City News gets up close with the dapper duo of acoustic band Scarlet Avenue about music, songwriting and their most cringe-worthy moments on stage.
One wears killer sideburns, a charming grin and a certain ruggedness; the other carries himself with a quieter demeanor (while looking like the long lost sixth member of One Direction with his equally cool coif). Together, the Ang brothers Amos, 23, and Adam, 19, form local acoustic outfit Scarlet Avenue.
With the release of their debut EP, Happy Heartbreak in March, the boys have been on tour to several local secondary schools, given performances at iLight Singapore and were most recently seen at the launch event of HTC’s new phone.
The pair began their musical journey in France sometime in 2005, where their father, who works with the RSAF (Republic of Singapore Air Force), was posted. For six years of their childhood, Amos and Adam immersed themselves in French culture before returning to their homeland of Singapore (by the way, if Amos looks familiar, it might be that you’ve seen him leading praise and worship at City Harvest Church, where he serves as a back-up vocalist.)
Their parents made the choice to send them to a public school, and both had to learn how to speak French from scratch. “We had to start from zero! Thankfully the French were so patient with us; the friends we made there taught us each word, step by step … pointing out items to us, making us recite the words,” says Amos. “The culture is very different. It shaped the way we saw things, and in terms of education it’s less demanding, so it gave us time to explore what we love.”
It was during one long summer when Amos decided to explore playing the guitar. Soon after, Adam picked it up and they have been making music together until today, perfecting their craft by performing in cafes, restaurants and the nearby avenue that became inspiration for their band’s name.
“When we first recorded our voices I thought there was something wrong. It sounded totally different from how I heard myself!” recalls Amos. Adam laughs, “I was completely tone deaf.”
Many more summer holidays were spent singing and playing the guitar, and over time, it became easier. Songwriting also became second nature to the boys. “I was 11 when we wrote our first song,” says Adam. “It came to me in a dream. I suddenly woke up and then told him I dreamed of the title ‘Love Is Not A Sin’ and that we had to write it into a song.” They add that the song is not on Happy Heartbreak but it might make an appearance on their next album.
As with many youth of the current generation, their journey began with pop and rock covers on YouTube, though they sing mainly English songs. “We used to skip our Mandarin classes back in France,” admits Amos, currently a musician on a full-time basis while Adam is waiting to begin tertiary studies in Music at the LASALLE College of the Arts.
Outside of music, the brothers share a love for skateboarding. They’re obviously not above making fun of themselves nor do they seem to take themselves too seriously—all of which adds to their charm. One YouTube clip show the brothers making flips (and falls) at a local skate park before breaking out in song. For Halloween last year, they did a cover of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” accompanied by a spine-tingling video.
The brothers are very close—they still share the same bed (though Amos is attached, ladies!) “We have our differences sometimes but we are very quick to forgive,” says Amos, who also asserts that their number one fan is their mother, who faithfully turns up at all their performances with bottles of water, and even video-records their performances.
“France really opened my family to a culture of the arts, and our parents are extremely supportive of us,” Amos explains.
City News caught up with the brothers for a quick chat (with some good laughs in between).
Why are you called Scarlet Avenue?
Amos: Ang, our surname is Hokkien for red, so that’s where scarlet came from, and Avenue was inspired by the avenue, or Reux in French, that we used to perform at while we were studying in France.
What’s the most embarrassing thing to happen to you while you were on stage?
Adam: In secondary school, I went up with my guitar which was tuned, but someone messed around with it, so when I started playing and singing it was all out of tune. People were all looking at me … I had to stop and retune and everything.
Amos: It was a solo performance, so I had my electric guitar plugged into the amp. Then I wanted to add a little stunt in, so I pulled up my guitar, but when I lifted up my guitar it yanked the wire out of the amp so at the moment we were expecting a really cool strum with reverb and all, it just went … zhng. And then silence. So everybody just stared at me …
Who’s the most uptight about their equipment?
Amos: Neither of us. It’s our manager, Eric! We have a lot to learn …
Adam: Messiest table would be mine!
What is your go-to French phrase to impress girls?
Adam: Normally they will ask us to say anything in French. Anything.
Amos: We usually just introduce ourselves. Like, bonjour je’mapelle Amos (“Hello, my name is Amos”) … they’ll go woaahhh!
If you had a million dollars what would you do?
Adam: Buy a nice house for our parents.
Amos: We want to give all that we can to our parents.
Adam: They always say, if we become rich, to buy them a nice house.
Who is the more sensitive one?
Amos: I don’t know about Adam, but I do cry at touching movies…
Adam: I do cry about them too! I think musicians are quite sensitive, that’s how we write our songs.
Amos: That’s how we bring across our message to our audience as well. It’s not just singing alone.
What do you indulge in?
Amos: I’m very much into fitness. It’s very important, I think everyone has to be. And now that I’m in front of cameras, in public, it’s important to look in shape. Diet is one of the most important things. It’s a sacrifice though.
Adam: I indulge in ties and handkerchiefs. Also tie pins and suits. I really like gentlemen’s wear, I feel good wearing it actually. I carry a handkerchief everywhere. And friendship bands!
Grab a copy of Scarlet Avenue’s Happy Heartbreak from The Ink Room today.