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Malaysian pop band Paperplane Pursuit will be releasing the music video of their latest single “Internet Celebrity” by the end of this month, followed by their debut album “Second Date” slated for a release in April.

Though the band may have officially made their debut in 2009, they have been in the industry way longer than that (more than a decade), but you probably didn’t know this as they went by a different name, Silent Scream, a band that was well-known for their emo-centric music.

Nowadays, Paperplane Pursuit is known for their radio friendly tunes, with catchy hooks and infectious sing-along melodies like “Beat of Your Love”, “Feel Good” and “Who’s Gonna Stop Me”, which all enjoyed success on mainstream Malaysian radio stations.

Their song “Feel Good” broke into the US Billboard Mainstream Top 40 Indicator Charts in September 2015, topping famous international artistes like Maroon 5 and Adam Lambert, and the song remained on the charts for seven weeks.

Being entirely self-funded, self-managed, and with no label backing, the band is independent in so many ways as they write, produce and record their music all on their own, including their music videos.

TheHive.Asia recently had a “second date” with the guys (geddit?) where they talked about their new album, their upcoming single, “Internet Celebrity”, and some other juicy details that you might not know about them.

But before you read the interview, here’s a brief introduction of the band!

  • Paperplane Pursuit is made up of John O on vocals, Isaac Ravi on guitars, Dru Yap on drums, and The Chief on bass. Dru and John went to school together, formed a band when they were 14 and have played music together ever since.
  • The band went through several name changes (like Silent Scream) and different line-ups over the years. In 2009, Paperplane Pursuit was born.
  • John asked his childhood church buddy Isaac to play guitar for the band, and he officially joined the band in 2011.
  • The Chief initially started off as John’s studio intern in 2012, and paid his dues helping out with the recording and production of the band’s music. He eventually transitioned into the role of the band’s bassist, officially completing the band’s line-up in 2017.
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(L-R) Dru Yap, John O, Isaac Ravi, and The Chief

Give us some insight on your debut album, “Second Date”. How are the songs different from your previous two EPs, and why the name? What happened to “First Date”?

John: We look at it as everything that we released so far is the first date. It was the chance where everybody get to know us like the first impression of what people think we’re about. So this album is the chance to get to know us better, that’s why it’s called the “Second Date”.

I think a lot of the songs have a similar vibe with the previous songs, like they’re very catchy and friendly, but they are slightly more mature as well, and a lot of the songs are very lyrically-driven. The lyrics would be the highlight for the album as it will make people think and feel.

In your previous EP, you collaborated with Darren Ashley on “Beat of Your Love”, did you collaborate with any artistes on this album? Any plans in the pipeline?

John: In this album, no. But we might be collaborating with someone outside of the country for the deluxe version of the album, but that is still under wraps, so we can’t reveal any details yet.

Isaac: So we will release “Second Date” in April, but we might release another two or three songs after the album and include them in the deluxe version.

Describe how did the song “Internet Celebrity” come about?

John: I was at a wedding, and my relative came up to me and said that her daughter wanted to meet me and she’s a huge fan. I like kids, so I met her and she was very excited to see me.  So this little girl asked me “How can I be famous?” so I was quite surprise by the question especially coming from a young kid, and that got me thinking about the world these days.

I mean when I was a kid I definitely had dreams about becoming a rock star, but the point was making music or travelling, and it is not to be famous. But that’s the thing with the new generation now, they want to be famous and internet is the easiest way to do it.

So the song was largely inspired by that, like the effect of internet fame and social media, and how it influences me and also the effect that it has on society.

How do you view the whole “internet fame” phenomenon, do you see it as something negative?

John: Before pointing the finger at anybody else, to be very honest a lot of the lyrics came about from my personal experience. I’ve been on social media for the longest time because I spend a lot of time online, and I didn’t like the effect of social media on me. It makes me compare myself with other people, and you start focusing a lot on appearances like what people see on the surface rather than what’s goes on beneath. So I didn’t like that for myself, and I think a lot of people are facing that issue.

Even a lot of the real internet celebrities that we met feel that way too. We’re putting out our music video later this month, and we do have a lot of internet celebrities in the music video. Even they were saying that the song really resonates with them, like they’re not really happy with a lot of stuff that they do, but it’s part of their job.

So I think that there’s good and bad, but it’s not my place to tell people that they shouldn’t be an internet celebrity. People can make it good or bad depending on how they use it and for what purpose. But for me, the song is like a wake-up call for people like me.

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What was it like working with The Ming Thing on the music video?

Isaac: We’re actually friends with them. We’ve known them for a while and we previously played at a couple of shows together. So, when we were discussing about who should we get for the music video of “Internet Celebrity”, they were kind of the obvious people to ask because they are internet celebrities, and we like what they do, and they are our friends.

John: We’ve always wanted to do something together but we never had the chance before this. So we spoke to Ming Han and he agreed to work with us almost immediately.

