Popular Temple Town band The Siem Reapers is spreading its wings further afield, having made its Phnom Penh debut last month at FCC Phnom Penh.
The covers band, which has been going a mere six months, is actually part of a collective of four different bands playing various kinds of music: The Siem Reapers, Na Zdorovie, At Panha and a jazz band, JMC Ensemble, which plays “swing, Latin or classical jazz standards.”
“We have four bands which are all the same musicians,” band member and trombonist Alexandre Scarpati explains. “A jazz band which often plays at the Heritage; At Panha, a Khmer rock band which also does some Khmer jazz; we do ska rock with Na Zdorovie; and we have the Siem Reapers.”
As for the Siem Reapers’ sound, “It’s pop, rock, a little bit of metal like Nirvana and we have some funky songs,” he says. “It depends on the public. It’s mostly covers apart from three or four songs written by us.”
The Siem Reapers was officially founded in December 2012, although its members had already been gigging around town for some months.
“The Siem Reapers started to exist in December but we were playing in a lot of pubs and restaurants for a long time – maybe six or seven months,” says Scarpati. “We decided to classify some kinds of songs we did as The Siem Reapers, some as Na Zdorovie and so on.”
The musicians flit between each band and genre, sometimes even on the same night as was the case on March 16 when a sell-out gig took place at Abacus featuring Siem Reapers, Na Zdorovie and At Panha.
“It was full, nearly 200 people,” says Scarpati. “We were very happy with the evening, it worked.”
The Siem Reapers line-up consists of five musicians; Frenchman Scarpati and a fellow Gaul, plus the rest of the crew who hail from Russia and the Netherlands;
“There is Mr Patrick Charbonnay on saxophone, me on trombone, we have Virgil Ray on bass and singing, Evgeny Shcherbakov on drums and Mr Nikita Vladimirovich on guitar,” says Scarpati.
“We have Kostia sometimes as a guest singer, we played with him at FCC and he is also the singer of Na Zdorovie.”
The band has performed in various venues around town including Mezze Bar and Abacus, to tourists and expats alike. Scarpati’s big plan for the future is to take all the bands on a tour of Cambodia, along with some of the regular guest singers and musicians.
“That’s my concept in the future, to do a tour around Cambodia because with eight musicians we are three bands and all totally different,” he says, “Na Zdorovie is ska rock, Siem Reapers pop or jazz and then Khmer rock with At Panha.”