Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The Mormon rat pack

The Mormon rat pack

The Mormon rat pack

6-Q-and-A-CROP-TIGHT-FOR-SMALL-SPACE.jpg
6-Q-and-A-CROP-TIGHT-FOR-SMALL-SPACE.jpg

Crooning in fluent Khmer on CTN has turned these former missionaries into overnight favourites with Cambodians

BRENDAN BRADY

Todd (left) and Trevor make up half of Muk – meaning “octopus” – a Khmer-language singing sensation.

How did you start singing Khmer music?

Todd: When a song is popular in Cambodia, it is played over and over and over again. When I was a missionary, I started picking up lyrics just cycling through my neighbourhood. I would sing them for friends and neighbours once I knew the lyrics and they thought it was the funniest thing for a foreigner to sing their songs. And all the band's members have musical backgrounds.

How did you hone your talents?

Trevor: We'd go to karaoke bars to sing for fun.

What kind of music do you play?

Todd: We've done mostly Cambodian love songs and classics, like Sin Sisamouth, but the danger is that Cambodians get really angry when you modify their classics too much, and some artists who've crossed the line have been done for. I really like singing the classics but I'd like to diversify. I don't know if I'd sing about political issues, though.

Since you played on CTN, have people stopped you on the street?
Trevor: Pretty much every where we go. I thought by now, three or four weeks after we played, it would die down, but it hasn't. People always ask us to sing for them on the spot. Even in remote places. A couple of weeks ago, we were in a village in Mondulkiri, and people recognised us and (lead singer) Jordan sang for them.   

What does the future hold in store?
Todd: We've had all sorts of opportunities opening up for us. We'll probably produce some music videos when we are back in the US. CTN wants us to come back in November for a concert at Olympic Stadium and they've extended a lot of other opportunities for us, including opportunities outside of music. They offered for us to be VJs on CTN for a music show and they are interested in our film talents. The sky is the limit.

Could you have a band if you were still missionaries?
Todd: No, it's full-time work. Now, it's just like we're students and guys who know Khmer. We're no longer missionaries or church representatives, we're just normal members. Once the mission is over, you move on with your life.

Does this feel like an extension of your two years as missionaries or is this a new identity?
Todd: It feels like a bit of both. When people ask us how we know Khmer, we are excited to tell them we were missionaries and we are excited about anyone who is willing to listen to the church's message, but we're not here to do that work anymore.

Do you think it's exciting for [Cambodians] to have you guys in such a high profile?
Trevor: We mentioned on CTN that we were previously missionaries, but that's not what most people recall when we meet them. They remember that we like their food, that we said one of the girls on the show was beautiful. But some missionaries have told us that it opens up opportunities for them to connect with Cambodians because they saw us singing in Khmer on TV.
Todd: At the same time I wonder if it burdens their work, people going to the church and saying, "Yeah, we're interested in those guys on TV but not you."

Could you add spiritual aspects to your music? What would be the boundaries?
Todd: I'd like to. I think there are ways to do that without making the music too preachy because people in Cambodia are easily turned off.... When we were prepping at CTN for our performance, we were told if you mention the word Jesus Christ ... viewers would turn off their televisions immediately, but I don't think that's true. I'm not sure where the fine line would be. With any songs we write in the future, it will probably have some spiritual side, it's been such a huge part of my life here. For the CTN show in November, we played around with the thought of doing a Christian hymn and seeing how that goes over.

Does being part of a popular band gel with Mormon doctrine?
Todd: Yes and no. At the CTN performance for raising money for soldiers at Preah Vihear, the organisers offered us bottles of sra pinedey ("earth liquor") as a gift, but as members of the Mormon Church we don't drink alcohol. We told them we don't want to stand on the stage holding bottles of alcohol, but they said it would be an offense not to accept the gift, especially since it was from one of their sponsors. We settled it by just accepting the gift on stage and saying we're going to send it to the soldiers at Preah Vihear, and everyone was happy with that.

MOST VIEWED

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures

  • More than 10,000 workers suspended

    More than 10,000 workers at 18 factories in Svay Rieng province have been suspended because of Covid-19, said provincial deputy governor Ros Pharith. Home to 11 special economic zones, Pharith said Svay Rieng has not been spared as the pandemic takes a toll on the global economy. “There

  • Oz lauds Kingdom’s passage of money laundering laws

    In a press release published by the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh on Monday, the country applauded Cambodia’s stance on transnational crimes as well as its promulgation of an anti-money laundering law and a law on combating proliferation financing. The praise came after King

  • Lotus face masks designed to cover globe

    A French designer in Cambodia has produced ecological face masks from lotus fibre to supply local and international markets with an eye on preserving ancestral techniques and supporting Cambodian women in rural communities. During a trip to Asia, Awen Delaval, an eco-friendly fashion designer, was

  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the

  • Planning ministry hands out cash to 420,000 poor families in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Planning has identified 20,000 more poor families in the country, bringing the total to over 580,000, while over 420,000 of them have received the government’s cash assistance. In the meantime, many social security cards from families not deemed to be poor have been revoked.

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting