It’s been a busy year for Benjamin and Narelle Kheng, the dynamic sibling duo and 1/2 of our favourite local pop quartet, The Sam Willows. They have been dabbling in a multitude of solo pursuits outside of TSW – stage productions, TV shows, commercial deals… the list goes on. While they certainly deserve their turn in the spotlight, there’s no doubt that they are better together as they stage their much-anticipated return to the local music scene with their EDM-infused earworm ‘Keep Me Jealous’.
Ahead of their album release, we caught up with the siblings for a short chat about their upcoming sophomore record, the concept behind their latest single and what they envy about each other.
Hi guys! Let’s talk a bit about your upcoming album – when can we expect the release?
B: We want to know too (laughs).
N: It’s not exactly complete yet – the structure is there but we are still fine-tuning a lot of stuff. When we started working on this album, we went in with the intention of writing as many pieces as we could and every track has its own unique flavour. We wanted to delay [the album] a little longer ’cause we wanted to push out the singles and let people listen to each track on its own first, then the entire album comes along. Till then, the content will be dropping continuously throughout.
How was it like working with The Chainsmokers’ songwriter, Fredrik Häggstam, for the new record?
N: We worked with him for a little bit on Take Heart. He came in as a filler and we got to know him. He’s a young guy and we got along well, so we decided to seek him out for this album and he very kindly agreed.
B: At that point, we had no idea Fredrik wrote for The Chainsmokers. He’s also written for quite a number of K-pop acts. It was an entirely new experience writing with ’em – the Swedes are indeed a different breed!
Since all of you participated in writing for the album, how was the entire process like?
N: We spent a whole week in Sydney last year, just coming in and writing songs every single day. And it was a great bonding session for us because we’ve been so busy lately that we hardly even get to sit down in a room together back home. It was a fantastic trip – we wrote around ten songs. (B: But only one ended up on the album!)
B: The thing about commercial pop acts is that a lot of them don’t get to take charge of their music, so they simply get a team of writers to do the work and they just have to perform the song as it is. For us, we transitioned from an indie band to this – but we didn’t want to give up the creative streak in us. We think it’s really important to guard our own works, even if it’s a commercial – whether it’s playing a part in the video or having a say on the concept – and it’s something we would never lose.
What’s the story behind your newest single ‘Keep Me Jealous’?
N: Basically, it’s the first song we wrote for our album so we decided to start off with the topic of love because we got hooked on this idea revolving around jealousy. In the song, we tried to spin it in a more positive light – you know, it’s good to keep your partner jealous so you can maintain a healthy degree of tension in your relationship, but the problem is that there’s a very fine line and if you tip far in, it’s easy to get lost in the downward spiral of mental games and everything just turns into rubble.
What’s one thing you guys are jealous about each other?
B: I’d say the split between [Narelle and I] is quite decent. For example, I’m not a mathematical or logical person, but Narelle is very good at it.
N: But I always get the best rooms…
B: Yeah, what’s up with that? My room’s like half the size of hers!
What about Sandra and Jon?
B: Both of us are pretty envious of Jon’s brain – he’s the guy that cracks the whip and has an awesome business sense.
N: I’ve never met anyone with more willpower than Sandra. When she wants something, she gets it. She’s well diversified in many aspects – like when it comes to music, she knows what melodies work and what doesn’t, even though it delves very far into a certain genre. At the end of the day, when we say the Willows are like a family, we really mean it because it’s the same as how you would know all the good and bad points of your sibling. You can be jealous, but you still love them no matter what.
What’s next for The Sam Willows?
B: We’ve got a few shows planned for June and then it’s going to be quite a long break for us as a group. After which we’re going to film our next music video, travel for a bit, do a couple more festivals in August, and then we’re all gonna focus on our own projects, before coming back together.
Can fans expect another concert anytime soon?
B: Heck yeah! Well, the pipeline is probably next year but we’re already in the midst of planning it. For our last concert, we started work on it really late so we only had a few months to scramble for music directors, set pieces and everything. We want to deliver a really good show this time.
Looks like it’s gonna be a long ride till the full album drops – till then, continue to #SupportLocal and keep on streaming ‘Keep Me Jealous’!