Like with many bands here in Bangkok, I first came to know of Young Man And The Sea through a music video. But this wasn’t just any music video. The video for the band’s latest single “รถไฟชั้นสาม (Train to Nottingham)” is a beautiful mix of story-line and lyrics, an experience that grabs you and takes you back to moments in your life when you felt a similar way.
As I checked out Young Man And The Sea’s other 2 singles on their YouTube page, I was met with similar experiences. Each of their songs and music videos taking me on a different journey. I was intrigued and wanted to get to know this band better and hear their story. So I contacted them and they graciously agreed to meet me, asking me to meet them at a specific restaurant near Ploenchit BTS station.
After arriving, I talked with Wiracha as we waited for some of the other band members to arrive, and come to find that we were meeting at the exact table where many of the band members had first met the band’s founding members and decided to be a band, and it was at that point that I knew this was going to be a very special interview.
Read on to hear the story behind their amazing songs and music videos, about their ups and down, and most of all, about their unwavering love for music.
How did you meet and how did your band form?
Wiracha – Yo and I were friends in university, at Chalualongkorn. I studied arts and he studied fine applied arts. His major was classical guitar and I studied philosophy.
So you were the first band members and then what happened? And how did all of you eventually meet at this table?
Wiracha – We have to travel back like 10 years ago. We were in university and played guitar after class and we composed funny songs to use to flirt with the girls, the freshies. At that time we had a dream to be like Jack Johnson, because at that time Jack Johnson dominated the music on the beaches and in the beach bars, and we always went to the beaches to get drunk and flirt with falang girls.
So basically you wanted to do music you liked?
Wiracha – Yeah, just for fun. But then we separated after school ended. I went abroad to study performance arts and he went to be a soldier in the army. But before I went abroad I started to work with my biggest role models, I started writing lyrics with Bodyslam and Big Ass.
Wow! How did that happen?
Wiracha – Before that time, when I was a student, I wrote for magazines – A Day, GM, MTV Magazine – like 12 years ago, and the members of Big Ass liked my writing and they invited me to write for them. But yes, after all that, I worked as a lecturer in Thamassat University full-time and after the army he started working as a teacher – a guitar teacher – at primary schools and KPN Music School and nothing happened.
So how long was this for, how many years?
Yo – 4 years.
Wiracha – Yeah around 4 years. And during that time I struggled with my life. Being a lecturer, it didn’t pay well and I struggled to survive and at that time I was so down. But suddenly during the rainy season he showed up in my office. And he was just like “Hello, let’s drink beer”.
Wiracha – A long time had passed, maybe 6 or 7 years, since we had met. So we just drank beer and talked together and decided hey, let’s play guitar like when we were young. And we played those shit songs together.
And it was a good moment?
Wiracha – Yeah it was a good moment, something like that, and the songs were like na na na na na, you know, like super shit songs. But after that we met every week to drink beers and we thought “hey, why don’t we try to write new songs, because we have many more experiences”, you know, me from working with Big Ass and Bodyslam and him from his life experiences.
So at that time what sort of songs did you want to write? Just for fun?
Wiracha – More serious songs. Because at that time I struggled with my life as I was busy with work and I had to deal with so many things, but every week, every Thursday, we came together to write new songs to explore something because even though I had written for Bodyslam and Big Ass and I was part of that team and we worked together, these were going to be our songs, just for fun, no plan. But after like a year we had 10 songs, no arrangement, just guitar. And we would sing them together and play them for friends, and it was at that point that we thought “hey, should we start a band?” just like our dream as teenagers. The songs were deeper and I didn’t compromise because I didn’t want to do it as a business anymore.
Wiracha – So we started working on arrangements and recorded it in a bedroom with my friends and then we just directly called a label and said “we want to send you our demo”, just like that, because I had some contacts from working in the music scene for 10 years. We went to many many labels and half of them accepted us at that time, and we chose to work with Tigger Twins.
Wiracha – At that time I didn’t tell Big Ass or Bodyslam that I signed my band until I got the contract and then I showed them, and they were so happy with me like “wow, you can do it by yourself!” So we started the band with Tigger Twins, Young Man And The Sea.
Wiracha – But we needed to improve and develop our concept, at that time it wasn’t that good because we only had 2 guys in the band and we needed to develop the music to match the lyrics, and that’s when I knew we needed to have our own band.
