WHEN the Foo Fighters won the Grammy for Best Rock Performance back in 2012, frontman Dave Grohl said in his acceptance speech: “It’s not about being perfect, it’s not about sounding absolutely correct, it’s not about what goes in a computer. It’s about what goes on in here [pointing to his heart] and it’s about what goes on in here [pointing to his head].”
We’re not saying that Faiq and The Manja Mob is about to become the next Foo Fighters, but the band’s heart and head seem to be in the right place.
With a full-on “anything goes” attitude, the acoustic band came about practically on a whim after Faiq Syazwan, 27, who works in production, was asked to perform at Merdekarya in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
The venue’s owner, Brian Gomez had caught Faiq’s performance in Something I Wrote, a musical by Five Arts Centre and suffice to say, he liked what he saw.
“After the show, he (Gomez) asked me if I wanted to perform at his venue. I’d never done anything like that before and it sounded like fun,” reminisced Faiq.
In about two days, the band had settled on its diverse lineup, with Faiq and filmmaker Amanda Eu, 28, both playing ukelele, copywriter Khairi Iskander, 26, on the cajon, and finance executive Rashid M. Nor, 27, and physiotherapist Abel Camoens, 25, on guitars.
Here they are a year later, about to perform at Freeform’s annual music and arts festival, Urbanscapes, alongside some of their favourite acts like The Lemonheads, Local Natives and Kimbra.
It’s clear that the members of The Manja Mob are not in it for the fame. When attending interviews, it often seems like many up-and-coming artists have rehearsed boring generic answers. The Manja Mob, on the other hand, had initially asked us to make up the interview on our own. (We politely declined to do so, of course.)
“We just have fun doing what we do. It’s not like we set out to take the world by storm,” said Eu. “We just go with the flow. It’s not like we have to make any plans or stress ourselves over anything.”
When the band isn’t chasing people away with highly inappropriate and insensitive jokes, it entertains its audience with raw and honest renditions of popular songs. Crowd favourites include the remix to Ignition by R. Kelly and Paper Planes by M.I.A.
Inevitably, the band is now known more for its covers than its originals.
It’s not that the band doesn’t have its own material – it’s just running low in that department.
According to Eu, some people have already criticised the band for supposedly playing gigs as a cover band.
“I feel like everyone should get that we actually aren’t musicians,” she joked.
While all five members have stressed that The Manja Mob’s only intention is to have fun, they also realise that they’ve gotten many gigs because of the effort they’ve put in.
“I think many musicians expect gigs to fall on their lap,” pointed out Khairi.
“I’ve been around a bunch of bands that think ‘my music is good, my music should be getting gigs’. That’s not how it always works. I feel like we go out and talk to people and just become friends with them.”
Funnily enough, that’s exactly how Faiq got the band a slot to perform at Urbanscapes.
“To be honest, the reason why we’re playing Urbanscapes is because I asked Adrian (Yap, co-founder and chief executive of Freeform) if we could play and he was just like, ‘yeah, sure’.”