Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan on why Moi Tiet remains a joyful party animal, where the audience can escape for a second and have fun with their songs.
Leng Pleng, the popular music listings, describes Moi Tiet – one more in Khmer – as “a hard driving Australian rock’n’roll style band”. And it was indeed a pleasure watching them play in Alchemy last Saturday, just after I had hopped off the plane from Darwin – the capital of Australia’s Top End. With my island home, Australia, still on my mind, after the Khmer New Year holidays, it was good to know that the Down Under lives on in the most unexpected places.
Moi Tiet was founded by Scott Bywater (Scoddy) – the quintessential gentleman musician – who hails from the Australian state of Tasmania. Though led by an Australian, the rock band is actually multinational. Backing Scoddy, is Pavel Ramirez from Sweden who plays lead guitar. On bass is Adrian Gayraud from France, on rhythms and second lead is Chuck Villar from the Philippines and on drums is Jedil Robelo, also from the Philippines.
Moi Tiet plays original rock numbers, composed by Scoddy himself, and almost all their songs can be found in Scott Bywater’s debut album “From Shore to Shore”.
Their opening number in Alchemy was “Toothpaste and Gin” and writing in Good Times2, Scoddy said, “This was a song I wrote specifically for Moi Tiet when I was starting the band up in Phnom Penh in early 2013. A bit of a statement of purpose, a running-to (rather than a running-away) from my old wasted life in Australia into a less restrictive existence, without such things as, for example, timesheets and tablecloths”.
Scoddy’s influences range from The Beatles to Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention and his original compositions for Moi Tiet reflect them.
Take ‘Stuck inside of Phnom Penh with the Memphis Blues Again (It’s not the Mississippi, it’s the Mekong)’ for instance.
“The title is an allusion to Bob Dylan’s song Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again (happily, Memphis is on the Mississippi). Half tongue in cheek, a hodgepodge of images to approximate the experience of first arriving in a new and baffling place where everything seems to make sense to everyone but yourself,” writes Scoddy.
“Thanks for coming to the party, and let’s dance,” Scoddy tells the crowd at Alchemy as Moi Tiet belts out their party anthem ‘Phnom Penh Driving School’ with the audience singing along to:
“Bat chweng, Bat seerdam, meek, meek (Turn left, turn right, meek, meek)”.
‘Phnom Penh Driving School’ is Scoddy’s public service announcement and novelty song.
“It’s not that there is no logic to Phnom Penh traffic, it’s just that there are rules and practices one would not expect when coming from the West. The initial idea for the song came back in 2008, then years later I actually sat down and put it all together,” he writes in Good Times2.
“A favourite with the kiddies, this one. I comfort myself with the thought that Chuck Berry’s biggest hit was My Dingaling.”
As the night mellows down, Moi Tiet plays ‘Lost Along the Way’ – a tearjerker, with Marianna Hensley on background vocals and a haunting lead solo by Pavel Ramirez.
Scott Bywater’s distinctive vision illuminates best when trained on happy things; and lately there’s no shortage of material. His Moi Tiet remains a joyful party animal – something where people can escape for a second and have fun with their songs.
Catch a Moi Tiet gig, next time around. It’s time for a ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’ and a ‘Meek-Meek’.