“Not everyone might take a liking to our music. But It's fine by us.Azrul”
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There are those who come across as sycophants in a scene that allows for Jagger-like posturing and moue. And then there are acts like JGFZBTS (pronounced Jaggfuzzbeats). Azrul Zainal (vocals and guitar) and Omar Aiman (drums) are the doughty Shah Alam duo who stare at the distance and declaim flecks of gaité de coeur with the equanimity of a country cleric. There’s much ado about JGFZBTS, and aggrandisement is not it.
“We appreciate the people that listen to us and we understand that not everyone might take a liking to our music. But it’s fine by us,” Azrul intoned wryly. JGFZBTS has this air of assured insouciance that is hard to dismiss. Azrul is no stranger to songwriting – a possible contributive variable to the duo’s quiet confidence. His subliminal, slow-burner of a mellifluous solo track, ‘Slow’ featuring Orang Malaya, is a galaxy away from the creative goings-on perpetuated by JGFZBTS. With five songs on SoundCloud that express their mildly adventurous nature; JGFZBTS leapfrogs from folk rock to jangly indie tropes before joining the lighter-in-the-air cadre with a “cheesy breakup song” that sounds anything but. Perhaps this exploratory disposition is less about defying categorisation than it is about a band that is still ruminating on its ‘sound’ – a journey their listeners are unabashedly invited to participate in.
‘Hours’ is the “cheesy breakup song” in question. “But it was fine because it’s our ‘cheesy breakup song’,” said Azrul Zainal. With a spartan, restless riff that luminesces in an almost pristine and dare we say – sanitised sonic milieu – ‘Hours’ sets the mise en scène for the story to unfurl. Were it not for Azrul’s voice – one that bespeaks of grave, unfathomable worldweariness – the song’s saccharine jangly pop intimations could be mistaken for Scandinavian indie pop; a compliment by any measure. The economy of words and leanness are further extrapolated into Omar’s dutiful kick drum pounding, as the hypnotic beat marches in lockstep with the four on the floor. “The lyrics kind of speak for itself in this,” he continued. The premise of the song reads like the first half of Hugh Grant’s floppy-haired turn in Notting Hill. “Basically, this guy falls hard for this girl only to know in the end that she didn’t feel the same and all these negative thoughts about her just rush in this guy’s mind. But, he realises he was just letting it get to him and he shouldn’t feel all so negative about it.” Richard Curtis would be pleased.
‘Wasted Night’ arrives as an epiphany on the rhythmic interplay from the guitars, bass, and drums. “There weren’t much thought put into it honestly” intoned Azrul with more than a dollop of modesty. “We wanted to show the more vibrant folk rock side of us”. With the hedonistic, and oddly existentialist theme of “waste-away-your-days, party-all-night-long kinda days” underpinning the song, Azrul’s drawl channels the restrained, brooding reticence of someone who has seen too much. “It’s all fun and games until life decides to hit you in the face,” he intimated. How delightfully ominous.
On ‘Damncoldurban’ the lads trade the sanguineness of their earlier tracks with something damn saturnine for a change. As words like ‘hate’ and morbid allusions to nooses trudge under a deadweight of implied depression and morose riffing, Azrul’s lusty “So who am I to you?!” becomes the cathartic release worthy of the build-up. Then with ‘Talk To You’, the band continues what seems like to be an oft-visited trope by the band; that of young love in tatters, much like ‘Hours’.
‘Lovin’’ is the track that deluged JGFZBTS with the kind of enviable blogosphere hype any musician would be proud of. “It was a bit different than our previous tracks. It kind of struck us. We were basically experimenting but we just thought it was cool to mix things up a little and have a song for people to bop their heads or dance to.” And mix it up they did. Kicking off with a muted, twinkling guitar chug amidst swirling, modulated synth atmospherics, ‘Lovin’’ transitions into a sixteenth-note-backed chorus bit (“la-la-la-lala-lovin’ you”) that barrels forward triumphantly towards a terminus regnant with promises of dancing – and lots of it. Not for them the smokescreen of fustian and fantasy, “‘Lovin’’ is about getting that nervous-butterflies-down-your stomach kinda feeling you get when you see someone you find attractive and trying to get attention from them,“ explained Azrul.
Well, it is fair to say – at this point – that attention is something the lads of JGFZBTS have no problem getting. J