Wiracha – But the way everyone came to this table is kind of a funny story. When I was studying in Chulalongkorn, I had a friend, a girl, and she was on Academy Fantasia. She was part of CU Band, and I thought hey you must know a lot of good musicians. So I asked her to recommend some to me as we needed to start a band and release our first single with the label, and we were getting ready to show the world our music. This was like 2 or 3 years ago.
Wiracha – So she gave me some numbers and I thought “hey, now I’ve got really good musicians here” and I called the bassist first and said “hi, this girl whose name is Pink introduced you to me”. And he said “what, who’s Pink?” (All laugh) Pink had just asked for numbers of musicians from other people.
Oh, so it was like third-hand information …
Wiracha – Yeah my friends just introduced these guys and we were like okay, without even knowing anything.
But suddenly during the rainy season he showed up in my office. And he was just like “hello, let’s drink beer”. A long time had passed, maybe 6 or 7 years, since we had met. So we just drank beer and talked together and decided hey, let’s play guitar like when we were young.
(To others) So what did you all think when he contacted you?
Others – Felt surprised, yet excited.
Were you signed at the time?
Wiracha – No, no one knew us at that time!
So you just decided to have a meeting here and talk?
Wiracha – Yeah I just told Yo “what do we do next?” And he said “let’s just meet and play music”, and then these guys came.
And you jammed?
Wiracha – No they just came to this table, came here first, and from that time we’ve been together, until now. (Laughs)
Wiracha – And we went to the rehearsal room and we played other stuff totally different from what we do now. They played ETC, because their background came from jazz.
I struggled with my life as I was busy with work and I had to deal with so many things, but every week, every Thursday, we came together to write new songs to explore something …
So how did you decide to be a folk band?
Yo – At that time I listened to a lot of folk music like Bon Iver, Mumford & Sons and I’m not someone who was born in Bangkok.
Ah, so folk music is similar to the music from where you’re from, in the provinces.
Yo – Yes.
Wiracha – Actually we decided on acoustic guitar, cuz it’s so basic. After school we would play together and at that time we thought “what style should we do, should we do shoe-gazer or something like that?” But we didn’t set anything as fixed. We also wanted to do Brit-pop as we listened to Artic Monkeys …
So you tried different things?
Wiracha – No at that time we were just 2 people and we just needed to write music, we had no plan. But when we wrote the music, we wrote songs that were Thai folk and we got into that. And when we heard Mumford & Sons it was love at first sight and we thought “hey, can folk do something like this, can it be modern?” because at that time we had no idea about that, I just had a very deep passion for lyrics.
So not so much influence from Thai folk?
Wiracha – No, deeply influenced! Because I really loved lyrics and the lyrics of Thai folk music are very deep, very beautiful …
Wiracha – Yeah, and I love those kind of lyrics. I love artists like Carabao and other legendary Thai folk musicians and we thought hey “we need to mesh Thai folk and modern music”.
So when did the thing with Universal happen and how did that change things for you?
Wiracha – It’s a tough story. (Laughs) We signed with Tigger Twins, we got money from the label for our own album, well more like an EP, which contained 5 songs. We went to Studio 28 and we chose to record live and we also chose to record a full-string orchestra.
Wiracha – Like 14 good musicians, playing all together at the same time. We wanted to do a big, beautiful production and we didn’t take any money, any hiring fee, we just put everything, donated the whole budget into that session. And we did it, we made it! Everything went very well, very smoothly, we recorded every song. Then we sent our master to do mastering in Studio 301 in Australia, who had a good, high profile … but then everything collapsed.
So you couldn’t use it?
Wiracha – No, we couldn’t use that master, but the lyrics and melodies belonged to us. But you know, at that time, we worked very hard, we weren’t students anymore and had jobs during the day, but we would make appointments to rehearse at 9am till mid-day, and then we would go to work and come back together at 6pm. Because we wanted to have that live recording, so we had to have a lot of rehearsals and we did that for like 4 months. But then everything collapsed.
So you basically decided to be independent?
Wiracha – Yep. But suddenly we met Universal Music. We worked with them as a partner. If you know the music scene in Thailand we have traditional models, but this is a new thing, at that time the traditional model was that you went to a label and they signed you and they paid you the budget and all the license belonged to the label.
But now it’s different, right?
Wiracha – Yes, but now Universal Music and Warner Music, because they are international labels, they have contracts to be a partner and we made the decision to work with them.
… one time we just drove the car to Chiangmai to play for like 20 minutes, and then we drove back that night.
So how long ago was that and how long ago did you start on the singles that you’ve released now and the new album?
Yo and Wiracha – 4 months ago.
