DEON
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DEON

Singapore, Central Singapore, Singapore | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

Singapore, Central Singapore, Singapore | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Alternative Indie

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"United by one love"

While many in the home-grown music scene seem content to release singles or EPs, here are two singer-songwriters - Singapore's most prolific veteran indie musician and a fledgling act - who are committed to long-form releases. And while there are generational and genre gaps between Kelvin Tan, who turns 51 this year, and Deon, 28, there is another bond that they share as artists - the fortitude to compose concept albums.

More than just a random compilation of songs, Deon's sophomore album Oceans and Tan's triptych are collections of tunes unified by themes both musically and lyrically.

The former, whose full name is Deon Toh, ruminates on the changing seasons and the cyclical nature of life, inspired by his travels to Iceland, Holland, Britain and Canada, countries where most of the album was composed and conceptualised.

Oceans is a remarkable step up from his middling, pop-rock debut Antiphobic, released last year. This time, Toh has expanded his musical palette to incorporate elements of electronica, in the vein of Icelandic musician Asgeir, post-rock-style mood build-ups and baroque, piano-driven pieces.

On Summer, the season is spent "running, From fears we left behind, Though it never rained in open fields, We feared cold all the time". As it gives way to Fall, a duet between Toh and album co-producer, singer and musician Mindy Kon, the pair intones: "There are signs, that I'm slipping out of control, And it's weird, cause I thought that I could hold my own."

By Winter, he bemoans: "Loosen your hopes, drown out that glow, Cause there's nothing that gets me anymore." Spring is a cry for help ("Too much emotion, I've got too much to lose, Won't you spring me out of here").

While the progression might seem bleak, the album closes with Cycles, a satisfying bookend to opening song Circles.

Contemplating the periodic and healing nature of life, he sings: "We love, we miss, We break, and start again, It's cast in stone." - The Straits Times


"Deon Toh talks Icelandic influences, the local music scene, and releasing a concept album"

It was a relatively quiet affair when we sat down with local singer-songwriter Deon Toh at Group Therapy café. Yet there was something else present beyond its calm atmosphere: an almost insistent buzz of passion in the air. It can only be attributed to Toh's artistic satisfaction with Oceans — a well-deserved feeling.

"To be honest, in retrospect, I wasn't too happy about it," he says of his previous album Antiphobic, which was released in 2014. "The way it was recorded, the techniques used, even vocally the way it was presented — it wasn't that good."

The worries are long gone with his upcoming LP, the concept-driven Oceans. Themed on the circles and cycles of life, it's not too far a departure from his usual pop-rock roots. It still surprises, however, with some slick ambient electronica.

With new influences such as Icelandic musicians Ásgeir and Sóley added to the mix, tracks like Summer are now on Toh's repertoire. Starting with a smooth, Chet Faker-esque sound, Summer then segues into more of a rock track, a sound inspired by local band Caracal.

"We see them every week, and we've travelled together...a lot of it was inspired because I just wanted to be able to rock out like these guys," Toh laughs. And rock out he does. - Buro 247


"How Singapore musician Deon Toh achieved his coherent concept album"

SINGAPORE — Singer-songwriter DeonToh takes his art seriously. With his sophomore effort, Oceans, Toh has achieved what was formerly the domain of long-haired progressive rock bands in the 1970s — a coherent concept album.

“From the opening song to the end, I wanted all the tunes to link back to an artistic theme, and bring different layers of meaning to the entire album,” he said. “I wanted the album to have an umbrella concept, overarching all the songs within, allowing listeners to go on a journey with me from start to finish.”

Unlike the progressive rock bands, Toh did not need to draw inspiration from fantasy novels. Instead, the musician took his cues from his own life and the world around him.

“You could say there are two journeys happening simultaneously — my literal travels overseas, and the ‘trip within’,” he explained. “My travels are encompassed by actual experiences of travelling out of Singapore to find myself. Travelling to Iceland for a songwriting trip, to Canada to participate in the Canadian Music Week, and the United Kingdom to participate in International Pop Overthrow. The sights, smells and sounds of these countries inspired me and gave me fresh perspective.”

