2012 AGM #2

I thought the last time we held our Starfish Stories :: The Band AGM (Annual Group Meetup, aka Annual Group Makan) was in 2011. Apparently it was in March this year.

At first I thought I made a mistake with the blog post date. But now I remembered it was at the March Meetup that I had just completed a major project at work and asked Adrian to contribute to it. Which he did.

We must be the only band to have two AGMs in a year!

The year certainly flashed past, as I-Ling put it.

We decided to meet up this evening at 313@Somerset. Nice choice, as there was a nice Orchard Road light up. I remarked to I-Ling and Adrian that it felt – to me – like I was on holiday in another country. Mainly because I had not visited Orchard Road for a long, long time. Certainly not during Christmas season light up.
Christmas light up at 313@Somerset, Orchard Road

Kenny Rogers Roasters. Because they serve fish too.
Starfish Stories :: The Band 2012 AGM

Minimalist layout for the food. Looked kinda odd without the side dishes on the plate.
Starfish Stories :: The Band 2012 AGM

Ivan: “The Mangrove Tree album is now just waiting for your vocals.”
I-Ling: (looked like she’s sheepishly drinking her tea in denial, lol)
Starfish Stories :: The Band 2012 AGM

I-Ling tweeted this instance as Adrian going: “Headache la. Can’t meet Ivan’s KPI this year.” (Adrian shared his tale about the cardboard cave; we shall leave it at that)
Starfish Stories :: The Band 2012 AGM

Adrian and I-Ling thoughtfully presented gifts (or should it be “to gift us presents”?) I copped out and bought dinner instead.

We adjourned to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream. Guess who had the mineral water?
Starfish Stories :: The Band 2012 AGM

All in all, over food and ice cream (well, ice cream is a kind of food but it deserves its own place haha) we updated each other on what stressed us in the past year, and laughed about how we survived.

The Mangrove Tree album will be released without requiring I-Ling’s vocals. As something different from our last concept album, we shall try for a “mainstream” album in 2013. Yes, the “hook” and “Crescendo” and all. But as I-Ling reminded us all, let’s not forget that we make music to enjoy the process rather than try to “create a popular song”.

So, the action items (I couldn’t resist blogging it!)

  1. Adrian will send some guitar stems within the next two weeks (he gave the excuse that he will be away for a week on holiday, bah!)
  2. Starfish Stories :: The Band should have one proper jam session. The sort that involves musical instruments and an attempt to work out a song 🙂

I-Ling tweeted: Just when I thot AGM was over @lekowala gave me my homework – fill a notebook with lyrics by end-2013. @ramblinglib
Starfish Stories :: The Band AGM

And they say I’m the slave driver! :p

Oh yeah, this post serves as our AGM minutes (I-Ling can tell her hubby that someone did take minutes, heh)

~ Ivan

AGM 2012

For the three of us, AGM stands for “Annual Group Meetup”.

Bishan Community Club

Involving dinner, coffee, and philosophy.

Starfish Stories :: The Band AGM

Or for me it was “Another Grumble (about the lack of) Music” from Adrian and I-Ling 🙂

[Hmm… realised I didn’t record our last face-to-face meetup. Ponderosa at Toa Payoh Hub.]

We talked about I-Ling’s blog post on how she picked up making music again (how touching *sniff*), and at the same breath I poked fun at how she owed a few vocal pieces.

At one point, it led to Adrian quipping: “Our music is a form of expression. If people like it, it’s because they can identify with it. We don’t really write songs with a ‘hook’ deliberately. I think that allows us to be really creative.”

Though, I cautioned, that could sound like an excuse for not improving our musical craft.

I-Ling suggested we were “Starfish Stories :: The Excuses”.

Maybe. 🙂

Maybe we’re using our music as an excuse.

So that we can indulge in philosophical musings over dinner and coffee.

~ Ivan

Starfish Stories on Red Maps

Back in the tail end of 2011, I received an email from a company called Red Maps. They found our ‘Surfing on Solar Winds’ track at SoundCloud.com. That track had reached its download limit, so they asked if I could send them the file.

Actually I had overlooked their email. When I realised my oversight, I quickly replied to them and pointed them to our 2009 digital album, One World One Moment, where the same track could be downloaded.

Here’s how our music was featured. So cool that we have another music video!

