“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

Someone said “Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula” is worth buying

As part of our promotional strategy (aka shameless plugs), I once posted the release of Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula at the Open Mic section of www.soft.com.sg.

This was a particularly encouraging comment (dated 29 Jan 2010):

wow! heavenly and nice music there..the arrangement and sound is ..err ..really great! definitely an album worth buying..\m/

Album cover preview: "Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebulae"

Buy our album? Really?


~ Ivan

urmymuse reviews “Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula”

Sometimes, the only way for us small-time amateur musicians to be heard is to be shameless in promoting our music 🙂

Since my online music acquaintance professed to like our earlier work, I sent along the link to our third album. This was what urmymuse so generously wrote (dated 1 Feb, 2010):

Album cover preview: "Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebulae"

Speaking of Starfish Stories thank you very much for pointing me in the direction of your and Adrian’s new album “Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula“. I have given it several listens and am very impressed.

The overall feel of the work is optimistic and joyful. The composition is imaginative, each track develops and flows beautifully. The Starfish Stories signature sound is a guitar driven odyssey of wonder. It is almost as though the listener passes through a series of spaces in each track to experience new marvels each time.

The guitar work and production are excellent through out.

Particular highlights for me are

The whole of the title track … I think you have made some good improvements since the earlier version you sent me. Particularly the additions to the intro.
The development of “we wonder” and the big string swell that comes in towards the final third.
The development of “new beginnings” .. very optimistic and uplifting
The slightly heavier feel of “stroke of midnight” (which builds to clock tower sounds which is fun)
The excellent “goodnight not goodbye” My Vanilla World’s vocal is beautiful and the production works very well

You and Adrian should be very proud of what you have achieved here. Am looking forward to your next album.

“Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula” can be downloaded at bandcamp.com. Voluntary donation is always welcome. A review (good or bad) in lieu of payment will also very much appreciated.

~ Ivan

I-Ling reviews “Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula”

Before I-Ling became part of our band, she was a listener — and dare I say, a fan? 🙂

Here’s her review of Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula, dated 10 Jan 2010:
Album cover preview: "Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebulae"

As I was putting this post together, I also revisited the band’s first album SeaStars 2007 – the curious me is always listening for the changes in a musician or band’s sounds. Not sure if my ears are right, but I thought that the guys are showing more versatility than before.

My personal picks from their 2010 album are the title track Crystal Tears and The Dream Nebula 2010 and Stroke of Midnight v2.3.

Crystal Tears nicely captures the feel that the title suggests. The steady buildup at the beginning sets the perfect mood for this track. I could almost see the bursts of heavenly colours in my head and hear some distant stars fizzle out at various intervals. The highs and lows are nicely balanced, and I like the little touches that the band has put in, like the edgy noise at 1’12″ that balances the airy feel of the warm pad without going overboard. So it’s somewhat like watching meteoroids pass you by as you traverse the duo’s musical galaxy, without heading dangerously into an overcrowded meteoroid cluster.

There’s something mischievous about Stroke of Midnight that makes it fun to listen to. I almost laughed when I heard the first chime of the clock. I don’t know why but the picture that came to my mind was that of Cinderella on the run, on roller blades. That probably wasn’t what the guys had in mind, but that incongruous image aside, I enjoyed the drum work and the mean guitar playing in this fast-paced track.

This time round, the band has also very kindly included my croaks in Goodnight Not Goodbye v2.2, a song written by Ivan. Thank you, guys!

And for a hint of what’s to come in their next album, they have included the teaser track, Thank You. Interestingly, the Asian character in their New Age/Indie music is becoming increasingly pronounced.

Perhaps that’s what music-making is all about – developing your style, rediscovering yourself, and finally, defining your own brand of music.

See what happens when you write a positive review? We make you our band member. OK, not really lah! LOL

But yes, we are still discovering our musical styles.

~ Ivan

Elizabeth reviews “Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula”

It’s always a bit scary to read reviews. As much as I think we’re open to criticisms, there’s that self-conscious wince when people point out what they don’t like about the songs. But that’s the whole point of asking people to comment. So that we can become better at our craft.

Most times (if not all), people have been nice about saying the not-so-nice 🙂

Elizabeth was one of the first to listen to our third album. She left her review at the blog post, back in Jan 2010:

Album cover preview: "Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebulae"

Dear Starfish Stories,

I’m impressed as always with your talent and creativity. I must say the efficiency which you have developed this album is rather amazing too.

Anyway, here are my point form comments on the album songs.

Stroke of midnight – slightly too aggressive-sounding for me, but great for angst-filled moments

New beginning – liked the starting but after that got too rushed. Prefer something simpler n not sounding too complex and rushed

We wonder – preferred this a bit more. But wished it started more simply, without the bass, just the keyboard. The tiao tiao sound was nice but not all the time.

To be free – I like the bass drum guitar, fast section but the transition to soft section was not smooth

Thank u podcast – Mangrove song – songs more Chinesey or kampong like, gd start. The Indian drums n instrument section was great! The transition was relatively good too. Except the last part where e piano played the tune again, could slow it down more

Run toward sky – like the spacey section when the electric guitar just ends n the synthesizer comes in. But the electric guitar coming in again was a bit too abrupt, fast n high pitched.

Finding love – sounds like a guitar solo; no strong melody making the song sound like a song

Crystal tears – the chorus is nice, or at least more memorable but the verses are not really nice. Too many instruments for the verses. Y no singing?

Goodnight not gdbye – this songs is very different from the others. First, someone sings. It has a bit of an unearthly feel, high airy voice. But nice overall.

In sum, this album was alright. Maybe technically it was better, but in terms of melodies and sounds, the previous albums were better.

Looking forward to the next album, Mangrove song.


Thanks, Elizabeth!

~ Ivan

“My Library World” reviews “Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula”

This was from a “teen librarian in the Pacific Northwest at a busy library system” (dated 3 Jan 2010), for third album:
Album cover preview: "Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebulae"

A good internet friend of mine had an album release today over on his band blog. They are Starfish Stories: The Band and they release their music under a creative commons license, which allows you to use their music in, say, a YouTube video and all you have to do is attribute the music to them in the way they have asked.

I got a chance to preview the release and was quite impressed.  It isn’t going to be a top 40 success, but I don’t think it was meant to be that anyway.

This music has a lot of creative uses and is very well executed.  I especially liked “Goodnight Not Goodbye v2.2″, which I believe is the only one with lyrics.  You can download these songs by going to the blog link above–there is a place to donate if you like the music, but you should feel free to listen first.

Thanks, My Library World, for listening, and for the plug!

~ Ivan