The seasonal cycle that he experienced on his travels as he brought his music to new audiences in Europe also offered Toh something more. “Travelling gave me the literal backdrop of seasons, its imagery and the magic behind it. On a metaphorical level, the theme of circles and cycles was the central message I took away: That life goes on, and to take comfort in changes. Also, I would like to emphasise on the value and comfort of returning home after seeing the world.”

Lofty artistic concepts aside, Oceans also finds Toh experimenting with his pop-rock sound, including elements of ambient electronica and post-rock, to create an intriguing melange. Toh credits the influences of Icelandic musician Asgeir, local rock band Caracal and pop-rock thrush Rachael Yamagata in formulating this hybrid musical approach. “Eventually through trial and error, I settled upon a mix of all three genres, which I felt was emotive enough to embody my messages and melodies.”

In addition, Toh was able to pinpoint the impact of specific locales on his songwriting on Oceans. While travelling, he made vocal notes on melodies and would write the first draft of lyrics to these melodies.

“From Toronto, I found space to breathe, which inspired me to start writing. Circles, Summer and Winter were inspired by Toronto. In Reykjavik, I witnessed the Northern Lights, a sky filled with stars, the blistering cold accompanied by strong winds, a moon rise, and just broad, wide, open spaces. Plus, the silence in Iceland was magical. Liverpool was a bittersweet end to a life-changing experience, and it was time to go home. The docks at Liverpool inspired the last song Cycles.”

The first single, Summer, is an evocative tune with strong hooks and melodies anchored by a melancholic and wistful tone. Toh’s process behind the song illustrates the depth of the songwriter’s craft. “I have a process of writing songs. A systematic method, controlled chaos if you must, he said.” “I always start with the theme I want to touch on, my core message. The next step is coming up with a melody that would fit the emotions and mood of the message. What follows are the lyrics, and eventually I will arrange the music to bring everything together. Throughout the process, I ensure that I stick by my central message, and that everything fits nicely.

He added: “The songwriting process must be purpose-driven for me. Its what I wish to convey to listeners.” - TODAY


"Antiphobic (Deon) | 4/5"

SINGAPORE — After years of honing his craft, singer-songwriter Deon Toh now unleashes a debut album that’s definitely worth the wait. Anyone familiar with the local music scene will know of Deon’s “evolution” from the drummer of Flybar to an artist in his own right, and will not be disappointed by this labour of love. Integral to Deon’s appeal are his strong melodies and the “feel-good” acoustic vibe of his songs. These crucial building blocks come together nicely on Antiphobic, with its clutch of songs that can fairly be described as timeless, meaning they simultaneously do not belong to any particular genre and are equally at home in any of the last five rock decades. Highlights include the catchy Little Lives, the sinewy Comes And Goes and the Beatlesque Time’s The Only Constant. Highly recommended. - TODAY Newspaper


"Taking His Music Overseas"

Musician Deon is headed to Canada and the United Kingdom. - TODAY Newspaper


"Their Gift of Music"

For some, Christmas is the season to be jolly. But for others, it's a less happy occasion, especially when spent alone. Local singer Deon Toh knows a thing or two about a lonely Christmas. When asked what it means to him, the 25-year-old said: "My experiences with Christmas have been mixed. Some are spent with good friends, while others, alone." This inspired his Christmas song, Winter Heart. He said: "(It) was borne out of the feelings of loneliness one may feel during the festive season and the warmth we could fill out hearts with, if we only look to sharing it with the people we cherish." Toh told LOUD that the song is extremely personal and was written for a special someone in a single night. Winter Heart can be found on the compilation CD< Christmas in Singapore. The 14 track album is a charity project spearheaded by indie veteran Patrick Chng. All proceeds from the sales will go towards the Rare Disorders Society here. - The New Paper (Singapore)


"LETTERS by Deon"

After leaving Berklee College of Music in 2008, Deon Toh transited from the role of a drummer to a singer-songwriter. Years of supporting acts in the localeah scene through his drumming has gifted him the ability to piece melody and rhythms together harmoniously.

