Two talented women armed with acoustic guitars, tight vocal harmonies and a bag full of awesome songs have been wooing audiences at gigs for the past two years. Rachael Teo and Su Yin Koh make beautiful alternative folk-pop together although they have quite different personalities.
Rachael, the leader singer, is the fun-loving, whacky and outspoken one. Su Yin, a multi-instrumentalist, is introverted and rarely smiles on stage. As Cove Red, the duo has a charming chemistry that draws listeners into their world of faith, hope and love.
They’ll be performing at the Esplanade concourse in August and I caught up with Rachael to find out more about their musical journey, memorable moments and more.
How did you and Su Yin meet and what was your first impression of her?
Haha! That's a funny one. I actually went to watch my friend's band (Soul2Soul) perform at an event, and Su Yin was part of the band back then. While saying hello to my friend in the toilet the band was busy dolling themselves up before the gig, and I got dragged into styling the straight and limp hair of a girl who didn't say hi nor smile at me. So there I was, just smearing on layers of Gatsby wax on someone I didn't know in between this giant wall of silence. It was really awkward.
So yeah, I didn't exactly have the best first impression of her, especially because her face remained stoic throughout the gig, which I now am well-acquainted with, and I now understand the way she is – a genuine introvert who saves her best smiles and laughs for things that truly hit her funny button.
Where do you gals like to hang out?
Hmmm… does cyberspace count? Facebook and Gchat are our favorite ‘spaces’ to ‘meet’ and discuss things, especially when we are so tired of seeing each other after multiple rehearsals during busy seasons. Other than that, we tend to frequent Starbucks at United Square just because it's near Su Yin's house. And when we need to be alone in each other's company, Esplanade waterfront seems to be a hot favorite for contemplative moments.
Who writes the songs for Cove Red?
Well, we both contribute songs to the band. I guess you could say we are quite communistic that way. We don't harbor any secret songs for individual usage, though a few have been banned by mutual consent due to the stylistic differences. There has also been talk of donating a song that I wrote, Till You Come, to Corinne May because we think she'll do a much better job than us and it fits her like a glove. Who knows? As for collaborations, the one and only song we've ever written together is Taste of Life.
Taste Of Life will be on the upcoming Noise Singapore compilation. What's that song about?
The song is really about releasing the inner child to dream, and to savor, well, the taste of life! Many times, we forget who we really are in the process of growing up. Taste of Life is a song that attempts to draw out the hidden and sometimes forgotten desires we harbor in our hearts. To live for what truly matters, not just to survive and settle for second best because we were meant to live, not merely exist.
What's the best part about performing live?
On a very superficial level, the best part about performing live is the advantage of having a sound system to boost your sound. There is a great sense of satisfaction in hearing one's voice and instrument echo across the room, which is something that I personally miss when we hold practices in a cramped room with little acoustics. But then of course, that's not the main point.
For us, besides being able to do what we love and being heard, the cherry on the cake is having the audience connect with our songs and meeting some of the people. For example, an Egyptian guy whom we met at our Esplanade gig a few weeks ago, wrote on our Facebook wall and said that the music we played made him feel good. And that is why we do what we do. It's a constant quest to help others discover themselves, as we ourselves also do as we journey together as a band.
What's your favourite Cove Red gig so far?
Without a doubt, it's gotta be the recent Rockin’ The Region: Singapore gig at Esplanade Waterfront stage on July 4. It was our first time experimenting with our newly-purchased instruments - the glockenspiel (currently unnamed), and our thunder tube, infamously known as ‘Thunderella’ - which is also an SPG (Sound-Producing Gizmo) like Barbarella from ‘The Noose’.
It was also especially memorable because we debuted three new original songs that night, and we got to perform the cover songs that we love, like Go Do by Jonsi from Sigur Ros. Of course, we had the tremendous pleasure of having our amazing friends, Daniel Ho and Zhong Ren, play alongside us. They are amazingly talented and humble musicians who added so much to our sound, as well as extra doses of laughter and fun.
Have there been any embarrassing moments on stage where you wish the ground would just open up and swallow you?
If we were to write a book about it, it would be as thick as a dictionary. Well, almost. Okay, let's see… I guess the most recent one would be our opening stint for Stellar Memory's EP launch. We did Fireflies by Owl City, and I totally forgot the lyrics to the second verse, so I just went ‘lalalala’ throughout. Thankfully, the audience was made up of many young and kind folks who enthusiastically sang along until I hit the chorus, which was when my memory decided to make a comeback.
Any plans to record an album? What's been stopping you?
Well, after a year and a month of shelving off thoughts and talks of recording an album, we finally decided that we were ready to work on one in May. I guess the initial apprehension lies in the fact that we had already recorded an unofficial five-song EP last May, so we didn't really want to record the same songs again. To add to the push factor, we don't exactly have a lot of new material to record, plus we were both busy with our day jobs in between juggling gigs. Funding is also a huge issue.
But there's been a change of heart ever since we opened for Copeland at their farewell concert. I guess we started to realize that it is something that we need to do, to release our songs properly, because the previous unofficial EP was exactly just that - unofficial. So we've been toying with the idea of releasing a full-length album that will have a more experimental feel and definitely one that has more instrumentation. So far we've only finished the demo for one song. There's a long way more to go, but we are both really psyched about this project and we can't wait to resume working on it once Su Yin comes back from the US in August.
What do you have planned for your upcoming gigs at the Esplanade concourse?
For our upcoming August gigs at the Esplanade Concourse, we will be teaming up with Zhong Ren from Basement In My Loft once more, who will be gracing us with cello and vocals. The repertoire will consist of only original songs, some of which we haven't played for quite a long while. Most of Su Yin's songs are gorgeously mellow, whereas mine are slightly more upbeat or intense. If you enjoy contemplative acoustic music, come.
Cove Red – August on the Concourse
23 August (Monday): 7.15pm and 8.15pm
29 August (Sunday): 5.15pm, 6.15pm and 7.15pm
Venue: Esplanade Concourse
About Patrick Chng
Forever young at heart, Patrick Chng loves going to gigs and checking out Singapore bands. He has also been playing in bands since the late 1980s, writing about music and being an important mover and shaker in the Singapore indie music scene. When he's not checking out or playing gigs, he's at home playing with his guitars and updating his Facebook.