【HEATWAVE】FOLK9 Interview: On Returning to Taiwan and the New Album "Rainbow Safari Polycotton"


Parn, Dome, Graph, Pat (left to right)

FOLK9 is:
Graph (กราฟ) Vocalist, Guitarist
Pat (พัด) Synth
Dome (โดม) Drummer
Parn (ป่าน) Bassist
Ex (เอ็กซ์) Guitarist (support member)


—It's been 5 years since we released the Chinese Banquet album. What have each of us been doing lately?

Pat: After we released the Chinese Banquet album in 2018, we also released 3-4 singles after that. We played some shows and took breaks because Graph moved back to his home town (Sattahip) at that time, and it became more challenging for us to meet up. We would occasionally see each other. Also, during the Covid period, there wasn't much work for us to perform, so I shifted to working behind the scenes in production, mainly at The Matter (Thai Media). Now, I'm working as a freelancer like I used to.

Graph: That was around the time I finished school. As Pat mentioned, we didn't see each other much. After I graduated, I kept going back and forth between Bangkok and Sattahip to help with family business until now. I made music and did some work editing music videos.

Pat: Graph is like a regular editor for various Live Sessions. I think most people have probably come across Graph's work at some point. You could ask people from NewEchoes, Crazy Mondae, and Parinam Music (laughs).

Parn: I work in sound production. When we released the Chinese Banquet album, we had gigs throughout the year. Even during Covid, we played whenever there was an opportunity, or we would meet up whenever we could. I've been working on other projects a bit. Currently, I'm involved with a shoegaze and doom metal band called Salad.

—So when did "Slow Dance" come about?

Pat: Typically, when we create songs for FOLK9, we begin with a demo. Graph had a demo ready for me during that period. It was shortly after the Covid situation, so we were able to work on it together. Initially, our plan was to begin working on a new album at that time. However, due to time constraints, we decided to release it as a single, "Slow Dance," instead. but this song will not be on the new album. With a sound completely different from Chinese Banquet.


—Let's talk about the coming new album.

Graph: We've decided to name it "Rainbow Safari Polycotton."

Pat: Let's be honest. This album didn't start with a predefined theme, much like how "Chinese Banquet" didn't have one at the outset. Our initial focus was on creating music and capturing the mood of each song. After assembling all the demos, we arranged the songs from start to finish. I feel like there are two primary vibes in the album. The first half has a strong psychedelic feel, while the second half is gentler and incorporates elements of ambiance.

We envisioned this album as a journey, a kind of psychedelic trip. To illustrate, I own an album titled "Music for Psychedelic Therapy" by Jon Hopkins, which has an ambient sound. We aimed to infuse our songs with a pop music quality while retaining the ambient essence. The lyrics and stories revolve around embarking on a journey, not solely relying on ambient sounds. In essence, it's akin to a voyage, representing various scenarios a person might encounter during a trip, with each song conveying a distinct experience.

Parn: In almost every song, the lyrics have a dual meaning or may relate to everyday life, such as exploring different types of relationships.

Pat: Expanding on the word "Rainbow," if we think about it in artistic terms, it's like observing a rainbow's changing mood. The songs transition from one emotional state to another, mirroring the experience of seeing a rainbow from one end to the other (Graph: it descends in steps). Regarding "Safari," I'll share a spoiler – each song features fictitious characters. There's Mr. Choco Pie and someone else. One character, in particular, goes by the name Mister Rainbow Guy, and it evoked the image of a zoo, leading to the term 'Safari.' Initially, it was a fantastical concept, but the feeling was more like a zoo, so we settled on the word safari. As for "Polycotton," it adds an extra layer to the concept. Just using the term "Rainbow Safari" might seem a bit abrupt to the audience. Rainbow Safari Polycotton isn't merely a made-up phrase; it's a real polycotton fabric with a rainbow zebra pattern. From a visual perspective, it harmonizes well with the album's overall feel. In summary, it encapsulates the diverse situations individuals encounter during their journeys, whether literal or metaphorical.