Deon’s original “Little Lives” was one of the top submissions in the NOISE 2011 open category. Deon was also invited to Power98FM to perform his originals live on air.

LETTERS – Deon’s debut demo- features four songs out of many that he wrote in the span of a year. Inspired by friends, family and strangers that he met in his travels and back home, these tracks act as personal letters written to them.

To achieve his goal of sharing his music with everyone, LETTERS has been released for free digital download. - Culture Push


"Review: LETTERS by Deon Toh"

3.5/5 stars. - TODAY Newspaper


"Are solo artistes at a disadvantage in S’pore?"

Every first and third Wednesday of the month, Yahoo! MusicScene shines the spotlight on talented, up-and-coming Singaporean bands or musicians. This week, we focus on young musical talents in Singapore.
Who says Singapore does not have good young talent?
Six artistes -- all below 35-years-old -- were chosen as winners in the recently-concluded Noise-Timbre Singer-Songwriter Programme.
Under the programme, young aspiring singer-songwriters send in YouTube videos for a chance to gig at Timbre @ The Substation. Those whose entries get the most votes win.
Chief creative director and co-founder of Timbre Group, Danny Loong, told Yahoo! Singapore, that Timbre Music Academy will be taking baby steps to work on developing the chosen musicians into recognised performers.
Loong, the ex-bandleader and founder of critically-acclaimed blues band Ublues, lamented that Singaporeans' mindset is to see more bands play, but not solo performers.
"Customers to Timbre always ask 'which band is playing' and not 'which musician is playing'. The mindset is angled towards bands, but we are taking baby steps to work towards growing these solo artistes and to get more people interested in watching them."
Yahoo! Singapore got the chance to speak to three winners -- undergraduate Deon Toh, student Moses Soh and IT journalist Victoria Ho.
Toh and Ho are not strangers to performing. Toh was previously a drummer for musicians in the Singapore scene, having played at Indochine in 2008 for Tay Kewei, while Ho has performed at venues like the Esplanade, Blujazz and Paulaner Brauhaus.
Currently a New Media undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, Toh explained why he took part in Noise.
"The local scene is really small and in my opinion, we have to take on as many platforms as possible if we want to put our name out there," he said.
The 24-year-old initially intended to enter Noise Singapore's apprenticeship programme, but he submitted the wrong form and ended up in the open category.
Drawing influences from The Beatles, Coldplay, Rachael Yamagata and Brooke Fraser, Toh started writing songs in 2010 with catchy melodies and a distinctive folk influence.

Victoria Ho delivers a solid performance after winning Noise-Timbre singer-songwriter programme.
Ho has a solid foundation as a musician, having been trained from a young age. She has Grade 8 training in piano, Grade 6 in violin, pop piano accreditation and vocal training. She also learnt the guitar on her own.
Currently an IT journalist, the 27-year-old has a wealth of gigging experience, but she now hopes to have at least one performance every month.
The programme may encourage her to establish her own voice, despite the perceived demands of the market.
"Usually when I gig I'm always prepared to do covers, but I forget sometimes that there is a market for original songs. I actually have a backlog of original songs, but I never play them for anybody to hear. I always think that people do not want to hear them, which is actually a wrong mindset," she explained.
"I think there is a market for original songs. It is nice to know that there is a community and people teaching it as well," she added.

