Vero Meets is a new series where we talk to people who are doing interesting things connected to branding, communications, or marketing — even if they’re not marketers themselves. For the first edition, we talked with Da So Toi, a Vietnamese pop-punk band Vero recently collaborated with on a music video for the razor brand Dorco.
Can you share a bit about Da So Toi?
Chuot: We’re a 3-piece pop-punk band. I’m Chuot – most people call me Chuot Sam Set. I was born in 1999, and I’m the main guitarist and singer. The other two are 2000s kids: Hien, born in 2000, is our bassist and singer; Thai was born in 2004 and is our one and only drummer.
Who are some of the inspirations for your music?
Chuot: In Vietnam, 7uppercuts is the most well-known punk band. They are our main inspiration and the reason why we decided to pursue this genre. We also listen to a lot of Japanese bands like WANIMA, Hi-Standard, and Four Get Me A Nots, so we learn bits and pieces from them.
After an independent period, some underground artists start to look for a talent management agency or a record label to help them realize their ideas and secure their “image”. As a band that’s still totally independent, do you face any challenges?
Chuot: Our main motto is “make do with what you have”. We don’t worry too much about having a fancy music video. Of course we faced some challenges at first – we didn’t know how to introduce our music to people, how to post it online, where to find a distributor, or how to find someone to help with our communication strategy. We mostly ask around for advice from senior bands and do-it-ourselves.
We haven’t thought about working with a talent management agency or a record label because we don’t think it’s suitable for us. We love our freedom, and it seems working with a big guy could hold us back from being who we are. Plus we want to work with people who can truly understand our music, and it’s tough to find a team like that in Vietnam. So we plan to stay independent and just collaborate with other artists.
What is your inspiration in making music? And priority to have a “good” song?
Chuot: We take inspiration from our daily lives to tell simple stories that anyone can relate to. For example, if you wake up in the morning feeling too lazy to go to work – we could turn that into a song. Our music is not only for us, but also for anyone who can sympathize with the stories. Usually, I’ll brainstorm the topic by myself first and write a rough melody along with a key word or message. Then I come to Hien and Thai for their input. We sing together and add or change parts as needed before we decide to turn it into an official song.
We don’t put too much pressure on trying to make a song go viral. We just focus on how it can make people feel. We want to spread positive energy not by simply saying “be positive!”, but rather by giving people positive feelings from listening to the song. So if we write a love song for example, we hope anyone who has been in love can relate to it. We want to keep seeking new ways to express those simple emotions.
Does each of you have a different role in the band while writing a song?
Chuot: Normally, I will brainstorm the topic by myself first, and then wrote a rough melody along with a keyword or a key message. Then, I will come to Hien and Thai for their input. We will sing together, discuss changes if needed, and finally turn it to an official song.
Have you ever run into conflict while working together?
Chuot: Well, we had one recently. Two of us had an argument and didn’t join the band practice. The other guy was at home confused and kept asking “What are they fighting about? This is so boring, they didn’t even go to the practice.” 😊 Our conflict was in fact quite lame. But then we solved everything with music. Everyone came to the next practice and we played music together without worrying about anything else. After a while of playing like that, everything went back to normal and no apology was needed.
So far, all Da So Toi’s songs have been produced by your team. So how do you feel about the first collaboration ChoiChoiChoi, which was released recently?
Chuot: We’re happy because we’ve never collaborated with a stand-up comedy group like Saigon Teu, or with a rapper like LOW G. We have never thought about collaborating with other artists to make music. This was also a chance for us to meet up and work together. Based on this project, I strongly believe that pop-punk can be combined with all genres of music, maybe even with Vietnam’s modern folk opera (Cải Lương).
What do you think about commercial music projects as a way for underground artists to make a living from their passion?
Chuot: Before deciding to participate in a commercial project, we will carefully consider whether it’s suitable for us, whether we can relate to it, whether it will be fun, and whether it will make an impact. Featuring in commercial projects is a common thing for artists nowadays, and if they can make money from it while doing what they want then it’s great. But writing a song for someone else is different from writing songs for ourselves, since it means we have to listen to and consider opinions other than our own.
Rap was a dominant trend in 2020. In advertising projects, rap has an advantage because it can say more in the lyrics. What do you think will be the advantage of pop-punk in those project?
Chuot: Playful melodies and short, easy-to-understand lyrics. Combining these two things can create a strong connection and empathy, which helps the music touch the audience.
Hien: Pop punk can easily enter the listener’s subconscious and stimulate their spirit. They may not fully grasp our message, but it makes them want to get up and take action. So you don’t have to say a lot, just make people feel something with the music.
What would you do if you were not a member of Da So Toi?
Hien: I will still make music as a part-time gig alongside my studies at school. I think in the future I will find a white-collar job just like everyone else. But if I’m lucky enough to have a long journey with pop-punk, I may grow into a full-time artist.
Chuot: If I don’t make music, I would probably open a billiard hall.
Hien: Okay, then I’ll be its co-owner.
Chuot: Actually, I haven’t determined who or what I will become in the future. The only thing I know is right now I have Da So Toi, and I want to give it my all. Who knows where the future will take us? Maybe playing music will somehow influence our path.
How do you feel when others refer to Da So Toi as an artist?
Chuot: We would be super happy then. But still, we don’t think of ourselves as artists. We are just musicians, we just make music. The title is not our concern.
Hien: We are a band, we are musicians. We are still happy no matter how others name us.