.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: Arctic Monkeys, The Propellers, Kaiser Chiefs, Blur, Oasis
It shouldn’t take long for you to realise that Malaysian band Enterrpise is obsessed with the “Star Trek” franchise. Not only did they name themselves after a fictional spacecraft, their fans are also lovingly known as “Trekkies”.
Of course, you should expect no less from the band as their 1980s-style cinematic music will take you on a journey through time. French electronic music duo Daft Punk may have partially influenced their showmanship in vocals, but they’ve established themselves as a band that focuses on creating hair-raising music, combining synthpop with sci-fi references.
Although the Subang Jaya-based band is a little underrated, they’ve never failed to bring us some great indie pop music with danceable grooves at every music event. The band previously performed at huge music festivals like Urbanscapes 2014 and St Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2015.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: “Star Trek”, Daft Punk, Kavinsky, M83, Tame Impala
When Fazz performs, a strong wave of energy surges through our bodies. Lots of local bands are playing rock music today, but only a few resemble Fazz, an independent musical band that’s big on blues and swing music. Some may say they’re like a modern-day vaudeville band, but they play a strong blend of musical pop and swing.
The 4-piece band consists of vocalist Kevin Michael, keyboardist Grace Cho, electric double bassist Raja Farouque, and drummer Jone Yeoh. Kevin has a voice so mesmerising that it’s almost chilling. Their original track, “That’s Life”, was awarded “Best Song Composition” in the Sonica Song Composing Competition 2012, which was held in Hard Rock Cafe KL. They were crowned champion for the first “Diamond in the Rough” competition in March 2013 and were later invited to perform on the Fringe Stage at the Penang Island Jazz Festival 2013.
The quartet made their debut with a 6-song disc that they often sell at their gigs and music festivals. The album is also available for purchase at Drum-Asia.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: Galt MacDermot, The Indigo Kings, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday
The first thing you’ll notice about our country is the excessive amount of ferns. And then we have this indie pop band that decided to name themselves “Ferns”, which will completely take your attention away from the plant so that you could focus on their music instead.
In a way, the band’s name is a metaphor, signifying that they will stay true to their roots and that Kuala Lumpur is the city that brought them together. Formed in 2006, Ferns is made up of keyboardist/vocalist Abby, bassist Adrian, guitarist Johan, vocalist/guitarist Warren, and drummer Rudy. They have been a major mainstay in the local music scene as they were named one of Rolling Stone’s “25 Best Bands on MySpace”.
Titled “On Botany”, their debut album, which was released in 2007, was one of the most talked-about albums as it earned top spots on multiple local and foreign publications. After 4 years of hiatus, the band made their triumphant return to the music scene with their 2nd album, “Fairweather Friends”. It was as if they have spent almost a decade to perfect this album, as their tunes are still as soothing as ever.
Whether you’re going to have a road trip or just driving back home, Ferns’ carefully crafted pop songs are so idyllic that they bring smiles to our faces.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: Camera Obscura, She & Him, The Pastels, Noah and the Whale
Up until now, Jumero has been painted as a laid-back hero of the independent music scene. The band boasts the kind of chill persona that one might think that their songs are almost perplexingly simple if you’re unfamiliar with their laid-back aesthetic.
Jumero consists of drummer Ryan David Gomes and brothers Jared and Michael Lim. After winning The Star R.AGE open-mic competition, the acoustic trio made their debut at one of the most celebrated music festivals in Malaysia – Urbanscapes. They went on to play several gigs and perform at multiple music festivals like Island Music Festival 2013, Indie PG 2013, Urbanscapes 2014, and Guinness Amplify 2014.
As an independent band, Jumero their forthcoming debut album entirely on their own. However, they don’t refrain themselves from adding their personal touch to some of their covered tracks too.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Magic!, Jeremy Passion
8. Kyoto Protocol
There probably won’t be another band that can stay on the radar as long as Kyoto Protocol. Yet this is the band that signifies that the local music scene is not dead, as their energetic showmanship constantly proves that they have this undeniable appeal.
