By Grace Moore
BANGKOK — For years, two major labels have been the kingmakers in Thailand’s music scene, dictating what music is heard and promoting bands with Western appeal.
While GMM Grammy and RS Records continue to dominate, the scene is now diversifying, according to Suchai “Chai” Chucherd, guitarist for Bangkok punk band BrandNew Sunset, with more indie labels launching and building interest in independent music outside the control of the mainstream companies.
This change marks the beginning of a new era for musicians who aspire to make music outside that corporate system, said Kris Pomjairux, cofounder of DIY music promotion company Wildest Youth.
“I think the music industry is changing. You can find independent music and great DIY bands playing shows every night in Bangkok,” Kris said. “Venue owners, bar owners and people in the city see that indie music is popular but we want everyone to be able to see these bands, not just in Bangkok.”
And social media has helped level the playing field and get music heard outside of the capital.
Wildest Youth founders Kris and Supakit “Dew” Supha began organizing and promoting tours for upcoming independent bands outside of Bangkok to bring alternative music to underrepresented communities.
“No one tours these areas,” Supakit said. “It’s important we bring these bands to the north, to Isaan, to crowds that would never get to see them unless they came to Bangkok. It shows people they can do it too.”
Kris and Supakit are an example of the kind of DIY spirit currently fueling the independent music scene in Bangkok. Their aim is to bring music to towns around the nation where bands normally wouldn’t tour; bands play smaller shows packed with loyal fans and expose kids outside of Bangkok to a new Thai sound, they said.
Wildest Youth’s first tour in spring 2017 took three popular Bangkok hardcore and punk bands to venues throughout the northeastern provinces that comprise Isaan. Crammed into a tour bus for four music-filled days, the bands – Pistol’s 99, Degaruda and BrandNew Sunset – talked of their hopes of reaching Thailand’s youth and inspiring a generation of musicians with something other than top 40 or major label music.
Four months on, the duo is teaming up again getting ready to announce another set of tour dates under the Wildest Youth name.
“It’s a work in progress, but we aren’t giving up,” said Kris, who also fronts DIY punk band Pistols 99. “Playing out there, being on the road, we are living our dream.
”With the access to more music publications and websites such as FungJai and BandCamp, bands are now able to promote themselves online and have started to carve out a place for indie music in the country.
This change is empowering Thai musicians to play the music they want, work with independent labels and promoters to book shows and tour the country, without giving up control over their sound to mainstream labels, Suchai of BrandNew Sunset said.
“There are a lot of great bands in Thailand, they just have to learn how to be themselves,” Suchai said.
Wildest Youth’s next tour will take BrandNew Sunset, The Ginks, Pistols 99, Slow Suicide and Big Cock into the south for a tour that kicks off Dec. 2 at Boog Bar in Nakhon Si Thammarat. Entry is 200 baht.
Grace Moore is a Bangkok-based filmmaker and photographer. Her work is available at www.gracelinmoore.com.