Proposed (2012) album cover designs & updates

Finally, an update on the 2012 album we have been working on (earlier post, here).

Came up with these designs over two evenings. For our to-be-released-in-a-few-day’s-time, kinda-hard-to-label-a-genre digital album.

1. “deca”

2. “TEN”

3. “DEKA”

A few hours ago, the band — along with our guest collaborator, urmymuse, who is from halfway around the globe — have reached on a majority vote for design No. 3, “DEKA”.

We started working on the tracks around Jan this year Dec 2011. Fast-forward to Sept, when it sunk in that 2012 would be the 10th global birthday celebrations for Creative Commons, we wanted our album to be a gift to the movement.

The album has 10 tracks, for CC’s 10th birthday this year, slated for October.

A 10-10-10 combo.

My first design looked like this:
My amateur attempt at a #CreativeCommons 10th Birthday logo

It was passable as a symbol or logo. But somehow it didn’t quite cut it as an album cover. Looked too cold; too detached. The opposite of what our music represented.

So I wondered about the etymology for “decade”. That led to my discovering the term “deca”, which was Latin for “the combining form for ‘Ten'”: “decapod”, “decasyllabic”, “decathlon”, “decametre”…

Multiples of ten.


But I wondered if it might be too subtle or indirect for people to catch on.

No harm in posting the question in Facebook. Kind of expecting zero comments, so I was really surprised to get plenty of good ideas and useful comments from my Facebook contacts. Thanks folks!

All things considered, “deca” was quite appropriate.

I used Keynote on my iPad to piece together a few ideas. Ended up using Keynote as my “photoshop”!

Within hours of the Facebook comments and doodling in the iPad, I managed to churn out design No. 1.

Emailed that off to Adrian, I-Ling and urmymuse. Explained the concept to them. And hoped they would agree. Or at least, no violent objections from them.

Adrian was first to give “deca” his approval. Next was urmymuse, who added that the Greek spelling (deka) was preferred but it wouldn’t be something to “die in a ditch” for (LOL).

By that time, I also preferred DEKA over DECA. Particularly after considering the Facebook comments. For one, “deca” might lead to some people subconsciously associating it with “decay” or “decadence” — unrelated words, no doubt but still might prove distracting rather than adding to the album’s intrigued.

I churned out designs no.s 2 and 3, and emailed to the band. Promised this would be the last iteration (any more options and it would be counterproductive).

Our vocalist, I-Ling, liked DEKA too.

So that’s that.

All ten tracks have been mastered, bounced; the uncompressed files sitting in my hard disk (backed up, for sure) waiting to be prepped with metadata (I use iTunes for that).

It’s a public holiday this Friday, so i’ll be publishing the album this weekend.

The album will be pretty niche.

It’s perhaps best described as “almost progressive meditative pop post-rock”.

Whatever it might be called, it’s our labour of love.

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 πŸ™‚

[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. πŸ™‚

Maybe we’re using our music as an excuse.

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

~ Ivan

Works-in-progress: 2012 post-rock inspired album

Having discovered a whole new perspective on post-rock, I asked Adrian and I-Ling if we could try experimenting with that particular genre.

They were game.

We’ve been quite productive in the last 3 or 4 weeks, trading tracks and ideas via email. Me mixing the demos and emailing back for comments.

2012 Post-rock album in the works: StarfishStories :: The Band

And we’ve a musical collaborator from the other side of the globe (will be revealed in time).

Of course, it’s not as if we’ll be launching the album in the next few weeks. Our day jobs will soon demand more of our time, and it’s also into the more technical and repetitive phase of mixing and mastering. With my limited skills and know-how.

But we have 12 tracks in the works, and that’s not bad.

Not bad at all.

~ 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 πŸ™‚ 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.

Sample: MysteryDink

A friend asked if I could create a 1-min track. Had to sound mysterious and/ or suspenseful. This sample was my FAILED attempt! πŸ™‚ It’s a little techno ditty. Maybe someone would be able to use it. Or maybe Adrian will think of something for this:

Here’s the longer sample, with drums.

Samples can be downloaded at this page. “MysteryDink samples” by Ivan Chew. 2010 – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution (3.0). Click here for how to give credit and other conditions.

~ Ivan


We’re still here. As a band.

It’s the exam/ marking period for Adrian, so his musical output tends to be on hold during this period. Meantime, I’m regular uploading remixes over at ccMixter.

But Adrian found time to email a rough-cut track titled “Monkey Scream”.

I’ll post more about that, later.

We have enough materials for a Mangrove Tree album (as mentioned in the Crystal Tears thank-you podcast).

Probably will be finetuning the songs this coming Nov/ Dec.

~ Ivan

Sound Out Singapore album cover – by Stefano Virgilli

Big thanks to Stefano Virgilli! For contributing to our music project.

