Every week we ask a creative, artisan, or musician to share what music gets them going from dawn to dusk. This week, Singapore indie-pop band M1LDL1FE compiles songs that motivate their day. The band consists of bassist David Siow, drummer Jeryl Yeo, guitarist Tan Peng Sing, and Paddy Ong as their frontman.
M1LDL1FE doesn't equate to bland. Although pronounced as 'mild life', "invert the 'm' over and you'll end up with wildlife", mentioned Ong on the wordplay in a past interview. The local quartet's music is rather rousing. Think lush electronic textures and eclectic dance grooves into the pop sensibilities of guitar-driven indie music of the early 2000s.
First conceived as a university hall cover band, M1LDL1FE wrote their first originals in college dorm basements, gaining attention with their brazen indie-rock pop sound and energetic live shows. In addition, they have gone on to open for dynamic international acts such as Walk the Moon, Travis, and Death Cab for Cutie in Singapore, and went on various concert tours in Southeast Asia, China, and Spain.
We caught up with M1LDL1FE to know more about their origins and the inspiration behind their latest release 'Small Lanes'.
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For those of you asking in the DMs, the music came first for Small Lanes!! We were working on the tune at David’s house, took a break, and ended up having a rather serious conversation about the future of the band. Would we sign to some label eventually? Will we be making music 10 years from now? Back in Dave’s room, everyone started obsessively tweaking the synth sounds so paddy quietly went to the living room and wrote down a bunch of words. We ended up sitting on the song for a while for various reasons, but with the situation right now, it seemed apt to release it… to all our friends, listeners, and music industry peeps, hang in there! Nothing wrong with taking the small lanes for now, and we hope you can find your highway soon enough (if that’s what you want) ❤️
ESQ: Tell us how did you all get started with music and decided to be in a band?
David: My mother forced me to learn the piano, and thank God she did! From then, it was Tuba in symphonic and marching band, Bass Guitar in symphonic band, Bass Guitar in contemporary music and jazz, ultimately leading me to end up on a path with these boys.
Peng Sing: My dad plays the cello in his free time and I grew up hearing a lot of classical music in the house. Went for piano lessons…standard lah! My deep dive into the less-mainstream stuff started via searching the Internet during my secondary school days and somehow became known as the guy with weird music taste among my friends.
Picked up the guitar on my own over my adolescent years. Met David during college freshman orientation, he got me to jam with the random bands in the dorms, things hit off pretty well and we started the band with Jeryl and our old frontman. Those were pre-Paddy days!
Jeryl: Pretty much the same as Dave; parents 'forced' the piano on me when I was 6 (and also thankful that they did), which cultivated my interest in music. Joined Guitar Ensemble in secondary school, self-learnt the drums when I was 17 and was pretty much a closet drummer until I joined my first band in NUS Eusoff Hall!
ESQ: Why settle on ‘M1LDL1FE’ for the band’s name? Is there a meaning behind it?
We had wanted to change the name for a while and being very boring and mild individuals, we felt the name best reflected who we are. The spelling with the ‘1’s replacing the ‘i’s is a reference to our old band name, Take Two.
Peng Sing: Yeah, basically like 'normcore' marxism.
ESQ: What do the band want to convey with your latest single ‘Small Lanes’ and how were you all inspired to pen this song compared to your previous releases?
Paddy: The music for the song manifested itself during a period when we were going through some rough times individually, and at the same time, we were putting quite a bit of pressure on ourselves as the new material was taking a while to come out.
On some days, working on the song was an escape, on other days it felt like a chore, but one thing was certain, we really wanted to finish this song and release it into the world. So when it was time to write the lyrics, I just reflected on the whole process of what we were doing, this whole idea of not having everything figured out but moving forward anyway.
ESQ: Describe some interesting or unforgettable moments while recording ‘Small Lanes.
David: Aussie producer YEO who co-produced the track was staying in my place, and we had some nights where we wouldn’t touch music at all, but instead stream some Aussie Footy and see big men do their thing on the field. Served as a nice reminder for me to find that balance in life and enjoy the little things outside of music.
Paddy: We cooked dinner and watched the National Day Parade together with YEO. Was a nice wholesome, family moment. The process also reminded me that I shouldn’t overthink too much when writing our own music, it’s better to finish something than to leave it half-finished indefinitely.
ESQ: How did the psychedelic single cover come about and why did the band go with this direction?
