The Star Malaysia - Star2
All in the family
Slowly, but surely, Lab The Rat made its debut album a reality.
THEY say, good things come to those who wait. Formed in 2004, indie rock outfit Lab The Rat began when vocalist Syarul Reza met his then-fiance Shahirah Aishah (now his wife and also vocalist in the band) at a recording studio in Shah Alam, Selangor.
At that time, Syarul, who also fronts hardcore band Love Me Butch, needed an outlet to showcase his mellow side. Eventually, his brothers Syaril Zizi (guitar and vocals), Syaiful Nazri (drums) and friends multi-instrumentalist Nik Azwaa (keyboard and guitar) and Kech (bass) joined in to complete the band.
“We started out as a family band then we added some of our friends to it. Then, it became a weekend thing for our band to get together and cover songs. Eventually, we got too excited about singing our own songs,” said Syarul.
“We saw the potential in our band and decided to perform for a bigger crowd. It was very cool,” he remembered.
In 2008, Lab The Rat was RM50,000 richer when it won the Global Battle of the Bands competition at Planet Hollywood in Kuala Lumpur. Since then, fans have been eagerly antipating the band’s next career step, with original material and demos cropping up.
In 2011, the band signed on to independent music label Laguna Records. An album release seemed eminent.
However, the plan had to take a backseat due to the band’s other commitments like full-time jobs, marriages and even children. As we found out, the members in the band work in various industries like transport, events, travel and even a coffee chain. While Shahirah sheeplessly raised her hand and said “homemaker”.
Syarul added the band also took its time in crafting songs to make up the album.
“When we signed to Laguna two years ago, we knew we had to start working on our songs. We didn’t have enough songs to release an album then. In the meantime, we were also playing shows to build our rapport and get some exposure for our band,” he said.
Even with the long intervals it took to release the album, the band still found the time to perform. Last year, it opened for American musician William Beckett (vocalist of the now-defunct The Academy Is ...) and pop-rock band Boys Like Girl during their showcases in Kuala Lumpur.
Fans just had to wait – but thankfully, the band never lost sight in delivering an album.
The band recently launched its debut album Love The Mission at the Venue in Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur. The eight-track album features some of the band’s signature tunes like the catchy I Know, Unstoppable, and Send Us To Ukraine. Alongside tracks like the bluesy Airinna, it’s evident that the band also found the time to redefine its sound.
“We used to say that we’re a pop folk-ish band. Over time, we became more of a feel good 1990s kind of band. Like Gin Blossoms! We’re your friendly alternative band,” said Syarul. Then, Kech quipped, “Fun rock!”
Nik Azwaa said each member also had the opportunity to let their individual interest play a big part in forming the band’s music shape.
“Everyone is a songwriter with their influences,” said Nik Azwaa.
The ballad Airinna, for example, was written by guitarist Syaril for his young daughter. Syahirah said a family member, who is not part of the band, contributed to the song’s inclusion. “It was Papa’s (Syarul, Syaril and Syaiful’s father) strong request to include a Malay song,” she said.
Ultimately, Syarul hopes listeners will find their own connection with the songs in Love The Mission.
“The mission is about sharing our music. We want to showcase that you can be a family person, have a nine-to-five job and still make music!” said Syarul.
The band members also said releasing Love The Mission means they can finally plan ahead with more gigs.
“We’re relieved! Finally, we can also start working on new songs!” said Shahirah.
Lab The Rat’s debut album is available online at store.lagunamusic.my.