BANGKOK — “Thai society doesn’t have rights or wrongs, it doesn’t matter if you hit someone with a car and send them to the morgue.”
A man in his early 20s is bawling the lines in rhyming Thai verse in a cramped studio near Bangkok’s Victory Monument. Long grey sleeves poke out from under a T-shirt that recalls rappers from the noughties.
It’s a recent afternoon in a studio near Bangkok’s Victory Monument. Inside, another musician taps and slaps his electrical bass guitar, while another pair slides their fingers quickly across the frets back in a corner and a fifth member is pounding his sticks at the speed of thrash.
The singer, Wongsakorn “Tae” Temayung, is rehearsing the words to a song he wrote in anger after a disabled bread vendor was stabbed to death in Bangkok’s Lat Phrao area. Six drunk suspects – all sons of police officers – initially were allowed to ride off without arrest.
“Only you have valuable paper scraps to cover your wrongs. Not long after, news disappears and people forget. Only you’re born in a well-off family, with bureaucrat parents, there’s no need to behave or do penance.”
Tae is a member of Bomb At Track, a band that departs from the flavor-of-the-month indie and pop bands that draw attention: They have a message.
That message is often an indictment of social issues delivered with a rasp of metal and bite of rap. And since forming last year, the five-piece act’s gained profile not just with rock fans.
That first song, “Amnat Charoen” was Bomb At Track’s first to decry social double standards and injustice.
After Tae put down in writing his frustration and anger, he handed a notebook filled with lyrics to the other four members of Bomb At Track.
After putting out a long-shot music video in July 2016, the band said it took only 10 minutes before someone contacted them to play live. Ten months later, they are signed to Wayfer Records, an imprint of Warner Music Thailand.
Bomb At Track is Tae (vocals), Pakawat “Mesz” Prasertsak (guitar), Pradchayanon “Puii” Yungklang (rhythm guitar), Sart “Khon” Pornmuneesoontorn (bass) and Sirapob “Nin” Lertchavalit (drums). All recently graduated from Mahidol University’s College of Music except for Puii, who is studying music at Silpakorn University.
Four months after dropping “Amnat Charoen,” their second track, “Keyboard Murderer,” followed to take on internet trolls who destroy others’ lives through cyberbullying.
“You’re like a murderer with text as weapon. You see someone fall but you choose to stomp on them,” Tae sings.
He said the band’s songs are written from his own frustrating experiences, from what he sees online to a bad encounter with a police officer who tried to implicate him in a gang fight he had nothing to do with. The latter saw him put angst to pen to paper for the two hours he said it took to write “Criminal in Uniform,” which decries “in an era where Thai society is hopeless, there are law enforcers who shouldn’t be trusted.”
The country’s broader conflicts are not left out. The band’s recent single “Peace” boldly calls out the decade-long color-coded political divide, pointing out that the often-used political discourse of “peace” will never actually come true.
“Awareness doesn’t come with academic success. You create a clean white image and peace for which people plea,” Tae raps. “Things you say don’t match your behavior. The left hand lights a candle, the right hand pulls a trigger.”
The angsty quintet has drawn more admirers than critics for its pointed criticism of society and politics.
“Most Thai bands these days only talk about love and heartbreaks. It’s very rare to see a band criticizing society like you,” reads a representative comment by Theerayut Keawjumpol on the band’s YouTube channel.
Regardless of their all-Thai lyrics, Bomb At Track has expanded its fan base abroad. In August, they performed at the Busan International Rock Festival in South Korea.
“They may not understand the lyrics, but the music is fun and they headbanged to our songs,” Khon said. “A foreigner said he didn’t understand the meaning of our lyrics, but he said he watched our music videos and could guess what we’re trying to say.”
While audiences have named them Thailand’s Rage Against the Machine or Thailand’s Limp Bizkit, Bomb At Track bristles at the comparisons.
“They’re influential metal bands, and we’re fans of them. But when it comes to the concept and direction of Bomb At Track, we actually didn’t look up to them as our references,” bassist Khon said. “We put ourselves into it. We have our own direction and style.”
Vocalist Tae and the other band members said they hoped their songs can drive change on the individual and social levels.
“I hope for so many things. I hope that someone will listen to our songs and think of things differently, in a good way,” Tae said.
“Let’s say a person thinks about stealing or doing something bad, if he or she listens to our song it could change his mind,” guitarist Mesz said.
“Music can really influence a person. Especially since our music genre is straightforward, I think it could lead to discussion and change in society,” Khon added.