The Sam Willows: good at saving AND spending money

Which member of the local quartet admitted that they hated their latest single ‘Save Myself’ at first?

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Photos: Tammi Tan, The Sam Willows/Facebook

Fans who have been waiting patiently for the follow-up to local band The Sam Willows’ debut album Take Heart may only need to wait a couple months longer – if all goes according to plan.

“We’re aiming for an October release, but knowing us, it’ll probably be in 2020,” deadpanned Benjamin Kheng. Procrastination jokes aside, the four-piece group let on that the new record will likely contain about 11 tracks, including freshly released singles ‘Keep Me Jealous’ and ‘Save Myself’.

The music video for ‘Save Myself’ will drop much sooner: on August 25, to be precise. Without giving away too much about its contents, the Willows told Toggle that it will feature “fears being manifested in different forms.”

It was also the most “physically tiring” music video the quartet has ever shot, and they are anticipating “a lot of unflattering screenshots” of themselves.

“Our intention was not for us to look good – we really don’t look good – and we were genuinely in pain during the shoot,” said Jonathan Chua, after which Sandra Riley Tang dramatically added, “Some of us almost died.” Exaggeration or not: yikes.

On the bright side, ‘Save Myself’ has been met with largely positive reviews (or at least, “nothing majorly bad so far”, as Benjamin put it). Narelle Kheng, Benjamin’s younger sister, even shared that a girl told them that the song came just at the right time for her. “We know how it feels to be down and suddenly hear a song that you need, so to do that for someone else is a huge blessing,” she gushed.

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And to think that she pretty much hated the track at first. “It was supposed to be a ballad in the beginning, and I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like it when things change,” she admitted, recalling that she reacted with an appalled expletive the first time she heard the more upbeat mix. The final version has since grown on her.

At the end of the day, it’s easy to agree with Benjamin’s assessment that ‘Save Myself’ incites less polarised opinions compared to the sassier, more in-your-face ‘Keep Me Jealous’. But don’t ask the members to choose a favourite between the two.

“When you go out and party you’d want to hear ‘Keep Me Jealous’, but when you’re home alone you’d want to hear ‘Save Myself’,” said Jonathan. “Both songs have different emotions that suit different times of the day, so it depends on how you want to feel,” said Sandra.

Read on for more from our “save”-themed interview with The Sam Willows.


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When the band is faced with a crisis, which member is most likely to save the day?
Benjamin: He’s the logistics man.
Narelle: Even in my own personal life when things are going to s***, I look for Jon.
Jonathan: I need to find better friends. More useful friends. (laughs)

Tell me about a time you saved someone.
I was walking down Haji Lane when a man had a heart attack right in front of me! Two women immediately went to help him, and thankfully one of them was a nurse who knew how to do CPR. [Jon: So how did you save the person?] I got them water and did crowd control. So you see, saving people isn’t just about you directly doing the deed, but you can help make the situation easier.
Benjamin: I was a lifeguard in the army, and one night at 3am, a guy fell out of his boat, so I had to jump in and save him because he was panicking and wouldn’t inflate his lifejacket.
Jonathan: I was a firefighter for two years so I had to save a lot of people. [Narelle: We’ve heard some of Jon’s firefighting stories and they’re quite intense.]

What about a time someone saved you?
Jonathan: I used to date this crazy girl and I wanted to ghost her, so I asked my friend to save me from her.
Narelle: I’ve had a lot of friends that have gotten me out of horrible situations that I shouldn’t have been in in the first place. (laughs)
Jonathan: An Uber driver saved Narelle once. We were at the airport but she had forgotten her passport, so the driver drove back to her house, picked up the passport, and sent it to her.

If all your bandmates were drowning and you could only save one of them, who would it be and why? (We direct the question to Benjamin first.)
Think carefully, Ben, who would play PS4 with you?
Benjamin: Aiyah, Jon lah, Jon.
Narelle: I am your FLESH and BLOOD!
Benjamin: Narelle can swim, Sandra can do yoga [Ed’s note: We don’t see how that helps, but okay], so Jon lah!
Sandra: Actually, Jon is pretty useless in the water.

Okay, since Narelle can swim, who would you save?
I’ll just jump in with them and we can all drown together. (laughs) [The rest of the band groans in disapproval.]

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Who is the best and worst at saving money?
I think we’re all okay at saving money.
Narelle: I want to say that Jon saves the most money, but he also spends the most money, although it’s definitely within his means.
Jonathan: We surprise each other with big purchases sometimes, like “by the way, I bought a house!” or “by the way, I bought a car!” or “by the way, I did my hair – it was $1,000!”

Are you saving up for anything in particular right now?
I’m saving up for a wife. Marriage is an expensive task.
Narelle: I want to save up a bunch of money and blow it all on a long vacation. I would love to be able to take a three-month vacation.
Sandra: I want to travel too.

Have you ever lost an important file or document on your computer because you forgot to save it? What happened?
Sandra & Narelle:
All the time.
Sandra: You know when you’re working so quickly and you’re so stressed, and you accidentally close the window and for some reason you click “no” instead of “yes” when you’re prompted to save?
Narelle: This happens to me so often, I don’t even expect things to be saved anymore.

What’s the most outrageous thing you have done to save face?
Narelle: I’ve cut out all the shameful memories from my head.
Benjamin: I think we’ve done so much crap in public that there’s not much face to save anymore. (laughs)

The Sam Willows’ single ‘Save Myself’ is now available on online digital platforms.

Birthing debut album the start of a journey for The Sam Willows
Benjamin & Narelle Kheng will sing (but not talk) about love

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