Back in 2006, six young men fuelled by their love for music banded together forming Brunei’s own alternative pop rock band, A Band Once (ABO). Consisting of Fadil, Izzat, Khai, Adi, Syafiq, and Faizul, they have released a total of seven original songs, starting with Te’a back in 2008 and just this year they introduced their latest single, Manusia Biasa

They find inspiration in the music of bands they admire, such as Maroon 5, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, and Muse. They describe their genre as Alternative Pop Rock, and these talented individuals pour their skills and effort into producing music as a band.

Most of their released songs were written by Fadil (drummer) and Faizul (vocalist). “We would start with writing the lyrics and come up with the melody and arrangements, then the rest of the band would come together to make it better. It’s pretty awesome that everyone is involved – everyone plays a part!” said Fadil.

Fadil, the band’s drummer, told Sutera that they try to find a common ground to produce songs and lyrics. “We also try to evolve with the current music – if you notice, our latest single “Manusia Biasa” has a more electric sound to it, yet it still sticks to our core genre,” he said.

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sidek

Faizul reminisced that when they started performing as ABO more than a decade ago were young and passionate. “It was never about fame or money – it was always about sharing our passion and our enjoyment. We used to play a lot of gigs. Schools would invite us to play for prom nights,” he explained.

“One day, our parents asked us “What are you hoping to gain from this?” knowing the reality that music would not put food on the table. That was the turning point where decided to change things up and make our own songs to release on the local radio stations,” said Faizul. When Te’a was first released in 2008, the band did not expect the good responses from the public – the positive feedback led to them winning music awards.

For the past 13 years of their music career, ABO has won five music awards, namely Pelangi’s “Chosen Newcomer 2008/2009”, Cool Tones’s “Best Group 2010”, Pelangi’s “Chosen Duo/Group Vocal 2010/2011”, RTB’s “Popular Singing Duo/Group 2014”, and Pelangi’s “Chosen Duo/Group Vocal 2017”.

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sidek

However, being a band in Brunei does come with its own challenges. According to Faizul, the lack of a music scene and industry makes it difficult for them to put their music out there. He further commented that when they first started, there used to be more gigs. “It was good to perform at gigs as it allowed us to bring our music closer to our fans,” he said.

Faizul admits that another challenge they currently face as a band is time. They were still students when they first started out, allowing them more time for their music. However, with adulthood comes more responsibilities that include their day jobs and spending quality time with their family. 

“Although, it is not an excuse for us. We are still as passionate as we were back then in producing our music, we still have the drive to do it. It is admittedly hard, but we do try to make time for the band,” he added. Still active today, the band receives invitations to perform both inside and outside Brunei. Regardless of the obstacles they face, they still power through.

With more than a decade of history together, what plans does ABO have for their future? Despite their name, they have no intention to quit the music industry anytime soon. Instead, they have plans to collaborate with other local singers, incorporating their talents together with the band. They remarked that it would be both fun and challenging to work together with talented local artists. 

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sidek

Not only that, while ABO currently has a few songs in line waiting to be released, right now they are focusing on creating a music video for Manusia Biasa. “It takes time, but since it is our first, we will try to make it our best,” Fadil clarified.

Having experience in the field of music and bands, we asked what advice they have for others sharing the same dream as them. They listed two critical traits that they believed to be the key to holding their band together until today: chemistry and honesty. Good chemistry among bandmates being listed as being the top of the list, Faizul asserts that without it the band “won’t work”. As for honesty, he commented that sometimes it is important to be blunt, “you can’t say “this [music] is good” when you know for a fact that it is not,” he explained.

“For those who wish to start a music career in Brunei, I think the most important thing is to be passionate and be different. I strongly believe that if your music is different, unique, then if God wills it, they’ll accept you. So never give up and always love what you do. And of course, be yourself,” they advised.

Photo: Sutera/Safwan Sidek

Look forward to their music videos, collaborations, and upcoming tracks! Keep up with them on Instagram @a.band.once and show them your support by streaming their music on YouTube, Spotify, and other music streaming platforms.