COOL KL 2020: TimeMachine On Playing Against Discrimination Through Music
Text and Interview Aina Nur Sarah Photography Arifah Hadirah Styling Lim Lee Ann Art Direction Keisha Ryman Wardrobe Talent’s Own Videography Lucas Moujing
In this 2020 edition of COOL KL, we look to individuals making a change creatively and the youth who are impacting society in every way.
When a group of girls come together to make music, you know magic’s about to happen.
A five-piece, all-girl alternative rock band making waves in the local indie music scene, TimeMachine‘s about to get you hooked. Charlotte Felix, Cassandra Lam, Kassie, Krychell and Gladys Lee make the band and the way they formed was kinda fateful. “Me, Kassie and Gladys started playing together in high school then met Cassandra and Charlotte in Uni and started playing as TimeMachine,” Krychell explains. “It was just a matter of us coming together and really gel-ing well,” Charlotte added.
TimeMachine play covers from different eras and genres. They also have their own original music too, that they hope doesn’t only appeal to people their age but also to those who just love and appreciate music. “We use the umbrella alternative rock because we include a lot of different elements in our music. We use synth, country, 80s rock, pop and even hip hop influences when we write our music, and we really just go with what feels right.”
Is there a meaning behind the name, TimeMachine?
Charlotte: It really sprouted from playing that 80s show. The fact that we all loved music from all different eras, like the 50’s-2000’s as well as current music – and the fact that we weren’t afraid to play them – just made TimeMachine make a lot of sense.
How would you describe your music style?
Kassie: I would say our styles are very eclectic considering we all are mostly inspired by different types and genres of artists/bands. But mostly, we lean more towards the alternative and rock side of music.
Charlotte: We use the umbrella alternative rock because we include a lot of different elements in our music. We use synth, country, 80s rock, pop and even hip hop influences when we write our music, and we really just go with what feels right. I feel like a lot of people would categorize us as Riotgrrl music, and they wouldn’t be wrong either. We love it.
Cassandra: Can trashcan but also can sendu hahaha.
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Some photos from our latest gig, performing for Langgar Lari was an absolute party! And to be part of such a mind blowing line up was like… all of the toppings and the cherry on top of the cake. We couldnt be more grateful and humbled to be among so many incredible female/female led powerhouse hands. We. Are. INSPIRED! Thankyou to everyone who made it out on a sunday night and partied with! We hope you had as much fun as we did! Photos thanks to @sabrinaissleeping for being our ever so dedicated camerawoman!
Who inspires your music most?
Charlotte: We take a lot of musical and emotional inspiration from bands like Paramore, Muse, The Runaways, The Regrettes, Queen, a lot of bands that people wouldn’t usually mash together.
Krychell: Each of us have our own influences in the way we play/sing. For myself, I listen to a lot of classic rock growing up so a lot of the riffs in our song are inspired by classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin. Other than that, a lot of female fronted indie bands inspire me too like Snail Mail, Mitski and Soccer Mommy.
Gladys: I think the main thing that inspires all of us the most are the people we surround ourselves with, close friends who are also part of the local scene. I feel like we constantly encourage and push one another (and sometimes even collaborate) to be better in many different ways and I just think it’s really cool to have a tiny community like that.
It’s no surprise that women in music end up going through a tougher time than their male counterparts. It’s 2020, things are getting better but it isn’t where it should be just yet. “The answer is always more,” said Charlotte, when we asked what they hope for women in music, “We’re on a steady climb and not for the novelty of ‘oh we have an all female gig’. It shouldn’t just be for the novelty.”
Music is music after all. No matter who it comes from. As much as TimeMachine is proud to have an ‘all-girl’ league, they don’t just want to be labelled as that. They’re asking to be seen for who they really are and let their music speak.
What’s the story behind your latest single, ‘Witchcraft’?
Cassandra: The story behind it came from when we all were in university and we were performing and also organising this uni event and there was this other all male band. They just kept shutting us down whenever we had suggestions and never let us do anything because we are “girls”
Charlotte: Witchcraft in essence is about knowing your worth, your capability and standing by it. Imagine someone coming up and underestimating you, and you being confident enough in what you do– because you’re doing it for the right reasons, that you can tell them to sit down. This is your craft. We’ve been sneered at by other musicians for being girls who play music, or have any sort of leadership role in general. But at the end of the day we are the ones who are still making music, because we do it with our hearts not for clout.