Isaac: They were very nice and it was very easy to work with them. We actually ended up getting more shots than we needed. We have too many shots – enough to make two different music videos in fact!

I understand that you guys have gone through several band name and line-up changes, so what contributed to who you are today – like in terms of your image and music style?

John: Dru and I have been in a band since forever, I think since we were 14-years-old.  And we came to a point where we were known as the band that makes emo songs. A friend of ours who’s been managing us for a while, said to us, “You guys should just accept that you are like The Script of Malaysia, you always make these sappy songs that everybody loves to cry to.” So that sounded like a personal challenge to me, and I wanted to prove that we can also do happier, fun and upbeat songs.

So I think where we are now, especially in this album, is like a combination of the band back then and now. There are emotional songs in the album as well, and there are also those happy and upbeat songs that everybody knows us for. Because all of us, as people – have both side to us. We’re very retrospective and thoughtful, but at the same time, we like to have fun and we don’t take ourselves very seriously. So I think our personalities have probably shaped the image and sound of the band.

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Since you guys have been in the industry for quite some time, do you have any plans on signing to a major label?

John: It’s not that we don’t want to, we’re just waiting for the right deal and offer. The music industry now is different from where it was in the past, but labels still do perform as an important function. It’s just a question of the right label, time and relationship. We’re not a band that’s happy to just sit back and let people take over our career. So we need the right partner that sees us on equal footing, rather than letting them manage everything. So we’re waiting for that right relationship.

Isaac: Even if it doesn’t happen, that’s also okay because even if we don’t have a label we can still make music on our own. If there is a right partner and label, then that’s great, but we’re okay even if we don’t have them.  Not having a label doesn’t mean that you can’t have a music career because nowadays, artistes can do everything by themselves, thanks to the internet.

What do you think about the Malaysian music industry today?

John: We come from a position of the time when local stars were the norm. Now, people look at us as one of the few local English bands that are doing well. But when me and Dru were in school together, there were so many local acts that we worshiped. The ultimate heroes were always the local heroes like Butterfingers, Too Phat, Innuendo, OAG, etc – that was the norm. That also shaped our dream to do music and be local stars first before anything else.

Then it felt like we went through this sort of dry spell when there was nothing much, especially in the English scene, it became like a desert landscape and nothing was happening. But I feel that now, the opposite trend is starting again. It is sort of a repetition of what we saw when we were young, so many cool stuff coming out from the local scene, and the fact that the media is also picking up on it, is very exciting. A lot of local radio stations are actively looking for local acts to play, so I feel like we are on the verge of a nice explosion of a music scene and I’m very excited for it.

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How do you guys feel when people tell you that Paperplane Pursuit doesn’t sound local?

John: We know people mean it as a compliment, but…

Isaac: It also points out to something that’s not so great. It is a compliment; people are basically saying that our music sounds good.

John: And we appreciate the good intention!

Isaac: But the fact that people say it that way, indicates that there’s also an impression that local music doesn’t normally sound good. So, it’s great that we sound good, but we wish that there would be other people who are also spearheading it with us, so that it becomes a normal thing for Malaysians to feel that local music can sound good too.

But it has become more normal nowadays. Initially with the first few songs, it was more common to get that kind of compliments. But now there are more Malaysian artistes who are also upping their game.

John: I think it is coming. We don’t think that we are very special. There are bands that are much better than us in Malaysia; artistes of every genre are doing stuff way more exciting than us. Our goal is not to be the big fish in the pond, our goal is that there is a nice pool of fish where everybody is rising together, and that’s happening.

Any plans of releasing songs in other languages soon?

John: We’ve actually released two Malay songs before under our first EP “Malaysian 2.0”, but that was a long time ago, and I don’t think that we will be releasing another Malay song in the near future.

Why is that?

Isaac: One thing that we’ve learned is that it takes a different mind-set and style to write a Malay song. It’s hard to do both, and we feel what’s best for us is to just pick a direction and focus on that, rather than juggling between two things.

John: As much as people say that music is a universal language, it’s not. Every market is very different, and everybody have their own music preference. It’s a challenge enough to do one market and succeed really well, and we’re already doing everything on our own, so we don’t want to split our efforts into too many things.

Tell us about the upcoming single, “Letter to my Younger Self” and the inspiration behind it?

John: I’m very lucky as I get the chance to talk to a lot of younger kids, whether it’s fans or just people I met. It’s nice because a lot of kids open up to me and they talk about the struggles that they face.

And this reminds me of stuff that I’ve gone through. A lot of the conversations that I had with people who are younger than me got me thinking about ideas which inspired this song. What started off is more of what I would say to these kids, but it evolved into me remembering my own memories, like if I could travel back in time and talk to my teenage self what would I tell him. Or what are the things that I’d like to encourage him.

And that’s what inspired the song. I like to think that it’s a song that a lot of people would be able to relate to, whether it’s people of the older generation looking back at their younger years, or kids who are growing up now.

Check out the band’s live acoustic performance of “Feel Good”!