An antidote to the EDM epidemic sweeping across Myanmar is a nascent indie scene, a small bunch of bands penning original tracks for a growing audience.
One of the bands, The Reasonabilists, takes their name from a doomsday cult on US sitcom Parks and Recreation. Lead vocalist Paing Lynn Aung, 23, his brother and bass guitarist Kyaw Lynn Aung, 17, and lead guitarist Okka Kyaw, 26, formed last October.
Three months later they enrolled local drummer Ye Khine Oo, 27, who plays lively tunes with them at Yangon’s usual suspects: 7th Joint, Basement Bar, French Institute.
Counting among his influences The Smiths, Kings of Leon, and The National, Paing writes most of the lyrics, laying them over his guitar riffs. Most of his writing is in English though the band also plays in Burmese.
“I can express myself more freely in English,” he says. “I find Burmese a bit constricting.” His song Flowerbed is a good example of their offerings: a post-punk, upbeat track with catchy rhythms and a melancholy undercurrent, supported by the backing vocals of the other Reasonabilists.
Okka, who grew up listening to his father’s heavy metal albums, “never imagined” himself to be in a band despite habitually practicing the guitar as a teenager. And then Paing “dragged me in,” he says, adding that he is thoroughly enjoying the experience.
For Paing, doing a business diploma was enough for him to realize that music was the way forward. But not the ‘copy-track’ genre that has come to dominate Myanmar’s music industry, where artists modify popular Western songs with Burmese lyrics and pass them off as their own. “They can do what they want,” he says. “If it was me, I would be ashamed.”
The local indie scene is a friendly one, with Paing and his band mates often making appearances in the performances of other bands, such as The Peacists and Mooni.
“I want people to go to more gigs,” he says. “I want them to support the local bands that are doing original music.”
The Reasonabilists’ debut four-song EP Amour will be produced by Big Bag and released under Bipolarbear Records within the coming months.
“Grunge and mod rock is still strong here,” adds Paing. “Indie rock hasn’t really taken hold yet, but I think it will. What’s there not to like?”
Listen to The Reasonabilists here: www.soundcloud.com/thereasonabilists/lovers-on-the-sun-demo