Two music-loving, regular joes. That’s how Jack Ho and Rai Kannu from Jack & Rai describe themselves. The singing and songwriting duo from Singapore, who have been inseparable for the last 11 years, talk about their love for music, gadgets and all things geeky.
How Jack & Rai began
"It's sort of like serendipity," said Rai when he described how it all began. During their solo days nearly 15 years ago, the boys were performing at a bar in Emerald Hill. Through chance (and a slight error in the performance bookings), they turned up at the bar at the same time. For the fun of it, the duo had their first jamming session during this chance meeting, and sparks flew.
“In 2002, I spotted an audition for a performing gig at the Wala Wala, but the audition required a group to perform,” said Rai, who roped Jack in to form the dynamic duo. 11 years later, the pair still faithfully plays at the cafe bar located at Holland Village every Sunday night.
Their music and work
Dave Matthews and Coldplay are just some of the covers the duo have started with, but as their music evolved, the boys draw their inspiration from alternaive blues rock. “Rai is also heavily influenced by the Beatles,” said Jack, who dabbles with the post-production for their original music.
Six years after the dynamic duo was formed, Jack & Rai graduated from covers to original songs. In 2008, the boys cut their first album, In Stores Now, and pushed it to digital fronts such as iTunes and Spotify for a wider reach.
The duo’s original composition As I Am was commissioned by Mediacorp as a theme song for the English-theme Channel 5’s blockbuster drama Red Thread. Just last month, the song was finally available on iTunes and Spotify.
“We have been exploring many different avenues to diversify in the music industry, from performing, songwriting, composing, arranging, being mentors and judges,” said Rai. They have also been invited to conduct workshops about writing lyrics for this year’s Singapore Writers Festival and have been commissioned to write the theme song for this year’s literary festival.
After they recorded their first album in late 2008, the boys learned more about music production, and the tools of the trade. “First and foremost is the program we used, and we familiarised ourselves with Logic Pro, which allows us to put our ideas into an arrangement, and we can share it with each other. When Rai wakes up with a tune in his head, he will record it in Logic Pro in his studio, sends it to me and I add more layers to it before we meet,” said Jack.
A good setup for audio monitoring is essential for Jack, who loves his Focal speakers. “It gives me a good judgement on how my sound is and shows everything, like a bad mix or something that I’m not happy with,” said Jack. Headphones are essential, especially when it comes to audio mixing. “We need something that is transparent and does not colour up the tones too much,” said Rai, who uses an AKG K271 MKII and Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones for audio referencing.
“Of the Jack & Rai duo, I have a goldfish memory, while Rai is still the caveman that uses paper and pen,” Jack said as he casts a guilty glance at Rai, who admits to being the analog half of the duo. When their minds draw a blank for song requests, the duo turn to Jack’s iPad to search for song lyrics. “Rai will tell a bad joke while I fish the lyrics out,” said Jack with a sheepish grin.
Their games and movies
“I love my PS3, and I’m quite selective with my titles because I do not want to spend too much time playing,” said Rai, who professes to be a Final Fantasy fan. The avid gamer also loves the Uncharted series from developer Naughty Dog and Batman Arkham Asylum. “I’ve just finished God of War: Ascension, and I love it because Kratos is so manly,” Rai said with a laugh.
Jack was all smiles when he was teasing Rai about their trip to Venice two years ago. “He was like, that’s where I climbed! That’s where I threw someone off the building,” said Jack as he mimics Rai’s excitement from recognising certain structures in the Assassin’s Creed game during the trip.
Rai is more traditional when it comes to movies, with an insanely huge DVD collection. Jack, on the other hand, prefers to digitise his favourite movies. The horror buff had a wide-eyed expression as he talked about his love for B-grade horror shows and movies such as Saw and anything that toss demonic stuff his way. “Whenever I have my chillax time, I use a Dune HD player, which I got from Adelphi when I went hi-fi shopping. It’s a bit pricey but you can stream from your iTunes, home network and plug a thumb drive or HDD in and supports all sorts of formats,” said Jack.
On social networks
Social networks are integral to their daily lives. “We use Facebook, put our updates of what we like and the interesting things we see on it,” asid Rai. Fortunately for the duo, there’s no other bands called Jack & Rai, so they are able to sign up for Instagram and Twitter accounts easily.
The pair are avid users of SoundCloud, using it to share their music and embedding it on Facebook for their fans to listen. “Maybe it’s a geek thing, but I love to see the wave forms on SoundCloud,” said Jack.
Jack & Rai perform every Wednesday from 8pm at Timbre @ Gillman Barracks, every Friday from 7pm to 9pm at Balaclava @ Ion Orchard and every Sunday from 9.30pm onwards at Wala Wala, Holland Village.
Video interview: AMTrade