When it comes to rock, it’s all about being a rebel and breaking the rules. This local folk-rock band, Billie Blue & The Nowhere Men is all about disrupting the Malaysian music scene with their music especially when the launch of their very first single and music video, titled “Red Corduroy” and is a track off of their debut album “Find Gold” is now released on all digital platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, Joox and Deezer. The song was released in conjunction with the band’s debut music video, directed by Dear Nessy and produced by Sophia Shukeri. Following the release of “Red Corduroy”, the band will be digitally releasing all of the tracks from “Find Gold” for the first time.
We had the opportunity to get up close and personal with each band member so without further ado, let’s get to it.
Do tell us where you guys grew up and what was your family life like?
Billie: I was born in Akita, Japan and lived there till I was 12. I then moved to Singapore for secondary school. I came to Malaysia in 2012, when I was 17. My mother is Malaysian. She’s very mixed but is mostly of Serani heritage. My dad is American. My mom is a musician and artist by profession and my dad’s a writer, but he made his career in education. Creative expression was definitely encouraged at home I guess it’s no surprise that I turned out exactly like my parents!
Soheil: I was born in Tehran in 1994. I must have been about 14 years old when I took my first Guitar lesson. What started out as a hobby, soon became a strong passion that motivated me to move away from Iran, where playing Rock music was more of underground culture. No one in my family had ever pursued Music as the main job so I was the first one to push my family’s boundaries in doing something that is considered ‘risky’ by most standards. However; I am very fortunate to have parents who supported me from day one.
David: I was born in good old Petaling Jaya. I’m the fourth out of 6 kids and we were raised by a single mom so you can imagine it was havoc almost every day. But it enabled my siblings and I to grow up independently and rely on each other. This has made us super close til today and we know that we can always count on each other for help. I was a naughty kid, always getting in trouble and challenging boundaries, I guess this led me to choose Rock & Roll as a result.
How did each and every one of you get into the music scene? And how did the idea of starting a band come about?
Billie: I was eased into the scene by my mother. I used to keep her company at jam sessions in the local blues scene. So instead of open mics, I got my first taste of the singing with other musicians at those late-night jam sessions. One of my personal heroes from the blues scene, Nan Blues asked me to sing with him during an unplugged show at Merdekarya sometime in 2015. The people who run the place liked me and gave me a date for my own show, and that’s what opened the floodgates to the indie scene for me!
After our first couple shows as an acoustic duo, Soheil and I were itching for a bigger, fuller sound. We went through a few different line ups but eventually got cosy with Reuben and David.
Soheil: I was introduced to the scene through a mutual friend who recommended me to check out Artista as an amazing music hub. I had always wanted to be in a band but the opportunity never presented itself until I met Billie and we decided to get a band together.
My playing was very limited at the time but through this experience, I managed to broaden my horizons and become a better musician.
David: I used to jam with my friends at his place during high school. We’d have one or two drinks and rock out, usually to the same songs cause that’s all we knew. Forming a band just came naturally after that. My first actual battle of the bands’ participation was at the venue Soheil mentioned, Artista. However, this was probably a good 7 years before I actually met Billie and Soheil. But life works in mysterious ways.
What does the name of the band mean? How did you guys come up with such a name?
“The Nowhere Men” pays homage to The Beatles’ song Nowhere Man. All of us are big Beatles’ fans. For David and Billie in particular, The Beatles had a significant impact on their musical awakening.
What inspired you to create music with the elements of psychedelia in it?
We enjoy listening to various forms of psychedelic rock and we’re drawn to the state of mind it can put you in. It’s only natural that we would be inspired to create music with stylings that are reminiscent of our heroes.
Being in the music industry, there’s always competition everywhere. Can you share with us something that you’re working on improving? And how will that help with your goals?
We’re trying to navigate the slippery slope of social media marketing. There have been bumps but we’re finding our way. Ultimately, we just want our music to be heard by the people who would appreciate it the most, and hopefully, our music will take us around the world.
Since starting up a band, how has it impacted your life and the people around you?
Billie: I can’t imagine life without music! And I guess the people around me just have to deal with being invited to shows and hearing my voice through their headphones from time to time.
Soheil: Starting the band with Billie was one of the best decisions of my life. Not only did it push me to be a better stand-alone musician, but it also allowed me to explore uncharted territories. For example; songwriting for a band, music arrangement, a greater understanding of music accompaniment, as well as skills that were required to learn along the way to help push the band forward such as; Photoshop to make posters and business cards, Adobe Premiere for video making, ProTools for sound recording and mixing. Being so heavily involved in Music has opened up my mind like a parachute in such great lengths that it amazed me until today. And through the band, I met some of the most incredible friends I could ever ask for. People who are like-minded, passionate, creative and a delight to be around.
