Sarun "Top" Pinayrat came up with Fungjai in 2014 when he felt a Spotify-shaped hole in the Thai music scene. In league
with Piyapong “Py” Muenprasertdee, the pair have constantly organized gigs and talks from names like Chanon Yodhong (art
director of Genie Records at GMM Grammy) and Torpong Chantabubpha from pop band Scrubb. His latest project, "Malama Collective," helps fund local musicians.
Former member of the pop duo Niece and daughter of veteran rocker Keo Carabao, Kiratra teamed up with the lead vocalist of local indie band Yellow Fang, Pimporn Metchanun, and their mutual friend Koramit Vajrasthira in 2011 to found Have You Heard? Since then, they've grown it into Bangkok's most well-respected indie concert promoter, bringing in names including The Radio Dept, Phoenix and Blood Orange.
How did your company form and what does it want to achieve?
It was formed out of our passion for live music. Back then, there was no promoter in Thailand who brought in bands that we wanted to see, so we decided to start bringing them in ourselves. Recently, indie music in Bangkok has boomed.
What do you think are the main factors contributing to the rise of indie music in Bangkok?
It’s easier for people to discover music now. With the advent of Apple music and You-Tube, more and more people can find artists who are similar to their favorite bands. Another reason is simply a change in culture. The new generation really likes going to concerts.
What are the main struggles that indie concert organizers in Bangkok face?
The unstable political situation and the lack of decent venues.
What do you hope to see BKK’s indie music scene achieve in the future?
I hope to see it keep growing so that Bangkok becomes a “must-stop” for every band when they come to Asia.
Tell us how you choose which bands to bring in?
Before it was our friends or our own preferences, but now we try to get something for everyone and every generation.
Kawee “May” Soontornwan, founderof “Medium Rare”
Kawee “May” Soontornwan’s Medium Rare project made Live RCA one of Bangkok’s top venues for live music thanks to acts like Crystal Castles, FKJ, Lucy Rose and Ryan Hemsworth. Sadly it’ll be closing at the end of this month, but that won’t stop May from searching for other venues to host international bands that he selects for being indie, but not so underground the Thai market hasn’t heard of them—hence the name, Medium Rare.
Credit: Just Like Yesterday
How did your company form and what are the main things it wants to achieve?
May: My partner worked at Live RCA, where the original promoter only focused on electronic music DJs. I had experience in organizing small live music events, so I took over that job.
What are the main struggles indie concert organizers face?
May: Sometimes when I bring a relatively rare artist over, the audience is not very open-minded. When they don’t know the artist, they won’t consider checking the new music out.
What do you hope to see BKK’s indie music scene achieve in the future?
May: If you look at the indie music scene around Southeast Asia, other countries’ artists are trying to push their music into the international market. We should try to push our indie music out too. The indie musicians do have their international followers, but they are very niche. I used to follow the local indie scene but now I’m grown up and feel like I can’t get my head around it. The music is not internationally focused. Of course there are some bands who have played overseas but they just tour and are not
right for the market.
Are you implying that the local indie musicians need to adjust their style to fit in the international market?
May: Yes, I am.
But surely as artists they should stay true to their sound rather than just do what they think is commercial?
May: I think it’s important that what you love also makes you money and you can survive on it. Otherwise, the lack of income will catch up with you. You’ll be forced to do something else and give up on your dreams.
Can you give us a hint which bands you hope to bring to BKK in the near future?
May: We are in the middle of dealing with one band who are touring around here in August. And maybe another artist who has already been to Bangkok but is coming back again to do something special.
Why do international bands tend to “skip” Bangkok and just visit neighboring countries?
May: It’s business. Some festivals have a deal with the artists where they are not allowed to play at any nearby countries, because the festival organizers are trying to draw audiences from those countries to their festival. However, in general, our country doesn’t have a big enough scene that would allow us to feel confident we’d sell enough tickets no matter who is playing.
Tell us how you choose your bands?
May: I usually choose a band that is currently touring around Thailand because that increases the chance of booking them. After that, we think of bands who are touring around the region, and we decide which band to book based on the fanbase in Thailand.
What's next in 2017?
The indie rock group based in London and New York bring their unique blend of grunge, garage, experimental synth and electronica sound to Bangkok, including performances of hits like “All I Wanna Do” and “Waiting a Lifeline.”