As an all-girl band, are there anything you feel should change in the music scene?
Gladys: Given the small but existing platform that we have, we want to do as much as we can to normalize women in the local scene, whether it’s women as performers or as the audience. It’s really heartwarming to see the stage and audience grow with more females feeling comfortable and confident enough to attend gigs (underground or not) which are commonly male dominated.
Cass: We want organizers to invite us with the intention of wanting our music to be heard, instead of us being all girls and it’ll pull a crowd for them. the local scene should just put gender aside when we get on stage, and see that we actually play good music, not just because we’re all girls
Kassie: Getting female acts to only play for women centred gigs adds to the segregation. Highlighting and tributing women is great, but it’s always nice to see a lineup of diverse looking/sounding bands and artists, in any kind of event.
As frustrating as the industry can be for women, the girls admit that the local scene is a safe space for them. “It is so far a very accepting and safe space for everyone to gather and just have fun,” says Gladys, and Cassandra adds that there’s a lot of support for equality and anti-discrimination. “A lot of allies who aren’t afraid to stand up and speak up when discrimination happens which is good, but there’s still misogyny and homophobia that we think the local scene should improve on.”
What are your views on the local music industry?
Gladys: The local music industry as we know I love that it is also very diverse, there are so many bands that play such different genres! It’s great because it offers something to everyone and it’s also very fun to discover different types of genres and styles.
Kass: Most of our fellow local artists really inspire us and keep us going. so far most of them are very open minded and diverse so it’s good.
Krychell: It is nice to see that everyone is helping to build each other up and motivating one another because I feel like this would encourage more people to join the local music scene and support the local music scene too.
Charlotte: We’re happy to see it growing. More and more well-deserved talents are getting their chance to be appreciated and do what they love. And we are very lucky to experience the support of so many fellow musicians. Of course there’s still the matter of lack of real female representation. But we’re getting there!
Do you feel Malaysians’ appreciation for local art/music has increased over the years?
Charlotte: I believe it has. Both in the indie scene and even in the mainstream. People are becoming a little bit more supportive of local creatives instead of constantly bashing them for not being Local enough.
Cassandra: More and more people are going out to gigs to watch bands play
Kassie: Yes definitely! We have events like riuh and urbanscapes that really highlight the art and music scene here in malaysia and it’s very heartwarming. Personally, we’ve met so many talented and artsy people through these kinds of events. It’s nice to get to know people in the same field and have the same passion as we do.
Krychell: Compared to when we first started we are so happy to see so many young girls going to gigs, moshing and having fun without worrying about anything. We hope people would take the effort to support and go to gigs to enjoy local art and local music.
Gladys: It’s a slow progress but the local art/music is definitely gaining more appreciation, which I think is very deserving because I see a lot of creatives working their asses off to perfect their crafts. I hope this momentum continues to grow for Malaysia’s local art scene.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Charlotte: Being on time to things lol no. Sometimes we struggle with balancing our love for music with our need to survive – that includes rest, and making back money we’ve spent. We once played 8 shows in a month, and we were absolutely burnt out and broke by the end of it.
Kassie: We’ve also struggled with feeling looked down upon because of our gender. For example when walking into gigs and sound checks, sometimes we feel looked down upon and people don’t think much of us. but some organisers have been really nice and genuine to us and we really appreciate them.
Krychell: I get really anxious going to a soundcheck to places we haven’t performed before. I often feel like people will judge and have more things to say just because we are a band full of girls. Fortunately, most of the time I will feel better after our playing together in a band during soundcheck to prove people wrong.
Gladys: The biggest challenge I’ve faced is doubting my own abilities as a musician. It was an internal problem that built up over time because I didn’t know how to deal with it but I’ve decided to let it go because I realised it took all the fun out of performing.
What are timemachine’s plans for the future?
Cassandra: We wanna try getting out more merch, collaborating with and hopefully highlighting local artists while we’re at it.
Gladys: Even though everything is very uncertain now, we do know that we want to perform as soon as we can and on bigger platforms. We are also releasing another single soon and hopefully an EP before 2020 ends.