Rita Ora messed up bad this week. But the outcry at her horrid misreading of the issue at hand underlined in red a fundamental shift in pop culture: Finally, at a time when we no longer have to genuflect towards the reductive demands of convention – that always favour the herd and not the individual – we demand sincerity in the messaging of those whose voices have a rallying power. Of Methodist will never trip over his words that way. His small-but-surely-growing catalogue is a trove of interrogative, openhearted songs notable as much for their friction as their beauty.
The societal scarlet letter – ‘Deviance’ – that’s used to brand those who don’t follow the script is something he intimately and intensely deconstructs with a devoted rigour – when he unravels the systems behind those constructs, we get the magic dust that makes his stories not just compelling but necessary. Today, two new songs enter his resume: “Lieutenant feat. slodown, Ffion and Axel Brizzy” and “Dependent On You”. Below, he pulls back the veil behind their conception.
Where are you now and what’s kept you busy lately?
I’m trying to get a college degree here in the United States. I entered 2018 as a 20-year-old and the responsibilities are piling on one another. I’m an aspiring architect/designer so recently, a lot of my time has been put into my studies and practice. I’ve been listening to a lot more music recently, as usual, a lot of alternative R&B.
“I feel that LGBTQ has a very distinct stereotype given to it and its important to challenge these generalisations because we are not a monolith.”
Let’s talk about the beautiful, sensual and searching “Lieutenant”. Who/what does the lieutenant figure represent and mean to you?
The song portrays a shift of authority in different contexts. ‘Lieutenant’ is just a label or rank and one that insinuates power and leadership. But of course, there are different types of power and depending on the situation, the ‘lieutenant’ might not always be the one in control. Contrary to “Authority” that tapped on my submissiveness, “Lieutenant” was written to highlight a power within that submissiveness that hopefully makes you question who the real ‘lieutenant’ in the track is, the other or myself.
Military imagery figures quite heavily in your world. How has National Service impacted your impression of Singapore?
There is a dichotomy about my experience in Singapore. NS itself can feel perilous and hopeless while outside of the army, Singapore is incredibly beautiful, safe and vibrant. As a third culture kid coming into Singapore after growing up elsewhere and thrown into NS without any friends, family or expectations, you can imagine how jarring the experience was for me. Although I made many lasting friends from the military, the initial similarities the system had to an oppressive authoritarian regime were hard to recover from. I draw a lot of inspiration from that.
The track features Ffion, Axel Brizzy and Slodown. Why each one of them?
I instantly knew that I wanted Ffion to be on this track. We have been friends for over a year now and you’ve probably seen us at Ion at some point. Next, I approached Axel because an instrumental like “Lieutenant” was just dying for a rap. Axel and I met at Shine Festival last year and the two of us are DIY artists and also started around the same time so it’s important for us to support one another. Slodown and I are representing Singapore over here in the United States, so this track wouldn’t be complete without him.
How did you go about managing and organising their contributions ?
The collaboration was entirely separate but came together so smoothly despite how far away we were from one another.
What would you say is the emotional standpoint of “Dependent on You”?
I’ve previously convinced myself that I’m an independent person but as cliché as it sounds, in this past year, I’ve realized what it means to fall in love. It’s so frustrating because I felt like I’ve lost so much of that independence I thought I had.
Are you ever worried about saying too much in your music?
Definitely. I’m naturally a very vague person because certainty is concerning to me and with lyrics that challenge power, the last thing I want is to unintentionally display the very same qualities of the subject matter I’m critiquing. I feel that for certain artists, being descriptive is essential to their art. However, for me, I want my message to sink in over time or even multiple singles.
The LGBTQ experience has finally become part of pop’s narrative. In your opinion, what more needs to be done? Who’s doing it right and who’s doing it wrong (I’m thinking of that bad Rita Ora song)?
Haha! (I actually laughed) A song that I personally relate to a lot is “Bloom” by Troye Sivan. I feel that LGBTQ has a very distinct stereotype given to it and its important to challenge these generalisations because we are not a monolith. Some LGBTQ artists are pressured to be a certain way or to have a certain aesthetic because it seems that mainstream media projects this ideal, identifiable model for the typical LGBTQ artist. I’m not going to call out anyone but if anything, the ones that are doing it wrong are the artists who aren’t being honest and falling into this synthetic model of the LGBTQ artist. Honestly, despite my awareness towards this issue, I personally have also been affected by this model to some extent.
Earlier this year you tweeted, “lol im actually living a double life with this music thing”. Do you still feel the same way?
I feel like Of Methodist and I are different entities. Many people in school don’t even know I make music or have a following. As someone who is also aspiring to become an architect, I find it beautiful that I have different mediums of expression I can play with. Artists are slowly becoming more and more interdisciplinary. Music will always be the personal side of me where I can explore my insecurities, guilt and topics of interest in ways architecture cannot.