I thought this was a very nice business model they got there. Its about creative opportunities, collaboration and reciprocal publicity. I also appreciate how they gave full credits to the collaborators (which is a lot more detailed that many videos where our CC music has been featured).

Thanks Red Maps.

For helping put this little band on your map.

From the YouTube video description:

“Los Angeles” is from Red Maps Independent Filmmakers City Series.http://www.redmaps.com

Our Series asks creative individuals to make a short film that captures the life, style and vibe of a city…using a Red Map.

The Filmmaker: Cristi Silva of ThatSoRad Productions
Santa Barbara, CA
We met Cristi via seeing her photography work in California. She captures people and scenes that result in incredibly fresh stories.
So, it was a no-brainer to ask her to make a film, and to see how she might visualize one of our favorite cities. Cristi Silva’s LA makes one feel as though they’ve never seen the city before.

The Music: “Surfing on Solar Winds” by Starfish Stories :: The Band
Singapore http://StarfishStories.wordpress.com
Ivan, Adrian and I-Ling are three Singaporeans who have up and gone pursued their dreams of creating music for the world under the Creative Commons program. Their music is available for all to hear, enjoy and download. We met them via SoundCloud.com under the name ramblinglibrarian. The music was the perfect match to give the film its soulful tour of LA.

Red Maps is a small, NYC-based company, making unique city maps that are smart, beautiful and easy-to-use. But our interest is not only maps, on our blog we highlight design in all its forms, including autos, furniture, architecture and more…we don’t see a reason to limit ourselves. These short films are a way for us to collaborate with some very talented people. And if they help inform everyone about Red Maps…that’s cool too. It’s about having fun.

Filmmakers Wanted
If you’re a filmmaker and would like to work with Red Maps,
please contact us at:

Song for friends: “Christmas Bells”

Instead of sending Christmas or New Year Cards, we thought to send a song to friends and acquaintances. Here’s “Christmas Bells – Classical Version“:
2011 – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0). Click here for how to give credit and other conditions.

0912-1094 Moonlight over the forest
Originally uploaded by Leo-Avalon

Here’s the adapted lyrics:


There are sounds in the sky when the year grows old,
And the winds of the winter blow—
When night and the moon are clear and cold,
And the stars shine on the snow,
Or wild is the blast and the bitter sleet
That beats on the window-pane;
But blest on the frosty hills are the feet
Of the Christmas time again!
Chiming sweet when the night wind swells,
Christmas Bells!

The owl that sits in the ivy’s shade,
Remote from the tower,
Shall start from his drowsy watch afraid
When the clock shall strike the hour;
And over the fields in their frosty rhyme
The cheery sounds shall go,
And chime shall answer unto chime
Across the moonlit snow!
How sweet the lingering music dwells,—
Christmas Bells.

And the glorified ones from that holy hill
Are reaching their helping hands.
These be the words our music tells
Of solemn joy, O Christmas Bells!

Hope this song brings you cheer at the close of 2011, and the start of 2012.

Best wishes,
Starfish Stories :: The Band
I-Ling, Adrian & Ivan.

p.s. If you enjoyed the music, you can “pay” us by sharing the music. Thanks!

“But why do you do it?”

Was having a 3am chat with Ridzuan. Shared a work-in-progress track with him. The resultant verbatim conversation was quite serendipitous:

Why do I do it? Make music without intending to become a full time musician?

Ivan: i sent you that “vox humana” audio, as an example of a band (i.e. mine) who don’t perform ‘live’ and probably never will. but we roll out albums pretty consistently. but we don’t get on the radar screen of those music review sites i told you about.

Ridzwan: ah i see. but why do you do it?

Ivan: it’s like what you heard/ saw in the video at CC SG day. music is a passion. Got no reason one.

Ridzuan: so it’s the creation process that you enjoy?

Ivan: exactly. plus the collaboration. you add process and collaboration, you have learning. and once produced, it’s like what Kevin said [at CC SG Day meetup]: if i don’t share, my music dies with me.

Ivan: come to think of it, it’s like startup culture. many successful ones tend to start for the coolness of the product, right? there’s hope for monetisation but main aim is to make it cool and useful. then think of how to make money.

Ridzuan: true true

Ivan: i guess same approach with my band. we make music that we find it nice and therapeutic for ourselves. then if something more can happen, that’s a bonus.

Ivan: that way, we can only be delighted rather than disappointed LOL. Damn, i wish i was blogging all this down.

