Midnight Fusic got their act together during the pandemic. Through isolation, the Malaysian band’s bond has gotten stronger, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Arif Kamarudin tells NME – a somewhat unexpected outcome that helped with the release of their self-titled debut album earlier this month.
“We’ve been communicating better on the production of the album because of the fact that we had to be punctual and reply to each other constantly through Whatsapp and whatnot,” Arif reveals. “Honestly, the pandemic has been a pretty positive thing for us.”
Despite the movement restrictions and the ongoing ban on large gatherings, Midnight Fusic kept themselves in the spotlight last year. In March, they dropped the timely ‘I Just Wanna Go Outside’, following up with funky pop-rock single, ‘I Don’t Wanna Dream Tonight’, and a Bahasa track with Indonesian alternative band Pijar titled ‘Sandiwara’. They were even voted the Band of The Year at The Platform Awards 2020 presented by the live streaming and video-on-demand platform, MyPentas.
“We’ve had active projects going on during the pandemic which kept us busy and motivated so we weren’t stuck at home not knowing what to do,” shares lead guitarist Adrian Danial. NME gets a glimpse into their lockdown lives over Zoom: Adrian is sporting a Metallica t-shirt, Arif cosy in a blue knitted sweater while drummer Muaz Rabbani sips on his first cup of coffee that afternoon against a gorgeous backdrop of indoor potted plants. Firdaus Azmi or Daus floats in and out of the conversation, which is taking place on the eve of the bassist’s final exams (he is in his fourth semester majoring in chemical engineering).
Midnight Fusic agree, though, that despite having other interests and activities during the pandemic, “At the end of the day, we always revolve around music. It’s a form of escapism for us.”
Midnight Fusic were a different ensemble when they first formed. Arif and Adrian began the band as a duo in 2014. Then, their number doubled to include Muaz and Daus, each member thriving on writing and composing romantic pop with the electric zing of rock. Collaborating comes to them naturally, Arif says: “No certain role or label is given because everyone would pitch an idea and we’ll make something work. It’s one of the reasons why we love the band so much.”
After releasing their first single, ‘Heart Of May’ from the six-track EP ‘When Love Was Around’ in 2017, Midnight Fusic went from being rising stars to a household name in Malaysia. They quickly made a name for themselves live, too, performing at major regional music festivals including Jakarta’s We The Fest, Singapore’s Baybeats and Malaysia’s Urbanscapes. But the band took a slower route on the production of their debut album.
It was challenging to work on the album virtually during the pandemic, Muaz admitted, and the band stole moments to have sleepovers and produce songs in each other’s homes when the MCO temporarily lifted. But there was a silver lining, he says: “in that time, our production has really matured and improved in the instrumentals and patches we used.” The 14-track self-titled effort ultimately took three years to produce and features four brand-new releases: ‘Am I In The Right Mind?’, ‘How Will I Know’, ‘Take You There’ and ‘Think About’.
And the sound is most important to Midnight Fusic. “As a musician, you go around and hear that people recognise you by your sound rather than your looks so the sound is the most important thing for us as a band,” Arif says. How would the band describe the “Midnight Fusic sound”? They are unanimous in their response: “We’re not too sure what best describes the ‘Midnight Fusic sound’ as we’re constantly evolving but what we can say is that we’re definitely an ever-changing band.”
That much is obvious from the album, as the band indulge in Black Keys-esque bluesy rock ’n’ roll on opening track ‘Strangers’, and incorporate electro-pop on ‘Am I In The Right Mind’. ‘Midnight Fusic’’s narrative is similarly open-ended. “The album doesn’t really have a specific theme,” Adrian remarks, “because it’s been in production for years and we’ve been writing it over time – we’ve experienced so much in the making of the album that [the songs] became separate stories.”
“Music is a form of escapism for us”
The debut was also an opportunity for Midnight Fusic to revisit their popular tracks, ‘Lovesick’ and ‘Heart Of May’. The versions on the album show off the band’s newfound confidence in adding vocal effects and synths. “The initial idea to have ‘Lovesick’ and ‘Heart Of May’ on the album was because we recorded the original versions at home and we decided to make a version that’s produced in a studio,” explains Adrian. “The quality of our production and recordings has increased from time to time,” Daus says. “When we recorded our first song, we were quite barai [exhausted]. It was later that we were able to record in a proper studio in Jakarta.”
In fact, Indonesia informs the whole record – besides Pijar, the record also features contributions from the likes of Jakarta psychedelic pop act Romantic Echoes and singer-songwriter Manny Rune. “We’ve got so much love for the Indonesian scene and their music,” Muaz exclaims. “The artists we worked with just so happen to be good friends of ours and they’re also our producers [Pijar]. We’ve always planned on writing music with them so we did, in the most natural way.”
Though they’ve only just put out ‘Midnight Fusic’ after three long years, the band tell NME that they’ve already been texting each other about making their second album or a new EP, using material from a library of unused early drafts and demos. Will the group pull a Taylor Swift and release two records within a single year? Arif laughs: “That’s insane! I don’t know if we can do that but I do respect Taylor in the way that she markets her music.”
Before NME bids goodbye to Midnight Fusic, he leaves a message for both longtime fans and new listeners of the band: “Thank you so much because even during these trying times they’ve been uplifting us through social media and reminded us how much we’re appreciated. We also miss having them at our shows so we hope to see them soon!”
‘Midnight Fusic’ is out now