Two Singaporeans part of EDM trio that charted on Billboard
Two Singaporeans form part of electronic dance music trio that charted on Billboard
One served a six-year bond as an officer in the Republic of Singapore Navy after studying computer science at Ivy League institution Cornell University in New York.
The other read law at University College London before dipping his toes into investment banking, spending two years with Lehman Brothers, among other companies.
Yet local producer-songwriter Tat Tong and DJ Declan Ee, both 33, chose to ditch the conventional carrier routes to make electronic dance music (EDM).
If their combined accolades are anything to go by, their gamble has clearly paid off. Mr Tong has written and produced over 50 Top 20 global hits for artists including Troye Sivan and Van Ness Wu, while Mr Ee is one of the few Singaporeans who have hit the DJ decks at famed London club Ministry of Sound.
Now, the former Raffles Institution schoolmates are currently blazing the trail in the US EDM scene as members of dance music collective Trouze, which also comprises Cuban-American singer and American Idol Season 10 contestant Jovany Javier, 28.
Their debut feature single Age Of Innocence, a track by US DJ Elephante which also features Grammy-winning US songwriter Damon Sharpe, peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart last month.
Trouze described this accomplishment as "special".
In an e-mail interview, Mr Tong told The New Paper: "Our team has been blessed with many No. 1 and Top 20 hits worldwide over the last few years.
"(But) this is (the first) track we featured in as artists, not just as behind-the-scenes producers and songwriters, which has been the norm for us in the past."
So how did they celebrate? With a little show of "bromance".
The trio bought matching travel wallets in different colours to mark the occasion.
But when asked if they had any sceptics who questioned their chart achievement, especially in light of the recent City Harvest Church trial that cast doubt on the authenticity of Sun Ho's Billboard successes, Mr Tong said: "On the record, we didn't pay for that chart placing. It came as a nice surprise to us.
"Working with an artist as established as Elephante could have helped with the traction."
Trouze was formed in 2014 when the trio first met at a showcase by Russian-German music producer-DJ Zedd in Miami.
Now, Mr Ee is based in Singapore and Mr Javier in Los Angeles, while Mr Tong shuttles between Singapore and Los Angeles.
When asked if they feel national pride for making a mark on an international level, Mr Tong said: "There are definitely proud moments, especially in studios out of Los Angeles and Latin America, when artists whom we worked with are amazed that we are from Singapore.
"We would love for Singapore to, one day, reach the level that Swedish artists are at. They have a similar population size as Singapore but have global artists, songwriters and producers.
"We truly believe that if we all work together, we can get there in the next 10 to 20 years and that will be truly a proud moment for us."
Trouze have set their sights on Latin America, where they have "ongoing projects with many A-list artists there which will be progressively released throughout the year".
They are aiming for three singles this year, to be released with a global dance label. They also have plans to tour Europe and the US later this year.
Calling themselves a global electronic music act, Trouze's focus is on making good music and presenting their "unique point of view" to the world.
Mr Ee said: "That said, we do hope to be able to, in our small way, inspire up-and-coming artists in the Singapore scene to dream big. The sky's the limit."
There are definitely proud moments, especially in studios out of Los Angeles and Latin America, when artists whom we worked with are amazed that we are from Singapore.
- Mr Tat Tong, one-third of EDM trio Trouze
Who they are
TAT TONG, 33
After serving his six-year bond with the Republic of Singapore Navy, the bachelor decided to pursue a different track and rediscovered his passion for writing and producing music.
He was also talent-spotted and signed by Universal Music Publishing Group.
In 2013, he made the move to Los Angeles to grow his songwriting and production business in the US.
He has worked with the likes of Taiwanese-American singer-actor Van Ness Wu, Hong Kong singer Karen Mok and Australian singer Troye Sivan, and boasts a glittering list of accolades, including 19 No. 1 hits on iTunes in 66 countries.
Initially, his parents were concerned about his choice of career.
He told TNP: "Making music isn't a reliable way to earn a living anywhere in the world and especially not in Singapore. But I had some savings and was determined to make it work. With my (retired accountant) mum handling my books, it helped reassure her after a while that I wasn't going to starve."
His advice to fellow Singaporeans trying to make it big in the US?
"Be prepared to go a long time without making any money. Another tip - moving to a hub city for music like Los Angeles, Beijing or Seoul is essential. Singapore is a lovely place to live but the size of our domestic music industry will always be a limiting factor," he said.
DECLAN EE, 33
The new father, who welcomed a son in June last year, juggles his daddy duties and musical endeavours with various entrepreneurial ventures, which include being co-founder of furniture store Castlery.
Music was his solace during a stressful time in his life in 2008, when he was working in the sub-prime mortgage division at Lehman Brothers' London office.
That was the year of the Lehman Brothers collapse and the global financial crisis.
The classically-trained pianist took EDM so seriously he landed a DJ gig at the famed Ministry Of Sound in London.
He also has an interest in musicals, writing and directing one called Pagoda Street, which enjoyed a brief run in London's West End and was restaged in Singapore when he was a first-year law undergraduate.
He owes part of his success to his wife, whom he calls his "rock".
Mr Ee said: "Being away from my child was the most difficult part, especially in the first three months... I'm really lucky to have a very strong and supportive wife who believes in what I'm trying to achieve.".
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