Story by MARYAM ZAINOL
DESPITE the sub-zero temperatures, contestants at the 2015 International Campus Song Festival (ICSF) in Yeoju, South Korea, were pumped up and ready to rock the stage with their original songs.
The grand prize – a cool US$20,000 (RM80,000). Among the hopefuls was Malaysian indie band Jumero, and they were eager for their first taste of international glory.
And taste it they did. Jumero’s song Free snagged the bronze prize, beating out 14 other performers from countries like China, Africa, France and Cameroon.
Lead vocalist and songwriter Jared Lim said the whole experience has fired up the band to take things to the next level.
“It gave me a taste of what I want to do,” he said.
“It’s not just about winning awards – traveling and sharing your music with another nation is a high that really lasts.”
Free was inspired by Jared’s observation of the people around him who would change their appearances and personas to “fit in” with different cliques.
“It’s a very natural thing to want to fit in, but it’s not worth losing who you really are. I began to ask myself if I suffered from the same ‘condition’ and so I wrote Free – a song about finding yourself and not succumbing to other people’s opinions.”
To say their first international trip ended on a high is no exaggeration – and it’s not just because of their beef bulgogi bender.
“It was amazing!” said percussionist Ryan Gomes. “The fact that we got the response we did from the crowd AND brought home an award – that was pretty epic for us.”
NO ONE-HIT WONDER
Back home, where the indie music scene continues to flourish, Jumero – named after the bus stop where the trio used to hang out – is taking off.
Their single Life, with its mellow vibes interspersed with upbeat drum beats, debuted on the airwaves in April, and their fanbase has been growing ever since.
“Everyone can relate to the song. It can be appreciated by all ages. The majority of our fans now are teenagers and young adults.
“We are all on the same journey and when life decides to take a swing at you, we have a choice to either wallow in the mud or get back up and better yourself,” said Jared.
Luckily for us, we have a slight claim to fame with Jumero, because one of their first big breaks came when they won the R.AGE Open Mic contest in 2012. The prize? A chance to perform at Urbanscapes and live on national radio.
“Winning R.AGE Open Mic gave us our big break – it opened the door for more gigs and events,” said Michael.
“It was hard to cope with at first, because our schedules changed so much, but we learned to make it work.”
Since then, Jumero has gone on to perform at the same festivals as big names like Kimbra, Local Natives and Kyoto Protocol.
It’s clear that the industry is changing – digital music revenue saw a 17% increase in Malaysia, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
Local independent artistes like Hujan, Bunkface and OAG now have their tracks on streaming services like Spotify.
Jumero is also planning on branching out into iTunes and Spotify, where a bigger, more international audience is waiting.
“The way Yuna (who started out on MySpace) managed to break into the global music scene is our inspiration,” said Michael.
Despite the stats, Jumero still has a soft spot for CDs.
“Everything is going digital and online now. However, we see CDs more as a business card or a CV kinda thing,” he said.
“They are no longer relevant, but every little bit helps with revenue.”
Jumero’s short trip to the land of K-Pop has made them eager to travel more.
“We’d like to perform more in our neighbouring Southeast Asian countries. And we hope to release another single or two this year, perhaps a music video,” said Michael.
In the meantime, they’re going to be keeping busy.
Not only will Jumero perform at this year’s Good Vibes Festival alongside big acts such as The Temper Trap and Two Door Cinema Club, the band will also be returning to Yeouju, Korea as guest performers at this year’s ICSF.
“We are extremely excited to be playing Good Vibes! We’re huge fans of Temper Trap and Two Door Cinema Club in particular,” said Michael.
Coming home as an ICSF 2015 winner has helped propel Jumero forward. The US$2,500 (RM10,000) prize money they won funded their first EP, and the exposure has given them an edge when it comes to landing gigs.
“Clients are always interested when bands have performed internationally. Being able to put in our portfolio that we’ve played in Korea and won a competition can often be a deciding factor.”
While Ryan is finishing up his double degree in communications and psychology, Michael and Jared are both fully focused on getting more gigs and writing more music. Jared only occasionally takes up graphic design work, as a source of side income.
“Our band is still relatively young. We don’t get enough to fully support ourselves,” said Jared. “It’s hard, but not impossible to make music your career in Malaysia. Personally, I’m determined to make it work.”
Michael added that making money out of their music was not one of their main goals when they first started out.
“But the reality is that all musicians need money in order for them to continue making music,” he said.
After four years of hard work, the band is finally at a stage where they can set aside some money from their earnings for any future plans.
Part of those plans includes the release of two more singles this year.
They’ve already released one album so far, Stepping Stones. which was nominated at the VIMA Music Awards in the Best R&B/Pop Song category.
“Our journey is exciting and scary at the same time but it’s definitely heading in the right direction,” said Jared.
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