They may not be the band that posses eternal appeal, but their music will certainly cross generations with remarkable ease. In fact, Kyoto Protocol may indeed be the gifted band that will become part of our collective consciousness. When the 5-piece act first started, they would play cover songs for 3 hours a night in bars. In less than a decade, they became one of the most successful bands in the local music scene, with multiple albums and an award nomination under the belt.
After performing as the opening act for the likes of MGMT and We The Kings, the band had their first nationwide tour for their latest album, “Catch These Man”, in February this year.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: The Killers, The Black Keys, The White Stripes
9. Paperplane Pursuit
One must be living under the rock if they’ve never heard of Paperplane Pursuit. The independent electropop group has been everywhere lately, as their addictive, sing-along tracks are constantly playing on the radio. Even those who don’t recognise their name have likely seen them at the latest live music event.
Formed in 1998, the band was initially named “Stop Sunday”. They then changed it to “SilenceScream” and managed to release their debut single “Unspoken”, with the help from local R&B singer-songwriter Reshmonu. However, they were forced to go on a hiatus as frontman John Oommen reportedly had a near-death assault. While they weren’t performing, they worked hard on producing their self-titled debut album, which was eventually released in 2007.
By 2015, they already had 3 albums under their belt, with “Higher” being their latest and also the most well-received album to date. Their song, “Beat of Your Love”, a collaboration with Darren Ashley, also shot them to fame.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: Vampire Weekend, Fall Out Boys, All Time Low, The All-American Rejects
10. Pastel Lite
KL-based duo Pastel Lite is known for their unique music flavour, as their synth pop sound such as “Gold” and “Underdog” are downright infectious. They are one of the first few bands that lead the experimental synth-pop movement in our local music scene, bringing us the hair-raising, intoxicating beats.
The band comprises of vocalist Eff Hakim and multi-instrumentalist Mohd Faliq. They met through Facebook in 2012, when a mutual friend introduced them to each other. Once they noticed that they had the same goals, they joined forces to form their current band and released a series of demos. With their rich musical background, the duo managed to strike a balance between organic and synthetic sounds for their debut album.
Having played at music events in both Malaysia and Singapore, Pastel Lite is certainly not one to be overlooked.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: Kraftwerk, The xx, Bloc Party
11. Stellar Dreams
Stellar Dreams didn’t need much, but they certainly deserve much more recognition in the local music scene. Their music alone is enough to prove that they could be the next big thing.
Formed in 2012, the synthwave duo is made up of Iqwan Ridzuwan (Jake) teamed up with Khairil Shah. Their very first EP, which consists 4 of their original tracks, was released for free on the last day of 2012. Heavily influenced by the likes of Kavinsky and Daft Punk, their remixes have already been making waves in the European music scene. They also caught the attention of Kiez Beats, a famed German record label that featured “Nightvoid”, the band’s first single. It is a song that bears a slight resemblance to Kavinsky’s “Nightcall”, which was used in the title sequence for the Ryan Gosling-starred film, “Drive”.
Their synthwave-fused tracks can be considered as masterpieces, even though they come with a hint of 80s disco revivalism. All of their songs set their live sets nicely for a dramatic and fantastical world that they strive to create too. With support from international acts like Le Casette and Betamaxx, it seemed like they’ve already conquered the music scene on an international level.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: Kavinsky, M83, Hans Zimmer, Daft Punk, Above & Beyond
Tenderfist has been keeping themselves rather low-profile lately, but that’s only because they are brewing some new materials for their fans, including those who have been following them since 9 years ago. Yes, time flies and they’re almost a decade old now.
It all started with a bedroom project in 2006, where Edzwan, Faiq and Nazri gathered to write and compose their own songs. Not much later, the band started to stall out as they charm listeners with their enchanting tunes. Dreamy pop tracks became their collective sound, resulting in their debut album,”This Wasted Heart”.
