The Reap’s recently buzzing music scene is about to get a peculiar French twist this weekend, with three gigs by the delightful, and occasionally demented, band At Robiep.
The trio from Sihanoukville will perform at Abacus tonight at 9pm, at Aqua bar on Saturday at 8pm, and at 9pm at X-Bar on Monday, November 29.
Bob Passion is the lead singer and songwriter and he’s as ebullient as his name suggests. He’s accompanied by Tonton Ian on bass and a certain Mr Robot on drums.
The band will be playing songs from their album, Peur de Rien, which was recorded in Phnom Penh last year by Kanlat Rik Rié, the forebear of At Robiep.
“I don’t know why/ I was always twisted,”
is one of the refrains from “Tête-Brulée”, the wonderfully melodic lament about a waster. The song is written by Passion, who says while it is not autobiographical (mostly), it is a good start for describing his music.
What the band plays is good twisted. “We do it the French way,” says Passion. “The thing is we don’t take it too seriously; different from the English way. We are more like the clowns who make music.”
Clowns aren’t often this musically talented, though a wicked sense of humour is definitely a strong feature of the band.
The aforementioned “Tête-Brulée” is one of the band’s few quiet songs. Most of their musical repertoire consists of songs that are high energy, highly quirky and punk-rock influenced, and there certainly seems to be an Adam and the Ants fan lurking in the mix there somewhere.
As well as their own music, the band also does covers of The Ramones, Iggy Pop, The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, and Lords Of The High Church, who Passion cites as an influence on their music. “But we always do it our way,” says Passion. “We are not just copiers. We always try to keep a smile on what we’re doing. Nothing is that important.”
The band’s version of “I Will Survive” is rendered in Polish, which oddly adds a deeper edge to the vengeful tone of the song. And that’s just one of the languages the band features. Songs are also sung in English, French, Portuguese, Italian and Khmer. Passion even composes in Khmer, “but not with the Khmer alphabet,” he laughs, as though that detracts from the feat. “It’s important to show to my students though that it can be done,” he says
in relation to Bob’s House of Rock, an NGO in Sihanoukville of which he is the founder and that merged with M’lop Tapang. The organisation focuses on education, vocational training and shelter with a strong emphasis on the creative arts as a means for building children’s development and confidence.