*Spoiler alert: The album cover was created by Peach (@_ph____), the same artist who collaborated with the band Soft Pine.


—The first single the band've released is “กระซิบ (Whispering)”

Pat: This song is in Thai, and there will be 2-3 Thai songs on this album. The rest will be international songs. I'm dividing it based on content and music. The reason I chose to release this song first is that, firstly, it's catchy, or as the band thinks, it's the catchiest. Additionally, it's strategically placed right in the middle of the album, between psychedelic and ambient

Regarding the lyrics, as I mentioned earlier, they can have dual meanings. This song is probably around track 4-5 on the album, and it's a situation where we start hearing whispers. The hook lyrics describe various situations. For example, "A soft whisper, a gentle sunshine, born just now. A soft whisper pressed against my ear. I just happened to get to know this new voice that I've never encountered before. It's a new experience. (Graph: It's like an open-ended sentence that can be used for describing new experiences that gently whisper to us). The verse continues the story, cautioning not to let anyone read your mind, asking to be left alone during meditation, and expressing surprise (laughs). It's the situation where we're about to experience this. But, as Parn said, it can also have a broader interpretation.

In terms of the music, I would describe it as somewhat similar in mood to "Slow Dance," featuring a lot of psychedelic pop elements. However, it's even more pop-oriented and fun. Various elements are used in the song, such as the Mellotron sound. If you've ever heard The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever," you'll recognize this sound in an iconic way. There are also harmonious guitars that are easy on the ears, flowing with delay effects that fill the entire song, creating an echoing or whispering effect (Graph: And there are hidden sounds). It's a fun song that's easy to listen to and can also have a bit of a rock vibe.

Parn: I think in the music part, if you give it a listen, you'll get a sense of the overall beat direction. As I mentioned, it's placed in the middle of the album.

Graph: To put it simply, in terms of the music, this album is designed to be more enjoyable to perform live. it's definitely more fun, featuring groovy dance beats or a more rocking feel compared to our original set. In terms of the content, I see it as a journey of discovering new things we've never encountered before or didn't believe until we experienced them ourselves. It's a very 'wow' feeling. Actually, when composing this song, everything came together quite quickly – both the lyrics and the melodies seemed to flow effortlessly.

—The next single is set to be released by the end of this month, can you reveal us the details?

Pat: The second single is titled "Choco Pie." This one is purely situational and is placed in the front half of the album. It's a moment of whimsy and enjoyment, depicting the encounter with a talking Choco Pie lying in the middle of the road. Can you imagine the scene? (laughs) It's amusing, like a fantasy come to life. The verse goes, "Talking Choco Pie, Sleeping on the floor." The Choco Pie invites you to dance.


—What does having Ex from Soft Pine bring to your performance?

Pat: Actually, Ex has been performing with me for quite some time, dating back to the Chinese Banquet set or even earlier. I used to play guitar for FOLK9 during the Chinese Banquet album period, but I had to switch to keyboards because I couldn't find anyone to play the keyboard part. So I brought Ex in to help with the guitar, and Ex has been part of the team since then. If you ask, what does Ex contribute? It's been really helpful because, to be honest, all four of us have relatively short attention spans (laughs), and that includes me. When I have Ex on board, it helps balance our energy during performances. It's like, "Okay, we have a show tonight, what do we need to do?" Ex is skilled at curating playlists and similar tasks. During rehearsals, there's the question, "Should we change this song to that one?" Ex assists us as a valuable band member.

Graph: This applies to decision-making aspects, soundchecks, and even determining our music setlist. What should we play?


—Did Ex contribute to the new album?

Pat: Actually, Ex also helped with the production aspect.

Graph: Because Poom (Parinam Music labels owner) ordered Ex to remind FOLK9 to finish the album (laughs).

Pat: This album came together quite quickly. Essentially, most of the songs started as demos created by Graph. Only about half of them were reworked. The rest remained in demo form and were further developed. These demos had been in the works for the past two years since the onset of COVID. Whenever Graph found free time, he eventually organized them into the album's setlist, which began during the last Songkran festival. Some tracks were recorded in just one take. They retain a raw but not entirely unpolished quality—let's call it "medium rare."


