Writer: Jocelle Koh
Design: Allison Sun
One of the pioneers of Singapore’s local music scene, singer-songwriter and all-round creative iNCH Chua has never been one to be set in her ways. From constantly putting out ground-breaking work to investing time and effort into various creative exploits that have buoyed the local scene today*, her passion to many seems endless, and her work tireless.
Her latest project, a binaural anti-musical titled ‘Til The End Of The World, We’ll Meet In No Man’s Land’ piqued our interest once again; and we decided to do a deep-dive with the freewheeling artist about everything and anything to do with the project. From discussions about the environment, to the intersections of technology and art, Chua shows us how with a little out-of-the-box thinking, we truly can achieve anything.
*Inch is also the co-founder of Invasion Singapore.
Q: We’re big fans of your stuff and are so excited about your new project “Til The End Of The World, We’ll Meet In No Man’s Land”, which is titled a ‘binaural, anti-musical’. Could you break down what that means for us?
A: As much as I love musicals, I think most people have a narrow definition of a musical. This new work is staged in a theatre and has music that does the storytelling but I feel uncomfortable classifying it as “musical”. It’s a binaural experience which means everyone in the audience will be in headphones for the show. With a few other sensory elements. Basically, you can’t just watch this show on YouTube, you got to show up and sense it.
Q: What take-home message do you hope people can bring away from the experience?
A: Music is vital to our being. And in order to tackle any impending problem, we can’t skip the step of understanding our own condition.
Q: We hear that you were also one of 80 people who gained access to the seventh continent of the world in 2018, and much of these experiences are included in your upcoming project. Can you tell us a little about your experience visiting, and why you decided to incorporate these elements into this project?
A: Haha without giving away too much from the show. I discovered some very profound things about myself while I was in Antarctica. Wisdom that I might have cerebrally heard of before, but only understood it in my heart while I was there. Nature is the most ancient of logics and being in a land with the least amount of human impact, can really make you feel things you’ve never felt before.
Q: The entire experience or anti-musical is a way to showcase works from your latest album. Could you share a little about these upcoming works?
A: All the music from the musical is the new album. Think of it as a concept album.
Q: We’ve noticed that unlike other artists who are always trying to keep up with the times and create ‘fast art’, you treat every release with painstaking care; your latest track ‘Sun & Moon ☉+◑’ being a great example of this. Why do you think it’s important to take time when putting together creative pieces of work rather than following the trend?
A: The artist I look up to, David Bowie, Damon Albarn, Björk, David Grohl are all people who were unapologetically themselves. I intend to keep to that philosophy too.
Q: ‘Sun & Moon ☉+◑’ is also an interesting sonic take on how our environment changes constantly; sometimes too fast for us to even notice. Can you tell us a little about the story behind this song, and what you hope audiences can get from it?
A: I think you put it more succinctly than I ever can. Change is constant. And most of the time we don’t notice how complicit we are with the problems. Everyone’s responsible. So no one’s responsible. Organised irresponsibility. I feel helpless most of the time when confronting big global problems, and maybe the first step of change is recognising that. And accepting that grief.
Q: As a folktronica artist who is now focusing on themes of nature within her works, how do you think the electronic nature of the genre you work in complements these themes of environmental awareness?
A: The tension between technology and nature interests me. I find we very much live between these two tensions these days. Any truth that I’ve discovered about life tends to usually be oxymoronic. I’m not sure about complementing the themes I talk about. But rather the genre is a reflection or a social commentary of the environment.
Q: More widely, do you have any thoughts on how technologies such as algorithms may impact on the music industry’s outputs in the coming months and years?
A: Knowledge and information is power. And technology is made in man’s image. And algorithms are an automation of man’s will. The real question to answer is… Who does the music industry serve? I’m not even sure these days.
Q: Given the rise in awareness of making environmentally conscious efforts, what do you do in your daily life to contribute to saving the environment? Any easily implemented tips for people just getting started?
A: Calculation guide carbon footprint can be a very sobering exercise, it might inform you about things you’d like to change in your own lifestyle.
As far as blanket advise. Stopping the use of single-use plastics is the easiest lifestyle addiction to break up with. And switching your electricity provider to a company that’s environmentally conscious.
If you’re financially strong, you should consider purchasing carbon offset credits. Or speak to your bank about making more sustainably conscious investments.
Q: You won the ‘Singapore Youth Award’ in 2018 (a very well-deserved achievement)! On your journey as a pioneer for the creative arts in Singapore, can you share why you think cultural industries and creative industries are important contributors to the society we live in?
A: I will quote Chuck Palanuik. “The first step — especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money — the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.”
Strong-willed yet caring; passionate but with an eye for detail; Inch is an artist skilled in striking that rare balance between various spectrums. But no matter her personality traits or what she expresses through her art, one thing is clear: Chua is not one for self-doubt or thinking small. When she reaches, the artist reaches not for the stars; but instead for the sun and the moon; striving always to delve deeper into the human condition, and to find a solution to universal problems that we face. And that endless ambition and advocacy is what inspires awe and breaks down barriers with every step on Inch’s artistic journey.
Released on 1 February 2019, “Sun & Moon ☉+◑” is iNCH’s first major release in over two years and introduces her upcoming album that will debut in an experiential binaural show titled No Man’s Land. Commissioned by TheatreWorks, the show will run from April 24 – May 4 at TheatreWorks 72-13 and will feature sounds recorded during iNCH’s 2018 expedition to Antarctica. Tickets are available at www.sistic.com.sg/events/cland0519.