Another in the series of unlikely pairings on the Cambodian music landscape is Simon Bailey and Tiffany of the Sinville Roadshow. He’s from London and she’s from California. They’d both been spending time in different parts of Cambodia for some years before meeting in 2013.
Since the formation of the band down in Sihanoukville, they have contracted and expanded many times, with the duo as an on-going core – up to 20 people have been members at some time. It’s easy to understand the ease of this couple working together – when I sat down with them a little too early on a Sunday to chat they seemed to specialise in finishing each other’s thoughts.
“The musical partnership was never considered initially,” says Tiffany. “We met at an open mic I was running in a restaurant I used to own in Sihanoukville,” puts in Simon.
“I only went because my daughter wanted to go,” counters Tiffany. “I was on holiday with my daughter, she was really into open mics at that time, and wanted to explore her singing ability. That was the first time I met him.”
A friendship grew, then one night at a gig by the Roadshow, a band the experienced guitarist Simon had already established, Tiffany got up and sang at the urging of an audience member.
“And at the end of the gig they offered us a residency there, two nights every week,” says Simon. And thus the partnership was born.
Despite growing up in a family of musicians, Tiffany was drawn to and trained in dance.
“I was always the odd one, I was the one that wasn’t really that interested in doing music, I didn’t really want to sing or play instruments. My mom tried to teach me the piano, my uncle tried to teach me the bass, everybody was always trying to get me to play an instrument. Singing was just like in the shower or karaoke.”
Their big break came when Big Mike, the founder of Sharky Bar, took them under his wing and gave them a Thursday night residency, a Phnom Penh foothold. “You can start to build things around that,” says Simon.
Seven months of gigging in Phnom Penh, however, was enough. Now they’re based in Kampot, in a rural setting that allows them to wake up to the sound of chickens and the occasional dog.
Slide forward to 2019, and the Roadshow has two facets – the duo and a full band. The duo is of course more laidback and mellow, while the band is a more energetic, danceable concert. The five-piece version welcomes sax player Alan Breen, bassist Vincent Noble Biputra and Clint Larson on drums.
“I’ve known Alan from right back at the beginning, he used to come and play with us,” explains Simon. “And Vincent, the bass player, he’s knocking around – hang on, Alan, Vincent, these are high quality musicians. Then we went to a friend’s open mic, and the drummer is sitting there whacking away on the drums, and we got to talking.”
“The energy is really different with the full band,” says Tiffany. “It’s nice to see people dancing. And that’s the best thing about having a band, is just knowing that you have that power to get people out of their seats in their fancy dress.”
The repertoire is also changing, with more of an emphasis on soul, Motown kind of stuff. “It’s music that would make my mom happy.”
“We’re trying to play more and more original stuff,” adds Simon. “That’s another thing, trying to bring originals in,” Tiffany agrees, “And I think ultimately we will incorporate more of our originals. But for the time being we’re trying to develop a soulful sound in general. And just see where it goes from there.”
Sinville Roadshow – the full band – will play at Oscar’s on the Corner on Friday, 5, and Sundance Inn and Saloon on Saturday, 6.