Their music is lively and danceable, as the lyrics are incredibly relatable. They have since received tremendous support from the local music scene and their popularity is well-documented, as they have toured across various European countries such as Germany and Finland. While quietly working on their comeback, Faiq enticed fans by releasing his solo project titled “Half-court“.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: Air France, Postal Service, Iron & Wine
13. The Impatient Sisters
There’s little about The Impatient Sisters that suggests that they have trouble breaking out of the local music scene. Their work, usually rooted in folk pop, can range from expressive love songs to peculiar observations of the city. They skillfully crafted their melodies that are wrapped with soulful stories, with a tendency to end beautifully.
Formed in 2011, the sisters originating from Kuantan have helped folk-pop songs make the leap from underrated to something that is deeply appreciated by music enthusiasts. It’s a refreshing twist to our local music scene that is often occupied by hard-edged aggressive loud music.
Hearing their early material elicits a strong pleasant emotion that seem to take some introspection of our lives. They captivated their fans more than ever through their self-titled debut album, which was released last year. Having played at countless gigs, The Impatient Sisters were the opening act for The Jezabels and Dia Frampton.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: Of Monsters and Men, Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, The xx, Girlpool
14. The Fridays
If you listen to The Fridays’ debut album, you’ll realise that they aren’t trying to be sell outs. They aren’t trying to undersell themselves either, because it’s just the way they present themselves in modesty.
The humble Ampang-based band comprises of vocalist Acap F, bassist Yazid Beruang, keyboardist Muhammad Said, guitarist Wan Bellon, drummer/percussionist Afniaz “Kakak” Afiq, and guitarist Pak Iran Squire. The music they produced can be described as a gleeful collision of dream pop and alternative rock, quietly becoming the soundtrack of our generation.
Plenty of their songs are festival-ready bombs, and we know this because they instantly put us in good mood, which is how we want to feel at every music event. A band as talented as this one can certainly flesh out more catchy pop gems for us.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: Phoenix, Vampire Weekend, The Lemonheads, The Smiths, The Pixies
15. They Will Kill Us All
There are some bands that would leave a lasting impact on the music scene that they seem to lead a musical movement on their own. Little did we know, They Will Kill Us All (or TWKUA) is one of the bands that lead the experimental music movement here in Malaysia.
All thanks to this 5-piece indie rock band based in Kuala Lumpur, experimental music is very much alive and no longer considered the underground musical movement. The band consists of Edwin Raj, David Leong, Amir Shazlan, Ihsan Ariffin, and Herwandi Saat. TWKUA was established in 2003 as a weekend project between best friends Edwin and David. By 2005, they recruited the key members for the band and started working on “Secret Episodes”, their first EP which was later released in 2008.
Despite the departure of founding singer Hafizul Azim and 2nd vocalist Sharon Chong, the band survived the breakup and reemerged in the music scene with Edwin taking over the role of lead singer. They went to release their 2nd full-length album, “Vulture”, which consists of 15 self-written songs. Most recently, they debuted “Procession”, their latest single which went on to prove they are the one of the finest indie-rock bands in Malaysia.
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- If you like this band, you may also like: The Strokes, High Hazels, The Smiths
- The Bassment Syndicate
- No Tyra
- Citizens of Ice Cream
- Car Crash Hearts
- Reach For The Skies
It’s almost hard to believe that Free Deserters is a Malaysia-based band, as their latest single “Galaxy” bears a strong resemblance to works from Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones. But it’s even harder to believe that they may no longer perform together, as leader Zack Yusof (of BFM 89.9’s “33rpm” fame) cited his involvement in new musical projects as the reason for his departure.
The psychedelic rock band, which made their debut in 2006, have recorded tonnes of albums, singles, and EPs. Over the past 8 years, they have played at both local and international gigs, proving that their music is well-received by worldwide audience.
Though they are parting ways as a band, their legacy lives. The band recently released “Crowd Control“, their 3rd and final album which can be downloaded for free.
- If you like this band, you may also like: The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Tame Impala, Sly Stone & The Mojo Men, The Doors
So long, Free Deserters. Let’s hope they will make a reunion in the future, yeah?
Think we left someone out of the list? Well, just share with us in the comments box below! We can talk about them all day if you want 😉