Paddy: Full disclosure, I put it together using my phone. We couldn’t really decide on which direction we wanted to go with the art but we needed something, so we just winged it! [laughs] I guess it’s more 'authentic' that way since we made it ourselves.
Peng Sing: Actually I’m not even sure what’s our direction. We’ve been quite attracted to the whole aesthetic for a while now, and for the longest time, we kept pacing back and forth in our heads wondering what should we do. Then one day Paddy just randomly sent the cover art in our Whatsapp group chat at 3am and so it was decided.
ESQ: What does it mean for the band to explore small lanes?
Peng Sing: Perhaps there’s a bit of an autobiographical element there? Us trying to have some semblance of a music career in Singapore is like taking a small lane or a path less travelled. Nobody’s here to guide you how to do it and then all of a sudden a couple years go by, you see people around you “moving on” but somehow we’re still trying to figure out our own path. Sometimes you feel very paralysed by uncertainty. But you know, in Singlish, we say 'bo bian' (no choice)… Just gotta go through all the small lanes and continue to explore!
Morning (Peng Sing)
“When I saw 'morning', I’m really referring to the time period between 2 to 6 AM where weird things start to happen. You’re not sleeping, but you’re not exactly awake, the lights from the screens on your desk keep you up in this state of limbo. You lie in bed because your neck starts to ache from the internet dumpster diving. As you doze off, you hear the birds chirping but you’re just too tired…”
1. 'Omae Wa Mou (Adiantum Remix)'—Tiny Little
This tune starts off with some deceiving chill-sounding Bossa Nova guitars, but make no mistake, the primary artist goes by the name 'deadman死人' for a reason. The trap beat kicks in and that’s when you realize: “Omae wa mou shindeiru.” You are already dead and your lifeless body is gyrating to the music.
2. 'You Reposted in the Wrong Neighbourhood'—ligma
This song is a masterpiece in musical bricolage and contemporary pop culture as it stitches together samples from rap classics, hip hop, R&B, and plonks them on a 2 and 4 accented synth groove. Rumour has it the name of this unknown artist named his moniker after a mysterious genetic condition that afflicts 1 in 50,000 people.
3. '7 элемент'—Vitas
This is my favourite song from Russian Synthpop artist Vitas’ magnum opus, the album titled ‘Философия чуда’ (Philosophy of Miracle). In this song, he shows off his iconic vocal techniques with a timeless house beat from the early 2000s. Apart from being a source of musical inspiration during the twilight hours, his overall visual aesthetic is something that really inspires me in my own work.
“The songs I picked are mostly upbeat songs that would perk anyone up. Why would you need perking up in the day though, one might ask. Obviously to counter the monotony of work and the dreaded post-food coma that comes sneaking up on you right after lunch.”
1. 'Flying'—Last Dinosaurs
I think it’s a not-so-hidden fact that the M1LDL1FE boys are crazy over this Aussie band, and for good reason too. Flying is a straight-up banger that will get you bouncing along to its infectious dancey groove.
2. 'Shape of Your Love'—HE1ST
Despite being the slowest of these songs, the synth and guitar lines in the choruses give such a soaring sensation that you can’t help but bop your head to this track. They also have a “1” in their moniker so that’s awesome (hur hur).
3. 'Blinding Lights'—The Weeknd
Very ‘80s. Very upbeat. Very catchy. Jeryl very much likey.
Night (David and Paddy)
“Dave and I are quite the night owls. In fact, during this lockdown period, our body clocks are pretty much in another timezone. So night time is when we’re most ‘awake’. Music at this time is either for vibing when we need to be productive, new inspiration when we’re working on music, or just to have company.”
1. 'All I Need (feat. Mahalia and Ty Dolla $ign)'—Jacob Collier
Sometimes you see someone better than you at something and they just make you want to give up cause you know you will never be able to reach their level. But with this guy, I feel inspired to learn more and be better at music, with his infectious energy and just all-round positive vibes.
2. 'Simple'—JAWN and LEW
The perfect track to reflect on bad choices and cry yourself to sleep.
3. 'Juice'—Mediocre Haircut Crew
A fun song to hear live. I put this song on when I need some motivation to get shit done, with MHC telling me that 'I got it'.
Enjoyed the tracks? Check out our other ‘Dawn to Dusk’ playlists curated by guest artists each week and follow our Apple Music profile to access our playlist first when it's out.