Mellow Motif Revisited

Aaron Ong

What a difference a year makes. It’s been just over a year since CMU’s own Mellow Motif was first introduced to us via The Cut. Back then, the band was having their first live performance outside of campus. The band has since undergone a slight change of personnel, and now performs regularly across venues in Thailand and Singapore.

More importantly, Mellow Motif was signed by Warner Music Thailand, and they released their debut album in February earlier this year. Their self-titled album is now available at all major record stores in Thailand, and will be in the Singapore and Hong Kong markets very soon. For those who can’t wait, the CD can be purchased online at Mellow Motif’s official website,

Being signed by a major record label and releasing an album is certainly no easy task, especially when you are talking about fresh graduates who have only been performing for just over a year! Thankfully, we had the opportunity to catch up with Natasha Patamapongs and Eugene Ang, lead vocalist and pianist respectively, who told us about their eventful year since graduating back in May 2008.

After leaving CMU, both Natasha and Eugene headed back to their respective homes in Thailand and Singapore, with Eugene taking up a position as a software engineer. However, both still harbored hopes of picking up where they had left off with Mellow Motif.

“When I graduated, I told myself: I am going to give myself one full year to prove that I can and I will make it in the music industry,” says Natasha. With that determination in hand, and with Eugene traveling to Bangkok to join up with Natasha, the duo proceeded to contact other musicians and play at gigs to raise funds, all with the aim of producing an album. After the initial concept of the album had been threshed out, much time was spent in the studio recording the album. Warner Music was just one step away.

“An engineer at Dynamic Studio (a studio we used to record a few tunes) suggested I call someone he knew at Warner. He said this album should go on sale with a major label, and he knew some people who would definitely be interested in releasing this,” Natasha explains. A few meetings later, Warner Music Thailand and Mellow Motif agreed on a contract, and the rest as they say is history.

For Nadda Buranasiri, Managing Director at Warner Music Thailand, the decision to sign Mellow Motif was an easy one. “I was very impressed because there are not many Thais who can sing Jazz like Natasha. Jazz is quite a niche genre of music for Thai people, but we agreed that we need to support quality artists,” says Buranasiri.

Still, Mellow Motif had full control and freedom over the songs to be in the finished product. “We mostly used songs that we felt were excellent tunes and for some reason or other were rarely covered by other musicians. Also only songs that we both liked were selected,” says Eugene.

For those who have listened to Mellow Motif’s music, you would know that Jazz covers accounted for most of the group’s repertoire early on. That is true for most of the band’s debut album, but it might strike most as a surprise that the first single off the album turned out to be a cover of 1995’s smash Pop hit “Lemon Tree” by German band Fools Garden.

“In the interest of making our album marketable, the first single had to have mass appeal,” explains Eugene. “I was initially skeptical about our choice, but after we worked on it a while I became convinced that our re-interpretation would make a great single.”

Most major radio stations in Thailand now play Mellow Motif’s “Lemon Tree”, but the song has not been restricted to the airwaves, with the official music video now on several channels including Channel [V] and MTV Thailand.

“Shooting the music video was unbelievably exhausting. Just imagine a girl who’s never worn high-heels before in her life having to stand in them for 13 hours straight doing repetitive motions!” exclaims Natasha. “Anyway it was a real great time! We all had fun and were very impressed by how much we got done in one day.”

“The first time when I saw our music video on MTV I was having an interview at Warner’s office,” says Natasha. “When I heard “Lemon Tree” from the TV, I was like 'OMG!' and I needed to stop the interview because I wanted to take a photo of the TV. It was so embarrassing and funny!”

Mellow Motif has certainly come a long way since its beginning at CMU. Back then, Natasha and Eugene also performed with Sam Chien, who alternated between the the guitar and the cajon (pronounced cah-hone), a Latin percussion instrument. For the recording of this album and for most of the gigs in Thailand, bass and percussion have been taken over by local musicians, notably members from percussion band Excotic Percussion Group, headed by Narupa Patcharug (Ome), who takes over cajon duties for most part.

Both Natasha and Eugene agreed that along with the changes in personnel, their music has also changed significantly in the past year. “While gigging in Bangkok our repertoire became more varied. Certain tunes we played like “They Say It’s Spring” and “Little Jazz Bird” are unfortunately relatively unknown,” says Eugene. “As Mellow Motif matures, we will continue to refresh our repertoire with more of such gems and breathe new life into our music.”

Being signed up by Warner though, has not resulted in any huge changes in the band’s performances. “How I feel during a performance doesn’t depend on who I’m signed with. It depends on who I play with, who I play for, and the kind of atmosphere at the performing space,” says Natasha. Eugene adds “I enjoy playing music more these days than before, but that is mainly because I’ve made a stronger commitment to developing the musician inside me.”

What comes next? Both Natasha and Eugene have plans to pursue a graduate program in Jazz studies, although for the time being, they are definitely going full speed ahead with gigs and performances, with regular performances in Bangkok and Singapore already planned. Of course more work also goes into promoting their new album, with the next single certainly on its way, while the accompanying music video is already in production.

The word from Warner also bodes well for Mellow Motif’s future. “At their ages, they are very attentive to details, and that’s a good thing, They know what they want in producing their music,” says Buranasiri. “They very much got what it takes, and time will probably make them a better band, making even better music.”

So, did Natasha and Eugene ever think that they would come this far? Both were unanimous in their answers.

“Certainly. Maybe not this soon, but for a long time already I felt that we had the potential to make an album good enough to get a record deal,” states Eugene. “This is just the start of a long process of discovering who we are musically and presenting that to the world. We expect to be making much more music in the near future.”

“Yes! Even though I am very happy now, I haven’t really impressed myself yet. I worked very hard for this, so I expected this return,” adds Natasha.

Last but not least, the pair looked back fondly at their beginnings in CMU.

“Since Mellow Motif was started in CMU where we met and started working together, I guess our collaboration as it stands now would not have been possible if not for CMU,” says the duo.

“However, it’s hard to say if like-minded souls like the both of us wouldn’t have eventually met on the world stage, and ended up working together after all!”