Album cover - Sound Out Singapore 2010

Image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Singapore License. Please credit: Stefano Virgilli (

Image sources:

Stefano responded to my Facebook status post, where I asked if anyone was interested in contributing a CC-licensed music album cover design, for our Sound Out Singapore music project.

I gave him the following specifications:

The cover image should:
1) Be square-shaped (480×480, JPEG)
2) Have the words “Starfish Stories :: The Band”, and also the URL
2) Show a CC “some rights reserved” logo (which you can download from
3) Display the album name “Sound Out Singapore”…. See more
4) Some graphical connection to

I think he took maybe a day or two. Emailed me the image, asking if it was OK.

You bet! It’s way better than this any day.

~ Ivan

Draft: Sound Out Singapore (2010) music album cover

I’m a librarian, not a graphic designer. This is the best I can come up with. For our Sound Out Singapore CC-licensed music album.
2010 Sound Out Singapore

We would be happy to have your contribution. CC licensed, of course.

The song line-up:

  1. Open the Door (Smile Again) – Featuring I-Ling on vocals
  2. Stolen Dreams [instrumental]
  3. Petals in a Crystal Stream [instrumental]
  4. Smile Again II [instrumental]
  5. Drifting Rust [instrumental]

~ Ivan

Lyrics: Open the Door (Smile Again) –

Here are the lyrics to the title track, for our CC project for, as mentioned here.

The song is titled “OPEN THE DOOR (SMILE AGAIN)”.
Music by Ivan Chew –
Words by I-Ling –
Music and words are licensed under a CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION 3.0. Singapore 2010.

Released by “Starfish Stories :: The Band” ( for
The nights are long and endless
When you’re miles away from home
The truth is so much darker than
Any story ever told

Shut away
No one you can trust, no hand to hold
But deep inside
Something’s alive within you
That’s called hope

* Chorus
Just open the door
Step into the light
Reach out
And you will find your way again

Take off those chains
Leave the past behind
The night is over
So smile again

Open your eyes
It’s a brand new start
Look up
And there’s a blue sky over your head

Don’t be afraid
Listen to your heart
You have every reason
To smile again

A dream without an ending
Taken away before you said no
Locked behind those dirty walls
You’re just a ragged, broken doll

A living dead
You think the scars are all you have
But deep inside
Your heart beats so strong and fast
So believe in yourself

* Chorus

* Chorus (repeat)

Coming soon – another Starfish Stories Creative Commons music project: SoundOutSG

A friend of mine, Kestrel, asked if I would like to contribute a song, or two, for a public cause: Sound Out Against Sex Trafficking –
Sound Out Against Sex Trafficking

It’s a meaningful campaign (supported by UNIFEM, Singapore).

And I think I should care:

As an integral part of human trafficking – the third largest crime in the world, sex trafficking of women and children is on the rise as a major problem in the world today. It’s time for us to take a stand on behalf of the millions of women and children who are at risk.

The requirement was that the songs “should either incorporate the bell as an audio element, or be along the lines of liberation and emancipation for women currently suffering from sex trafficking in Singapore.

I said yes.

Naturally, I roped in Adrian. I didn’t insist he take part, since I’m mindful that he’s busy with work and his kids. I also emailed another friend, I-Ling, if she’d like to be part of the project (she’s no stranger to Starfish Stories).

Both of them emailed me back with a positive reply. They also felt the cause was a meaningful one.

I received the invitation to contribute on Apr 18. The request was one song in three weeks’ time, or two tracks in six weeks.

Within three weeks, we’ve wrangled out five tracks.
Coming Soon - 2010 SoundOutSG album

It started with my sending them a rock instrumental track. I-Ling expanded on that and came up with original lyrics and recorded the vocals as well. Then I sent them another instrumental track, to which Adrian emailed me a set of his electric leads. We worked pretty fast, even though we didn’t push each other.

I-Ling and Adrian liked all the tracks so far. I certainly do. Especially the process of working with like-minded pals. I guess when you enjoy doing something, plus for a meaningful cause, good stuff happens. At least I think the songs are good stuff. I’ll leave it to whoever’s listening to make their own evaluation.

The tracks feature Asian instrumentation a lot, in line with the given theme.

Of course, the issue of sex trafficking is a worldwide problem. It’s not limited to Asia. And I’m sure I speak for I-Ling and Adrian in that we’re also realistic that contributing songs to a cause won’t make the problem go away. I’d even go as far as saying that we three, being more or less middle-class folks, are pretty much detached from the issue.

We read about it. But we (thankfully) don’t have first-hand knowledge of it.

That said, I think we’re doing what we can do for now.

Sound out.

~ Ivan

[p.s. If you wish to have a preview of the songs, feel free to email me/ us. As with all our music projects, we’ll release it under a Creative Commons ATTRIBUTION license].