Ross Simmonds, a digital marketing strategist and an all-round tech genius once said, ‘Hustle beats talent, if talent doesn’t hustle’. In the last three years since Trophy Knives was formed, this quote has defined what it means to be in this band from Kuala Lumpur. What started out as four best friends wanting to distract themselves from the monotony of this concrete jungle, culminated in what so far, has been their proudest feat; being the first Malaysian act to tour the vast continent of what is known as Australia.
The years leading up to this tour consisted of relentless touring all over South East Asia (Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam), but not forgetting first, playing everywhere in Malaysia. From the northern tip, to right down across the Causeway, and from the West Coast all the way to the East, where our Bornean brethrens reside.
The meticulous planning that took place months before the tour was given a stern test even before the band took off from the safe confinements of KLIA2. As the boys were queuing up to check in their gear, a pleasant looking Australian Immigration officer stealthy appeared alongside them, and uttered what would be a line they heard everyday for the next fourteen days, followed by the most dreaded query; “Hi there, boys, how ya’ goin? That’s a lot of gear you got witcha, mind if I look at your papers?”
The entire airport heard the pin drop, but being the well prepared outfit that they are, Vinesh, the frontman, confidently handed out the band’s newly laminated Performance Visas that were delivered exactly four days before the tour. The customs officer was stunned. Albeit slightly annoyed at the stoic demeanor of everyone but nonetheless impressed at the handy paperwork that the band had produced. From there on, the band’s Australian adventure got off without a hitch.
Trophy Knives arrived in Sydney at 9am on the 1st of May 2019. The band got settled in their new surroundings; the cold breeze, crisp air and grey weather were all taken in. It took a minute for a massive twelve-seater van ferried by their new tourmates, Blind Man Death Stare, heralded as Melbourne’s next biggest punk act, to roll up by the side of the pristine sidewalk. Out comes the chirpiest human being, Jarod Parker, frontman and lead vocalist of this gang of four. A quick peek into the van and no death stares whatsoever were in sight – only welcoming smiles.
The two bands embraced each other for the first time, as if they’ve known each other for years. All of the gear was loaded up into the van and off the boys went riding into the sunset; first stop Hamilton Hotel, Newcastle. The boys arrived just after sundown, which for the Malaysians is a strange thing to witness at 5pm but nevertheless; this is their new home. This became the norm for the next fourteen days; days with long drives that sometimes came up to twelve hours at a time, which ended with the two bands playing to packed out venues at the end of those journeys. This was touring life at its best, and for Trophy Knives, the grateful privilege of basking in a punk rock scene that was far livelier and vibrant compared to the one they’re used to.
Trophy Knives and their Australian brothers in arms covered five states in two weeks, playing to hordes of punk rock faithful that bellowed the cities of Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Melbourne. The boys played in every type of establishment possible, which ranged from a five hundred capacity venue to a house party in the heart of New South Wales, in a quaint town called Lismore. Whether it was a Tuesday or Saturday night, there was always a crowd of curious Australians waiting to see what this unknown band of misfits had to offer. Safe to say, they went home knowing more about Malaysia than its fine cuisine, KLCC and political scandals.
The show in Brisbane was definitely one for the books, Three years prior to this, Trophy Knives’ lead singer Vinesh was touring with Anti-Flag in Australia. At the Brisbane leg of the Anti-Flag tour, he mustered the courage to ask Chris#2 to be apart of their track “We Can’t Be Saved “. To see absolute strangers in Australia that night moshing, singing along and resonating the lyrics was an emotional roller coaster to say the least.
As with every tour, Trophy Knives and Blind Man Death Stare constantly wrestled with manic highs and lows throughout this adventure of theirs. The massive turnouts at almost all the shows were juxtaposed with days where it felt like an eternity riding in that van. A tour of this magnitude in a DIY setting would always mean that responsibilities had to be shared between all band members, Therefore each band member had specific roles during the tour, Vinesh wore his Tour Manager hat, Syamir Ali, the bass player, took on the selfless role of the driver, Sani Khalid, the lead guitarist was on sound engineering duties and Khairi Iskander, the drummer, had to set up the backline. There were days where both bands didn’t know whether the cash they took home would last them until the next city, as their nightly paychecks almost always depended on bar sales for the night. Thank goodness for Australia’s fondness for lager and live music. Due to the extreme long hours of commute between the cities, Trophy Knives had a strict no partying rule, but hey, what is a punk rock tour without a few broken rules and fancy Espresso Martinis!
There was even a show in Southport, Gold Coast, where literally no one showed up as a random stabbing occurred just hours before the bands arrived into the town. Police tapes cordoned off the entrance of this famed dive bar but hey, the show always, has to go on. Trophy Knives and Blind Man Death Stare played to a crowd of nine people that night, but miraculously enough, five out of that nine bought both of the band’s merchandise. “Merch” sales from that night got the eight lads their well deserved meal and gas money to cover their ten-hour drive.
It’s almost impossible to recall every sweet moment from each of these shows but the ones that stood out will surely be etched in their hearts and minds. Both bands had friends from different cities and man, did they turn up. The boys from Trophy Knives were even lucky to have the one and only Syarul Reza of Love Me Butch to grace their presence in Melbourne for their show at Bombay Rock. Heck, even one of Australia’s punk rock luminaries, Steve from CLOWNS, was there to catch his mates from Blind Man Death Stare, but was also impressed at what their Malaysian tour misfits brought to the vibrant city of Melbourne that night.
The tour ended with one last show in Footscray, Melbourne on a Sunday, where there was one particular member of the audience that came up to Trophy Knives and delivered the most profound advice the four boys will ever hear in their lifetime; “It only takes one person to be moved by the music they heard tonight, and he or she will go home happy knowing that the world still has things to offer to them”. If you happen to read this, shout out to you, Corey! That last show in Melbourne encapsulated Australia for the band; this country welcomed them with open arms, gave them a home and never, ever, expected anything in return. Australia, they leave you with their hearts in your hands. Trophy Knives will be back.