Jul 14, Live RCA, Rama 9 Rd. B900 from Eventpop.me
The French indie-rock band, best known for a sound that traverses synth-pop, alternative rock and new wave, makes their Bangkok debut to perform tracks from their latest album “Ti Amo.”
Aug 17. Moonstar Studio 8, Ladphrao Soi 80. B2500-3000 from haveyouheard.live
The British electro-pop duo perform their hits “Without You,” “Drive” and “Livewire” in an intimate setting.
Aug 1, 7pm. Do Not Disturb (behind Nunglen and Escobar), Ekkamai Soi 5/1, 094-474-9266. B2,000 from Thaiticketmajor
Catch live performances of global hits like “ILYSB,” “Hot Lights” and “Omg” when this three-piece American alternative rock band stop by Bangkok for the first time.
Aug 2, 7pm. Do Not Disturb (behind Nunglen and Escobar), Ekkamai Soi 5/1, 094-474-9266. B2,000 from Thaiticketmajor
Places to get your live indie fix in Bangkok
This Lad Phrao Soi 8 live music venue comes with a homey bar and restaurant, and promises high-quality live indie
music with a different theme each night.
Lad Phrao Soi 8, 081-173-3616, 085-146-8017, 086-866-8869. Open daily 6pm-12:30am
It might be on the outskirts of Bangkok, but Parking Toys is well worth the taxi, thanks to its nightly lineup of great live
music ranging from electronic to rockabilly and jazz. And you don’t have to worry about dressing up, because no one here really cares.
17/22 Ram Indra Soi 14, 02-907-2228. Open daily 6pm-2am
Bangkok’s latest hidden bar is tucked inside the meat-centric restaurant Wild & Co. Here, the partner-owners from Loy Shy music bar in Ratchathewi promise live jazz, soul, blues and electro, along with vinyl-heavy DJ sets.
Wild & Co., 33/1 Soi Farm Wattana, Rama 4 Rd., 087-999-9948. Open Tue-Sun 5:30pm-1am
SOY SAUCE FACTORY
Downstairs operates like a bar, pouring basic but stiff drinks in a very barebones environment—open plan, concrete floor, industrial lighting. It’s also a space for live bands from time to time, while the upstairs space regularly hosts exhibitions.
11/1 Charoen Krung Soi 24, 061-835-6824. Open Mon-Sat 10am-7pm
Situated in a grungy shophouse out in the Rama 9 badlands, this venue notonly hosts regular live music, it also serves one of the best burgers in the city and a lot of craft beer.
598/66 Asoke Din Daeng Rd., 081-438 7221, 02-245-2965. Open Tue-Sun 11am-midnight
This hip space out in On Nut does anything related to art: gigs, exhibitions, film screenings. Your band can even book it as a rehearsal studio.
1395 Sukhumvit Soi 77, 085-483-7675. Open daily 1pm-1am
Bars and Nightclubs playing alternative soundtracks
This space brings DJs spinning mo lam, luk thung, African music and other global beats on vinyl. It makes for a good night out when paired with their high-quality ya dong (moonshine).
Sukhumvit Soi 51, 02-261-6661. Open Tue-Sun 6pm- 2am
Jam is a hip urban refuge in an unlikely residential setting. This small venue brings diverseDJs, two friendly dogs and a lot of quirksto Bangkok’s indie music community. Hostslive music from time to time but mostly features DJs.
41 Charoen Rat Soi 1, 083-5451-833. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-midnight
Hidden down a secluded soi off Thonglor, this bar is basically a Japanese hipster’s wet dream—super-cool without even trying. Duck inside the low door frame and you’ll be greeted by a soundtrack of achingly hip world music.
810/22 Sukhumvit 55 Soi Thararom 2, 094-260-4713, Open Tue-Sat 8pm-2am
Located on the corner of Silom Soi 8, this six-story building comprises a first floor dedicated to a grungy art space and chilled-out DJs, while the Safe Room on the second floor is reserved for some serious dancing.
Silom Soi 8, 087-061-1117. Open Thu-Sun 7pm-midnight
BLAQ LYTE NEW!
Hidden on the second floor of BadMotel, this venue focuses on underground modern hiphop
music. The young owner also donates some of the bar’s profits to a foundation for orphans that he founded himself.
2/F, 331/4-5 Sukhumvit 55 Rd., 02-712-7288. Open daily 5pm-1am