17-year-old Moses Soh is the youngest winner of Noise.
Another winner is 17-year-old Moses Soh, a student in Raffles Junior College. Soh had never written an original song before the programme and submitted his piece as a challenge to himself.
"Songwriting for me is a little bit of reflection, a little bit of expression. It is something I've never tried before. I always feel that when we're young we should just try as many many things as we can," said the teenager, who aspires to be a doctor.
Even though he has made a significant achievement in winning Noise, Soh remains down to earth about his fledgling musical journey.
"I don't think I've achieved any results so far. I think I'm only just beginning," he said, adding that he will be writing as many songs as he can to improve his craft.
Acclaimed local singer-songwriter Kevin Mathews added that a big factor in the lack of vibrancy in the local music arena is the low confidence musicians here have.
"I don't want to say things like the government is not supportive. At the end of the day, it really boils down to the musicians themselves. It may be because parents don't encourage their children enough, but that is probably a cultural thing.
"Society in general does not view musicians in a very good light. It will take time for things to change," added Mathews. - Yahoo! News


"DEON TOH “Letters” EP"

DEON TOH Letters (Self-released)

There have been a couple of drummers in rock history who have vacated the drum seat to step up in front to take the lead role – most notably Don Henley (Eagles) and Phil Collins (Genesis). Well, Deon is probably previously best known for drumming with S-ROCK outfit Flybar but has now well and truly put himself out there as a singer-songwriter in his right. And on this debut ‘demo’ EP, Deon demonstrates that he has made the right decision in doing so. Indeed, the S-ROCK scene has been made richer as a result.

It’s interesting that Deon has labelled Letters as a ‘demo’ release – perhaps to scale down expectations somewhat (?) – cos to these ears, Letters can be easily considered a ‘proper’ EP release (whatever that means). So please don’t let that self-effacing manner fool you, Letters is a well produced, well performed and well written debut.

Since discovering he actually could sing (according to Deon, whilst studying in Berklee College of Music), it’s obvious that Deon has taken his new vocation (as a singer-songwriter) seriously and has applied his skill and talents in the crafting of these four tracks (five, plus the ‘hidden’ track, Higher). Simply put, Deon’s songwriting is of the pleasing commercial variety with strong references to the British soft-rock of Travis, Coldplay and Keane – in other words, radio-friendly alternative rock. There is a good balance between faux-classical piano dynamics and acoustic guitar ambience that certainly is reminiscent of Chris Martin’s songwriting choices.

All told, Letters is an excellent debut – although probably more variation in styles might have expanded the palette a little. But taken as a first effort, Letters is ample evidence of Deon’s potential as a singer-songwriter of note.

You can listen/download the EP below.

Deon will be performing his original songs at the Noise-Timbre Singer-Songwriter Programme at Timbre @ Substation on Wed, 23rd March, together with Saiful (of the Great Spy Experiement) and yours truly. Don’t miss it! - Power of Pop


"Deon Toh “Letters” EP"

Deon Toh “Letters” EP

Singapore native Deon Toh isn’t quite traditional power pop but creates solid pop compositions with intricate piano melodies that recall Eric Matthews. “I’ll Find A Way” is a great start and the soaring strings in “Little Lives” make it a standout. “Ties” bring to mind the casual easy listening John Mayer used to be famous for. “Take My Heart With You” has a calm confidence that shines through each note. Overall, a real treat for lovers of baroque pop out there. - Power Popaholic


"DEON TOH REVEALS STRATEGY TO MAKE IT BIG IN MUSIC"

“No man is an island when playing music. I believe in bouncing ideas off people and adopting an open approach to music.”

Deon Toh has had a long presence in the Singapore music scene, starting out as a drummer for Flybar since he was about fourteen, and now ten over years later (after enlisting in SAF Music and Drama, and followed by a mini stint in Berklee College of Music), Deon remains actively involved in creating new works as a musician.

“I’m melody driven and I have already written approximately 56 songs so far. I don’t just write for myself, or only write songs that I like; but I do also write songs for other artists.”

By writing songs for other artists, does he find a loss in ownership over his creations?

“No, not at all,” Deon continues. “In fact, it is a huge compliment to my song-writing skills. I’m happy that people enjoy listening to my songs even if that means other artists are performing it.”

Last year, he has released a five-track EP, Letters - which he humbly promoted as “just a demo he produced in his bedroom” – possessing high-quality recording, most of which are memorable, sing-a-long friendly, and soundtrack potential. In short, it is definitely a feel-good and chill EP to put on repeat.