Ridzuan: haha you can copy and paste it heh

~ Ivan

Remixed: Stolen Dreams

Received a notification that Adrian‘s Stolen Dreams stems (see this earlier blog post), has been remixed. TWICE! Courtesy of CSoul.

Have a listen:

“A Blasted Life”link

ccMixter - A Blasted Life

“Move Alone to New Life” – link

ccMixter - Move Alone to New Life

Oh, the three of us finally met up for a long-overdue makan meetup. Among other things that has happened in our lives, I-Ling‘s moved to a different job; Adrian’s preparing for a talk at a Biology Symposium; I’ve got a new dog.

Adrian reminded about The Mangrove Tree album (heh, so rare that he’s chasing me for music LOL). I said we have enough tracks. But missing the vocals (I-Ling, yo!)

~ Ivan

2011 Let The Dolphins Go

Here’s our 5th digital album. A StarfishStories project in support of the “Let The Dolphins Go” ACRES’s campaign, to free the dolphins at Resorts World Sentosa.


This is the title track, “Free”. With I-Ling on vocals.

The other two tracks are a rock guitar instrumental version, and a Minus-One. They can all be downloaded at Archive.org

This project came about after Adrian ran a marathon. It’s a long story and he tells it better. Anyway the gist was that he thought of his family to keep himself going. And it made him think of the dolphins who were torn away from their family and natural habit, to be part of a resort entertainment lineup.

Adrian felt compelled to compose something (apart from contributing to the general call for action). He emailed the raw draft for the song (on 1 Jun). Titled it “Free”.

He added this in his email: “Imagine dolphins porpoising in the water”.

It didn’t take long for I-Ling to come up with the lyrics:

Leap and turn in the air
Like a child at play
Whistle songs, sing your dreams
In the summer rays
Feel the rush of the currents
Find your way in the ocean

Glide along, ride the crest
There’s no turning back
Hold your breath and break the waves
Full speed ahead
Feel the rush of the currents
You’re a child of the ocean

You’re free. So free, oh, so free.
Breathe. You’re free, so free.

She emailed her vocal track to me. I mixed it, emailed a few versions (with subtle arrangement changes) to the two of them. I-Ling agreed to re-record her vocals to get a clearer take. While waiting for I-Ling to do that, I recorded and mixed a guitar instrumental version.

It was done out of fun, but Adrian and I-Ling gave it their thumbs-up, so it was considered to be part of the album.

After receiving I-Ling’s second vocal take (she decided to invest in an audio interface), two more email exchanges… and it was done.

World's Saddest Dolphins

Capturing intelligent creatures, who were roaming free, for the sake of entertainment. And calling the move as part of contribution to research. Doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Please, let the dolphins go.

2001-12-02 01-03 Neuseeland 305
Credits: 2001-12-02 01-03 Neuseeland 305 by Allie_Caulfield, CC-BY 2.0 (last accessed 6 Jul 2011).

Selected references:

BTW, it’s really good to know we’re not the only musicians adding to this call. Check out Typewriter’s rendition of “Please let the dolphins go”:

~ Ivan

Creative Commons License2011 Let the Dolphins Go by Starfish Stories : The Band is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Singapore License. As long as you ATTRIBUTE the music by stating this: “Starfish Stories :: The Band – StarfishStories.wordpress.com”* in your audio, video, website, printed materials etc., you are FREE to USE, COPY, SHARE, MODIFY, or SELL (yes sell!) any of the songs from this album.

In case we weren’t quite clear on the above, try reading this.

SoundOut Against Sex Trafficking music CD launch, 22 June 2011

Congrats to SoundOut.sg for organising the music CD launch yesterday evening.

SoundOut Against Sex Trafficking music CD launch

None of us from Starfish Stories could attend, unfortunately. But still very, very tickled that we three amateurs could actually produce a song (“Open the Door, Smile Again”) that was deemed good enough to be on a compilation with other more established Singapore bands.

The selected song is the first track, from this SFS album produced for the SoundOut campaign.

Thanks for including us in the project.

~ Ivan

Starfish Stories has a new band member

Starfish Stories :: The Band is now a trio.

If you’ve heard our latest album, or read the credits or the bio for SoundOut, you would know Adrian and I had help from this lady. Who has a unique spelling for her name: I-Ling (pronounced ‘Ee Ling’, and not ‘Eye Ling’).

