Man at His Best

ESQ&A: What Itís Like Being An Honest Mistake

Unraveling Malaysian pop punk band An Honest Mistakeís latest hit and other off-stage conversations.

BY Tania Jayatilaka | Nov 11, 2016 | Music

Ask the livewire members of Malaysian-born band An Honest Mistake about their music, and they’ll tell you their sound is somewhat ‘Americanised’.

Even so, each one—lead vocalist Darren Teh, lead guitarist Leonard Chua, bass guitarist Tomas Tam and drummer Ian Ng—has an eclectic style that makes this band unique, outdoing themselves in both “Americanised” tracks and songs with more Malaysian flavour—like their 2012 Malay-language single, “This Hari Raya Rocks!”, featuring Diana Danielle.

Lead singer Darren, who speaks a little Tamil, says the band is currently working with a friend in the Tamil music scene to add yet another language to their already bilingual repertoire.

Signing with major label Universal Music Malaysia in March this year, the band released its latest single, We’re Alright, featuring a pulse-pumping blend of pop and punk.     

ESQUIRE: What was it like filming the music video for “We’re Alright” in the Philippines?

DARREN: The Philippines is our second home; and now that we’re signed to a major label, we decided to do something a bit… off the hook. We decided we’d go out of the country and work together with a Filipino director. I was scouting for various directors and found Jasper Lawan, who had shot some videos that were really good. I contacted him and that’s how it happened. He’s also involved in the music scene, so he knew many of our friends as well, and he’s worked with all these other people in Philippines too, so it was very easy for us.

ESQ: How did you end up signing with Universal Music Malaysia?    

LEONARD: There was a battle-of-the-bands event going on at the Bee, organised by Universal Music. Darren happened to be hanging out there, met some friends from Universal and invited them to take a listen to our album to see if we could explore something together. A month later, we were asked to visit the top management to talk about what we’d been doing. I think one of the key factors that made them want to work with us is we’re very independent. Darren’s in charge of opening gigs, I’m the one establishing marketing assets, everyone has a different role to play in the band. We’ve been self-managing for the last 7 years, raising funds to produce the records and everything, all on our own. Long story short, we signed the contract in March, and we’re part of this family now.

ESQ: What’s the story behind “We’re Alright”?

DARREN: For this one I drew inspiration from myself; I wanted to highlight the fact that when you get into a long-term relationship, sometimes you just don’t know where it’s heading. You may be married, or you may not. But you want to know where it’s going and where the other person is at. It’s like this ongoing question with the answer at the end of the song, saying we’re fine, so don’t worry. People are always asking me, ‘when are you getting married?’ Sometimes it’s like…we are gonna do something, don’t push us. I wanted to highlight the fact that I’m not the only one in the world who feels this way.

LEONARD: So when are you getting married, Darren? [Laughs]

ESQ: What do you think is the most unique thing about An Honest Mistake?

DARREN: All of us are quite crazy on stage. We jump around, we swing on guitars, we do a lot of crazy antics, but the unique part of each individual is like… for me it’s the hair.

LEONARD: His hair stands out and glows in the dark, my hair… blends into the dark. For our band as a whole, it’s the energy. I can safely say you won’t see another Malaysian band that gives that kind of energy we bring to the stage.

ESQ: What’s the response been like from your fans so far?

LEONARD: First of all, they’re great; they’re really open to it. There was one time in Cebu, our first time in Philippines, where people actually shouted out the name of our band in the mall.

DARREN: And they were following us around, so it was quite surprising.

LEONARD: It’s like… wow. We’re not used to this you know? In July, we played in Taiwan. We played with some of the biggest Taiwanese bands, like Soda Green and others, with five national TV’s broadcasting live… and we thought we were a small band, singing English songs, so maybe they wouldn’t be so receptive, but noooo. They were all out. 

DARREN: That was 30,000 people at a beach festival, who were there from the beginning of sound check which was at 2pm in the afternoon before the festival even started. They stayed till the end. That’s pretty cool. 

LEONARD: Stuff like that keeps us going. In Malaysia sometimes, things are hard to move, it can be a bit discouraging; but when you get out and see things, wow, it’s unexpected.

Esq: Any unusual fans that you’ve spotted among your following?

DARREN: Well, a lot of the people we play to are mostly high school-aged all the way up. But unusual fans… there’s this one guy who’s been following us since the beginning, and he’s a lot older, he’s like 20 years older, but he really likes our stuff and believes in our music. I think that’s pretty cool.

ESQ: Do you mentor young, upcoming artists who are still struggling?

LEONARD: Three or four years ago, we started a platform called An Honest Mistake Records, just creating shows for new and aspiring artists to play because we know it was hard for us. Talitha Tan’s first gig was with us, and she was so young! Since then she’s been playing and playing, and we’re so happy for her.

DARREN: Even Elizabeth Tan’s first two gigs were with us. We have a personal relationship with most of all the acts we’ve put on at the gigs we’ve organized, we all are close with them and we talk about stuff. So, mentoring? Definitely.

To hear more tracks by An Honest Mistake, check out there website here.