David: Being in a band has changed my life and it has taken me to places such as Thailand and India. I have no regrets and am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve received. My family is super supportive, so they’ve pushed me to do what I want to the best that I can.
How long has Billie Blue & The Nowhere Men been around?
We’ve been around since 2015.
Describe your band in three words.
We are spiffy bluesy hippies.
Throughout your whole music career, were there any regrets? If yes, what would you re-do if you could go back in time?
We regret not spending more time in India! We only had 8 days for our tour and we visited 3 different cities. There was so much to love and experience in each place and we wish we’d had more time to savour everything.
How did your parents influence you to be the person that you are today and what lessons and values can you share with us?
Billie: I once asked my mom, who is a musician, “mom, teach me how to sing”, and her response was “I can’t show you, you just have to do it and find your voice”. At the time it frustrated me but without fully realizing I did exactly that. My mom has been my number 1 cheerleader and I’m thankful that she gave me the space to figure things out on my own instead of imposing her approach to music onto me.
Soheil: Me and my parents have had a respectful parent-child relationship. Being from really different worlds, metaphorically, we were not best buddies that shared our deepest feelings but it’s incredible that they allowed their only child to leave town and pursue what he loved and that is something I can never forget or repay. I think I would like to pick up on my dad’s ‘no-nonsense, badass attitude’ plus my mom’s ‘easy-going, forgiving’ traits.
David: They are the reason I love music. My mom sings almost every day and brought us up with music from The Beatles, Hollies, Carpenters to name a few. My dad used to rock with us when I was a kid with a broom as our guitar. One thing’s for sure they’ve been supportive of what I do.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about the work you do?
The biggest misconception people have is that it’s easy. It’s never easy, but it’s a topsy turvy job you don’t tire of. The topsies usually make up for the many turvies.
We know when it comes to your own songs, they’re like your babies and you can’t just choose one. But if you could though, which song would it be?
Billie: My favourite is Old Friend. I wrote something truly personal for the first time with this one. Writing it was extremely cathartic. And I love how the melody and the guitar parts gel together.
Soheil: it’s going to have to be Sea Salt Slide. I feel a special connection with this one and it rekindles a lot of the feelings I have as someone who lives away from home.
David: For me, it would have to be the heavier prog stuff like ‘Red Corduroy’ or our next single which will be released soon.
Could you walk us through your process of composing a song? From the music to the lyrics.
It’s a little different with each song but it usually goes something like this: Billie writes the bulk of the band’s lyrics and she always has bits and pieces lying around in her lyric book or phone notes. Soheil keeps his doodles on guitar recorded as well. When they hang out they pull up things they’ve written and try to see what works together, or they talk about a specific direction/theme they have in mind. When there’s a rough structure to the song, the whole band gets together and David and Reuben add their ideas for bass, tempo fills and whatnot, and help with arranging the parts together into a complete picture.
What are your plans for the band in the next 5 years?
Write more, record more, release more, tour more! It’s been 5 years since the band took its very first baby steps. We’re excited to see how we’ll evolve in the next 5 years.
What are the most unforgettable memories and unspeakable challenges that you have faced in your career?
Somehow the biggest challenges led to the most unforgettable memories. Launching our album, Find Gold in 2018 and our recent tour in India earlier this year presented many challenges during the planning and prep process, but the payoff was incredible. Very special experiences for the whole band and for each individual member too.
How do you cope with rejection? Both professionally and personally.
In a professional setting, it’s important to remember that it isn’t personal. Personally, I think we all just try to remind ourselves that we’re grown-ups and rejection is part of life. Suck it up and move on.
It’s no doubt that this RMCO period has been challenging, how are the band coping so far with things?
We did a couple of live sessions which were truly fun! And we made two cover videos from all of us in different rooms at the start of the MCO. It helped us to launch our YouTube channel, which is where we’ll be debuting our first ever music video very soon.
How do you guys stay true to yourself and what’s your definition of success?
It’s important to listen to yourself. Don’t bend to the pressure of conformity. Success is contentment and making peace with your decisions. (But we’d also love to tour the world, hehe)
Lastly, what advice would you give to those who have a passion in the music industry?
Keep growing, keep learning, but remember that you’re always doing it for you. You want your art to speak to you first before it speaks to anyone else.