Interest | Art & Culture

On Coming of Age, Intentionality, and Honesty with CURB

Rabu, 03 Apr 2024 19:00 WIB
On Coming of Age, Intentionality, and Honesty with CURB
Foto: Taufiq Rahman
Jakarta -

It was between an overwhelmingly hectic week and a hospital visit that I had the time to check CURB's upcoming EP, benjapes!, for the first time—sent over by guitarist Lucas Tee. The latter ended up putting a pause to the plans I've made for the upcoming week, since I had to postpone a conversation with Tee, bassist Sam Venditti, and drummer Farizi Noorfauzi that we scheduled beforehand. Between fever dreams and antibiotics, benjapes! became a companion. The question of whether it was apt or not is besides the point, but hearing the tracks that I first listened to a few months back—when the band played in Jakarta—reminded bedridden me of better days. On record, where I can loop them however many times I want, the songs provide more space to grasp their layers.

The EP opens rather unexpectedly, with the first track being sung in slurred half-raps—courtesy of the rapper/producer Mary Sue, who has worked extensively with Noorfauzi—making a way for their familiar sound to emerge afterwards. There's apparent interplay between quiet and loud in benjapes!, with lyrics that sometimes still look back at the past. "I still remember the days I wasn't scared/of roller coaster rides and empty beds", expressed the opening lyrics to "Blake and the Surf" quietly, before the angst kicks in. While CURB's debut release, Hope You're Doing Well, Michaela, is a blend of sentimentality and youthful abandon, benjapes! takes a noticeably heavier tone, in sound and narrative.

Growing Older and Collective Memories

The title of the album—which the band themself doesn't know how to properly pronounce—refers to the Thai concept of perils that would likely befall someone when they turn 25. The word "benjapes" itself translates to "twenty five" in the Pali language. They didn't decide on the name as easily as they did with Hope You're Doing Well, Michaela, which was inspired by a shared memory. Specifically, a random one-time encounter with a girl whose real name may not even be Michaela one night after a band jam session. "While we were just chilling outside [after the session], suddenly this girl came to sit down next to us. We have no idea who she was—I think she was drunk. She just sat with us the entire night and the whole time we were just trying to figure out who she was but she wouldn't tell us," said Tee in the conversation we've finally had. "She wouldn't say her real name [or] who her friends were. Basically she was just trying to be very, very elusive. So we just kinda played along. At one point she was telling us that she was really sad about her life, and then we were like 'oh, okay'," added Noorfauzi. "After that night, we never saw her again."

"It was very hard to pinpoint what was the one thing that was a collective, shared thing for CURB. [The word] 'benjapes' was kind of a meme that we always talked about. Like, 'I'm 25, shit is gonna suck,' but it really did suck for a lot of us. So then, when we thought about the name, [benjapes!] makes the most sense," shared Noorfauzi about how they settled on the title. With most of the songs written when they were 25, what he said rings true. Angst and introspection permeate the record, in ways that seem more real the longer you listen to it.

Outtakes from the benjapes! cover shootOuttakes from the benjapes! cover shoot/ Foto: Taufiq Rahman

While CURB has strong roots in the emo genre, it's not something the band is terribly attached to. The genre is as much a reference point as it is something that can potentially confine them. The way they see it, being fixated on one genre would only limit what they can convey through music. The way people perceive their music will also differ based on the listener's frame of reference, so labeling is something that the band doesn't really fuss about. It feels somewhat symbolic that Hope You're Doing Well, Michaela is closed by a feature, while benjapes! is opened by it. Both collaborators—multi-genre producer Fauxe for the former and Mary Sue for the latter—are well outside of what's expected for most bands within the indie rock-adjacent emo sphere (doesn't the labeling feel more redundant at this point?). What makes them work is that the collaborations happen naturally, in what the band described as "why not?" moments, as opposed to a deliberate decision to break boundaries between genres.

Of course, the genre has a strong following in Singapore. "I think it's just because it kind of encapsulates a certain angst that we don't really seem to be able to talk about well here," guessed Noorfauzi on why emo is well-accepted there. He continued that facets of the genre are very much rooted in the regions it came from, with narratives that are tied uniquely to them. Thus, trying to replicate a certain sound completely would be inauthentic on their part. What CURB set out to do, then, is to tap in and try to grasp into the collective consciousness of their home.

Songwriting is where CURB's intentionality is most apparent. They operate within the small intersection where everything they write about is personal, yet the emotions still manage to come through. The driving force? Honesty. How the music is gonna sound like in the end comes second, whether or not the substance feels the truest to how the trio feel when they were writing it is the priority. "It just has to come from us first, like we have to feel it. I guess we're confident that the best way to do it is just write what's honest for us, and hopefully people [connect with it]," Venditti stated. "If there's something you want to say, then it's worth putting it [on record]," added Tee.

As part of the EP rollout, the band wiped their Instagram page clean, only posting benjapes!-related contents from then on. The first post after the clean slate depicts Tee, Noorfauzi, and Venditti in a grainy black and white photo. In all caps like the band's name, the caption says "FUCK BEING 25 WE CAN'T WAIT TO BE 30." As someone turning 30 next month, the sentiment is comforting. Growing older doesn't seem that bad.

benjapes! is available now.