Growing up is often frustrating and unlovely. Fighting its pains is like waving a sword at tidal wave. But there are some things that make that process a little bit more bearable and, when the moment comes, fun: Music and friends. The local occasionally-emo trio of Xingfoo&Roy is the nexus of just that. It’s that cocktail of shared interests, solidarity and wavelengths synching that leads to a debut album such as 10 Dating Tips for the Spineless Youth Addicted to Pornography, with songs such as “Marla Singer Smokes Winston Reds”, being made. You can’t fake compelling, idiosyncratic, high-impact group decisions like this. Besides the execution, there’s that intangible element that’s thrown into the crucible these songs come out of that makes them poignant, powerful and sublimely enjoyable. Below, we chat up singer-guitarist Daniel and bassist Gabriel.
We have to know: What’s the story behind your moniker?
Gabriel: We always tell people different origin stories and people usually think it’s dumb and laugh but it was completely random. Back in secondary school, Daniel and I used to be in a band, which wasn’t anything. Our band name was, ‘Ahoy, Butternuts’ and we thought we should be mature and not use that name anymore. So, later, when my friend was writing a composition, the main protagonists in the story was named, ‘Xing Foo’ and ‘Roy’ and for some stupid, illogical reason, we decided to call ourselves that and there were only two of us.
Daniel: When there were only two of us in the band, people would ask us, “So, who’s Xing Foo and who’s Roy?” and then we’d reply, “Oh, that’s Gabriel and I’m Daniel.”
And it stuck.
G: Yes. After we played some shows and released some stuff, we realised it was too late to change our name, so we stuck with it.
D: When we released 10 Dating Tips for the Spineless Youth Addicted To Pornography, we were thinking to get a more ‘sellable’ name but then again, we were all Chinese so, we wanted to include a Chinese name to represent our heritage.
G: We were very pretentious kids and we thought a band name is just a label that doesn’t matter but apparently, it does. It has come to a point where Xingfoo&Roy doesn’t sound like peoples’ names – it’s just a thing now, which is why we don’t do the weird space thing, it’s just Xingfoo&Roy.
“We dig bands that don’t take themselves seriously because ultimately, it’s music and it’s supposed to be fun.”
So if you could change the band name now, what would it be?
G: I’ll keep it short, I’m very marketing minded. There’s this band we listen to, it’s called PUP, and I think it’s a genius name. We used to think of band names for our friend’s project which he never got around to do and that was just us projecting our alternate universe and one of the names was like, ‘Paws’ because it suited his indie sound.
D: Now, the name that we settled on for his band is ‘housewife’, but he hasn’t done anything, so we could take it. He’s a really good musician. By the way, shouts out Alex Sun.
Likewise, you have to admit that 10 Dating Tips For The Spineless Youth Addicted To Pornography is an awesome title.
G: Thank you. The writing process took a really long period of time. I came up with the album name randomly and I felt like a lot of the songs in the album were generic, whiny and adolescent-like, lyrically. Since we were writing these kinds of songs and there were 10 of them, we made it sound like those BuzzFeed listicles. The album represents who we were when we were writing it. We watched porn and were brought up in this cushy and comfy environment, so we wanted to be honest and funny with the name.
D: Honestly, it was the coolest name we ever thought of.
G: We also had another name.
D: “All You Need Is A Six Pack And A Sense Of Humour”. Our next album is six songs long; we could’ve used it.
One notable thing about the songs is the tension between frustration and vulnerability that runs through them.
D: I wrote the majority of the songs after polytechnic and before going to the army so I was very angry. I was working as a photographer at that time, even in polytechnic. So, in army I felt shitty cause I couldn’t do things I enjoy. Our song, “Marla Singer Smokes Winston Reds” represents the feeling of being vulnerable. I felt horrible because I felt restricted in what I wanted to do or could do. It was a shitty situation and majority of the album was like, wanting to get out of this place. I was damn angsty then.
G: In terms of the tension, it was the period time where we started to get back into emo music. We were listening to bands such as Modern Baseball, Tiny Moving Parts and more. We still listen to them now but when you start listening to this type of music, you feel a lot angrier and end up writing things that you’re angry about. I was writing about frustrations about different things.
One of songs I wrote was “Kahlua”, which is at the starting bit of the album. That’s an angry one with a lot of shouting. But it wasn’t so much of a reflection on my immediate surroundings but more of like, thinking of scenarios where people would have been upset. It was very hypothetical. I don’t think I was angry at that point but the music I listened to did influence it. Kids shouldn’t listen to it.
How do you feel about emo being widely perceived as a pejorative and a parody of itself?
D: That’s why we don’t take anything seriously like our band name, the song titles and album titles – it’s just music. We never really called ourselves emo from the start but we don’t want to be that band who pigeonholes ourselves in a genre. It really doesn’t matter to us. We dig bands that don’t take themselves seriously because ultimately, it’s music and it’s supposed to be fun.
G: I feel like it’s redefined now, that emo is becoming a way of describing a certain sound and feeling. You can arguably say these shoegaze bands are emo because they’re sad as well. I feel in Singapore, when kids listen to music, they just want to listen to music. It is what it is, and emo is one of these things where people just say it so there’s something to call it.
What can you tell us about your second album, Late To The Party.
G: When we started to get into emo music, its wave was increasing, both in the locally and internationally. There are a lot of similar bands and people like to compare them. So, the name was to say something like, “Hey, we’re late to the party. But whatever.”
D: After we released Mating Season, our first EP, I wanted to write music for myself because when I listened back to the lyrics in Mating Season, it was very indie, metaphorical and subliminal. In this second album, we wanted to write something more blatant, in-your-face kind of lyrics.
G: It’s also us embracing the fact that in music, there’s always a need to be novel. You almost need invent a new genre but after awhile, people will get slotted into different genres, no matter what. So, it’s kind of us saying, “We’re late to the party”, in that sense. We try to be genuine but we can’t be new.
How different is the Late To The Party from 10 Dating Tips?
D: I really like this album. I guess, we took a step back from the whole teenage angst thing now that we’re older. So, looking back and reflecting on our life, we decided to go with more evolved approach. There is more depth to these songs. We listened to the latest two songs today and they were sick and I was happy with them. I’m usually never happy with the recordings of our songs.
G: For the album, we never did the hypothetical stuff; everything was honest with the things we went through. We wrote it around 2016 to 2017 when we both went through a lot of shitty things and it’s going to sound lame, but it was a lot of relationship stuff. But we wrote the album differently – we don’t want it to be the same shit, so all the songs we wrote were like retrospectives on the years that passed.