Junk food for her soul
> New kid on the block Jocelyn Stemilyn reveals her affair with theatre and music
JOCELYN TAN, or better known by her stage moniker Jocelyn Stemilyn, may have been around in the local scene for a little over a year but she has always been surrounded by music her entire life. Growing up near a sugar cane plantation in Perlis, Tan’s family played multiple instruments. “My mother sang, and even my then domestic helper played the guitar!” quipped Tan, who also sang, played music and danced in church.
Then, she left for Kuala Lumpur to pursue her theatre studies in University of Malaya. It was here that she joined its music club, Yao Lan Shou Music Composing Unit and started singing and composing music.
She debuted last year with her song Junk Food, produced by Dae Kim, with whom she frequently performs. Tan, who veers towards electronica and ambient music, recently released her new single, Pedicure.
Can you recall the first song you ever wrote? I was 15 years old when I realised I could write songs. I’ve forgotten the title, but it was a song of gratitude towards my friend. It was for a very close friend of mine who left the country to study. She was my closest companion in school and I felt very sad. Hence, I had the urge to write a song for her. I recorded and sent it to her.
How did studying theatre in University of Malaya open your eyes to the world of performing arts? Those three years of my life were interesting. Perhaps we’ve watched too many Hollywood flicks or Broadway musicals, so we had a certain expectation towards performing arts. But in Malaysia, it’s way tougher – it’s not always like Broadway. Sometimes, you have to do really raw, stripped down, and even traditional plays. In a way it broadened my horizon because I always thought I wanted to be a musical actress, but then I realised that performing is not just about singing and acting. It’s a lot of other things – you need to know how to work the props, lighting, and all the technical bits.
How does your background in theatre influence your music today? It helps in the way I express myself, especially during live performances. People have commented that when I perform, I have a certain persona with one song and a different one with another.
What’s your opinion on the local independent music industry, as a newcomer? More and more people are doing music independently. There’s Kuda Mas. Little Dragon. A house by the beach. 120. definitely more variety, more shows and it’s more interesting; there are new faces all the time. So far, I feel that everyone is very supportive; we usually talk to each other at gigs and have a good time. The circle is still really small and everybody knows everybody. But I’m glad that it’s expanding. People are also more open about cross-genre music.
What has been your most memorable performance to date? When I performed with Dae Kim at Findars’ ELECTRIC DREAMS back in August. It was a small event, but the attendees were very relaxed and openminded. When I jokingly asked everyone to stand up for my song, they actually did! They moved along to my song Pedicure and stuck around chatting with each other after the show. It was a very heart-warming show which we don’t get very often, to be honest.
She’s least nervous when she’s performing.
The 26-year-old is a barista during the day.