The other day, Adrian asked how I got to know I-Ling. I wish it was because I-Ling came upon our music by chance, was so moved by it, and decided she had to be a part of it. Reality was more mundane.

I-Ling and I met in mid 2009, when we were both speaking at an event as part of our respective work. She worked for National Arts Council then. We chatted after the session. I was curious to learn more about how NAC worked, its programmes and the funding. In her talk, I-Ling mentioned Noise Singapore. I jokingly complained that the cut-off age for participating in Noise Singapore was too low (in that, given my age I didn’t qualify, heh).

As we talked, we discovered a shared interest in creating music. She sings (and if I-Ling is willing, she should share what she used to do before she joined NAC) and was interested in knowing more about DIY recording. I told her how we do things at Starfish Stories. The basic equipment needed. We ended our conversation with a promise to keep in touch. I-Ling said she would seriously give the DIY recording stuff a try. I hoped she would also email her vocal tracks for a remix.

Ah, the “Keep In Touch” is an oft-abused term and given much lip-service than actual practice (I’m guilty of that too). BUT luckily in this case, we did keep our conversation going. On the rare occasions that we bumped into each other on Gmail chat, we would exchange pleasantries. I’d tell her about ccMixter. And I’d cajole her to record her stuff. Would send her some tracks and ask if she would feel inspired to do something.

She eventually did a recording, which I remixed and decided to include as part of the 3rd Starfish Stories digital album.

[Incidentally, I-Ling also posted her vocal stems to ccMixter too (under her own profile). I remember telling her, in jest, that I was jealous how her very first stem had more remixes than what I had in two years, heh.]

While I-Ling serendipitously became involved with Starfish Stories with “Good-night Not Good-bye”, it wasn’t until the SoundOut album that she wrote original lyrics and recorded vocals for the band.

A few weeks before the end of 2010, we informally sealed our partnership over pizza. And exchanges of gifts of dried mangoes, jasmine flower tea and Lunarin CDs that aren’t shown in the picture.
An Exchange

After our makan session, I also made another ‘gift’. That’s a story for another time.
Pass it On

I stress the word ‘informal’, ‘cos I sort of just said to Adrian, “So, I-Ling will be our vocalist, ok?” and Adrian said something like “Yah, finally we have a better looking band member”. 🙂

So now Starfish Stories :: The Band comprise of a Biologist, a Librarian, and a… Officer Worker (yo, I-Ling please come up with a better label than that lah!)

All three of us are married. We’re in our 30s (I don’t know I-Ling’s exact age but for Adrian and I, we’re more than tilting towards 40).

We have our day jobs.

We’ll continue to be a band that doesn’t perform ‘live’, who doesn’t meet to jam.

We cherish the music that we create, for sure.

But we’re friends first, and the music really is an outcome of the camaraderie.

Cheers to a new year.

~ Ivan

Journey Vs. Destination

Adrian and I met for breakfast. One of our rare face-to-face meet ups.

We talked about family, kids, wives, parents, work, life, music, Tagore.

Not necessarily in that order. But close.

Mostly we reminisced about our music. A reflection of why we started Seastars. (Funny thing: both of us forgot the name of the album! Goes to show how memorable it was, eh?)

We reminded ourselves we didn’t plan for have an album. It was an attempt at expression, we realised. Music happened to be a suitable conduit. The format of working using computers and email suited our lifestyles. Forming the “band” and publishing the album was a convenient end-result of our collaborative process.

But subsequently, it seemed the process of technical refinement took over the expression. While the albums after SeaStars 2007 were technically more proficient (relatively speaking), they lacked that clean-cut simplicity of the first.

Adrian was more blunt: SeaStars 2007 was kinda crappy as an album. I thought so too, knowing what we know now 🙂 Still, we thought there was something in there that was uniquely our styles.

Writing this now, it occurred to me that working on SeaStars 2007 was like discovering we could hear. The subsequent albums was like putting on better earphones, with crisper sounds. But being able to hear better didn’t necessarily mean we were really listening.

Kinda like what Adrian wrote here, about being poor in spirit.

And now we think we’re continuing on that journey more consciously.

Trying to really listen this time.

And to have fun while continuing to find ourselves.

Originally uploaded by lekowala

~ Ivan
p.s. On this renewed musical “roadtrip”, we have another friend on board. More to be revealed, soon.