Little Lives stood out the most in the EP as a melancholic and effortlessly heart-grabbing tune. It’s clear, simple and honest message without much drama makes it easy to internalise. However what is most interesting about Little Lives is the fact that it detaches itself from the world, and discovers loneliness and deprivation of love in and between humans.

Too many lonely souls walk alone and they cry
Too many hopeful eyes shine like stars in the night
Too many silent fears will run us dry
Too many broken hearts,
Too many broken hearts
- Little Lives, Letter (EP)

Songs about culture are rare, as little musicians would risk a gamble on an EP to tackle big themes on culture likened to a satirical novel, except in musical form.

But of course, Little Lives is so open to interpretation that it could literally mean anything in any context, and this is very well the beauty of this song.

Speaking of culture, Deon jokingly adds, “It’s not true when people say that Singapore does not have a culture. Singapore has a food culture.”

Quickly darkening to a serious note, he continues, “People calculate over the quality of food here. If the people treat their art like food, Singapore’s music scene will thrive.”

Moving away from Singapore, Deon describes his experience in America. “It’s a lot tougher in the US in fact. Every city in US is like a mini Singapore. It’s the same wherever you go, every musician is struggling to move forward. It’s a hotbed, and you have to be extremely special to stand out.”

On obstacles as a musician in Singapore, Deon says, “It’s true that the problem of funding stifles the potential, but we got to really depend on ourselves at the end of the day. For example, I had no prior knowledge to website designing, but I had to learn it the hard way and build my own website because I need it. Indeed, funding is still a basis for getting the product out, but these obstacles filter out people who are less serious [about music].”

Here’s Deon’s final advice to aspiring musicians (including himself), “Work really really hard on your music. I believe in working backwards. Create quality music, put in the hours; and when the opportunity comes, you will be ready.”

Your next chance to catch Deon live is coming soon. He sincerely hopes that his music relates to you, so do keep a lookout for him at Baybeats 2012 on 29 July and 30 July, and you might even preview some of his new works. - 5MINUTEMUSIC


Discography

Oceans (2015)
1. Circles
2. Summer
3. Home
4. Silence
5. Fall
6. Lights
7. Stars
8. Winter
9. Oceans
10. Spring
11. Cycles

Antiphobic (2014)

1. Time's The Only Constant
2. Interlude (Little Lives)
3. Little Lives
4. Comes and Goes
5. Ties
6. Take My Heart With You
7. Desolate
8. Hold On
9. Mr. Moon
10. Wolves
11. Where It's Safe

Photos

Bio

www.deontheband.com

www.facebook.com/deontheband

www.instagram.com/deontheband

An eclectic blend of earnest melodies and evocative lyrics, DEON's music is an enduring collection of heartfelt songcraft that calls to mind the Pop Rock brilliance of Coldplay and the heartburnt drawl of Rachael Yamagata.

After spending years honing his craft touring the Singapore music circuit, DEON was recently invited to perform at the Canadian Music Week and International Pop Overthrow (UK)- where he realised his dream of bringing his songs to audiences across the globe. The experience of touring Canada and the UK shed upon him a newfound sense of clarity, conviction, and passion for music. He reckoned, "this is the first taste of the beginning". 

But really, it has been a stready rush of blood to the head since LETTERS, a self-produced demo that made rounds about the local scene, garnering him nods of approval from the local blogosphere. DEON went from strength to strength, releasing his debut album ANTIPHOBIC, which garnered him a 4/5 star review by TODAY newspaper; and 'Oceans', his sophomore album that garnered a 4/5 review on The Straits Times (Singapore).

Setting strong melodies against as an ever-widening sonic palette, DEON is currently exploring new shades of influences not apparent in ANTIPHOBIC - his ability to play multiple instruments has given him a keen sense of song arrangement that he continues to expand upon as he lays down the blueprints for his sound and his sophomore album, "Oceans".

Band Members