Onur Andic (pronounced ‘anditch’) is visionary singer/songwriter for Istanbul’s most exciting new group, Saigon Traffic. Andic spoke to Sean Bw Parker about the Turkish independent music scene, protest music, ponchos, and more
Your trajectory has taken you through such Istanbul indie luminaries as Hard Elastic, Alpaca Approach and now Saigon Traffic. Why all the chopping and changing?
Indeed the last 15 years, I played with many bands. I had a punk rock band, two grunge bands, an alternative metal band, a numetal band, a reggae band, a prog rock band, a rock’n’roll band and so on. All of them were cover bands and none of them was a regret on my side. Had some great parties, many back stage stories, some travelling and made a good amount of musician friends. I think the stage was the reason behind all this. It was my ultimate comfort zone, the very place I feel alive. I am suffering from OCD for many years, throughout I learned that while on stage I have a clear state of mind and a meaning to my existence. Also I must add, all the music I previously made, all the bands that I have been in, was in a way to found Saigon Traffic. I was waiting for the music in me to add up and my songwriting talent to get to this point.
You are well known for your surreally abstracted lyrics, sung in English, juxtaposed with complicated, sometimes nearly prog musical motifs. Was this a deliberate design?
First of all, I am a prog-head. Saigon Traffic is indeed all about me trying to make my band members play a little bit more complicated structures each time. So we can say our music is evolving. I want it to be at the perfect place where it can be catchy, easy to listen but at the same time I want it to be polished with weird timings and complex riffs. So it should attract people who are seeking a good night out and if you are willing you can hear the amount of practice we put inside the songs as well.
As for the lyrics, I would never be explaining myself enough if it was in Turkish. It is a way for me to express my OCD, sometimes putting random words and inside jokes that only I will get. Even the rest of the band don’t have any idea about what some of the songs mean. Some songs, even I don’t know.
How would you describe the Turkish independent music scene right now in 2014, and what would you do to improve it?
It is a one big family and I am very happy to be a part of it. We launched ST in a kabataş studio that we owned. There were some other bands sharing the studio and band members with us, namely Ringo Jets, Esas Çocuk, Eskiz, The Away Days, Help The Captain Threw Up and so on. All of them are amazing and unique bands. I think the indie scene is never this powerful in Turkey. When I was growing up, there were lots of Turkish metal bands, sadly most of them disbanded. I was very pessimist at first, I thought it will all be mainstream alternative pop rock. But now things are changing. I think we are entering a new era now. Of course to improve, we have to go to lots and lots of gigs here and there. The bands need our support.
Which Saigon Traffic song are you most proud of right now, and why?
We have a 5 minute song with 6 – 7 different time structures. It is called Starstruck and it will appear in our first EP. It is Saigon Traffic’s tribute to wonders of the music world such as Bohemian Rhapsody.
You often wear a Mexican-looking poncho onstage. What’s the story behind this?
I got it from an Italian merchant in Philadelphia. I love theatrical stage acts like Peter Gabriel era of Genesis. Also we can say it is my way of remembering Alpaca Approach. I have respect for AA, it was the first band I played guitar constantly and the first band I founded instead of playing with pre-made bands of some other people.
With the name Saigon Traffic and some other clues, you seem to have a strong connection to the far east, in particular Vietnam. Can you expand on this?
Well, I run a tourism company called Siam Tur. As a guide and owner, I went to Indochina many times. There is also a song of ours called “One Quiet Night” It was about the Agent Orange that was used during Vietnam war. And by the way, Saigon’s traffic is the craziest thing I saw in my life. Millions and millions of motorbikes. It is a chaos, like some of our songs.
What are your feelings on the Gezi protests and Graft corruption scandal of 2013 in Turkey? How did they affect your outlook and writing?
It was insane. Even before Gezi, Saigon had political themes in the songs. During the protests we made a song called “Prime Sinister” to support. It says “divide the seas/ divide you and me/ to paint the clouds / in heathen blood” These are my official feelings. : )
Who was the last artist in Turkey and/or internationally that excited you?
British band Haken caught my attention latest. Usually I am not a fan of prog metal, but this band is really talented. As for Turkish comrades, “Free Licks” are interesting. They might lead our way too, they have English lyrics as well.
What do you see in your crystal ball for Saigon Traffic?
We are now trying to publish the EP. After it is done, we will try our luck with festivals and competitions. I am only worried about how big we can get. Sertac and me are working, if the time came, we might want to stop getting bigger than we can handle. Quitting our jobs is not an option at this point. But again, who knows.
Can I get you a drink?
Of course. Actually we should jam too sometime.