The Story of Newton Circus’ “Cellophane”

Newton Circus
Originally published by Two Story Melody

Building a career from the ground up, Newton Circus proves that Singapore has a significant place in the music industry. With the power of Unami Records behind the raw talent of four individuals, Newton Circus’ Cellophane is a prime example for indie artists to follow.

With guitar riffs and catchy beats similar to those of Foster the People and COIN, Cellophane is the perfect addition to your road trip playlist. The music itself is mellow and relaxing while the lyrics lead the listener to reflect on reality, breaking through the cellophane obstructing the view of their mind’s eye.

In a statement to Spill Magazine, band member Kenneth Ong revealed, “We are basically people who turn to art to find meaning in escaping, if only for a moment, from our other lives as cubicle crunchers. Like wool being pulled over our proverbial eyes, society is tunnel vision-bound to think that our problems are bigger than they are. But instead of being weighed down, I rather write music to weave in ideas that can, if only for a moment, cut through the cellophane of this reality and focus on the positivity and beauty in the simple pleasures that surrounds us.”

“Set in stone
we’re frozen by the canvas of our
thoughts and lies.
And we’re so afraid
so we stay in cellophane.
And we’re wrapped up in this crazy.
And we make a go again.
And if you don’t care.

In light of the previous statement from Ong, Cellophane becomes more than an anthem for those trapped in unhealthy relationships by the fear of being alone. (Though this topic could inspire an entire album). Newton Circus uses their platform to pull back the curtain on a harmful societal norm. So often we become unsatisfied in our circumstances but we don’t do anything about it. We wrap ourselves up in a cellophane straightjacket, obstructing our view of the good around us and choosing to believe that our fate is set in stone, that we are stuck. But we aren’t We can cut through the cellophane, choose to see the beauty around us and make a change if that’s what we really want.

I wanted some more insight into who Newton Circus really is and how Cellophane was born. The band graciously answered my questions and showed me their humility and passion for the music they produce.

Explain the name Newton Circus. How do you identify with the name as individuals and as a group?

So basically in Singapore there’s and [sic] area called Newton Circus, where Kenneth and Colin used to stay, and we’d get together and make our music there. But the main idea why we liked the term “Circus” was because we were really experimenting with different sounds. Apart from the core 4 of us, we’d be really opened to people coming in and adding their musical nuances. We actually did this gig once where there were like, 7 of us on stage!

Are you surprised by the positive response you’ve received since the release of ‘Cellophane?’

Has it been positive? We’re truly humbled. We just want to make people happy through our music. Every listener has their own story so to be able to share a similar connection through music is just incredible. Looking at the stats, after Singapore the next country that’s been picking up our song is Brazil! It’s amazing how music travels despite language differences.

How do your roots in Singapore influence your music style?

Singapore has a pretty international scene with people from all over the world. So really the idea of Singapore is global citizenry. Some people have also referenced us to a Nordic style of music that is honest and reflective. I suppose as we get more connected with one another and we’re able to share common experiences we’ll also recognize our individual identities and what makes us unique. It’s an interesting balance.

What is the best show you’ve seen?

There was this cozy bar in Reyjavik that featured the band Rokkuro with the lead singer on a cello — she was purely angelic. The beer certainly helped the imagery. Unfortunately, the bar has since closed down.

What is the biggest difference between ‘Cellophane’ and your earlier releases? How have you matured since your beginning as a band?

Definitely just making things simpler. There’s a magic when a simple tune is able to bring joy. Kenneth’s 1 ½ year old son dances to ‘Cellophane’ so perhaps we’ve passed the kid-friendly test for this one.

What are you doing when you’re not working on music?

Shredding paper. Actually all 4 of us have day jobs, and 2 of us have children! But yeah, shredding paper makes us look busy. The idea of getting paid while doing that during office hours is also quite liberating.

What has been your biggest challenge in the whole music making process?

I personally think it’s about getting the right feel out there, so to listeners, it’s not only about the lyrics, or catchy tunes, but about the entire experience. So yeah, getting the music known and getting people to know the band is the hardest part, which is why we’re really grateful for Two Story Melody to feature us!

What moment stands out to you as most significant thus far in your music careers?

I wouldn’t really call it a career in the sense of having a target in mind or counting achievements. It’s more those individual moments when we’re jamming, the music takes over and the whole world stops. Those are worth living for.

What is your dream venue to play?

Iceland Airwaves, Glastonbury.

Which musicians would you love to collaborate with?

It’ll be awesome to play with an orchestra. The sound would be incredibly rich.

Do you have an end goal as a group? A moment when you will know you’ve made it?

At the moment, we’re pretty content where we are. We just enjoy piecing together our stories and getting it out there, sharing it with people. We just want to spread our music to as many people as possible, one person at a time.

What is the main message you hope your listeners hear through your music?

Life is short so let’s constantly explore life to its fullest through music and enjoy every imagination in the process.

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