Top, from left: WTTM members Laurence Bucci, David Baptista, and Noel ong
Bottom, from left: Jesse Lai, Lim Kiang, Arindam Chatterjee
Since the last time we spoke to Welcome To The Machine (WTTM) in 2018, the band has been enjoying moderate success, playing gigs from Beerfest to more modest crowds at underground venues, such as The Lab at Kallang Place, alongside international shows in the region and beyond. But with the COVID-19 pandemic in full force for the better part of last year, Southeast Asia’s best and only Pink Floyd tribute band struggled to find meaning in the dearth of live gigs.
Now, with the situation slowly but surely getting better, the band is back together to perform their first gig in over a year at The Star Theatre this April. Comprising Laurence Bucci (drums and video content creator), David Baptista (guitar), Noel Ong (guitar), Jesse Lai (keyboard), Lim Kiang (bass) and Arindam Chatterjee (lead vocals), the band is more than ready to take the stage by storm once again. We caught up with WTTM members Arindam, Noel, and Laurence to find out how they’ve been coping, and what audience members can expect at the sold-out concert.
“Over the last year, I think people have become more patient with each other, but if we don’t all pull our weight and do our part, then we’re going to be stuck in this boat for a little longer.”
“Over the last year, I think people have become more patient with each other, but if we don’t all pull our weight and do our part, then we’re going to be stuck in this boat for a little longer,” says Laurence, on how the last year has been. “We’ve been very limited by the restrictions, which can be quite difficult for getting together and performing or rehearsing, and while we’ve tried going digital, we’re really more of an older, everyone jump in the room kind of band. We aren’t full time musicians, so we’re doing ok financially, but I can’t imagine what it’s like for the full-timers, in terms of their income and livelihood.”
“It was basically impossible to rehearse during lockdown. Even rehearsing online has been really hard, because there’s always a time lag, and it all seemed so pointless when there were no live gigs to look forward to,” says Noel.
“We’re very grateful the Star Theatre wanted to hire and pay us for this gig, since there’s just so few opportunities out there right now, even if you wanted to play for free.”
“That’s why after this gig, we’re already looking forward to when the next opportunity arises. It’s not that big a surprise that we managed to sell out – capacity is limited, and people just really want to get out and see live music,” says Laurence.
“Back in India, the only ones who were spared were those in teaching, because that was moved online. But performers, that’s a different story altogether,” adds Arin. “Now, after 1 year of Zoom meetings and streams, people are already tired of watching things online, and just want to get out there again.”
“The connection runs deeper than just ‘oh we’re playing music together’. We have to be close, like my wife knows his wife, or to find out the hobbies and interests we share outside of the band.”
What’s been particularly important to the band has been keeping that bond and staying strong together amidst the difficulties, almost like being a family, and there for each other throughout. “Whenever I play with a new band, I think that it’s important for the members to come together and feel like a family,” Noel explains, on the importance of maintaining that familial relationship with his bandmates. “The connection runs deeper than just ‘oh we’re playing music together’. We have to be close, like my wife knows his wife, or to find out the hobbies and interests we share outside of the band. And we do try to hang out together to deepen that bond, otherwise the band just becomes another business. Your bandmates are people you know in a way that’s different from the relationship you share with anyone else, and that’s what being in a band means to me.”
“It’s honestly been a struggle over the last year – I lost a cousin to COVID, and it sent me into a bit of a spiral,” says Laurence. “There’s been so much going on, and there really hasn’t been a moment to ourselves to think without being affected by everything that’s happening around us. My wife actually told me to get out there and jam with the band, just to get things started again.”
“Like Noel said, it’s like being in a family, and being committed to each other. Sometimes we talk a lot of crap with each other, and we give constructive criticism, and at times get under each other’s skin, but at the end of the day, we come back together and have a good laugh.”
“And with this gig, we’re really going to enjoy this opportunity, and connect with a real life audience again, just for a night. As much as we’re looking for other gigs, we don’t know when we’ll get another opportunity to do this again, so we’re going to enjoy the music, enjoy playing together, and just enjoy this camaraderie with the band onstage.”
“We’re all happy to come in and be a part of this, because it’s a commitment to be here, beyond just being present, and to enjoy this gig as an opportunity to get out of being stuck in the house and play together again,” says Arin.
Of course, Pink Floyd isn’t exactly the kind of band you end up moshing and raving to, with their psychedelic sound that brings listeners to the edge of reality itself, a natural high and sense of relief from the chaos of the world. “Pink Floyd isn’t going to be like Iggy Pop onstage, and people are willing to sit back and enjoy the visual and sonic elements, and just feel the music and aura,” says Laurence. “We’ll be featuring some digital screens at the back of the show which will display quite a lot of imagery while we play. Think of it like watching a movie at the cinema, and to just be completely captivated by something, rather than the fist-pumping kind of music, that’s the kind of feeling we want our shows to bring.”
“Pink Floyd has a huge catalog of songs, with both the favourites and the cult classics, and some of the songs are still fresh for us, and keeps both the old and new fans happy,” says Noel, on how they keep each performance fresh. “We’ve all been playing music for a long time now, regardless of whether we were earning money from it or not. It’s nice to realise that people still want to hear us, and it makes us feel relevant in some way.”
“To add on to that, there’s even differences between the live versions and the studio recordings. And much like how listening to a cassette in a car is different from listening to a stream on a laptop, even the environment and venues we play at change the mood and dynamic of our performance,” says Laurence. “Across their discography, different fans resonate with some songs more than others, but above all, we always remain true to the classic DNA of a song and aim to deliver that in our performances.”
“I think there’s a lot of expectations from audiences, so we have to ensure that our performance is up to par,” says Arin. “We’re a little nervous, but also excited that we get to play a gig so early in the year in these times. It’s so fulfilling for us to see it sold out on a Saturday evening, and to play to a ‘full house’.”
“It’s cool how at every show, there’ll always be a number of new fans, something that always blows us away with how Pink Floyd may be decades old, but can still resonate with people today.”
Ultimately, to WTTM, for those lucky enough to snag tickets to this gig, it’s an opportunity to expose the audience to even more of Pink Floyd’s discography that made them the music icons that they are, and a way to let loose, shake off the burdens of yesteryear, and say goodbye to the dog days we’ve been plagued with for so long.
“It’s cool how at every show, there’ll always be a number of new fans, something that always blows us away with how Pink Floyd may be decades old, but can still resonate with people today. We really and truly love the music, and we do our darndest to sound good and do justice to the music onstage every time, to make sure its polished and tight and emotional, and let the music do its magic.”
“Pink Floyd has always had a massive cult following, and over the eight years we’ve spent together, it’s always been a massive risk to play the music, because if you’re not at 110% and fully immersing yourself in it, you’ll struggle. As a tribute band, you need to be disciplined, take your ego out of it and stop playing hero, and really dedicate yourself to the show,” says Laurence.
“That’s something we do, and something we hope will come through and be seen by everyone on the 24th. We’ll be playing favourites, but also trying out new things, like how we’ve never done the song Dogs, and that’s going to be in the setlist, so even for people who’ve come to our shows, they’ll be in for something different,” Laurence adds. “We’re going to avoid anything too depressing, because with this show, we’re here to uplift people after the dog days of 2020, allow them to lose themselves in our set, and enjoy the music. Our goal as a band is to bring Pink Floyd’s music to the masses. While the songs belong to Pink Floyd, we’re still going to hit all the right notes, have it connect with our audience, and make your hair stand on edge.”
Dog Days plays at the Star Theatre on 24th April 2021. Tickets and more information available here
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