—Did Graph always intend for it to be psychedelic, or was it initially conceived as a trip?

Pat: In Graph's daily life, he uses marijuana sparingly. Compared to the Chinese Banquet episode, this album is actually more psychedelic. Everyone pitched in to make it more accessible and easier to digest. I must admit that Graph's roots have always been in psychedelia.

Graph: I harvested ideas from the demo period. We gathered the creative fuel and then transformed it into a demo. Typically, I have a psychedelic inclination. When I'm making a demo or working on something, I like to immerse myself in that vibe.

*Smoking marijuana is prohibited in the realm of R.O.C.

—The band is gearing up for an Asian tour. How are you all feeling about it?

Pat: It might be better to ask Parn; he can’t wait to climb a cliff there.

Parn: Oh, get ready for some fun! I'm really excited, especially since China is a place I haven't had the chance to visit much. Plus, We'll be returning to Taiwan.

—I heard there might be some collaborations with Chinese bands. Can you tell us more about that?

Pat: We didn't know much about it initially. It seems like this project involves a semi-songwriting camp setup. The idea is to bring together artists, including Asian artists, for collaborative music creation. It's tied to a project with NetEase in China or a streaming platform in their country, though it's still in the demo stage. Right now, our main focus is on the album.


—Comparing the music scene in Taiwan to that in Thailand, what are your thoughts on it?

Pat: Well, FOLK9 is generally an introverted band. The extroverts among us are Parn, X, and I. When it comes to Garf and Dome, after performing, they usually head back to their rooms. Based on my experience of living and performing in both places, I'd say Taiwanese people tend to be more energetic than Thai people, both in terms of artists and the audience. It's not a judgment of good or bad; it's just the kind of energy you feel. It's not necessarily bursting with energy, but it's lively. Personally, I'm quite energetic. Additionally, Taiwan seems to have tight-knit music communities, with groups like NewEchoes and Crazy Mondae. Many of these small cliques have their own practice spaces and hangout spots where they enjoy music together.

Parn: It had a rehearsal room and even organized their own small music festival in Taiwan. Interestingly, even though there were many music festivals happening across the city at that time, I didn't feel that different from Thailand's music scene. It's quite similar.

Pat: Maybe it's just easier to navigate the city. I had the chance to meet more people than I would have while traveling. It felt like, "Let's go here, and later we'll go there." It's just a different vibe. In terms of lifestyle, it's quite similar to Thailand; it's just the energy that sets them apart.


—But they have a government that provides a lot of support.

Parn: I often hear the word government. Whether talking about festivals or which bands make albums at what time? I often hear in passing that local artists will always receive support.

Pat: For example, when I was working on Sundae Records with Ex, I used to organize an event for L8ching, a Taiwanese pop artist. He is another person who receives government support. Or even Sunset Rollercoaster. It's a very good story. He actually started long before us. Look here, it can do a lot.


—Will this new album be distributed in Taiwan as well?

Pat: Distribution should be standard on all digital streaming platforms. As for physical merch, you may have to wait for our announcement.

—Which Taiwanese artist would you like to collaborate with?

Graph: Jay Chou (laughs) Dome can play Jay Chou songs.

Pat: Jay Chou, because right now I can't think of anything (laughs). It's like we don't know many friends in Taiwan as a group. So I probably still can't figure it out. But let's say that if you get to know someone, there is a possibility.


—What would you like to say to Taiwanese fans?

Pat: The most recent that we went to play at Neon Oasis Fest had a very good vibe. Even though it was raining, we played well and were happy. Graph even spoke funny Taiwanese on stage. I miss that kind of atmosphere. I want to meet Taiwanese fans again. The show will be a new set because it is also a song from the new album. Guaranteed to be more fun than before.

Parn: Thank you to everyone who stood in the rain and watched the entire show. It was cold, very cold. Prepare to show a new set.