I saw that you guys have 2 singles online now and we really liked ‘Train To Nottingham’, it’s a great song, but when is your album coming out? Or will you just release singles for now?
Wiracha – We are going to launch our first EP which contains 4 songs.
So working with Universal, are you booked for quite a few of the festivals during the festival season?
Wiracha – We do it by ourselves. Right now I have a day job and I worked at Universal Music (laughs), but for the band we separate it.
I feel that the festival season in Thailand, events like Big Mountain, Grass Tone, Stone Free and others are very folk, out in nature and there’s a lot of folk bands, what do you think about that and which gigs are you looking forward to this year?
Wiracha – Actually the festivals where we would like to play are … everywhere! When the label collapsed, at that time, we just went and played, like all the festivals that you just mentioned – Big Mountain, Wonderfruit, Grass Tone we have played every festivals and we love the atmosphere. That’s why we released the singles at this time, during the rainy season, because during the winter time we need to play every single festival we can. But the main focus for now would be Big Mountain. Actually after this interview we are going to rehearse and design a new show.
So basically the plan is to work on the music and work on the live performance and then just play?
Wiracha – Yeah. And we would like to keep it like this every year! If we can find the funding (laughs).
In my opinion we are not moving forward, we are going back to the basics of music. Coming back to playing together, coming back to doing everything by ourselves. We have stories to tell and that’s why we try to keep everything in our hands.
You talk about playing … every musician wants to play right? What have been some of the best gigs for you so far?
Wiracha – Singha Craft, we loved that moment!
How many people were in the crowd?
Yo – A lot! (Laughs)
All – We love big stages (Laugh)
Wiracha – Actually after the label collapsed, Tigger Twins, we played as a house band as well. At the time we realized a lot of stuff about musician life, about music, and we found that the only thing that belongs to us is our music.
Wiracha – When we play, it’s like nothing can harm us. That’s why we love to play and love to express ourselves in song at any gigs. If you have some gigs just invite us (laughs).
We need to do it like we are now because we are happy now, making our own music and doing everything ourselves. It’s so difficult to keep things going like this because things change. One day we’ll grow up and get older, or get families, but right now we’re happy.
So you talk about every year making music and playing music in Thailand, but there’s a lot happening in the region. Do you have bigger ambitions to go regional and do festivals, or even go to Europe?
Wiracha – It’s our dream to go. We would really love to go and if we get the chance, we must do it. Because you know, last year we played more than 70 shows in a year because we were a very small band, and indie band, and we loved shows and one time we just drove the car to Chiangmai to play for like 20 minutes, and then we drove back that night.
(Laughs) wow, which show was that?
Wiracha – Folk And Friends (laughs), we didn’t have a room to stay.
Do you think it’s the future for bands in Bangkok and Thailand to be independent and record independently? Because you know, things are cheap now … well not really cheap, but they’re okay. You can record by yourself and promote yourself and contact people by yourself. Do you think that’s the future, independent bands even becoming bigger than big bands? Not all the time, but sometimes? Or do you think that you still need a label eventually?
Wiracha – In my opinion we are not moving forward, we are going back to the basics of music. Coming back to playing together, coming back to doing everything by ourselves. We have stories to tell and that’s why we try to keep everything in our hands.
Your music videos, I feel that they’re all very similar, they all have a story in them. Did you play a part in choosing what was in each music video?
Wiracha – We worked with the same team for the whole album. For me music videos are not for promoting us, but for seeing another angle, art, by people we trust, by the younger generation, to interpret our songs.
So basically you see it as 2 story-tellers, you’re telling a story and they’re telling a story?
Wiracha – Yes, we worked very closely together on the 3 songs with the same director, the same team, to build something up together. Because they are new as well, they just freshly graduated from Chulalongkorn University.
What are some of your favorite indie bands here in Bangkok?
Solitude Is Bliss … Safe Planet … Mattnimare.
Last question, where do you see the band in 3 years?
Wiracha – Just my opinion, but we want to do this, like today, give an interview to you, make our own music, make our own music videos, and get booked for festivals in the winter. We just want to keep doing it. Expectation is a bad thing for us, forcing ourselves is bad. We need to do it like we are now because we are happy now, making our own music and doing everything ourselves. It’s so difficult to keep things going like this because things change. One day we’ll grow up and get older, or get families, but right now we’re happy.
Check out Young Man And The Sea online
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/youngmanandtheseaband
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHNbyOut0LQdgVUOe9qKMBQ
iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/th/artist/young-man-and-the-sea/id1008172975
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/youngmanandtheseaband