Behind the Scenes: Josh Quah of The Download Festival

The first-ever Download Festival at Lowercase will feature vibrant young Singapore artists who grew up on YouTube.  We were curious about the team who are bringing the talent from digital platforms to a physical venue and went backstage to find out more with Josh Quah, organiser of The Download Festival.

The Download Festival

Why did you decide to organise The Download Festival now – is this ‘the moment’ for Singapore’s YouTube pop singers?

Well like everyone else who grew up and loved the scene, we also wanted to do something. Lowercase and TDF (The Download Festival) allowed us to be a platform for the creative arts.

This is definitely a new generation of artists in Singapore who have such raw talent and are building a name for themselves through digital platforms primarily.  If TDF can bring these emerging artists from the digital (YouTube) to the physical, live scene in a great way, then I personally would be satisfied.

How’s the live music scene changing?  Is the hunger still for overseas bands and covers, or are local originals better received now?

I wouldn’t say that it’s gospel truth, but growing up and listening to the scene, from the independent artists to the covers artists, there seemed to be a negative perception amongst the wider circle that we were always playing catch up to the overseas (Western) artists in terms of music talent. These days, it’s more than fair to say that local artists are receiving a wider reception and appreciation for their work, most certainly aided by the proliferation of music discovery platforms. It’s not unusual to find one’s YouTube fanbase being made up of fans from Europe, Australia and North America, in addition to Singapore fans…there’s a wider appetite now with the social media-savvy generation.

Still, the cliché ‘a good song is a good song’ rings true. Geography shouldn’t determine whether a song is good or bad – how well I receive a song isn’t dependent on whether it’s from Singapore or not. And if it’s one thing that these artists are doing now, it’s that they are making good songs.

The Download Festival

What inspired your choices in the line-up?

Relationships, and my ears…

Well what I meant to say was that we had gotten to know most of the artists in the line-up before and had caught their live-shows so we knew that they were making great music. It affirmed our decision to do TDF when the artists liked the idea and wanted to go along with it. Of course, the fact that each artist had a healthy following on YouTube also didn’t hurt.

What’s the biggest challenge of organising this festival?

Personally, it’s being meticulous about deadlines, and the nitty-gritty details involved in getting the administrative backend really. I think it’s a weakness of my ENFP personality type haha. But that’s why we work as a team and we help each other out.

Also, thinking beyond just the music aspect and really fleshing out the concept of a ‘festival’ proved to be something new for me as I had only organised purely music gigs up to now. So that’s why for TDF, we want to bring in other sources of fun that will complement the vibe and music – think college style, beer pong fun. Haha.

Different musicians probably need different acoustics setup – how do you deal with that?

Yeah I totally understand: it feels like I’m on a tightrope between the limitations of sound systems and budget on one side, and giving the best possible sound to each artist on another. Big words that I learnt: managing expectations. Thankfully we have a great partner in Luther Music who have kindly provided some of their excellent sound equipment; I’d say having a trusty live sound engineer also helps – thanks Lynette!!

The Download Festival

You play both roles of being the venue and organiser in this case: how is this different from when you’re only the venue?

In a word, I’d say the difference is – conviction. Most of the time as a venue you are part of someone else’s event, a cog in someone’s dream. So to do your own event is like putting yourself out there; in this case, we are saying, look, we really believe in helping artists with the little that we can, where we can. We believe in the potential of our scene, in what these guys are doing for music. We want to stake our name on it and The Download is a symbolisation of that belief.

What are the top three songs on your personal playlist right now?

Well…KRONO’s Run featuring Linying is definitely one of them. KRONO is a French EDM duo, but Linying is really the one you should pay attention to. She’s a really good local singer-songwriter who might be the person to watch out for in our scene in 2014. I have been following .gif as well (an electronica outfit in Singapore), they have been causing strong ripples with their just launched EP, Saudade (you have to catch these guys live, it’s a real treat). Also, anything by Message to Bears especially when I’m hauling the extra hours at night. Their music is so simple, but so expansive and emotive at the same time.

Line-up Dansen John, Vanessa Faith, The Facade, Samantha Rui, Hariz & Lincoln, Lokies, Joie Tan, Doves & Ravens, The Sam Willows
When 14th December 2013, Saturday.  2pm – 11pm.
Where Lowercase at LASALLE, 1 McNally Street
Entry $12 from Peatix