Six friends. One hell of a time on stage.
I recently had the privilege to sit down with Amirul, Year 2 NUS Student and guitarist of local post-hardcore band, Thomas the Death Train. He shared with me his personal journey with the band from their close friendship off stage to memorable moments together. He exudes a cool, nonchalant attitude, peppered with dark humour and of course, memes. Here’s what he had to say…
Thanks for having this interview with me. To start off, perhaps you can share with me when did you start playing the guitar and why did you choose the guitar?
Amirul: I started playing the guitar in secondary school. Why I picked up the guitar is actually a pretty funny story. I met the guitarist of Fader, Hani, in secondary school and he was very into playing guitars and starting bands. The teenage me thought that that was really cool, so I picked up the ukulele and I eventually transitioned to the guitar. We were all in the same band due to our similar interest in pop punk, post-hardcore and metalcore. After secondary school, we all went our own ways, but we still kept in touch and we’re still great friends.
So, you met the other members of Thomas the Death Train in Junior College. How did you guys first meet and how did the band start?
Amirul: We used to all hang out at the back of the school’s canteen. I met Ben (bassist) during the first few days of school and we realised that we had very similar interests. Ben knew Imran (ex-bandmate) through choir and from then on, we all started hanging out. Danish (guitarist) and I met in secondary school and we were really close, almost inseparable. So, when Ben and Imran proposed the idea of starting a band, they had to ask us both as we came in a sort of package deal. Danish and Ben knew Isaac (drummer) as they had mutual friends and they all jammed together before.
We recorded our first demo, Thomas the Death Train (self-titled) at a really shady jamming studio. It was our first time jamming with each other and right from the get-go, Imran was brimming with ideas. We started playing around with some ideas, but progress was slow as everyone was busy with school. Then one day, I forced myself to go to Imran’s house to lay down the parts and together with Imran, we beefed it up into a whole song – that was how “Melodramatic” and “Goat Cloud” came about.
Yongli (singer) joined us fairly recently. I met him at a While She Sleeps concert and Ben was his mutual friend too. Furthermore, Imran wanted to share his vocal duties with someone else so that he could focus on his clean vocals.
Which bands inspire your music and how would you describe your music?
Amirul: We are mainly inspired by math rock and post-hardcore elements, especially Dance Gavin Dance. They have a very unorthodox way of writing post-hardcore music such as weird time signatures and offbeat kind of music. Some people associate our music with progressive rock, which I kind of disagree.
Your band recently made a comeback after about a year-long hiatus. What can we expect from the band now that you guys are back in the scene?
Amirul: A lot of things happened within the past year, which I decline to go into details of. Nonetheless, we still stuck through it because someone said something nice about us on Twitter and that assured us that Thomas was going in the right direction. It was very timely that at that point in time, Jerome wanted to join us as he was interested in our sound and we were likewise very interested in his vocals.
We are currently in the process of finding our sound, but we will definitely try and push ourselves to the next level, musically. Now with Jerome around and Imran gone, we will have to approach our music differently. We are influenced by the music put out by Wolf & Bear and Dance Gavin Dance. We barely scratched the surface of the immense technicality in Dance Gavin Dance’s music so we’re really looking forward to writing more groovy parts.
Most memorable performance?
Amirul: Off the top of my head, I would say it was the EP launch at the beginning of last year. It was so heartwarming to see people making the effort to come down just to see us play. We packed the room with our close friends, and it was truly a warm feeling. The band really enjoyed ourselves that day.
Last question, any advice for anyone who wants to start their own band?
Amirul: Learn to make friends – not just connections, but friends. That was how I got our first show. I asked my friend who in turn asked the gig organizer for a spot to play and eventually, the gig organizer and I became friends too.
Also, make sure you have a way for people to contact you like an Instagram account. You will occasionally have to bust your ass for it, but it pays in the long run. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to be a little thick-skinned to put yourself out there.
Spotify: Thomas the Death Train
Bandcamp: Thomas the Death Train
Photo Credits: _sean_Ng, Bryner, courtesy of the band