People say it’s hard to make it as a musician in Singapore. Meet a determined mother who spent the last seven years on a quest to try anyway.
The Cave is made up of four teenage boys who riff and roar in a style somewhere between Foo Fighters and The Doors. They are: Huxley Rittman (lead guitar, backing vocals), Harry Darling (lead vocals), Haadi Moochhala (drums) and Emerson Gonzalez-Park (bass guitar), all 17 years old. While based in Singapore, they have already been featured on music TV in Russia, opened for Taking Back Sunday, and secured a partial worldwide deal with music distribution company ToCo International. Not bad, right? But behind every successful band you’ll find a hardworking manager, and this is no exception for The Cave. Fran Lebowitz, Huxley’s mother, is the band strategist that takes care of their business bookings and creative well-being.
This not-so-regular-mom candidly sums up her career history as “former agent, briefly novelist, humour columnist, and now mom-ager”. Before moving to Singapore in 1997, Fran was based in New York as a literary agent with the likes of William Morris and Writers House, where she focussed on young adult and pop culture books. (Not to be confused with the other Fran Lebowitz, writer and TV personality.) “I had a few books on the New York Times bestseller list,” Fran recalls, “A couple of clients made it to the US National Book Awards; I negotiated television shows and movies and merchandise and had two babies while still yelling at people on the phone.”
When her husband was posted to Singapore for work, they brought along their two kids. Once the younger one, Huxley, was old enough to play music with his schoolmates, Fran found herself devoted to one consuming mission: take the group of eleven year olds and whip them into a kick-ass rock band. Sounds like a wacky Hollywood comedy, but every bit true.
If you’re reading this and you’re young and talented, based in Singapore, with rock star dreams, you’re probably getting ideas of having Fran manage your band. Well, I wish you luck with that. The next best thing you can do is read this interview, where she very kindly shares what it took for The Cave to earn their stripes as musicians and performers.
FROM CRADLE TO CLARKE QUAY
How did you get involved with The Cave?
I bore the guitarist, for one thing! I just said to Huxley and his friends when he was about 10 or so, “Why don’t you all make a band!” We had so many instruments at home already including mics and stands. I gave them a song I thought they could do, “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett, and then I hired a music teacher to teach them all the parts. I always thought they sounded great, and that’s probably why I took it seriously and never let it sizzle out. At one stage, we had two music teachers come every Sunday; one for bass and drums and one for guitar and piano.
How would you describe The Cave?
Smart, exciting music, a big sound, four very proficient talents and a voice that stops people in their tracks; a voice that can sing to the back of a stadium without a microphone. The Cave met at Overseas Family School. Harry is from the UK, Huxley is a New Yorker, Emerson is Japanese-Mexican and Haadi is a Pakistani-born Singaporean. Going to school together, eating together, having the same group of friends means they are extraordinarily close. The flip side to this beautiful mulitcultural band is that you also get four sets of parents guided by the mores of their heritage.
What did it take to promote the band?
I never turned down a chance to meet people. I started a three week long battle of the bands called School House Rock, at a bar in Clarke Quay, pitting the international schools against each other. It was a big nail-biting success. And from there, School House Rock got the bands to perform on commercial stages, usually with several bands at a time. So there was often a gig to practise for and people to play to. And that way I met bar owners who would later – when they got good enough – invite The Cave to play. Also, going all out to get them into the Music Matters event and then attending myself and shmoozing, handing out thumbdrives, getting name cards, making follow ups. I have confidence in them and I feel credible. I don’t feel subjective about their music or performances and I can prove it: I’m the one who got Harry (vocalist) in the band and fired Huxley as lead singer. My son. Fired. At eleven years old.
Very early edition of the band with Huxley and Emerson (extreme right).